Last week, as the last of the Coachella-ers left Palm Dessert, the attendees of Field Service Palm Springs arrived for what felt like the event’s real post-Covid comeback. While WBR did put on a November session of its historically April-timed event, it didn’t quite feel then like the industry was ready to be back. Last week, it did. Attendance was strong, energy was positive, and it felt like as close to the “before” as we can expect.
The three-day event was filled with some great presentations and discussions, although I was disappointed to see some early morning sessions sparsely attended likely due to too much fun the nights prior. Even after years of attending this event there were some really insightful, impactful points and thoughts that made it into my notebook (yes, I still take notes on paper).
I plan to expand on some of these points and topics in the coming weeks, but for now I am simply going to share a compilation of some of my personal favorite highlights. In no particular order, here are some of the things that stood out to me:
- Today’s leaders must embrace change and understand the value of kindness and compassion. Kacy Drury of Everi discussed how and why so many leaders avoid change, and the negative impact this is having on the industry’s potential. She also spoke about how the emotional distance many leaders were accustomed to keeping prior to the pandemic is a thing of the past – today’s leaders can thrive by being kind and compassionate.
- Technology can be a culprit or a solution to organizational siloes. During a panel discussion about “Scrapping Siloes,” leaders from Cincinnati Inc, Everi, and Hobart discussed the ways in which technology can support organizations eliminating siloes (by democratizing knowledge and offering a common language) or fuel them (with disparate systems and poor processes).
- Stories can drive digital acceptance. Serendipitously, Alban Cambournac of Schneider Electric spoke just after my opening session on storytelling to share three stories of how digital impacts the world in very human ways. He spoke about how by focusing not on the tech, but what the tech can do in people’s lives, we can go further.
- “If data isn’t actionable, it shouldn’t exist.” This was said by Marlene Kolodziej of RICOH Digital Services. Data was a hot topic of discussion, but Marlene’s quote summarizes quite well the consensus – whether we’re talking about data as an internal enabler or an external value proposition. Leaders seemed to agree that while nearly every business today recognizes the criticality of data and has taken steps to collect it, many are still struggling with what to do with it. This was discussed in relation to connected device data that sits siloed, technician knowledge that is inaccessible, and customer-facing data that is cumbersome.
- Despite pervasive connectedness, people feel isolated – because we are humans, not machines. On a panel I moderated with leaders from Acuity, IBM, Source Support, and Skyllful, we discussed how the role of the frontline technician is changing and Justin Lake of Skyllful shared that on a recent ride along with a technician, the technician said, “I feel like I’m on an island.” Mindy Booknis of IBM shared some cautionary words about ensuring you don’t over-automate in a way that your customers miss the people connection and personal touch. While our connectedness and access to information is incredibly powerful, we must balance it with human centricity.
- Remote service is a priority, but still being sorted. Many leaders brought up their use of various tools to remotely diagnose and resolve issues and to allow company to customer or company to tech virtual experiences. However, no one seems to have the remote-first strategy perfected. Across industries it is in varying stages of refinement with companies addressing issues of change management, communication to customers of the different value proposition, and in some scenarios access to customer data.
- Customer success is a growing service function. During an ask-me-anything panel, someone asked if any of the leaders’ organizations have customer success roles for service. All four did, and each shared some points of success as well as things to consider. The opportunity for customer success to compliment, augment, and in some cases even replace field service roles seems to be a growing trend.
- Customer satisfaction demands equal emphasis on employee engagement. Many sessions were dedicated to discussing the need to put more effort into the experience, engagement, and satisfaction of the frontline workforce. And while this is driven in part by the immense challenges to recruit, it’s also due to the realization that the frontline worker is instrumental in a company’s mission to drive customer satisfaction.
- Diversity, and inclusion, of talent in field service is a must. Laurie Battaglia of Aligned at Work interviewed Stephanie Peters of Hobart about the steps Hobart is taking to drive diversity. The company has introduced a new program and is taking intentional action not only to bring diverse talent into its organization but to ensure equity and inclusion of it’s employee base. It was a powerful example of the importance of improving diversity in this space, not only to help solve the talent problems but to expand diversity of opinions, ideas, and thought that will only improve a company’s ability to evolve and innovate.
Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks, and if you want to save the date for any of the upcoming events (besides, of course, the Future of Field Service Live Tour!) here are the dates and locations:
- Field Service Hilton Head – August 16-18, 2022
- Field Service Asia (Singapore) – November 15-16, 2022
- Field Service Europe (Amsterdam) – November 30-December 1st, 2022
- Field Service Palm Springs 2023 – April 25-27th, 2023