Key Themes from Field Service Hilton Head 2022 | Future of Field Service
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Key Themes from Field Service Hilton Head 2022

Sarah shares what was top of mind among attendees at WBR’s Field Service Hilton Head event last week in South Carolina.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. I’m back again this week for another solo episode, two weeks in a row. This week, actually last week by the time you’ll be seeing or hearing this, I’ve been in Hilton Head for the WBR Field Service Hilton Head event. Today, I’m going to give you a little bit of a recap on what some of the biggest themes and discussion points were at the conference. If you aren’t familiar, WBR has a series of field service events. There is a variety of them. You should do a little bit of research. Typically, there’s an event in Palm Springs in the spring. There’s this event somewhere on the East Coast in this timeframe.

Sarah Nicastro: There’s a Europe event happening towards the end of the year. There’s a Field Service Medical specific event. There’s a Field Service Connect event. If you’re in this space and you’re looking for conferences to attend and learn some things, meet with some different folks, make some new connections, it’s certainly worthwhile to take a look at. I’m sure many of you are already familiar. I’ve been coming to these events for quite a few years, and just wanted to share with you all a synopsis of some of the themes that were most prevalent at the event this week. I’m going to pick three things that I think came up again and again and again and seem to be the focus area of a lot of conversations this week.

Sarah Nicastro: The first is all around data. We know how incredibly important data is in today’s service landscape. I think the reason that it’s such a prominent part of the discussion is that it impacts so many different areas of the business. It impacts the customer journey. It impacts internal decision-making. It impacts the customer value proposition. It impacts workforce performance. It impacts so many different areas. I think we’re at a point where everyone has recognized the criticality of not just data, but sophisticated data and real-time intelligence, but also the importance of what you’re doing with that data. I think there was a point where just being able to collect and have the data was a point of competitive differentiation.

Sarah Nicastro: We’re certainly past that point, right? We’re at the point where it isn’t about, can you get it? You should have it. It’s about what are you doing with it? There was a number of different conversations this week about that. One was a gentleman Len from Eppendorf, who was talking about the fact that data, isn’t something we should be using as an organization just to drive costs down, but also to drive revenue up, right? To think a little bit differently about what we’re doing with the insights we’re collecting and how they can impact the business. He also talked about the fact that, again, data itself doesn’t do much, right? It’s our ability to leverage it that is powerful.

Sarah Nicastro: You need to be able to take that data and tell stories with it. One of the things he mentioned that I thought was really interesting is that he has actually sent a data analyst or maybe more than one to a creative writing course to learn a bit more about storytelling. This is the idea that most people that are consuming data, whether that’s your internal stakeholders or your customers, they can’t, won’t, or don’t want to make sense of raw data. They want to know, what is the story? What is it telling me? They want you to digest, simplify and turn that into that valuable perspective. His point that he shared is that a lot of data analysts tend to be very technical.

Sarah Nicastro: They tend to be the people that can make sense more intuitively of raw data. Sometimes it’s helpful to teach those people how to turn that into stories. I thought that was interesting. There was also a gentleman from Henny Penny who talked about… We talk a lot about connecting assets, but that isn’t where the value comes from. The value comes from what you do with the insight from those assets to drive value. There was a session with source support and some others talking about knowledge management and knowledge capture and knowledge management, which is another really important point of collecting and leveraging data and making sure that you’re retaining the insights of your valuable frontline workforce.

Sarah Nicastro: David Douglas of Scientific Games had a session on leveraging technician scorecards to drive performance. Using data to motivate the frontline workforce to meet specific KPIs, to continuously improve, et cetera. There’s a number of elements to this part of the conversation. There’s the infrastructure around collecting data and connecting assets. Some questions that were brought up this week were around the ownership of that data. If you’re collecting data from customer locations, who owns that data and how do you handle that discussion? How do you ensure security of the data? Then once you sort out the infrastructure, there’s the analysis and the storytelling aspect.

Sarah Nicastro: Of course, there’s the move toward leveraging data to become more predictive and proactive. And then there’s a whole separate conversation around the commercialization of data and how once you’ve put the infrastructure in place and once you have mastered the ability to turn data into knowledge, how do you then use that to grow revenue of your organization? A lot of conversation around data. The second key thing that came up that I wanted to share is around third party. There was a very cleverly named session called Ain’t No Party Without a Third Party, which I thought was cute. In that session, Patrick Dell of Varian and Sal Accardo of ABB shared some of their thoughts around leveraging third party.

Sarah Nicastro: I think generally agreed that in the talent landscape that we have today, the reality is in some form or fashion, third party is just a necessity. I don’t know that everyone would agree, but that did seem to be a common consensus here at the event. With that said, a lot of the conversation centered around if you’re leveraging a third party workforce, how do you ultimately protect yourself against that workforce becoming a competition from taking customers from you? Part of that conversation was around you can’t completely mitigate that risk, right? Part of it is just accepting that fact. But one of the points that was brought up is, if they can come in and beat us at this thing, what else can we do?

Sarah Nicastro: What other knowledge expertise do we have that they can’t? Focusing then on what is your true competitive differentiation and how do you highlight that with your customer base, how do you ensure that you are protecting your knowledge in whatever area makes you unique. The other point that was brought up by Patrick that I really liked is he said our goal should be to make them as good as we are because the customer experience has to come first. He very honestly shared that 15 years ago, he wouldn’t have said that because he didn’t necessarily look at it that way. But I thought that was a very honest sharing on his part and a very mature viewpoint.

Sarah Nicastro: But that is the reality, right? Then we also had a conversation in a breakout session that I was part of with Ira of Okuma, and they have specifically a distributor network. He was talking a lot about how they use NPS scores and different customer outreach to make that relationship collaborative and to make sure that those distributors feel like partners and have that sense of a relationship. With use of third party, obviously part of it is how do you manage the knowledge sharing with those folks. And most importantly, I think, is around how you protect the brand experience for your customers when you are relying on service providers that are not your own employees to deliver that.

Sarah Nicastro: The final point that seemed to come up quite a bit was around best practices for field service management. More looking at, how do we make the most of the modern, sophisticated technology that exists today? I had a number of conversations with attendees on the side about the vendors that were at the event exhibiting and showcasing their solutions and who had popped up that was new, who had been around for a long time, who does what, et cetera. I think the reality is there are a lot of modern, sophisticated tools and a lot of that can become quite confusing for people that are looking for the best fit for their business.

Sarah Nicastro: There’s certainly an argument to be made for organizations today that the more they can simplify their technology stack, the better off they are. Because when you’re looking to protect the customer experience, the more systems you have in place that are sort of pieced together, the more failure points that introduces and the more complexity. On the flip side, you want to make sure that the more you fit into a single tool, you’re not trading capability or value of anything else. Again, I’ve said this in a lot of our content, I think there is this tendency to jump to, we need to use AI because it’s on the agenda and people are talking about it, without necessarily really even defining what that means.

Sarah Nicastro: Just kind of hearing it as a buzzword and knowing that or thinking that they need to be doing that. In reality, I think there needs to be a better definition of what that means and how it’s purpose driven for any individual business. But as I’ve said many times before, when it comes to making the best use of today’s technologies, the starting point is really making sure there’s a strong foundation in place. I’ll point back to a podcast that I did a while back with Eduardo Bonefont from Becton Dickinson. He talked a lot about them kind of taking a beat or pressing pause to reflect on what they had and what they needed.

Sarah Nicastro: Because before they added or built upon their existing infrastructure, they needed to solve some foundational problems in what was already in place, their employee engagement, et cetera. I think that’s very important for companies to keep in mind. You can’t just jump to what’s next or what’s new if you don’t already have a strong level of foundational capability in place. If you do or when you do, that’s when should start looking at, okay, we have mastered the basics. We have really good access to a universal source of real time information across the business. We have technicians that are efficiently and effectively utilized. We are able to provide them the information they need at their fingertips when they are on a customer site.

Sarah Nicastro: We keep good track of our inventory, those sorts of things. That’s when you can start looking at how you can layer in more advanced tools. Then you can start looking at, okay, how do we leverage machine learning or artificial intelligence to move toward more predictive models or to automate more tasks? How can we maybe leverage augmented reality with our customer base or with our internal employees and teams? The reality is twofold and sometimes it’s a bit of a catch 22, but there are incredibly cool and interesting technologies that are available and ready for use today. But the question companies need to ask themselves is, are they ready to make use of them?

Sarah Nicastro: If you can answer that question honestly, it just sets you up for better success, right? I think the goal… I’ve noticed also, the conversation has shifted to, how do we empower our frontline? It’s less about how do we control them and more about how do we empower them. How do we equip them to give the customer experience and the brand perception that we want? I think that’s a great place to be in the conversation. I think the frontline workforce deserves that viewpoint versus one of control. I think that’s really exciting. Those are three of the big things that I took away from the conversations this week. Of course, you can always visit us at Future of Field Service to hear more and learn more.

Sarah Nicastro: If you wanted to take a look at any of the upcoming WBR Field Service events, the Field Service Europe event is in Amsterdam, November 30th and December 1st, and the Field Service Palm Springs event is, of course, in Palm Springs scheduled for April 25th through 27th of 2023. I would love to see you at either one. And in the meantime, you can stay up to date on the latest in field service right here with us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn, as well as Twitter @thefutureoffs. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. And as always, thank you for listening.