DELL Eliminates Siloes for an End-to-End Service Approach | Future of Field Service
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DELL Eliminates Siloes for an End-to-End Service Approach

Bob Feiner, Senior VP of Dell Technologies Services, joins Sarah for a discussion around how the company has evolved its services approach and execution to improve the customer experience. 

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we’re going to be talking about how Dell has eliminated silos for an end-to-end service approach.

I’m excited to be joined today by Bob Feiner, who is the Senior VP of Dell Technologies Services. Bob, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Bob Feiner: Hey Sarah. It’s great to be here. Looking forward to talking to you.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, thanks for coming on.

So I had the pleasure of seeing Bob and one of his colleagues do a presentation at the Service Council Symposium in Chicago in September. And I was struck by it for a number of reasons. I mean, first of all, you both did an excellent job presenting.

Bob Feiner: Thanks.

Sarah Nicastro: But secondly, I think the work that you’ve done is such a shared challenge for organizations that are really needing to better orient themselves around the customer and eliminate some of those longstanding and traditional silos. So I just felt it was so, so, so relevant to our audience, and I’m thankful that you were willing to come on and talk about that journey with our audience as well.

So the conversation starts really with trying to restructure or reorient around a common goal. So before we talk about how, can we talk about the why that is so, so important to do? Can you talk a little bit about, for you and for Dell, why was this reorganization, this restructuring so, so important?

Bob Feiner: Yeah, that’s a good question. I would tell you the why is because customers don’t care about our work structure. They just don’t. What they care is that the outcome that they need, it happens and happens quickly and is done right the first time.

And there can be a tendency when, particularly if you look at an organization like us, we’re in almost every country in the world. We support over 200 million active devices around the globe. I do millions and millions of contacts and dispatches every year. So there’s a lot of complexity. And what can tend to happen is that you want to make sure that you’re minimizing that complexity as much as possible. So your parts team optimizes what they do. Your field team optimizes what they do. Your contact center teams optimize what they do because they’re just trying to make sure with all the complexity, they’re taking any noise out of their systems.

But our customers don’t care about what happens in those different pieces. They care about the outcome. And I think we just came to a realization, and some of it was triggered by things that we saw, even during the pandemic, that enabled that. And I think the response has been pretty solid. There’s still always work to do because, even with the customer experience levels that we have today, considering the amount of transactions we do, we still have a lot of excursions, and we’ve got to minimize those as much as possible.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting, you bring up the word complexity, and it’s so true. But what the customers want is seamlessness. They want the same seamless experience they can get when they, and I know this is an overused analogy, but when they request an Uber or when they order a package from Amazon. There’s a reason that those examples are overused though, because that is the standard that has been set in experiences that have bled over into what customers expect in all industries and from all of their providers. And I think it’s a really good point that you can’t necessarily eliminate that complexity, but you do need to manage it, and you need to focus on making it as invisible as possible to the customer. And that-

Bob Feiner: That’s right.

Sarah Nicastro: … is the most important point. They want the experience, the outcome, the seamlessness. They don’t, like you said, care about any of the hard work that goes into them getting that. Now, can you tell us a little bit about the historical structure and some of the ways that that prevented Dell from achieving the type of customer centricity that ultimately you want to achieve?

Bob Feiner: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s no different than most organizations, particularly as you grow up into a larger entity. I think probably startup companies probably don’t necessarily have the same experience because leadership in those companies are, they’re wearing multiple hats. But as you become bigger, you look at, okay, how do I do my logistics better? How do I better manage my field teams, whether it’s outsourcing or insourcing? How do I manage my contact centers? And I think there’s just a natural tendency to structure things, okay, here’s the field service team, here’s the contact center team, here’s the parts and logistics and parts planning teams. And that brings expertise into how to make those things better. And you kind of build all the infrastructure around how the field operates or how parts and logistics operates or how the contact centers operate.

And quite frankly, that’s what we did for a long time. And there’s a lot of success involved in that. But I think, again, back to the point, particularly in a world that’s becoming even more and more digital every single day, and we’re used to doing things on our, ordering food and our groceries and transportation and you name it on your cell phone, that digital experience is what customers expect. And they don’t care about who the picker is in the grocery store, and they don’t care about who the driver is. They just care that, okay, all my stuff was delivered, and it was delivered at the time you said it was going to be delivered. And I think that that’s the experience that we realize we need customers to have. So that led us to, there are things you can do without necessarily a structural change, including a business management system, but I think we realize having a structural change helps enable that even more so.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think there’s a couple points this makes me think of, which is an intelligent consumer, so if I think about myself, and by intelligent I just mean knowledgeable about what goes on behind the scenes. So because I host this podcast, and I have a lot of discussions about what it takes to deliver service, that’s what I mean by intelligent. I may understand in the instance of a poor experience that it isn’t that picker’s fault or isn’t this part’s fault or what have you. But there’s still a frustration then with the company at large of saying, come on, I mean it’s 2022. You need to do better. And that’s kind of where every… Or some people don’t maybe have that context, and so then they’re rude or frustrated with the frontline worker, and ultimately they’re just doing their best to do their job.

I think the other thing it makes me think about is when we’re really talking about silos, you can have immense success within a silo, but ultimately fail in delivering the customer experience you want to fill. But that can make the people in that individual function feel very defensive because they have achieved success in their view.

Now, this kind of brings me to my next point, and I love this analogy. So you talked at the event about everyone needs to win, but we need to stop focusing on winning trophies and start focusing on winning rings. And this is really the crux of the point here. So tell us a little bit about what you mean there and how that hit home.

Bob Feiner: Yeah. That’s kind of become my mantra. So rings, not trophies. And I’m kind of a big sports guy-

Sarah Nicastro: I can tell.

Bob Feiner: … in particularly team sports. So I mean, you name it, team sports especially. And when you think about any team sports, it doesn’t matter what the sport is, when somebody has a great year, and they win the MVP, or if they’re in baseball, they win the Cy Young or whatever it may be, they get a trophy for that. They did a great thing individually. They had a great year.

But when you win a World Championship, no matter what the sport is, the Super Bowl or the World Series or Stanley Cup, whatever it is, every member of that team gets a ring. And because they played together, and to win that championship, and you’re going to have all stars on that team, you may have an MVP or two, you may have brand new players or rookies, you may have folks who quite frankly didn’t make it through the season, and you had to move them into another position or another role or even outside the organization.

And I just think about leading teams that way. And what I often tell my teams are, we’re actually playing for a World Championship every day. There is no… Our Super Bowl is every day. Our World Series final is every day. Our World Cup final is every day. So that’s the mindset we need to have. And if you do that, then I think people look at it from a team perspective and not just, okay, I got this great trophy that I can put on my desk somewhere, or a badge I can put virtually. It’s really about getting that ring and continuing to get those rings. And if you look at folks who were great, even individual athletes, what they care most about are rings. They don’t care about the trophies. And they’ll say that time and time again.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And it makes me think it isn’t even about just the individual players looking at the rings, but the functions as well, right?

Bob Feiner: That’s right.

Sarah Nicastro: So the ring is not, let’s win as a team at being the best in call center. It’s let’s win the ring for customer experience and-

Bob Feiner: Exactly.

Sarah Nicastro: … customer satisfaction, right?

Bob Feiner: That’s right.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it is a really good lens to put it through, because again, it goes back to the point I made, which is if you’re trying to motivate everyone to win those rings, you don’t want to make their trophies that they’ve already won feel unimportant or irrelevant. So the success they’ve achieved, you want to honor that and then motivate them to look at winning a ring rather than saying, hey, it’s great that you’ve totally optimized this function, but it doesn’t matter because we’re not achieving X. It’s hey, you’ve done a great job, but now we need to shift gears and look at this whole thing.

So I think, to your point, it gives people another way to connect in and view it through the lens of working together without discrediting the really hard work they’ve done and success they’ve had that just doesn’t fit the business today and where you need to expand and grow into. So that’s sort of the mindset side of it.

Now when we look at moving toward end-to-end service, and really the goal here is aligning everyone around that customer journey. And this means less silos and individual success plans and a bigger picture view of strategy, processes, technology, and measures of success. So tell us a little bit about the different components of what you looked at to really achieve this end-to-end approach, and we’ll go from there.

Bob Feiner: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it really starts with your business management system. I talked about this a little bit earlier, but you’ve got to look at your measures and how you’re measuring the experience that customers are having with your service end-to-end and what those outcomes are. And like you said, look, it’s absolutely fine to have, you’re going have to have measures within each of the functions because they still have to operate well, because that’s how you get the great end-to-end performance. You still got to have players that know their position and play them well.

And I think starting with the business management system and really looking at and questioning, okay, are the measures that you have truly what customers are experiencing or care about? I think it starts with that. And then you build backwards from there and say, okay, if it’s an NPS or a customer set or whatever measures you think are important for your customers, and then you build from there. What are the things that get you to those experiences, and what are the things that are most important?

So we really started with that as kind of the measurement system. What do the measures need to look like? And then we start, and then we added onto that a governance program. And literally, every week we have a weekly meeting end-to-end that looks at those measures. Some of them are functional, but most of them are end-to-end, whether it’s backlog or customer experience or whatever it may be, how many defects we have, and talk about, okay, what are we going to do to solve that and prevent a similar issue if we have one happening end-to-end? And it may be that, hey, the logistics team may need to spend a little more money to help out the field ,,or vice versa, or the contact center needs to do some other work to ensure that the field’s getting the right information which may impact their individual metrics, but helps the end-to-end. So I think it starts with that and then the governance of that.

And then also you need to constantly thinking about the long term. And so in addition to a weekly view that we have on our management system, we also have a weekly end-to-end view on how we are modernizing what we do. And that could be technology. That could be having an outside end view where we bring in a third party to say, here’s what we’re seeing in the cross industries. That could be other functions that we have to tie into. So I think you need to be looking at both, both how you’re operating today and then also what you’re building for the future.

And then that leads to what’s the technology roadmap look like? And how that technology roadmap incorporates that experience that you want the customer to have end-to-end and seamlessly and digital just like we all do in our personal lives, or that we all expect in our personal lives. And the technology piece is probably the toughest piece because, again, historically I think folks have looked at, okay, I’m going to put technology in that optimizes my part of the business, but then how do you do that end-to-end from what the customer’s experiencing? And it’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle to make sure that the different pieces come together so that the customer can experience what that great response is going to be.

And then honestly, I think the last piece is org structure. So I think you put those other things in place, it’s kind of just a natural movement to, okay, well, maybe there’s some structural things we can do to even more enhance the alignment from an end-to-end perspective. And I think you put those other pieces in place first,` and that just enables that.

Sarah Nicastro: Now from an org perspective, what did change?

Bob Feiner: So we actually combined our contact centers and our field teams, and from a dotted line perspective, our parts and logistics altogether. So they all sit on my staff. They’re all part of my organization. They’re all in those meetings together. I have a peer who runs all of our parts and logistics across all of our products. And just because in some cases a motherboard doesn’t distinguish whether it’s a client product, or a hard drive, I should say, doesn’t distinguish whether it’s a client product or server or storage product? It doesn’t really make sense today to split that up. But so structurally, that’s what we put in place.

And then on my team is it doesn’t matter whether it’s consumer or a commercial customer, whether they’re a contact center or a field or parts and logistics, we all work, we all talk together, we go through the same meetings, we all talk in unison, whether it’s financials or operationals, with one voice. And that works really well from the standpoint… The other thing that works well from that standpoint is if somebody’s not in for the day or takes vacation or whatever, since we’re all talking in the same voice, you can have multiple people talking to the leadership team about what’s happening or what’s going on. And it really helps enable that collaboration because everyone’s on the same page.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, well oftentimes, I think those silos exist not because anyone is intentionally creating them, but because there isn’t that cross functional collaboration and that level of group communication that keeps everyone on the same page. I mean, that is so, so important in reducing that because a lot of times it’s just nothing more than I’m staying in my lane, I’m doing what I need to do, and it’s just not having the awareness. And so that’s no one’s fault. It just wasn’t the way that it was structured to exist.

One of the things that I think is really important about what you just said is the balance of the tactical sessions and the strategic sessions. Because that’s tough to balance.

Bob Feiner: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it’s really tough, and this is what I want to ask you is how do you protect the time and effort for the strategic sessions? And what I mean by that is, in my experience talking with folks, what all too often happens is that people have very good intention. They know innovation is important. They know they need to be strategic, but they get so caught up in the day-to-day aspects of the business, particularly when there are challenges, customer challenges, etc., that it gets pushed, and it gets pushed, and it gets pushed, and then it’s just not a priority. So how do you protect that and make sure that you are having those conversations, knowing that they’re very important for the future of the business?

Bob Feiner: So actually, what we do is, I think I said this, I spend, every week we do our business management review, and that has a set agenda where there’s going to be some topics that happen every single week. But then there’s other things where we may want to drill down into a functional area that we have a rotation of topics. And that agenda is set usually a month or so in advance. And so everyone sees, here’s coming up.

We do a similar thing on the strategy side. We call it a modernize meeting where, okay, what are we doing to modernize what we’re doing? Or digitizing? And a similar type cadence where we set an agenda, a rolling four-week, four to five weeks in advance that says, okay, here’s the topics we’re going to go through for this session. It’s going to be what are we doing that’s unique from a field technology last mile? What are we doing to think about an outside in and bringing a third party in? What are we doing around our social media engagement? And where do we have to take all those things in the future? So I think what’s really important is setting that cadence and setting that cadence to the point where when you’re doing your business management reviews on a weekly basis, you’re also setting a cadence around, at least I’ve got some time blocked out every week where I’m talking about what I’m doing from a modernized or strategic perspective.

Now also in addition to a couple times a year, we’ll just have essentially brainstorming sessions, particularly for the next planning year on what do we want to go do? What do we want to think about from the future? I tend to look at those as, okay, let’s make that a five year plan, and this is year one of that five year plan, and what do we want? And that five year plan should be what do we want the customer to experience, and not what do we want to go optimize, but what do we want the customer experience to be? And what do we think it’s going to be based off of all the technological innovations that we’re seeing in the market in our industry and others? So you need to do that as well, but you absolutely need to set that cadence every week just like you do with your business management.

And you’ve got to hold yourself accountable that you’re not going to let go of that because it can be real easy to let go of that. And particularly, in times like today, where there’s a lot of challenges going on in the marketplace, you can lean into, okay, what am I going to do just to get through the day? But if you don’t think about the future, you’re never going to get to that future vision, and your competitors will pass you by. So it’s really important, even more so in a challenging environment we’re going through, to do that ongoing thinking through what does the future look like.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. I agree. And I think it’s great that you have it structured that way.

So this is a lot of change with a large team. And we talked a little bit about some of the emotions that may come up in this type of shift in approach because people may think, well, I’ve been doing great, so what needs to change? Why? I’m crushing it in my area? So what’s the big deal? And a variety of other things, I’m sure. So what have some of the challenges been in working through this that you would kind of caution others on? Because I think what you’re doing is so important for companies to do if they have not. If you’re delivering service, and you are not orienting yourself to the customer journey, I mean, they should be. I think one of the barriers is that change management. It’s really hard to dig in and shift things around when there’s a lot of legacy process and legacy mindset. So what were some of the challenges that came up?

Bob Feiner: Well, I think the key thing is, ultimately, as a service organization, what we’re providing is people. And you’ve got to get your people to change that mindset. And look, we still have some folks that are very focused on their function. Not sure that they’ll last through this transformation that we’ve gone through.

But when I look at folks in leadership roles, I look at, okay, I may have a role today that’s open to go run my field service, and I may go look at somebody who can go fill that role. But I’m also thinking about, okay, if something comes up, and somebody from one of the contact centers takes on another great role, can I move that field service person into the contact center? Because I’m looking for do they have the leadership skills to think end-to-end, think about the team and not the individual, think about rings and not trophies, a and have the general business skills to move and motivate teams and think about the future and what customers are doing, rather than that they are just a functional expert. And it’s okay to have functional experts, but I think when you look at your leadership team at your more senior levels, you need to be thinking about players that can play a variety of positions and that can be successful in those different positions.

So that, I think, is key. Talent is extremely important. And the mindset of that talent, thinking about what the customer outcome is, and not just what their outcome is, is crucial. And I think we’ve had some people go through that mind shift. We’ve had people who haven’t, and they’ve left the organization. So like any team, it’s the talent that you surround yourself with. You got to be looking for talent that can replace you. You’ve got to be looking for talent that can bring other talent in, just like you would expect from a winning team.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. Can you share you yourself, as a leader, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout this process?

Bob Feiner: So that’s a good question. I think for me, the biggest thing is, again, it’s you’ve got to just put the customer at the core of everything that you do and realize that, hey, for example, I may have an impact on my financial metric. I’m held accountable to a certain cost number or P&L number. I may take an impact to that, but if I’m doing the right thing for the customer, I think that gets excused as long as there’s a balance in that. And I think having that perspective of it’s okay for an individual to have a challenge accomplishing something, as long as the outcome is the right thing for the customer. I think that’s a perspective that all of us have taken to heart and have really learned from. And I think that’s enabling the success that we have today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It’s a greater success to be challenged achieving the right outcome than to be successful achieving complacency.

Bob Feiner: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s-

Sarah Nicastro: And an outcome that your customers don’t value, right?

Bob Feiner: Yeah. It’s we, not me, right?

Sarah Nicastro: It’s growth. It’s growth. I mean, it’s not going to be, you wave a magic wand, and all of a sudden things are transformed, and everything is sunshine and rainbows. There’s going to be bumps and fits and starts and lessons, and that’s the hard work of it. But it’s commendable hard work. So I think that’s a really good point.

I know you said you still, you’re in the midst of all of this, and there will always be improvements to make. What progress, benefits, wins have you seen so far since you’ve started the journey?

Bob Feiner: Well, I can tell you a great example is earlier this year, obviously, we have a supply chain that’s global, but we do have a lot of things that come through Shanghai. Shanghai’s the largest port in the world. Even if things aren’t manufactured necessarily there, there’s a lot of product that comes through there, components. And earlier this year, Shanghai went through a pretty significant shutdown from a Covid perspective and really impacted supply chains and you name the product around the world.

And I think prior to having this structure in place, once Shanghai reopened, we probably would’ve optimized, okay, the parts are going to ship parts out. We may not coordinate that with the field. The field will get a big backlog of parts. What are they going to do? How are they going to go manage that? Contact centers will get a flood of calls coming in, trying to find out how to get their problem solved.

And I think with having the structure in place, what we actually did is we were able to be much more thoughtful end-to-end about, okay, once products are able or components are able to come out of Shanghai, how do we solve problems for customers end-to-end? And we put a plan in place. We thought, okay, we are going to have a spike in backlog, because when you can’t get parts, you just can’t get parts. And we built out what our plans were going to be to go solve our customer problems. And actually, we were one month ahead of schedule by having this end-to-end in place because everyone was working in sync. Everyone, the contact centers were planning, okay, what kind of calls are going to come in? And where are they going to be? The parts teams were coordinating with, okay, these components, these specific components are going to be released. They’re on a ship, and here’s where they’re going to be delivered. So then the field knows when that’s going to show up, and they can go deliver for customers that need that component or that product.

And I think having that better end-to-end view from the business management system to the teams working together to the communications that we have on a weekly basis helped us to get a month ahead of what our original plan was, and which is a huge boon to customers, particularly folks who are waiting on particular things to do their jobs. So I think that’s a great example of where we looked at it as a team and not as individuals to really go solve customer problems.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. And instead of scrambling to react when that happened-

Bob Feiner: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: … you were able to come together proactively in advance and think through, okay, we know this is coming. How do we work together to get ahead of it? And yeah, that’s really good.

I think this is great, Bob. I’m really glad you came on and talked through this with me and with our audience. Like I said, it’s commendable, hard work. It’s hard work that I think a lot of folks are in the midst of as well, and can commiserate with some of the challenges. And others, hopefully, are taking notes and thinking about what they need to be doing. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom for folks?

No. I mean, I think it just all goes back to kind of the mantra around rings, not trophies. I mean, if you think about it from a customer view, that’s what you’ve got to do. And I think you got to think about it from what do you experience? What’s the great experiences that you have every day? And what are the ones you don’t because we all have the ones that aren’t happen. Do you want your customers going through that as well? And I think if you take that mindset of. What I do in my personal life is also what I’ve got to think about for the service that my company’s performing, I think that helps you along that road of truly being a customer-centric organization.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for being here and sharing with us. I appreciate it.

Bob Feiner: No, it’s awesome. It’s great to talk to you.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep. You can find more on service transformation, business transformation, customer-centricity, all of those things by visiting 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.

As always, thank you for listening.