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November 30, 2022 | 27 Mins Read

Prioritizing Human Centricity in Service

November 30, 2022 | 27 Mins Read

Prioritizing Human Centricity in Service


In a session from the Future of Field Service Live Tour in Austin, Sasha Ilyukhin, SVP of Customer Service Operations at Tetra Pak talks with Sarah about why and how the company is putting more emphasis on human centricity in its service operations.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today’s podcast is a session from the Austin stop of the Future of Field Service Live Tour. It features Sasha Ilyukin who is the senior vice president of customer service operations at Tetra Pak and we are talking about the need for more human centricity in service. Sasha talks about how he came to recognize as a leader that he and Tetra Pak needed to focus more on human centricity, and also how he and the company is doing so, some of the initiatives that they have underway to put more focus on their people and their people’s experiences as part of Tetra Pak and delivering services to Tetra Pak customers. I hope you enjoy.

So, we’re going to talk about prioritizing human centricity.

Sasha Ilyukhin: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro:  I’m really excited for this session. I think it’s a very important topic. And before we get into that though, tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your role, touchbacks business, and the scope of what you are responsible for.

Sasha Ilyukhin: And before I even get into that, I wanted to thank you so much for bringing up this topic because I think it’s so important. It rarely gets brought up in these conferences for field service or any of these sort of digital transformation conferences, et cetera. And I think it’s extremely important because all of us are probably struggling in one way or another with human centricity, putting the humans first before the business. So thank you very, very much for bringing up the incredible topic.

So a few words about me, I have a background in food science and food engineering. Have my master’s degree from Purdue University. I joined Tetra Pak 21-plus years ago in field service. So I was with toolbox in hand and traveling around fixing stuff. And then had a bunch of leadership jobs here in the States, in Europe, and now back to the States. So now I run our service operations business in America, so North Central, South America.

Tetra Pak, for those that may not be familiar with us, we are big in food and beverage. We’re a privately owned company, almost 70 years old. And we make equipment to make food. We make packaging material that runs on that equipment. And then we have service business that wraps around the equipment and the packaging material that we have. So I work for the service end of the business.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. I think we talked about this a bit at our Frankfurt event. So if any of you are not aware, this is the last in a series of live tour events that we’ve done. And so, what we talked about is the fact that I think we’re in a bit of a reckoning right now related to this topic because… So when I started in this space, all of the conversations centered around cost cutting, cost cutting, cost cutting, right? And I’m not saying that that’s still not an important thing to keep track of, but obviously, there was a shift of perceiving service as a profit center versus a cost center. And then following that became a hyper-focus on the customer experience, which makes sense.

So how do our customers feel about us and what’s their experience, what’s their impression, what’s their satisfaction level, et cetera. And while we were so hyper-focused on that, I think we overlooked the connection of employee engagement and employee experience to an extent and the direct impact that has on our customer satisfaction objectives.

So now I feel like we’re almost taking a step back as… I’m generalizing as an industry and saying, “Okay, so customer satisfaction is still incredibly important.” But now we realize that for us to have the biggest impact there we can, we need to take into account how do our employees feel in a variety of different ways, which is what we’re going to talk about today.

So I agree, it’s a topic that isn’t talked about enough, but I have a feeling it’s going to be more and more so because it’s just something that people have to dig back into and address.

So let’s start by talking a bit about company culture because I think it’s a very important part of this, but something that can be really hard to bolt down because no one’s going to say, we don’t have a great company culture. Everyone’s going to check that box. So, how would you describe Tetra Pak’s culture and how are you taking that and working on reinforcing it or representing it in the service organization?

Sasha Ilyukhin: So yeah, no, culture is extremely important. And as we all know, Peter Drucker said once that culture eats strategy for lunch. We have a decent start at Tetra Pak because we come from a Swedish heritage, so we have a lot of Swedish culture ingrained in the company. And Swedish culture is sort of high work ethic, but also very, very high focus on family, on wellness, and the balancing the time. So it’s American with that flavor of family time.

And it’s very typical for us to see, like when we go to Sweden, it’s almost like you see the bats here at sunset, you would see employees there at 5:00 PM. So at 5:00 PM at Tetra Pak, the doors open and just everyone floods out. Now, it doesn’t mean that people don’t connect later and so on, but it’s still, it’s very important to have that balance. So that’s a good start.

I mean, we don’t pretend that we know how to really run the best company in terms of human centricity, but we try our best. We have a brand promise that focuses on food, people, and planet. And so, people is really one of the three big legs that we say, “Okay, we as a company, we want to protect food, protect people, and protect the planet.” So that’s the starting point.

Now, when we look at how the culture is transforming, I just came across recently, there was an article by BCG Henderson, it was called Beautiful Management, I actually shared on LinkedIn. And I thought it was a brilliant article in a sense that where the industry is changing from the standard Fred Taylor’s scientific management, where we look at KPIs, balanced score cards and how we do, to how do we drive empathy, how do we drive engagement, how do we drive innovation related to that?

And Max talked about entrepreneurs. How do we drive that entrepreneurial spirit within the company to drive innovation? How do we drive that people collaborate to each other and drive change in the business? So to make it the full circle, that links to business resilience because business… I’ll make it a case here, that business resilience, you cannot achieve that without actually focusing and achieving human centricity. So your business will never be resilient because at the end of the day, it’s a service business that I run and service business is all about people. So it’s people talking to other people.

That’s what I tell my leadership team as well. I tell them that we’re not Tetra Pak working with Coca-Cola, we’re Sarah working with Sasha, or we’re Mike working with Fred, and so on and so forth. So it’s all about people interactions. We need to keep our people happy in order for our customers to be happy.

Sarah Nicastro: So, when did your current focus of prioritizing and reviewing, focusing on human centricity kick in and why? So what are some of the catalysts?

Sasha Ilyukhin: So, we ran a normal company for a while and we started to realize that all of a sudden we have, for example, our turnover rates are becoming higher. So we’re losing something in our company, we’re losing somehow the attractiveness for the people because all of a sudden… I mean, our turnover is still in single digits, but it doubled in the past three, four years.

So that was kind of a wake-up call for us and we’re like, “Okay, we need to do something different and not just continue to be a normal, above average company. We need to do something special here to retain people, to attract talent.” That was the wake-up call.

Sarah Nicastro: And I commend you for that because I think a lot of people could look at that doubling and just say, “Well, it’s because of the pandemic and the surrounding issues.” And sort of almost take a defeatist stance of, “Well, it is what it is, so what are we going to do about it?” And instead, you’re taking a more proactive approach of, “Okay, so these are the facts, and regardless of what external factors are weighing in, we need to sort out how to do better.”

So let’s talk about the fact that this isn’t a concept. I think one of the reasons you said at the beginning, this doesn’t get talked about a lot. I think one of the reasons for that is that people view it as sort of this woo-woo, touchy-feely, human-centricity type thing. But that’s really not the case. I mean, it is proven that companies that have better employee engagement and employee satisfaction have better results.

And so, what are your thoughts on how you balance this focus? Because I know you as a leader genuinely care, but also with the realities of how it will help the business.

Sasha Ilyukhin: I think it’s well proven to your point. And it’s proven with actually a peer-reviewed research. So I came across, there’s a research by Brown and Lamb in 2008, which is quoted everywhere. But that research established a very, very strong correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. So there’s a direct correlation, unquestionable.

What’s interesting in that research is that there is no correlation backwards. So you can have very satisfied customers, but very disengaged employees. And that I find very, very interesting because you can drive customer satisfaction different ways. I mean, with price promotions, with supply chain, service levels, whatnot, but our focus is how do we keep our people engaged? I want my team to be happy with the jobs that they do. And I actually, I don’t mind if people actually leave the company because they’re not happy. So if they want to go and do something different, we had a couple of people, one left to study, another left to run a personal business, a family business, which is great.

I mean, if that’s what their calling is, I don’t want them to stay. I want them to do what they want to do. It also comes back to the types of leaders that we have because that was actually another interesting piece in that research. They had something that they called moderating variable. So what is the highest moderating variable in that ES to CX relationship? And the moderating variable was supervisory support. So it’s one on ones, it’s having basically good leaders.

So what we’re doing there is we have a mandate in my team. So on every person that we hire… Max talked about character. Character, I totally agree, 100%, it’s extremely important. Every single service tech or service engineer that we hire, I have the director for that unit sitting on that final interview. That’s mandatory. We don’t proceed forward if that doesn’t happen. I sit on every single interview for every leadership job in my team. So all the service delivery manager, I don’t care what that level is and of the leadership, every single leadership job, I sit on the interview and I’ll make time for it.

Also, we do the same for exit interviews. So we want to make sure if someone’s leaving, we want to make sure to understand why they’re leaving, because that’s a good learning for us. We can put some actions in place to say, “Okay, maybe we missed it in this case, and let’s do it better next time.” So these are some of the actions that we’re taking to try to drive that engagement.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it’s a really good point because oftentimes when senior leaders decide to put a focus on human centricity, company culture, employee engagement, any of these types of things, they rightfully want to understand how the frontline employees feel and how they can improve that.

But sometimes, the middle management layer gets overlooked and to the detriment of the mission because you can be very committed to wanting to improve that frontline experience but if you have middle management that is disengaged, unsatisfied themselves, or not competent in the ways that you need to deliver the experience you’re intending, that mission is sort for not. So I think it’s a really key point that you’re focusing efforts there as well.

All right, so how have you prioritized which areas to focus on?

Sasha Ilyukhin: So, when we started to go beyond what I would call it a normal company or wanting to be just a normal standard company out there with benefits, and medical, and dental, and all this other stuff, we started to look at… Of course, we had some consultants helping us and we started to look at things like… We’ve implemented, for example, parental leave, for example, for both parents, including adoptive parents. We implemented flex hours and we wanted to implement flex hours for the field service as well. So because typically, if you implement flex hours in the office, then the field service people start to complain like, “Yeah, these guys in the office, I mean, they get to do everything.” I mean-

Sarah Nicastro: Now, can I interject and ask how you did that?

Sasha Ilyukhin: Yeah. So-

Sarah Nicastro: Like what that looks like. Because I think it would be good for people to hear a real example because this is an area, just as an example that comes up when you start talking about employee engagement and human centricity. In field service specifically, you run into a lot of people that say, “Well, that’s just not possible because of the nature of the operations or the work and we need to get creative in looking for solutions.”

Sasha Ilyukhin: That’s exactly the point. So what we’ve done is we looked at the types of contracts that we have and luckily, a lot of the service contracts that we have… Actually, have people at customer sites for a fairly prolonged period of time, whether that’s installation, or doing services, or doing production support, and so on. So we’re not the type of business where our service tech would come for a couple of hours and just leave. So we’re typically there for longer time.

So we started to promote these kind of flexible contracts, meaning that you agree with your customer, how you want to support their operation, and I don’t really care if you come morning, evening, weekend, no weekend… I mean, the service techs actually plan it themselves. We don’t even look at that. I mean, we just leave it for them and their customers to figure this out.

Then we look looked at also travel. Travel is a big thing in service, and I think it’s the highest waste. Also, I mentioned we’re big in sustainability of service as well, and that’s the whole different big topic to cover. But travel is one of the biggest offenders in sustainability, meaning CO2 profile and so on. But travel is also the biggest waste of time and our customers need to pay for that. They don’t like to pay for that. So then it becomes of like, “How do we minimize travel?”

And we minimize travel by proactively relocating people, by establishing regional hubs. So we continuously analyze like, “Where are the jobs are?” And we put the techs with the right capability there in that area. We proactively relocate them, we pay for that relocation, and we find ways basically to bring people to specific areas where the travel is very, very minimal. Then they can plan their own time. So that gives them flexibility.

So it just takes a little bit of that type of creativity, but it takes a lot of effort. I mean, it’s simple to explain, but I have 542 service engineers, it’s complicated in terms of how we plan all that. I mean, in terms of how do we plan all of that, right? But when we put the effort there, it actually pays off quite a bit. And customers appreciate that as well because I’ve heard from a lot of my customers like, “Hey, I don’t have to pay for travel anymore. That’s perfect.”

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. So I interrupted you, but we were talking about areas of focus and flexibility, and then… Okay.

Sasha Ilyukhin: Okay, so then other diversity and inclusion, a big thing. So we now started also a big program. We call it “Speak Up for Inclusion.” I have a problem in my team and the problem is actually male-female distribution. So in my leadership team, it’s 45-55. So I have 45% female, 55% male. One level below that, it’s 82-18. So I have 82 male, 18 female. One level below that I have almost 96-4. So 96% male, 4% female, huge problem.

It’s a huge problem because when the teams are not diverse, and even in that sense it just becomes a very alpha male type of culture, it’s more difficult to drive things like empathy, it’s more difficult to drive things like innovation. So we see it firsthand that the teams that are more diverse, we see much more engagement, significantly higher levels of engagement, and we were putting a lot of effort to actually build that pipeline. But it’s difficult in field service, extremely, extremely difficult.

So that’s another big area. Then mental wellness also. Right before COVID, I don’t know who had that idea, but this was a corporate program, but right before COVID, we started with this program that’s called, “It’s Okay Not To Be Okay.” And first, it was seen as a formality, like every company has some sort of a mental wellness hotline and whatnot, but we didn’t believe when we looked at the statistics of that and the types of help that people were getting, and we just realized, “Wow.” I mean, that’s extremely important as well, and meditation, Max mentioned meditation.

We also have things like these sort of what we call detox videos. It’s an interesting practice that was introduced to us by Arianna Huffington. She spoke at one of our events, and it’s a two-minute video that… I mean, all of these Gen Zs and Gen Xs, I mean, they can create it in five minutes, and you just put together a bunch of pictures of things that you really like. So maybe your family or places that you like and so on. You put it against the music background that you really like and you make it two minutes long.

And when you’re stressed out or you have three, four meetings in a row and then you just need to relax or in field service, when you’re in a tough job, the customer is just on you all the time, step out, take five minutes and look at that video, breathe in, meditate. It helps a lot. So that’s another thing that we put together.

Safety, safety also is another big priority for us. And we operate in the cultures sometimes where… And I’m not talking necessarily US, but when I visited Guatemala, man, I mean, the type of things that I saw there in terms of safety, you wouldn’t believe, right? I mean, people are running completely unsafe production and with open machinery, all kinds of bypass, safety, et cetera. And our field service engineers were always complaining to us, what can we do? How can we influence this? So we told them, we said… I mean, beyond the normal stuff, take two minutes for safety and so on, we said, “You don’t have to work like this, so please stop and demand the conditions, and then we’ll raise it up, escalate it to your leadership. We’ll make sure that the conditions are safe.” And actually, slowly but surely, things are starting to change, which is encouraging.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. So let’s dig into a couple of these in a little bit more detail. So when we think about engagement and really recognition, I know you have a firsthand perspective because you were a technician at one point yourself. So what are some of the things that you’re doing related to making sure that those employees feel valued and recognized and that sort of thing?

Sasha Ilyukhin: So, I’ll start with recognition is the best is what we find as when it comes from peers, customers, from the line manager. So it’s people-to-people recognition. I mean, we have formal programs, we have on-the-spot awards, we have annual awards.

We actually have a very nice program that we put in place called “Field Service Excellence Award.” And what that is, is that we select a bunch of people from every region. So we have 12 people participating in that. We send them to our headquarters every year, and then one of these teams wins a trophy. And that trophy is like a mobile trophy. So it comes in its own suitcase. And the commitment that we take is that this trophy then travels around all of the regional offices that we have, and people get to actually speak to their peers, to their friends, they can actually take it home. We don’t mind. I mean, they can take all kinds of selfies with it and promote it, do whatever you want. And it’s a fairly sizable, it’s a big trophy. We get to keep it for almost a year and then we have to send it back. So when one region wins, it’s a big thing for us.

So recognition is very important. The other type of… There’s non-standard recognition. So continuous education and learning is… People don’t see that as recognition, but I think it’s one of the instruments that we can recognize people with. And then just giving them access, an opportunity to get another degree, to learn. So we started with things like LinkedIn Learning with EdCast, and so that’s actually also an interesting learning right there. When we opened up these programs to our employees, we saw the engagement going up very quickly, and then it just sort of tapered off because people get exhausted.

And I mean, you’re all familiar with LinkedIn Learning, I mean, you go there and it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant. I mean, it’s, “Where do I go?” For every keyword, there’s 1.5 million trainings. So what we decided to do is we decided to curate and we decided to put together these what we call learning journeys. And in the learning journeys, we curate basically for specific jobs, specific positions that we have in the company. And so, if I’m a service engineer and I want to be a project manager, there’s a learning journey for me. I can go on my own pace, and I can basically do that. And it’s not only LinkedIn learning, but it’s also I get a chance to maybe spend some time with a project manager. I get more engaged with installations and projects all of a sudden. So I get to practically do things that I want to do in the future and get a feel for it.

And we don’t mind if they try it and they don’t like it and they say, “Well, that’s probably not something for me,” that’s actually the best kind of thing that we… So instead of putting them in that position and hoping that this is going to work, I mean, we can try it in this coaching mode and see if that works. And if it doesn’t, they can go back to the field and do what they want to do.

Sarah Nicastro: So, I think a lot of times when we talk about human centricity, people kind of separate it from digital transformation and technology, but really technology can play a big role in human centricity because if you think about the fact that it’s either helping or it’s typically a point of dissatisfaction, so it’s rarely somewhere in between. So, how does technology factor into your overall strategy?

Sasha Ilyukhin: We all learned the hard way during COVID, and you can get really exhausted with technology. Zoom, and WebEx, and Teams, and whatnot, I mean, you can get really exhausted with that, but it comes down, I think to employee experience. So we see technology as how do we enhance the employee’s experience. And when we implement different types of apps… So we have apps for field service, IFS, right? I mean, we have apps for safety, we have apps for learning, et cetera, et cetera. When we look at that, we look at does it really enhance the employee experience? Does it make their life easier or is it just another thing that we’re implementing?

I have a case here, I have a story where on the HR side, we had a case where we almost ended up with two apps for reporting hours. And that was not a good thing, but because one part of it comes from invoicing for customers, another part of it comes from internal processing hours, et cetera, and we stopped that. So we stopped that, we said, “No, no, no, no, no, we can’t do that. Yeah, it’s convenient, it works nice, it fits with our systems, it integrates, but we can’t do it like that.”

So this is one of the examples where we really need to curate technology as well. But technology certainly helps. I mean, it certainly helps. And EdCast, I mentioned EdCast for these personal journeys where we have these go-to’s and people can look at it from… We have this 70-20-10 principle, so 10% formal learning, 20% coaching, 70% on the job. In the classical, in the olden days, it used to be like you take the training 10% and then that’s it. You go on the job, you do your 70%. However you do it, it’s your thing, okay?

We want to make sure that people are actually going through that journey at their own pace. That’s one of the biggest learnings for us as a team, as a company. And one of the biggest learnings for me is one person can get a skill very quickly, another person, it takes them a little bit longer time, and again, we don’t mind. So they take the learning, they go into the coaching mode, and in the coaching mode they may realize, “Well, I don’t know this as well as I should.” So they go back to learning, they retake it again, go back again into the coaching mode. And these are the types of non-linear learning journeys that we want to promote. That’s a good recognition as well, because we give them the time to do this, we recognize that they need to take that time to learn.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now, I think it’s important to think about the impact of technology because if you put yourself in the shoes of the field technician, one of the things that’s going to make them automatically unhappy in their job is to arrive to do what they need to do and not have the information they need, the help they need, or to have some technology that is incredibly cumbersome and distracts them from the work they’re there to do. So it does, I think, have an important correlation.

I think the other thing is, I know Tetra Pak is in the midst of a service transformation. So focusing on human centricity in parallel or even in advance of makes change management a bit easier, rather than what companies often do is dig into change management as a result of that transformation, then find themselves in a human centricity conundrum because they start to uncover some of the issues.

So if you’re being more proactive about it can make whatever change you encounter, whether it’s technology-related or otherwise a bit easier because you have some of that foundation. So what is the feedback been from your teams so far? Have you heard any gratitude? Has there been any skepticism? What have you experienced?

Sasha Ilyukhin: We’ve heard all kinds of things and you can’t make everyone happy, but we want to make their life as easy as possible and make sure that our team is engaged. I just talked here this morning just over coffee about returning to the office. So we now have this program of returning to the office. We did the survey and the team split exactly 50-50. It’s not even 49-51, it’s 50-50. So some people are ready and eager to come back, some people are not, so we have to accommodate for all of these needs and find these interesting compromises with flex time and so on and so forth. Same goes for the field service.

What I would say is formal programs result in formal response, and it all comes down again to the leaders, to the types of leaders that we have, what they do. They need to be in the field, be with their people. I mean, I’m doing a lot of traveling, just visiting with customers and service engineers. We have road shows coming up, I will be in every single road show there. I think it’s important. It’s important to listen, and it’s important to act on what we hear from the field and how to make the life easier for our service engineers.

So again, it comes back to listening and empathy as well. There is research that I’ve seen that 80% of people would switch jobs if they don’t feel empathy from their leader. And when it comes to Gen X, it’s more like 90-plus percent would switch jobs. They don’t care about the pay, they don’t care about the benefits, they want relationship, and that I think is the key to it all.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, Sasha and I were talking with a group of other folks on a virtual focus group that we had on this topic, and that point came up about the balance between process and formal programs, which are important. You need to set some structure and you need to be thinking about how to scale certain things that are working, et cetera but also personal touch.

I think if you’re focused… If a company wants to improve human centricity by only focusing on the formal process, you’re really lacking a super important piece of the puzzle. So I think that’s a really good point. I also think it’s a good point about… You said you need to always be listening. And I think that’s the other thing is this isn’t a focus that you dig into, you make improvements, and then you move on. It’s something that needs to just become a course of continual improvement and adjustment.

So that’s where I think the process is helpful is the process of engaging and listening so that you have that insight into, “Okay, how are people feeling? What are they liking? What are they not liking?” To your point, you cannot make everyone happy, but I think there’s a lot of lift that comes from just being authentically engaged and being willing to listen even if you cannot and will not address every piece of feedback. So I think that’s really important as well. Any insights or lessons learned since you started this that you think those here today would benefit from hearing?

Sasha Ilyukhin: So, some of the lessons learned, I think Max told also about this is, again, I come back to the types of leaders that we hire and making sure that you don’t have any sort of toxicity in the team. So when the person becomes disengaged, you better catch it early before it actually happens and either fix it or get rid of them. If they become toxic, I mean, they talk to customers, they talk to peers, they talk to their families, it’s not good. It’s not good for them, not good for the company, not good for customers. So that’s one thing that we’re working really hard on is to make sure that… Is that we have the kind of engagement across the team.

Second is you don’t look at the averages because we were so blinded by looking at average utilization, average overtime, average travel. And when we benchmarked all of that, it’s like, “No, everything is fine.” And then when you look at an individual level, so all of a sudden, that average 80% utilization becomes… For someone, it’s 98%, so they’re totally overworked and burning out. For another person is 60% or 50%, and they’re sitting at home some days and probably also feeling bad because they’re like, “Why am I not needed? Why don’t I know things that are required for the company?”

Over-communicating, so during COVID, we’ve learned that skill very well. I don’t know how many one-on-ones, I have hundreds one-on-ones literally during COVID time, I don’t want to count them. But it’s important to over-communicate, it’s important to also… Anonymity, it’s okay. So when we have our events, what we call “Let’s Talk”, which are like town hall type events. We use Slido and we actually say, “Yeah, anonymity is fine, because that’s how you get the genuine feedback.” We never filter anything. So it’s like, you can put your name there, you don’t want to put your name there, that’s okay. And that’s how we get the most feedback.

And of course, being out there in the field as well, and in some ways easy to just sit in the office and trying to be this mastermind, but it doesn’t work. So being in the field, doing the Gemba for those that are in TPM as well. Go Gemba is a very, very nice principle there. It’s seeing something firsthand. And I would say also driving personal accountability is very important. That is something that we are now as a company also transforming into. We are a, again, Swedish heritage, and Swedish heritage is very collaborative culture. So we used to have everything is by consensus, so all the decisions are by consensus. So we could discuss something to death until we get to consensus. So now it’s like, “No, we want to drive quick decisions. You may disagree but commit.” Okay, we do the Amazon thing, but we take personal accountability.

So if you take a decision, you’re accountable for it. That people actually find very rewarding because all of a sudden, it’s not like, “No, it’s because of him or because of that, et cetera.” No, you take it, you run with it. And if you’re successful, great. If you’re not, we take it as a learning, learn from it, and do things better next time.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. What’s next?

Sasha Ilyukhin: What’s next is what I just mentioned. I mean, we have this entire program, we call it “Amplify, Simplify, Empower, and Adapt.” So these are the simple behaviors that we want to actually add to our culture. A lot of it is around empowerment, delegation, personal accountability, and so on and so forth. And a lot of that comes back then to resilience, business resilience, and how do we become more adaptive as a business, more nimble, faster, we listen, we act as fast as we can.

We just had a very nice presentation from a professor from IMD School of Management. His name is Arturo Bris. And he talked about that the times are changing, so he called it the era of ignorance. And his point was that before, we all used to have these, what we would call black swan events. So everything is normal and for five years, and then all of a sudden comes the black swan, or what we would call it a tipping point or disruptive innovation, and all of a sudden, you need to be prepared for it and so on.

And he said, now, he calls it Heffalumps and Woozles. So for those of you familiar with Winnie the Pooh, these were the fictional characters that came to Winnie the Pooh every night in his nightmares. And he said, “Now, is the time of Heffalumps and Woozles, because they come to us every day.” So we had COVID and then after COVID, we have this terrible war with Russia invading Ukraine, and now we have supply chain issues, and now we have Monkeypox. And it’s like every day you wake up and then there’s a couple of other things, just add them, okay?

So the point is we need to be resilient, nimble, move fast, take accountability, and all of that comes down to human centricity because we all rely on each other as a team. If we don’t have good people around us, good, engaged people around us, then the business is doomed.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that point, because you’re right, resilience depends on connectedness, not just as a business but as people, right?

Sasha Ilyukhin: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you for listening. I hope enjoyed the session with Sasha from the Austin stop of the Future of Field Service Live Tour. We will soon be announcing information on what the 2023 Future of Field Service Live Tour will look like. So, be sure to stay tuned at for more. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter….

November 28, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

5 Levers for Achieving Service Excellence and Standout Customer Experiences

November 28, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

5 Levers for Achieving Service Excellence and Standout Customer Experiences


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

We know that delivering excellence in the moment of service is crucial in achieving customer satisfaction, but what exactly goes into making the most of those moments? Honestly, quite a lot. Today’s customer expectations are no small feat to deliver – they want seamlessness, simplicity, personality, reliability, peace of mind and much more. 

To stay focused on achieving service excellence and delivering a standout customer experience, it’s important to think both about how you can make incremental improvements but also how your service value proposition will need to evolve to keep pace. I’d suggest you focus in on these five levers, because they represent some of the biggest areas of opportunity for customers looking to differentiate through service. 

Lever #1: You MUST Master the Basics

If standout service is your goal, you must run before you walk. There’s no shortcut past mastering the basics of service excellence. Today’s customers won’t tolerate long appointment windows, late arrivals, and repeat visits. They expect far more from their service providers, yet many companies have yet to master the basics – and often this is because they’re trying to rush ahead to more advanced transformation without first setting a strong foundation.

Begin by ensuring you’re fully leveraging your service management solution to capture accurate data, arm field technicians with all the knowledge they need on site, dynamically schedule and route your workforce to maximize utilization, execute on-time arrivals, and increase first-time fix. Ensuring you have nailed the basics prevents you from making customer missteps that are unacceptable in today’s service climate, but also sets you up to add more sophisticated layers of capability successfully

In a session from the Future of Field Service Live Tour in Stockholm, Berit Hallgren, Program Director at Tetra Pak shared, “We have a clear vision where we want to go, but we need to do that in a step wise journey, always putting the customer and employees first. We went a bit wrong 10 years back, it was all about the ‘cool’ stuff, but what will you do with the cool technology if the backend isn’t working? And that’s exactly what happened. The transformation we’re doing now is really to get the foundation in place for the future and then we can build on that.”

Lever #2: Respect the Correlation Between Employee Engagement and CX

I saw Elizabeth Dixon of Chic Fil A present at the Service Council Symposium in September, and I really appreciated this quote from her session: “Your Customer Experience is the overflow of your Employee Experience – it will never be better than the experience your teams have working for your company,” she said. 

The field technician of yesteryear and the field technician of today are very different. Today, your frontline workforce is the face of your brand. They are the ones you’re relying – depending – on to execute your customer experience vision. Are they engaged? Satisfied? Companies who are getting it right have realized that we must ensure our workforce is satisfied if we aim to deliver a competitive CX. 

There are many contributing factors that go into employee engagement. Technology is one – if it is cumbersome, viewed as a draw on their time versus the enabler it should be, engagement will suffer. Employees appreciate having a voice in what tools are selected and how they are used – and they often have insights that benefit not only their end experience, but the company’s initiatives. 

But this lever goes far beyond technology use to more deeply rooted and often philosophical company and leadership elements. Everything from company culture to management style to communication methods to recognition and appreciation factor in. As the field service workforce continues to change, and companies quite universally struggle to recruit talent at the pace they need to, putting ample emphasis on all of these elements of employee engagement is an absolute imperative. 

Lever #3: Focusing on Outside-In Innovation

If you’ve ever felt like your organization is beholden to its legacy, you aren’t alone. It isn’t uncommon to get stuck inside the box – sometimes habits, processes, and even assumptions can get in the way of a truly stellar CX. Even with the best of intentions, if we assume we already know what our customers want and need, we may miss the mark. Outside-in innovation is really important in delivering customer satisfaction, not only today but into the future. 

Let’s look at four factors to keep in mind about innovation:

  1. It must be clearly defined within your organization so everyone is working toward the same objective 
  2. Service innovation often means business transformation when what’s changing in service impacts the value proposition, go-to-market strategy, or revenue model
  3. Companies too often narrow their view of what’s possible – look outside of your own industry and remove restrictions on creative thinking
  4. Customers, not your company, define value – and today’s customers value outcomes

While you should innovate outside-in, you must also innovate inside to keep pace with what’s demanded. Many customers today value outcomes more than they do individual products or services. Delivering outcomes is an evolution that depends on not only customer intimacy, but infrastructure. 

Take, for example Rema Tip Top who is migrating to outcomes based on the needs of its customers. As Thomas Moser, Head of Product Management for Digital Solutions points out, companies often cannot meet the modern demands of customers, like delivering outcomes, without investing in technology that enables new capabilities. 

“The functionality of the IFS platform is what allows us to execute on our claim to keep our customers’ systems up and running. Further, it allows us to maximize the efficiency of our service delivery through the intelligence and automation build into the system,” says Thomas. “We can’t accomplish this evolution by selling service packages and offering manpower, because with manpower alone is far too expensive to meet outcomes. By monitoring the condition of our customers systems and then using the intelligence and optimization within IFS when manpower is needed, the value proposition of outcomes becomes achievable.”

What each of your customers wants and needs from you, and how you’ll get to delivering it, is different – but the need to innovate with their perspective at the forefront is universal. 

Lever #4: Focus on (Truly) Becoming a Trusted Advisor

To this dismay of many a marketing organization, “Trusted Advisor” isn’t a status you can simply claim – it is a reputation you earn with your customers. If you think about building up to that status with your customers, the first concept that should come to mind is – you guessed it! – trust. 

But what does it take to build trust?

For some external perspective, PwC reported in its Trust in Business Survey what respondents said were the top drivers of trust in company (asked of both employees and consumers). The top responses were:

  • Accountable to customers and employees – 50%
  • Clear communications – 48%
  • Admits to mistakes – 40%
  • Delivers consistent customer experience – 39%
  • Appropriate employee compensation – 32%

To deliver that consistent customer experience, it takes intimate knowledge of their business, the ability to collect and analyze data that is relevant to their business AND the expertise to translate that analysis into simple, actionable insights they can benefit from. It also takes trust. 

For many of our customers, achieving trusted advisor status is the next level of innovation they are focused on beyond delivering outcomes. Having that foundational, single source of truth plus customer intimacy and deep knowledge of desired outcomes sets companies up to consider what insights they can provide that will progress them to be viewed as a trusted advisor by their customers. 

As Klaus Glatz, Chief Digital Officer of ANDRITZ states, the role of the frontline is imperative – and so is arming them with technology that enables them to act in the trusted advisor role. “Field service is key in our mission to expand and build upon our service offerings. Downtime wreaks havoc on our customers, and better managing our service operations is critical in minimizing and preventing that downtime,” he says. “Furthermore, equipping our frontline workforce with more sophisticated technology allows them to take on more services responsibility, create greater trust among customers, and act as a business advisor.”

Lever #5: Master Continuous Change

Jack Welch said, “When the rate of external change exceeds the rate of internal change, the end is near.” It can be overwhelming, but change isn’t slowing – we must learn to keep pace.

Companies who excel are embracing this fact. They are learning how to manage change more adeptly within their organization and with their frontline and are working to create a culture where change feels like a shared experience versus a directive. They are creating more agile processes around strategy setting and decision-making and they are using today’s technological capabilities to remain informed, to leverage automation, and to assess opportunities for growth. 

Mike Gosling of Cubic Transportation, who has helped lead the company in the transformation from break-fix to outcomes-based service, has a great outlook on continuous improvement. “This journey is one of continual improvement. If you pop the champagne and put your feet up as soon as you hit your success criteria, you’ll fall back below quickly. When you master one area, you keep watch of it and move on to another,” he says. “You constantly assess where you are and where you’re going next, and out of this process is where the new innovative ideas are born. But you must be in a constant state of assessing and looking ahead.”

Most Recent

November 23, 2022 | 25 Mins Read

5 Elements of Exceptional CX

November 23, 2022 | 25 Mins Read

5 Elements of Exceptional CX


Elizabeth Dixon, who previously led Strategy, Hospitality, and Service Design at Chic-fil-A Corporate and recently authored the book The Power of Customer Experience: Five Elements to Make an Impact, joins Sarah to talk about what exactly it is about those companies who are known for their standout customer service.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Welcome to the Future, of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about five elements of exceptional customer experience. We know customer experience and customer satisfaction are top of mind for every service organization. And I'm excited to be joined today by Elizabeth Dixon. Elizabeth spent 20 years in leadership at Chick-fil-A and is now the executive director of the Trilith Foundation. She's also recently published a book and I found her doing one of her keynote speeches at the Service Council Symposium in Chicago in September. Elizabeth, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Elizabeth Dixon: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here, Sarah. Thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. I'm excited to have you. So before we get into some of the elements of customer experience, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your background, your journey, anything you would like to share.

Elizabeth Dixon: Well, I'd love to. My favorite things in life to talk about and the people to spend time with are my best friend and husband, John. And then we have two little kiddos, seven and nine. And so they are so much fun and full of life and energy and so that takes a lot of our time and our hearts right now. And then when it comes to me and my gifts and what I love to do, I love to create new value. So a lot of times that's entrepreneurship. It's creating unique businesses and then a lot of times it's been intrapreneurship, it's creating new things, it's refining processes within broader organizations.

And so I love doing anything that's going to impact people's lives and make a difference. And like you said, I got to be at Chick-fil-A for about 20 years and then just a few months ago, our chairman, Dan Cathy called and said, Hey, I want you to come and work for me on some new projects. So it's been an absolute blast to use those gifts of creating new value and doing it in a totally different context in a creative and film industry. So it's been a total blast.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, very cool. And I think that creating new value is a really good way to frame what service organizations need to be thinking about today. So when we think about the customer experience, we often think about expectations we need to live up to, but we really should reframe that to thinking about new ways to create value and look at it as an exciting opportunity instead of something that everyone is tasked with. So you were the principal lead for strategy, hospitality, and service design at Chick-fil-A. And I'm sure in that role you had a lot of experience, like you said, creating not only new value but refining things that were existing within the business and always looking for ways to do better. You're passionate enough about customer experience that you wrote your book, which is titled The Power of Customer Experience: Five Elements to Make an Impact. I'm curious, what inspired you to write the book?

Elizabeth Dixon: So, I had a lot of great resources. I was surrounded by incredible mentors. There are incredible books to read when you're thinking about the actual design and the strategy behind customer experience. But one thing that I found there was a need for was being able to have a book for the frontline employees, not necessarily just knowing what to do because that can change based on the industry, but truly understanding the impact that they could make, that there was purpose and a paycheck within their job.

And I found that when brands were able to make sure that the frontline employee understood that there was meaning in the moments that they were creating, that they actually had the power to cause customers to love or hate a brand, those were the companies that won. And I thought, man, what if we could have a resource that would help the frontline employee make that connection for themselves and then ultimately help the brand do well? Because you can design a great customer experience, but if it's not brought to life on the front lines the way that it needs to be, nobody wins. So that was the hard part of it was like, what if we could do that? And what if we could help the front lines recognize the impact that they could have? Not only would brands win, not only would they win because they would be more fulfilled within their jobs, but also the customers would win and we'd be able to have a culture that's a whole lot nicer.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that. And that was one of my favorite things about your presentation in Chicago was really reinforcing that message that whether you are working for an organization that changes people's lives or whether you are a leader in a different type of business or whether you are a frontline employee, we all have the power as human beings and individuals to make a difference and make an impact on people. And I think that's a really good message to reinforce. I know for myself, when I was in grad school, I had plans or intentions to get into non-profit work. That was kind of what I saw myself doing. And then life took me in a bit of a different direction and for a while I had to reconcile this feeling of if I went into the corporate world, I was missing that opportunity to do something philanthropic or to have make a difference in that way.

And then I realized, no, first of all, your career doesn't define all of you. It's a part of you. Secondly, so I do volunteer work on the side, so that's one way I can kind of scratch that itch. But what I've also learned over time is I have an opportunity every single day to make a positive impact on people's lives. Whether that's colleagues, customers, people in the industry, we all have that power no matter what our role or title or industry is. And so I really, really loved that message. So thank you. All right, so I don't want to spend too much time on the five elements because I want people to go ahead and find you and find the book and read the book. But if you can just run through them for us at a high level just so people kind of understand the things that you're touching on in the book.

Elizabeth Dixon: Absolutely. So there are five really principles and each of them have a definition and stories and application for how they show up. But these are the five. The first one is to choose your mindset. The mindset above all things is where we have to start because our mindset determines what we get. The second is to create our culture. The customer experience is simply an overflow of the employee experience. So we have to focus on what is the employee culture that is going to then overflow onto the customers. The third is we have to know our customer. We have to know so much about them, what they want, what they value, what they want next, what role we play in their lives in order to bring those experiences to life. The fourth one, we have to define our differentiator. What's going to set us apart as an industry, as a business, as an organization?

And then we have to make sure that we are staying fresh and on the cutting edge of how that's going to evolve into the fifth principle, which is to pursue innovation. So the book is really written for that frontline employee, for these five elements to come to life. And actually I'm working right now on the sequel that compare with it that will be for the leader around how do you truly accelerate your customer experience in the seat that you hold as the leader? And when you pair those together, when that leader is looking into the future, there's a great quote. "When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near."

We have to constantly be thinking about what's next and not let our memories exceeding our dreams for what's next. When the leader is thinking about how to accelerate and grow and become better so that you can become bigger and have the frontline employee recognizing the role they play and how their mindset, the way they impact culture, the way they understand the customer, that they bring to life that differentiation and then the way that they're pursuing innovation on the front lines is critically important for us to be successful and win in the customer experience space.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that. And it definitely takes both sides. I think that there's sort of a transformation going on in leadership and in company culture that is really a recognition of the need to be less possessive and more collaborative. I mean, there's kind of like this old school leadership mentality where it's a lot of taking credit for success and just a very individualistic type of role. And I think that's really changing because there's a recognition that there's so much knowledge and capability within the entire organization that needs to be harnessed. So there was a number of points you made during your presentation or of anecdotes and stories you shared that really struck me. And this is where for me, I've been doing what I do for quite a long time and I've been at conferences like the one we were at so many times. And there are obviously themes that are consistent.

So customer experience is a theme that someone's always talking about, right? Because we know it's important. So to me, it's often the stories that stand out because that's what makes a presentation like yours unique and memorable. Okay. So the first thing is the point you made that I just think is such an important point to park on for a moment, which is the fact that companies need to remember that their customer experience is the overflow of their employee experience. So let's talk a little bit about this and how you sort identified that fact in your own work in your career.

Elizabeth Dixon: The first part that really caught my attention, it was actually Horst Schulze, the founder of the Ritz Carlton, I was very blessed to be mentored by him consistently for a year. And I admire and respect him and his wife Sherry so much, and they've remained friends. But during that mentorship, there was a season where I was talking to him about leading and lagging indicators, pre and post kind of indicators around customer experience. And one of the things that I love about him, and he has an incredible book, Excellence Wins. He has this ability to take very complex, sometimes overwhelming elements and make them very, very simple. And it was in a conversation we were having where I said, all right, well Horst, what is it that I need to look at that's going to be a measure that I'm going to see drop before our customer experience is going to drop?

Because nobody wants to get to where the customer experience measures are dropping because you've lost it. It's too late. It's really hard to pull it back, especially when you're a really big organization. And we've seen those organizations that whether it was a leadership change, whether they got to the top and were number one and were exhausted by that, and they kind of pulled back a bit. When their experience started to drop, a competitor swooped right in and took over. I said, so what is it? What is that leading indicator I should look at? And he said, "It's the happiness of your people.  Simply."

And this light bulb went on for me of whoa. So often we talk about the lag, we talk about that thing that actually is just that overflow because you're doing something else really well. And that's not to say that we don't have to be prescriptive and detailed and super intentional about the design of the customer experience. We do.

But if we're only doing that, we'll never get to where we want to be because all of that is the overflow of healthy, happy, contented employees who are in a great working environment. So that was the moment where it was a light bulb for me of, man, we spend so much time talking about this, but if we're not focusing on the cultural elements of what's happening in our organization, those are the leading indicators that when we start to see scores going down that I'm not satisfied in my job. I don't feel cared about by my boss. I don't feel like I'm able to bring my whole self to work. I don't see that I'm able to accomplish my purpose in life here in my job.

And some people might be listening and they're like, oh, all that sounds so fluffy. But to the individual, it's not. They will be fully harnessed when they're able to bring their full self to work and they wake up to go fulfill a purpose. People don't jump out of bed just for a paycheck, they jump out of bed because there's a purpose, there's a clear path for growth and development. And they got to be paid too. So those were the light bulb moments for me of these are the leading indicators. And if we don't obsess about the leading indicators, we're never going to have the lagging scores that we talk about and want and will ultimately help us get to where we want to be as an organization.

Sarah Nicastro: So, here's interesting about this to me, and I think you'll find this interesting too, how it relates to the audience of this podcast. So, Ritz Carlton is known for exceptional customer experience, Chick-Fil-A as well, to be honest, I mean that's one of the reasons people love Chick-fil-A. My pleasure. That pleasant, good vibes you leave with when you go through the drive through. So those are both though customer service centric industries, so consumer-centric industries. And so when you compare that with some of the other types of organizations that would be listening to this podcast that are in sort of traditional field service industries.

So whether that's commercial service or even residential service, but you would think of a appliance repair person or a home security installation or utilities, whatever that is, they are often organizations that traditionally haven't had that expectation of really focusing on customer experience. So what I've recognized in my we'll say 15 years in this space is when I first started in this career, every conversation you had with a field service organization was around driving cost reduction because that was the focus. Field service was seen as a cost center. So it was all about just maximize efficiency, productivity.

Then the world of consumer experience including brands like Ritz Carlton, Chick-Fil-A, but also things like Amazon and Uber. All of these different things that have happened in our personal lives over the last 15, 20 years started to creep into the expectations customers have of all types of service organizations, even those that traditionally haven't really been that customer-centric, customer experience type situation. So what I think is that, or what I've seen, is that companies recognized now we see field service as a potential profit center if we focus more on the customer experience, we look at how to create more value and not just have a break fix transaction, et cetera.

But I think many of them became so hyper focused on the customer experience that they never really connected that dot of the employee experience. So I think right now the industry as a whole is sort of taking a step back because that recognition is coming into play of wait, we can't really accomplish this customer experience, customer satisfaction objective we have without considering the experience and the emotional engagement of the frontline workers that we ultimately rely on to deliver whatever brand promise we are trying to create.

And so where that acknowledgement in a company like Ritz Carlton came a long time ago, I think in field service it's really just begun. So companies are having to dig back in and reflect on how do we evolve our culture, our leadership style, our processes, our technology use, our soft skill building, our training and development, our career path-ing so that our employees are happy and bought into the mission that we are trying to achieve. So it's really interesting that point you're making that you were helped to recognize by your mentor I think is a point that in our space a lot of people are just coming to and kind of thinking, oh shit, okay, if we need to accomplish this, we really need to look at what is happening inside because we can't just force it. What are your thoughts on that?

Elizabeth Dixon: I think it's exciting. I think it's exciting because what it comes down to is humans and people treating each other well. And when we do, we love it. We talk about it to other people. I had some furniture cleaned. That's not an industry that you're like, when I get my furniture cleaned, I just feel like I'm treated like a queen. No, I mean, it's like ugh. People are having to come clean something that you didn't want to have had happened, whether that's a child sculpting something or a dog doing whatever. And so I had these chairs cleaned and this young man, Joel was amazing.

He was so thoughtful, he answered all my questions. He was very courteous for how he was going to bring the equipment into the house. I remember it. And you know what I did? I sent the link to a bunch of my girlfriends of, "Hey, if y'all need to get anything cleaned anytime soon, this company is amazing. Why is this company amazing? Yes, they got the stains out of my furniture. But Joel. Joel's the reason that it's amazing for me." And when we can have consistent Joel like experiences, and we can do that in industries that aren't expecting it, that is ripe opportunity. I mean, think about gas stations. Sarah, have you been to a Buckee's yet?

Sarah Nicastro: No.

Elizabeth Dixon: You got to go. I'm telling you. When you think about a road trip and you think about driving down the interstate, inevitably someone in the car at some point is going to have to use the restroom. And the last place that you probably want to stop is your typical gas station. I mean, I remember one time, I'm not even going to go there. You just don't want to stop. And so Buckee's heard that, and they've been around for a few decades, but have really recently super intentionally focused on the biggest pain points. You pull up to these. I mean these are plazas, they're like the shopping center of gas stations. They have so many pumps for you to pull up. They've said they wanted to design it so that everybody felt safe, which isn't always the feeling I have at a gas station, but I was in one a few months ago and I'm telling you these bathrooms are pristine.

They have staff that are constantly making sure the bathrooms are clean. They have art, like art for sale on the walls. I walked into one of the restrooms and there were two ladies that was in good old South Georgia and they're like, honey, I think that would look perfect in your baby's nursery. You should buy that. And I'm like, who buys art in a restroom of a gas station? At Buckee's, you do. And you walk out and they're like, "Bruce, get on the block." And they're chopping up fresh meat. Who would've thought when you can do something around the experience that causes people to be surprised and you're in an industry where people aren't expecting it, that is go time. That is so exciting because you can disrupt it. You can set the standard, you can be the standard for what it can be.

So when I hear you say that, I personally get really excited because it means that, one of the companies listening is going to go game on. We're going to accelerate this. We're going to win at this. And when you do, you get to be the Amazon, you get to be that name that people associate with being the best. And then once you are, you just got to keep pursuing innovation in a way to know what your customer wants next, just like Jeff Bezos has done to go got to stay scrappy, stay at that front lines of what's next and how can we deliver it more effectively than anybody else.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now another point you made that I really liked is you were talking about differentiation and you made the point that if it isn't consistent, it isn't a differentiator. So do you have any advice for people on how to land on what is their opportunity for differentiation, but also something that they can achieve consistently?

Elizabeth Dixon: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times I think the things that our organizations are really unique at or really good at, we can start to take for granted because we've either focused on it for a long time or it's come so naturally to us. I think we can do that sometimes as individuals too. The natural gifts that we have, we can kind of take them for granted a little bit, like I thought everyone could do that. So I think the first question to help is what is it that we uniquely can do better than our competition? What are those levers that we have that others don't? For Chick-fil-A, it was back in 2008 and there was a massive recession happening and one of the unique strengths that we had was our people. And it was in that season that Truitt and Dan Cathy decided let's really emphasize that.

Let's use what we uniquely have better than our competition and let's find a way to elevate that. So what is it that you uniquely can do better than the competition? And then what is it that uniquely can do that's going to add more value than your competition can? So often you referenced this earlier, it's really natural to, in our organization, start thinking about how do we reduce costs? I think where it gets dangerous, that's good. Where it gets dangerous is when we start extracting value from what the customer is going to receive. When we start removing services, when we start removing the quality of the products that we're offering in order to reduce those costs. Because ultimately we're extracting value from the customer. The more we can think about how do we be more efficient, more streamlined, how do we reduce costs by making things easier on the back end so that we can add more value to the customer. When we're thinking about how do we add value, and I don't necessarily mean it has to come at a cost.

When you think about some of the simple things that some brands do. At Nordstrom, they might walk around the counter to hand you your bag. At Chick-fil-A, they say “My pleasure.” That doesn't have to cost a lot to add more value, but there can be behaviors that are going to add value that your competition isn't as uniquely positioned to be able to do it. So those are the first two questions. And then the last would be around the moment, how do we define the moments that are creating our experiences? And in the book I outlined three major types of moments that I think are important to unpack. The first is signature moments. It's like the Nordstrom or the Chick-fil-A example. It's kind of like your signature of your company. It's unique to you. Everybody consistently does it, but it doesn't have to cost more.

The second are surprise moments, the ones that just catch people by surprise. And there's some fun examples in the book. And the last is solvable. When something happens, something goes wrong, whether you caused it or you didn't cause it, you just inherited the problem, what do you do with that? And a lot of individuals don't want to step into a problem with a person, but the great brands are going to be the ones that say, oh, I see your problem and I'm going to come alongside you, and I want to help you solve that. So what is it you uniquely can do? What is it you uniquely can do that's going to add value compared to your competitors? And then how do you break down those moments of signature surprise and solvable to be able to add that value to your customers?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that. So this next question, it might be maybe unfair way for me to ask for a little sneak peek into the next book, but you talked in your presentation about expanding curiosity. And so I think this is really important and I guess I sort of pair curiosity with creativity. And so if you think about some of the evolution within the folks that listen to this podcast, there are organizations that I spoke of, I think there hasn't been a lot of room traditionally for curiosity and creativity. It's just kind of been here's what we do, here's the process, follow it, be efficient, boom, we're done, right? And now we're entering this era of more creative thinking around how do we create more value? How do we evolve our value proposition? How do we change maybe how our brand is perceived or what our identity is, et cetera?

And so I know you said that the book we're discussing is more geared toward the frontline employee. I personally think that the frontline employees have plenty of creativity and curiosity. I just think they've stifled a lot of it because it hasn't been accepted or nurtured by leadership. So my question is, how do leaders within these organizations foster the ability to welcome more curiosity from their frontline employees?

Elizabeth Dixon: It's so good because when we can unlock that, it's unlimited potential for the future. And I think you're exactly right. I think it's very natural that creativity gets stifled. Number one, it gets stifled from when we're children and we're taught to color inside the lines and do it this way and sit and learn, et cetera. When we're young, the most curious person is a four year old girl asks the most questions imaginable. And I have a seven year old and sometimes my husband and I are like, seriously? Could there be more questions? But if we can lean into it and recognize that those individuals who are naturally curious help us be more curious. And here's the thing about curiosity and creativity, which is so exciting, is that creativity is the ability to understand what is. Acknowledge it, recognize it, and also to anticipate what could be and merge those things together to get to a meaningful result.

And I think when we are overwhelmed, when we are stressed, when we are at capacity, it's really hard just to accept and understand what is. And I think what can happen in a lot of our organizations, and I don't think it's intentional, is that we feel overloaded. And when Curious Carl comes along with, I've got an idea, we want to shut that thing down because we see it as a threat. We don't see it as an opportunity. We see it as a threat to the status quo. We see it as a threat to our full plates. What else? How can I handle something else? But what's amazing is that the frontline employees typically are going to be the ones who come up with the very best solutions and they can anticipate the problems faster than anybody else. Why? Because they're dealing with it. And they're the ones who are thinking you know how we could do this better?

And so if we can go ahead and in that moment when someone comes along and says, "I have an idea," and we want to be like, shut it down, the best thing as leaders we can do is to just say, tell me about it. Open up the space. Give enough oxygen in the room for people to share the ideas that they have. We don't have to act on it, but let's at least be able to talk about it. And once we can talk about it, if we can then move to the place where we can actually have a system and a process for collecting pain points and solutions and making those connections better, and finding those people who are great at identifying the pain points and finding the solutions and put them in positions to be able to do that more often, then that's the next level.

And then the third level is where we can overtly celebrate curiosity, where we can overtly celebrate finding problems that need solutions and where we can take risk. And risk means we're not going to nail it every time. We're going to fail. And being able to celebrate actually pursuing those risks, knowing that sometimes this is what is important. Sometimes what we thought could be the solution for a problem, it's not going to end up being the solution, but it could spawn 10 other ideas that could be game changing within our industry. So there has to be enough room and it starts with us at least just responding with tell me about it, instead of trying to shut curiosity down and push away an idea that ultimately could change our industry.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that. Okay, so I mentioned at the beginning that one of the things that I really appreciated about your presentation is the reminder that we all have the power to make positive impact and leave an impression on people's hearts and make a difference. You shared a story about Jim and that was kind of what hit that message home for me. And I'm just hoping we could leave the audience with that gift of that perspective as well. So if you don't mind sharing that story, I would love it.

Elizabeth Dixon: I'd love to. So this story is a great applause to Starbucks. And I heard this story from the former president of Starbucks, Howard Behar, and it's a story about Jim. So Jim visited his local Starbucks daily. He went literally every afternoon and he ordered the same thing each time. It was a blueberry muffin and a coffee. And eventually the team at Starbucks, the baristas, they all got to know Jim and he'd come in the door and he would be greeted enthusiastically. And they even went out of their way to start writing notes on his coffee cup and on his muffin bag. And sometimes the muffins would go faster and they would set aside a blueberry muffin for him because they wanted to make sure when he came each afternoon that he would get his drip coffee and his muffin. And he lived across the street.

And so he would come over from the nursing home where he lived, and one day he didn't come in and they were perplexed like, where's Jim? It's afternoon, like he's supposed to be here. And so they said, "Hey, when it slows down a bit, let's go take his blueberry muffin and drip coffee over to him." And so a few of the team went over and they walked in and they said, "Hey, we're here to bring Jim his coffee and muffin." And they shared that with the receptionist. And the receptionist looked up and she had a tear streaming down her face and she said, "Jim died last night." And the team was like, what? They went back and poured out the coffee and threw away the muffin. And they were also disappointed because Jim had created a special culture within that team because of who he was.

We all have that space where we get to show up and make a difference in people's lives. And Jim did that for the team and they were bummed, like they lost Jim. And the next day, Jim's daughter came into Starbucks and she said, "Hey, I want to introduce myself. My dad came in here a lot in the afternoons." And they're like, "Jim, you're Jim's daughter." And she said, "Yeah." She said, "We're having a time for my dad, a funeral for my dad tomorrow. I'd really love it if you guys could come." And the manager figured out a way to organize the schedule so that that team in the afternoon could all go and honor Jim's life. And what's amazing is as much impact as Jim had on that team, they had no idea that when they walked into that funeral, there were three large round tables, like those large round tables that you sit at a banquet with eight or 10 other people.

And those three large round tables were filled with every bag and every cup that they'd written a note to Jim on. They had no idea that his afternoon time in gave him so much life because he got to interact with them and he knew how much they cared about him. And what's so powerful about making an impact on people's lives is its synergistic. And when we get to pour into somebody else, whether it's just a smile and I hope you have a great day, whether it's taking a moment to help somebody out, they feel better and we feel better. And it all starts to cycle around. And I think out of all the things going on in our country and our world, I think we could use a little bit more of that with each other where we just take the time to say, "Hey, you know what? You matter and I want to make sure that you know that by the way that I treat you today." And we get to do that in our jobs and it gets to make a really big difference in people's lives.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that story and I think it's such a good reminder to us as individuals that the things we maybe do without thinking much of it can mean so much to someone else. And also it's a good reminder for leaders of looking for ways to empower your employees and give them the space to be themselves and make those connections because those are the things that make such a huge impact. So I love that story. Thank you for sharing it. I know we are out of time. Last question is just where can folks find the book?

Elizabeth Dixon: Oh, Amazon, the Power of Customer Experience right off Amazon. You can get the ebook version or hard back or soft back. And then on my website,, there's a great video series that you can do with your teams to create a book club experience. There's a user guide and then seven videos that you can do to set up conversation. So everyone can read the book and then have seven segments where you have conversation. That's where the real power comes, is when you can start taking these principles and ideating together, what could this look like for us? What does our mindsets need to be? Where are our opportunities to improve our culture, et cetera, et cetera. So those can be found on the website,

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. Everyone check it out. Elizabeth, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.

Elizabeth Dixon: Thanks for having me, Sarah.

Sarah Nicastro: You can learn more by visiting us at You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter at the Future of FS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

November 21, 2022 | 4 Mins Read

Themes from Field Service Connect Austin

November 21, 2022 | 4 Mins Read

Themes from Field Service Connect Austin


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

My lucky streak of relatively smooth travel this year ended last week with my trip to Austin to attend Field Service Connect. Despite a delayed arrival, the event was enjoyable. This is one of WBR’s intentionally small sessions, which creates a lot of lively dialogue. I am sometimes asked if I ever bore of attending these events, and the dialogue is what allows me to answer that question with an honest “no.”

I know the mainstage topics by heart, that’s true. And there are times where I feel a deep urge to really shake things up, which I try to do in my own way. But the dialogue, the side conversations, the layers of detail are where I find the really interesting nuggets that keep me engaged, invested, and passionate about where this industry is headed. 

So, what stuck out from Field Service Connect? I had an opportunity to host a roundtable discussion on opportunities within service to drive sustainability and moderate a panel alongside Roy Dockery of Flock Safety, Haroon Abbu of Bell and Howell, and Curtis Novinger of P3 on what it takes for businesses to create a digitally focused identity. 

Driving More Sustainable Service 

The sustainability discussion raised some good points of consideration. Participants mostly reported their organizations as having a “medium” level of focus on sustainability, but all agreed that the level of focus will inevitably need to increase in the next few years. Some of the top-of-mind topics for those who participated included:

  • That while environmental initiatives are getting more attention, they haven’t yet begun to factor into decision making 
  • Putting practices in place to measure and track environmental impact – only two of thirteen companies participating do so currently
  • Awareness of looming changes in policy and regulatory pressures. The US lags behind Europe in how sustainability is being measured and improvements driven, but nearly everyone expects that will come soon
  • How to lower waste and improve recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing
  • What role remote service can play in alleviating unnecessary travel and reducing carbon footprint – and the challenges of adoption, customer acceptance, and how to monetize remote service vs. traditional break-fix
  • How Servitization lends itself to more sustainable product and service practices
  • Greening of fleets – discussion around how practical the use of electric vehicles currently is for commercial fleets in terms of availability, cost, infrastructure to support, and practicalities of how employees would access and use 

Overcoming the Burden of Digital Debt

During our panel discussion, we focused a lot of the discussion around a metric that Curtis had shared in his morning presentation from McKinsey stating that 70% of digital transformation efforts fail. In considering why this is and how to combat common missteps, we talked first about how investment decisions within the businesses are made. While most decisions are driven by either an opportunity to reduce cost or increase revenue, there’s a category of investments that need to be made of necessity and/or disruption. 

This brought up the topic of digital debt, where Roy shared that at Flock Safety, they have an issue of having almost too many tools in use, some of which aren’t effective. Taking the time, and spending the money, to streamline, improve, and re-introduce technology is something companies often don’t do because they see those dollars as already spent and a thing of the past. While that’s true, if your existing systems aren’t effective and driving value, you cannot simply forge ahead or layer new things on top – you must face the burden of that digital debt and do the work of creating an effective digital stack. 

We also talked about the role of leadership in driving success with Digital Transformation and other forms of innovation. Haroon spoke about the importance of having leadership who is technology adept, but not to the point of being too technically “in the weeds,” who also deeply understands the business and it’s needs to work on creating a true digital strategy and roadmap as well as owning much of the process and continual improvement. Businesses who are investing in leaders to drive innovation, versus expecting leaders with responsibility for the day-to-day business to also find time to innovate, seem to be much further ahead. This also helps in breaking down siloes, which is one of the most common reasons digital transformation efforts fail. 

These were just two of many excellent topics discussed at the event. Sessions around AI, augmented reality, As-a-Service, attracting talent, company culture and people centricity, effective communication and much more rounded out the agenda and gave today’s service leaders an opportunity to share what they’re learning, working toward, and struggling with. 

Most Recent

November 16, 2022 | 25 Mins Read

CNH Industrial’s Asset-Centric Service Strategy

November 16, 2022 | 25 Mins Read

CNH Industrial’s Asset-Centric Service Strategy


Sarah talks with Danielle Waterworth, VP- NA Dealer & Customer Solutions and Global Maintenance & Service Development at CNH Industrial about how the company is segmenting and evolving its service offerings, what advice she has on leasing assets, how to add value to a dealer network, and more. 

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we are going to be digging into some of the specific considerations and items that go into strategy when we are thinking about asset intensive or asset centric service. I'm excited to be joined today by Danielle Waterworth, who is the Vice President for North America Dealer and Customer Solutions, as well as for global maintenance and service development at CNH Industrial. Good grief. That was a mouthful. Danielle, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Danielle Waterworth: Thank you. Thank you. And it is a mouthful. I have to always remind myself of what it is every time that I'm talking to someone.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that was a lot to get out, but I think that might have been the hardest part for me of the whole podcast. So, all right. So Danielle, before we talk a little bit about some of the aspects that are top of mind for you in an asset centric service organization, just tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your role and what CNHI does.

Danielle Waterworth: Myself, I grew up in central Illinois on a corn and beans and livestock farm. And so I was the prototypical farm kid who was looking for her place in the industry. And with that went to the University of Illinois, majoring in Ag Finance, and eventually found myself at CNH Industrial. So CNH Industrial, I've been here for 19 years, almost 20. What we do is we are an ag and construction equipment manufacturer, but it goes beyond that. It's more than just being that original equipment manufacturer. It's a full suite of everything that you would need from a captive finance company to aftermarket parts and services. We operate through our dealer network globally, but we are there as a partnering role to support those agriculture and construction customers out in the industry.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. Okay. And so you mentioned being a farm kid, and I know when we spoke in preparation for this discussion, you mentioned that, that influences a lot of the passion and conviction you bring to what you did or what you do. So a lot of people from your family went into the industry from the context of actually farming, and you are still involved, but in a different way. So how do you think that influences or factors into what you do within your role day to day?

Danielle Waterworth: Well, growing up in it, I saw the struggles, I saw the passion, I saw the pride. The ag industry is a very proud industry with a lot of good people in it. Very, very early on, I was very engaged with everything within our family's business, but I slowly started figuring out that I was more interested in the global concepts of agriculture, the business side, and really took that to another level when I went for my degree and found there were so many more opportunities to give back into agriculture that wasn't necessarily in a production ag environment. That shapes me on a daily basis. And I say that for sure because on a daily basis I'm engaging with my family as they're experiencing agriculture from everything for what's going on with the markets and the commodities, the industry to the equipment that they run. So I get that whole protection of making sure that our customers are first always as a first and foremost, do what's right for that customer. And I take that farm kid mentality with me in my day to day job.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Well, it's interesting when... And I'm sure this can be reflected in other industries as well, but just thinking about the scenario you're in, your customer is your family members. And so a lot of people talk about customer centricity, but that drives that concept home in a totally different way. So, that's really interesting. Now, part of the reason that your title was such a tongue tire in the beginning is because you do have a dual role. So can you just briefly describe for folks what the two sides of your responsibilities are within the organization?

Danielle Waterworth: Absolutely. So within North America, the role that I hold is from an agriculture perspective for everything I would say back office dealer and customer support. So from a day to day traditional model, we're talking warranty, technical support, service training, maintenance. Those are the places where we cover from a service, and then you combine it in on the parts side with dealer, parts support, you get that holistic picture of just taking care of the normal day to day run. Where it gets fun is combining that very traditional model of operating and that annual basis, what are you going to combine with the global role, which is more a strategy play that goes into services and maintenance development of where are we going to go with our tools in the future of the aftermarket for parts and services?

And so with that connected and non-connected digital tools, we're talking about the utilization of remote assist, we're talking about the selling of non-connected services and the tools that enable that from extended warranties, maintenance inspections of our machines, all the way into the connected services team, which looks at how do we enable the activities that need to occur within our tools? Now that we do have these digitally connected machines, how do we utilize that information within our asset libraries on our machines, within incident management for our dealers and customers, and in the control rooms in which we're starting to really heavily invest for a better look at what's going on with our machines?

Sarah Nicastro: So it's really interesting because you have a foot in both the present and the future, and to some degree a lot of people do in the sense of they're responsible for maintaining today's business while also thinking about what's changing and evolving and how an organization should innovate. But I think with some of the conversations we are having around how service is changing, there can be a tremendous distance between that present foot and the future foot. So for CNH Industrial on both sides of your role, you're intimately involved in the way the traditional business is executed today, and you're also looking at how things are evolving and how service may be consumed or delivered or what customers ultimately need from the company in the future. So can you tell us a little bit about what you're observing and the trajectory that the company is on in that continuum of everything from traditional to what the future might look like?

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah, I think we come from a model that was very iron based. Go sell the machine, go sell another machine. And I think that our industry is evolving to understand that the true way you're going to continue to keep selling those machines and retain those customers is really on the service that you provide. It's a big piece of what we call uptime, but we need to take a look at it of not just from the quality of the machine that you're purchasing, but you're really trying to provide them with packages or options as a customer base that can give them an assurance, especially we will lean on my ag presence again, but in the ag industry, you're dealing with weather, you're dealing with situations that things are going to come up from a time perspective.

And it's really important that when they're in the field harvesting that they have that assurance that their machine is going to perform, or that they're people behind them that are going to enable that to occur. So we look at not just selling them an asset anymore, but the whole captive finance model, base warranty, extended warranty. How can we make sure that we're looking at you and your dealerships from a maintenance and inspection perspective before you go into a planting and harvesting season, which are their heavy times of use? So it's looking at that in that holistic picture, and that really starts defining how you go to market versus your competitors.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And there's a lot of interesting elements here because on one hand you're talking about giving customers options and flexibility, and on the other hand, often customers want simplicity. We just need it to work when we need to use it sort of thing. So do you have a feel for where customers are at in terms of do they want more options and choice, or do they want more cohesiveness and simplicity in the overall offering?

Danielle Waterworth: I'm going to quote one of my favorite dealers who says, "We need to keep it simple, but we need to provide options." And so you start putting those two things together, it's like, okay, what does that mean? But I think what it is, it's that whole aspect of if they were going to design the perfect situation, what does it look like? Are they more comfortable providing their own set of service on their machines? If so, maybe they're just looking at, Hey, what can we do from a parts perspective? Then there's those other guys that are managing those larger fleets and they're like, I want somebody to provide that assurance that, you as a dealership can make sure that you're looking at my machines for me on a biannual basis. You want to lock it in.

And so we have to look at that perspective of it's up to the customer and what they're comfortable with and what they're looking for, but we have to enable those options when we're selling that machine. We have to provide them as an opportunity and explain to them what it is that they're buying. Where are you going to get the most value out of the different solutions that we provide?

Sarah Nicastro: And so you're saying explain more of that upfront.

Danielle Waterworth: Correct. I do think-.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think-.

Danielle Waterworth: ... front sell, yes.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that's part the, I don't want to say identity shift because that's not always the case, but you mentioned you're at a point where you're differentiating through service. So if we understand that as an organization, then we start to see the importance of having more of those conversations up front as part of the initial sale instead of as an afterthought of, okay guys, we sold them the equipment. Now somebody come in and tell them what we can do from an aftermarket perspective, or what happens if something breaks or if they want this assurance or that assurance and presenting it more as the overall value proposition instead of two separate value propositions

Danielle Waterworth: For sure.

Sarah Nicastro: Does that make sense?

Danielle Waterworth: We see it in the industries in which we buy stuff today, just in our consumer, you buy packages and then they're constantly reminding you of what it is that you actually purchased to get the most value out of the money that you're spending. And those are touch points as well. So it's very important from that, that the dealers keep that relationship with the customer. We work and we go to market through our dealer network. They keep that relationship that is the health of our industry and for us at CNH Industrial.

So we want them to have those touchpoints, those opportunities to engage with the customer. And that can come from those reminders of maintenance all the way to we're seeing something that's going on with your machine. We want to see if we can schedule some time to take a look at it just based on what we're seeing with the connected unit. So I think there's also a place with the used market too. As you're buying a machine, a trade in that you're taking from somebody else, there's a place in there from an assurance perspective of I want to make sure that this machine is being taken care of on a go forward basis. And giving them options is a good thing.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So options is a good thing, but do you foresee a point where you would just be selling and delivering uptime?

Danielle Waterworth: I think there are some things that are going to be what I have started calling innate. They're just assumed to be a part of the machine sell. I don't know if the market has necessarily defined where all of those things lie today. So we're going through some of that as an evolution of what is included with the machine versus what is an upsell. I would say in the next three, four years, you're going to see a lot of change in our industry in that regard.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, it's interesting. I was just having a conversation yesterday to prepare for a panel discussion I'm moderating at a field service event in Europe at the end of the month, and it's around remote service capabilities. So like you mentioned, remote assist and tools that can be leveraged to reduce onsite service necessity to allow more customer self-service to even when onsite service is required, prepare a bit ahead of time so that the first time fixed rate is higher, et cetera. And one of the biggest discussions we had as a group is how does that fit with business model? Because in a traditional service business model, then a lot of organizations are being asked the question, Okay, well if you're saving money because you're not coming here as much, then my service should be cheaper versus when they're delivering the outcome or the uptime or whatever that looks like for the industry, that's the value the customer is paying for. So the how isn't as important as the what? Do you know what I mean?

And so it's an interesting conversation to think about in terms of how the technological capabilities that are helping organizations like yours and others evolve how service is delivered. How do we invest in those in a way where the organization isn't ultimately penalized because the customer just sees it as a cost savings, not an additional capability that's tied to the value proposition. Does that make sense?

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah. I'm just trying to relate it in our industry. And I think that the thing that is a little different within agricultural network is there's a very strong tie between that customer base and that dealer. They start to see something, their immediate call is that engagement with the dealer. I think that there are places where from a protection perspective, we want to be able to provide some information to a customer in regards to their utilization. If it's going to lead to a potential breakage, forewarning is a good thing. I think that there are places where we need to enable quicker service, and we can do that by providing better linkages between the customer to the dealer in what they're experiencing. And that is a different type of service call. So you're going to see some changes probably in our industry that may occur because of that.

But the biggest thing of whether it's the customer, the dealer, the dealer to us in providing some kind of an assurance of what's going on with their machine is we need to be there to provide the quickest response we can to a customer because it is so important that when they're using that machine, they're using it for some revenue producing purpose.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Danielle Waterworth: So that ultimately has to drive a lot of the decisions that we make and find a way to weave in that whole customer dealer OEM model.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. I had a gentleman on the podcast a few weeks ago, I'm going to send you the link after, because I think you would find it really interesting. So they have introduced a product in the rice milling industry, and they are going to market with that exclusively as a service. So there's some uniqueness in what the machine itself does and how it's different from the existing technology in their space, but then also the go to market strategy is entirely different than the other organizations. And part of what he and I spoke about is how being the new entrant makes that a lot easier versus having any legacy as a company that you're always-.

Danielle Waterworth: Trying to figure out how it fits.

Sarah Nicastro: ... Having to balance what has been and what was versus what do we need going forward, and how do we get everyone's mindset on the same page? How do we change, even if it's revenue recognition or whatever that looks like, there's an existing system and process and infrastructure that has to change. And he's saying, I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm saying it's a lot easier than if we had to evolve here. We're just coming in and having the conversation. So it was an interesting perspective.

Okay. So I want to shift gears a bit, Danielle, because one of the things that, and I believe you tell me if this is part of your former role, I don't know if it's part of your current role, but we talked about the leasing and financing of the equipment. And I thought that was interesting because when we do talk with organizations that are considering or trying to go down a path of moving to that as a service, delivering uptime versus equipment scenario, that's one of the discussions that becomes interesting is moving from that CapEx to that OpEx model. And so in your experiences on the leasing side of the business, I'm just interested if you learned anything that could be good food for thought for folks who are thinking more about how to lease equipment to be able to roll that into a NASA service offering versus selling it outright?

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think one of the things that CNH Industrial does really well is cross-pollination. I mentioned, I'm an Ag finance major. I spent 15 and a half years with the captive finance company. And one of the last roles that I did have was in asset remarketing and leasing. And most definitely moving from there to the parts area to now to service. You take pieces of your prior roles and you're like, well, how does that fit in? And one of the biggest benefits that I could see from a leasing model is if you do start to lock in that whole maintenance plan, that extended warranty is yes, one good thing that we've always had. But if you start locking in maintenance and inspections, all of a sudden that asset, which is your company asset, that's going to come back to you at some point in time. Now you have a better understanding of what's going on with that asset, how it's performing. What's going to be the market value when it comes back, and I need to remarket it back through my dealer network?

It's just a way of making sure that you're retaining that value against that residual. And I think there's rewards to that too. If you are well maintaining a lease, reward culture needs to come into that. And it just provides that overall assurance, not just to the customer of what they're getting as far as when they're returning that lease, but then also to the captive finance company is what that machine looks like and what's going to be the potential value when they try to remarket it. Most definitely all of those things start aligning as far as how do they all work together.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. it's a really interesting piece of that overall conversation. Now you're also responsible for product support, and one of the things that you have put a big focus on is really maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of managing incidents. So can you talk a little bit about that initiative?

Danielle Waterworth: Well, we're working on it. I will say we're working on it. From a North America perspective, it was one of the biggest challenges that we had coming in this year of really improving on the pain points that people were experiencing and the product support process. And that being from when the incident comes in from the customer to the dealer, dealer puts in an incident to us, and then eventually we're going to get them that solution back of how they're going to fix that machine. When we go through that process this year, we went and we utilized our business systems mentality. We started looking at it from a lean perspective and did a whole value stream mapping of what's going on in that experience and found clusters and clusters of pain points, pain points that could be addressed, but they just needed to put some effort and focus to them.

Whether it's simple things more that are more in the area of knowledge and quality, how we onboard new employees to support in that product support nature, continuous education, how we educate with our dealer network of how to build a better dealer incident coming in so that I can give you a quicker response out. So whether it was knowledge or priority or prediction, just search-ability of our tools, we're starting to attack the different clusters of pain points that we're having. And we're doing that through a kaizen mentality where we're just continuing to invest back into our culture of being accountable and changing things for the better, but then also for our dealer network and providing them a better experience.

And I think that this is going to be a long process, but it's a fun process because you come out of a week with change, immediate change of how you're going to do something differently or documentation of policy manuals of how you're going to now behave. So it's just been a fun experience for us to go through this year, and I look forward to bringing it into other teams that I have within that North America market.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now, it makes me think, Danielle, that's one really specific example of taking an opportunity to improve that experience and ultimately relationship with your dealers, which then ultimately improves the customer experience, because you make it easier for the dealer, the dealer then is making that customer resolution simpler. Knowing that you go to market through the dealer network, and that at the end of the day, those customers who know your brand know that through your dealers and those relationships. Are there any other thoughts you have for listeners on how to make that relationship the best and most productive it can be when a company is going to market ultimately through that intermediary party?

Danielle Waterworth: I think we're all going through that right now in that the biggest thing that we really quite frankly, have to be thinking of all of us is that next generation of technician. We provide that support of that service and training once they've hired that service technician in providing those standards that we, hey, you want to achieve level one, level two master from a perspective of fixing our machines, being that technical expert. But the first step, quite frankly, is finding those next generation of employees. But it's little less than two years ago, we started an initiative called Top Tech. And while we're not out actively finding these kids, we're still working with our dealer network, CNH Industrial has taken a focused effort to say, we're going to help support that initiative by championing the whole aspect of these are good paying jobs, these are jobs that you can take back into the regions in which you want to live in. If you want to stay in your hometown, there's a dealer next door.

And trying to find and make those connections, give our dealers the tools that they need to go and help recruit those individuals, make those connections to those local vocational technical programs that maybe we have a stronger relationship with to grow that next generation of CNH Industrial dealer technician. But then just trying to make those ties and linkages also with youth programs that are out in the United States and within Canada that have a higher correlation to kids that want to work in ag and construction. And so we've really put a focused effort into top tech this year and the last in building this program and continuing to work with our dealers on what's next, what else could help you.

Sarah Nicastro: So part of that is helping create better awareness of the jobs in the industry. And you do that through, I think you said you speak right at schools and whatnot about some of those opportunities. So part of it is that sort of thing. Can you give any insight on what the tactics are that have worked in helping them identify and then attract new talent?

Danielle Waterworth: The earlier that you can get involved, the better. So if you have those opportunities to engage in those high school programs, it's better. If you get in there and you provide them those day to day sit in the life experiences, I think it starts to change their ideas of what these jobs are. They are not dirty jobs. These are air condition, climate controlled service technician jobs for the most part anymore of where our industry is going. And there's a lot of flexibility in that to just try to find those opportunities in our network because they are in such demand. So the more you provide that insight into what that job looks like, the more they can start to see, okay, this is something that I could be interested in. What does it take to go in this direction?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. And I think your point about the earlier, the better. You also mentioned high schools themselves. You mentioned vo-tech, you mentioned community, just programs and extracurricular type things that are a fit. So also thinking about just really trying different avenues and see where you do get some interest or make some progress. But this is a really good area to consider in terms of a very specific lift for the dealers in an area of need, but ultimately something that also, again, impacts your customers because you can train and enable those technicians, but you need technicians to train and enable to provide the service.

Danielle Waterworth: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So that's a really, really good point. Now, Danielle, you mentioned to me when we spoke that you are very metrics and analytics focused, and that that plays a role in all that you do. Are there examples you can provide on how you apply this to your decision making and how you manage your teams to make sure that you are achieving the results that you want to achieve?

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah, absolutely. I think it goes into this whole lean mentality that we're trying to take on. But because you don't just live that first week in that kaizen and then it stops, you have to continuously assess where your metrics are going, find the next level of issues that you need to go and address. And that goes to the whole root cause problem solving. So we utilize our metrics a lot. We're starting now heavily into technical support to look at cycle times first response, just trends that we have going on with certain product areas during different times of the year or within different regions. And this allows us to have fact-based decisions in regards to where we need to invest

So we can start to see trends that are coming in and it'll allow us to make better decisions of, well, we're getting a lot of, I would call them struggling incident types for this certain product types. So where are we sitting at from a service technician perspective of how many people have been going through the higher level courses? And I think that, that's just allowing us to make smarter decisions as an organization of where we're going to invest our time and our money. And really helps us also promote to the dealerships, here's where we're investing, here's the results that we're starting to see. Because you want them to be believers in what you're doing as well. They have to be, otherwise they just think, Danielle's gone through the whole year, what has she done? So I think it just helps provide that value back to everyone, your employees, your dealers, which are your partners, and then hopefully your customers start feeling it as well. You actually start turning the tide through metrics.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think when you talked about the work you're doing around incident management, I like how you said you're looking for those clusters because that's how you're identifying that first opportunity for attack or resolution. What will give the most lift? Where are the areas that are surfacing the biggest need so that we can have the biggest impact by solving those? And I think using that data driven approach is the best way to make sure that you are doing that in a way that will really help.

Danielle Waterworth: It takes-.

Sarah Nicastro: So I'm curious... Yeah, that's a good point. It's probably why I'm not that way. I very much lead with emotions and it has its benefits too, but you have to balance it all out.

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm just personally curious about this. We didn't really talk about it, and I realize that's because this podcast obviously is more about service across a bunch of industries. It's not an agriculture or farming podcast, but as a farm kid, I am curious just what, going on within the world of agriculture, what is most interesting to you about trends in that space right now?

Danielle Waterworth: You can go on and on about the globalization and what's going on just within all of the countries and instability, but I think that for the most part, you're always going to have something like that, that you're going to be dealing with. You have globalization, you have mergers and acquisitions. Technology is starting to get rooted more and more and more. It's not just because I'm talking about connected services. We're talking about robots and machines, and the sustainability of agriculture. And so how do we.... Our methane tractors that we're producing now. We're trying to take what is best out of technology that's going on just in other industries and find ways of mixing it in to the ag and construction environment. And it's such a fast-paced activity, it's just exciting to just keep up with it, what's the next thing? What's the next thing? So I'd say that those are the biggest things that are going on right now that are just really driving a lot of change within agriculture.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, Now, I wanted to ask, we were talking about the connected service and the non-connected service and all of the things that are really a work in progress in terms of how does the modern value proposition work, what does that all look like, et cetera? And for an organization that is asset intensive and does have that need to protect your customer's ability to operate when they need to, which is their livelihood, et cetera. So much of your role is to really simplify a lot of complexity, a lot of complexity. And I think it's complexity that is almost multiplying by the minute when you think about digitalization and technology. And there's so much good to all of those things, but they do add a lot of layers of change and things to sort through, et cetera. So when you think about how best to simplify a complex asset intensive environment, what comes to mind in terms of how to navigate that?

Danielle Waterworth: What's the value? What's the value of the sell? At the end of the day, you can design the perfect widget and think that it's wonderful, and then if you haven't figure it out though, how it's actually going to be utilized and acquired into the market. That's the key point, that should drive everything that you do. How is this actually going to provide value back into your customer and dealer base? And if it's not, then you need to go back to the drawing board because it's probably not something that you need to spend your time in. It's not going to provide any additional value to them. It's probably not the right thing to be looking at.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think there's something to your analytical practices in terms of, it seems like part of the key has to be constant prioritization of what will provide the greatest outcome. So with the customer in mind, but knowing that at any given moment, there's probably dozens of projects you could take on and help your team lead that would have a positive impact on the company, on the dealers, on the customers. But then how do you prioritize those? Because you can't do it all at once.

Danielle Waterworth: You live in an agile environment. I can tell you that.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah.

Danielle Waterworth: Within the two streams that I have, I have basically 10 different functional areas, and you can sit down at the beginning of the year and you can plan these are going to be the things that we're going to do this year, they're going to make change. But if you don't touch that until the end of the year again, you've already failed. So you have to continue to adjust and readjust and get feedback back from your customer and your dealer base, your internals of what are they seeing? How, with what is going on to what you were saying before in the industry, how is that going to impact what we said we were going to go out and do? And you have to adjust numerous times.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. Because you never know when there's going to be a different need or a new need or a reprioritize need that needs to shake up your plans. That makes sense.

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah. Yep.

Sarah Nicastro: Good. I've enjoyed talking with you. Do you have any other thoughts or comments for the listeners?

Danielle Waterworth: No, not today. I have plenty. I love my job if you can't tell, so I could go on and on and on.

Sarah Nicastro: I love it. It makes me happy to see people that are passionate about what they do and enjoy the ways that they're able to make an impact. So I'm happy that you have that in your day to day life, and I'm happy that you were able to come and share a bit with us. So thank you.

Danielle Waterworth: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. You all can learn more by visiting us at You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter at the Future of FS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening. 

Most Recent

November 14, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

Reflecting on the State of Service in 2022 to Plan for 2023

November 14, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

Reflecting on the State of Service in 2022 to Plan for 2023


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

IFS recently published its State of Service 2022 Global Report, which surveyed 400 CIOs, COOs, VPs, and Directors of Operations, Field Service, Digital Transformation, and Information Technology across Manufacturing, Service Provider, Telecommunications, and Utility Organizations in 24 countries. I had the opportunity last week to reflect on some of the State of Service 2022 report findings on a live webinar with WBR, but I also wanted to share with you here some of the points that stood out to me most. 

The first point is how respondents describe the top competitive differentiators in service. Companies across industries have recognized that service has a powerful impact not only on customer satisfaction but also competitive differentiation. What did respondents feel contributed most to their competitive differentiation, though? Companies reported that technological superiority has become a deciding factor (29%), followed by CX (26%) and operational excellence (18%). 

What’s perhaps most interesting here is that the last time this same question was asked, in 2018, technological superiority was ranked fourth – and it’s now first. We know that when well-embedded and adopted, today’s technologies help companies master both operational excellence and CX. It has an immense impact on both of those points, which is why I think its capabilities as a differentiator are ranked first in responses. 

These areas of technology superiority, operational excellence and CX are all intersected – and it would be highly unlikely for a company to be strong in one area without being strong in the others. Companies are learning that technology-enabled service delivery is key to meeting today’s customer expectations, which include the operational excellence that leads to on-time arrivals, first-time fix, and knowledgeable frontline workers. 

The Top 5 Issues Facing Service Organizations Today

So, what stands in the way of companies achieving competitive differentiation? According to survey respondents, here are the top five issues facing service organizations today:

  1. 46% struggle to meet customer SLAs
  2. 40% are struggling with a lack of skilled workers
  3. 37% struggle with change management
  4. 37% are dealing with outdated or insufficient service management technology
  5. 29% are grappling with how to create as-a-service offerings

How do you relate to this list? Maybe you feel some solidarity. 

There are a number of factors to consider in solving each of these challenges, but since this is an IFS study let’s stay on the technology topic for the moment. No, technology can’t singlehandedly solve each of those challenges, but it certainly plays an important role. If you take, for example, IFS’s Planning & Scheduling Optimization solution, it directly impacts three of these five top challenges – by maximizing efficiency, it helps combat the skills gap by maximizing utilization of the existing workforce. With its self-learning and dynamic scheduling capabilities, it considers a wealth of criteria to ensure you meet customer SLAs by eliminating unnecessary travel, increasing first-time fix, and leveraging automation. 

And for companies like Cubic Transportation Systems, tools like IFS Planning & Scheduling Optimization are setting the stage for the creation of new service offerings. You can read here about how Cubic has successfully migrated to delivering outcomes-based service. 

Upcoming Areas of Technology Investment 

The challenges companies are facing are reinforced when looking at the top areas of focus when it comes to technology investments across respondents: 

  1. Remote Assistance Using Augmented/Virtual/Merged Reality
  2. Wearables
  3. Knowledge Management
  4. Simulations
  5. Scheduling Automation & Optimization 

Personally, I’m really excited to explore more the potential that Remote Assistance/Augmented Reality brings when it comes to the challenge of recruiting talent. Not only can the technology have a significant impact on how companies train new employees and offer them expert support on the job to speed time to value, but I believe in the coming years we’ll see significant development in remote service as a first response, reducing the burden on the frontline and eliminating unnecessary on-site visits. 

Roel Rentmeesters, VP of Digital Transformation at Munters, describes the potential of remote service well, “When you want to reduce downtime, you cannot permit yourself to send a technician who goes on site, has to travel for two hours, does a diagnosis, comes back, orders a part, goes for a second time to fix it. You don’t have that luxury anymore,” he says. “Remote Assistance can help reduce downtime, because that technician that did one visit during the day, using remote technology can maybe serve 20 customers that day.” 

Top of Mind for 2023

So, based on where we are – where are we going? IFS asked survey respondents, ‘Over the next 12 months, which will be key areas of focus for your service business?’ and identified three clear top initiatives:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Updating Legacy Service Management Systems
  3. Leveraging Emerging Technology

I think numbers two and three are quite self-explanatory based on what we’ve already discussed – and the need is likely exacerbated by economic turbulence and a recognition of the improvements in efficiency and productivity that can come from a technology investment. 

In terms of sustainability, I am happy to see this was listed as number one. While there’s ample reason to put better emphasis on sustainability strictly for the sake of our environment, we’ve discussed on the podcast several other reasons companies need to be putting more thought into this area. There are regulatory pressures that are heightened already in some regions and will be ramping up in others, and there are also concerns around investment decisions – some investors are putting sustainability into their criteria. It’s also important to consider customer preferences and opinions – in many industries, customers are now demanding visibility into a company’s sustainability initiatives and choosing where to spend their money based – at least in part – on that insight. And finally, there does exist for some service organizations the ability to develop new offerings around sustainability to help your customers with their initiatives – creating a new potential revenue stream. 

There are plenty more interesting insights in the full State of Service 2022 report, which you can download here

Most Recent

November 9, 2022 | 29 Mins Read

The Firsthand Perspective of the Field Service Contract Workforce

November 9, 2022 | 29 Mins Read

The Firsthand Perspective of the Field Service Contract Workforce


Sarah talks with Tamika Fields, independent IT Services contract technician, about what she enjoys about being independent, what could make W2 roles more appealing to talent, and how companies can make their relationships with contract workers most effective to ensure positive CX.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be getting an inside look at the perspective of the field service contract workforce. I'm joined today by Tamika Fields, who is an independent IT contract technician. We're going to get a little bit of perspective from Tamika on what is in the hearts and minds of the contract workforce and relate that back to some of the things we talk about here on this podcast in terms of leveraging contract workers, making sure that doing so allows you to still provide that positive customer experience, et cetera. We will dig into all of that, but Tamika, welcome to the podcast, and thanks for joining me.

Tamika Fields: Thank you for having me. Hello, everyone.

Sarah Nicastro: Before we dig in, tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an independent contract technician.

Tamika Fields: Well, my name is Tamika Fields. I'm an Alabama native, southern born and raised. Honorably separated from the Air Force. I'm an artist, a curious, creative, spiritual being on a very human journey. I'm just the student of information technology and communications. I started before the Air Force, but then I transitioned. And then after that, I went straight into my career working W-2 work, that's what we call it now, now that I'm a contractor. I transitioned into the full-time contracting subsequently as things didn't necessarily work out the way that I would've thought as a professional at that juncture.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Okay. So how long were you doing W-2 work and what were some of the reasons that going that route was appealing to you?

Tamika Fields: If we just start with my full-time career in communications and information technology January 1999 when I joined the Air Force. I just continued working obviously from that job to other jobs, subcontracts, but I was still a W-2 within the contract. The very first contract that I got, ironically, I got two months after getting out of the military, and it fell through. And then that was the first inkling that in my mind I'd just come from this military contract and everything really is a contract, but I was still in the tether of what I call the matrix of the illusion of what W-2 work is considered for most people.

And from there, just fast forward to January 2016. I pretty much did what I consider W-2 work, but they were consistent contracts, because most of the work was range contract. It wasn't the direct high private sector work for this school until towards the end. I took an independent temporary role that was supposed to be flexible, that was supposed to be, "You are a contractor. We're subbing you. This is temporary. At will at any time we may not need you. We call you in part-time." The role was part-time as part of their temporary services, and I was still being treated like a W-2 employee with the restrictions that come with that, without the flexibility to do what I knew how to do, to make things more efficient, to scale and streamline what they needed because they were trying to upgrade all of their devices.

They were breaching many security policies and had things on the network that shouldn't have been. I was trying to help with that, and I was being treated like a W-2 employee with these restrictions that wouldn't allow me to really get them to where they needed to be, and for all intents and purposes, that the IT manager hired me to do. That was the first time that I was just like, "Hey, January 2016, I think something needs to change here. I've been doing the same thing somewhat expecting a different result, hoping that people see what services I provide." And I'm just like, "I just need to take the leap because this is me treading water in a temporary role but not having the flexibility."

And that was it after that. That ended about a year later, so six months I took a hiatus to reassess if I really want to continue in IT, because I'd already taken a break briefly before starting that role. And by May of 2018, I was full on, "I'm an independent contractor."

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. From your perspective, what are the benefits of being an independent contractor versus being a full-time employee with one organization?

Tamika Fields: Off the top, flexibility, autonomy, greater sense of purpose, and self-branding to represent what services you provide and the quality and standards that you provide that apply to all business needs, in my opinion and experience.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Okay. If you look at the flip side of the equation, I mean, is there anything that would make you reconsider being independent at this point and taking a full-time position with one organization?

Tamika Fields: Realistically, probably not.

But just thinking from the standpoint of I am the sum of my experiences, and I know there are some things that are beneficial when you have W-2 employment, the only thing that really would make me reconsider a full time employment role would be if I was in a position where the organization allowed me to have the exact same growth opportunities, flexibility, autonomy to get the job done with an efficient manner in the standard of the white glove service that I provide irrespective of office politics, which is virtually impossible. I've really only had that as an independent contractor.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So highly unlikely.

Tamika Fields: Highly unlikely, but eightball says anything's possible.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that's true. The reason I'm asking some of these questions is the organizations that listen to this podcast I think are really struggling with a couple fundamental questions of themselves, which is, number one, "We don't have enough talent, period, to do the volume of work we need to do. So whether that's looking at how we attract more people to the industry to hire as W-2 employees or whether we find sources of good 1099 or independent talent that we can leverage, it's a problem that needs to be solved."

I think companies tend to have different feelings about the use of contract workforce versus the idea of having a network of their own technicians. So I think it's interesting to look at this from the perspective of from the independent contractor perspective, what do people like about that role, whether it's understanding it so that you can build a good relationship and leverage talent like yours in a way that helps them deliver the brand experience they want to deliver. Or whether it's understanding what motivates you to be independent, to question themselves on are there things they can offer to make full-time employees make that role more attractive? To your point every time I've asked that question, you say flexibility. I always am urging organizations to think outside of the box in the sense of, yes, a lot of the industries we reach, service work, it needs done when it needs to be done. That leads people to believe, "We can't offer flexibility because we just need to service our customers when they need service." True, but that doesn't mean schedules need to be built the way they've always been built, right?

Tamika Fields: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: If people are willing to get more creative and not just do what they've always done, then maybe you can do a rotation, maybe you can do a four-day workweek. I don't think any organization can hand you all of the benefits you have of being independent and poof. But I think we do need to ask ourselves more what are those things that are really drawing people to want to be independent and are there ways to adapt so that we're providing more of that, right.

Tamika Fields: True.

Sarah Nicastro: I just think this idea of, "Nope, it's this schedule, it's always been this schedule, it has to stay this schedule," I don't subscribe to that. I think if you really want to change the game and get more creative, then that's what you need to do. And if the problem becomes a big enough problem, people will be forced to start getting creative and thinking differently.

And so, that's where I think the perspective of you is helpful to really understand what are those motivators and either how do they begin to incorporate some of that into what their employee value proposition looks like or how do they consider those motivators so they can build relationships with someone like yourself that can help them be successful in their customer experience, right?

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So, if you think about that comment, are there aspects of your role as an independent contractor that you think it's possible for companies to provide more of to their full-time employees?

Tamika Fields: Absolutely. I don't think that cavern of absolutes in black and white separation exists personally. I think they make it exist because, like you said, they're dogmatically holding on to that. I don't think it has to be mutually inclusive. I feel like if full-time employment roles... For me, let's see, in terms of making it more appealing, what could be provided, I just feel like I find myself to be more proactive when I'm working 1099. I'm focused on the process and improvement. I do that anyway, but there's so many things that limit that because there's so many steps and approvals and people who don't see what's really happening and what really would change things and scale things to what they actually need. They see things on papers, it's abstracted, it's not tangible. They're not dealing with the forward-facing aspect of it, nor are they dealing with the actual infrastructure and what it is that they're doing or trying to do based on the industry that they're in.

And so, for me, that's all I'm focused on, efficiency. It's most challenging and rewarding for me to have that aspect that I always find in independent contract work. Ideally, that's the most nurturing environment. But I feel like just even with the very last W-2 role, the very last most longstanding W2 role that I had, I would say... I don't want to say a full-time temporary, but it was just the project based, but you're tethered to us. So even in that role as a W-2, "Yes, you're W-2, but you don't sit here 365 all days except for those holidays. You're here when we have these big projects. You're the first person we pull in. You might be the person that consults on this and also maybe you're the person that when it hits the fan, call that person first. Because if we know nothing else, we know based on the consistency with all these other projects, that they'll be able to put a fresh perspective set of eyes, give us some insight on what we can do to quickly to keep the ship from sinking and then give us time to go hire, say, the other person who would be the one that sits there and patches that hole when they go back to their respective independent corner."

But I know that's really creative, just even that thought and just that analogy to somebody in a corporate structured world. They'd be like, "What do you mean? You're just on retainer?" "In a way, but you don't have to pay me until I show up for work." So the retainer is the relationship.

Sarah Nicastro: And so, I want to get back to talking a little bit about the independent contract model, but I also think it's important to dig into this a little bit for the sake of people that listen and the way the industry is struggling with talent as a whole right now. There's a few things you said. You said flexibility. You said autonomy. And you don't like the corporate politics. Those are things that I think are representative of how the desires of the workforce are evolving. I don't think companies have a choice but to evolve with the workforce. I'm just bringing those points back up because I don't believe you are alone in desiring those things, and organizations have to start finding ways to deliver more of that.

Now, I also want to take it a layer deeper here, so bear with me. You said in the beginning you identify yourself as a creative. I think that's also part of what's happening here, is you have ideas and you want that autonomy to make suggestions and make changes and not be tied down by outdated policy and a very cumbersome process for introducing new concepts. I think it's a really important point because not everyone is like that, and that's fine. Everyone has different strengths. Some people are happy to just follow the rules and do what the process is, et cetera. But I think as we hear things in headlines of the importance of company culture and innovation and are we creating an environment where employees do feel that they can contribute to that innovation, what we really need to do is figure out how to make creatives like yourself feel more empowered and more involved in the process instead of a victim of whatever decisions are being made at the top.

I think that's a huge transformation underway, but again, I want to call out to the people listening that if they have talent within their ranks, like you, who is creative, who has ideas, who wants to problem solve, who wants to take issues and figure out what can change to make them go away, you really need to figure out how to harness that talent instead of having it get frustrated and leave that outdated dinosaur-like culture to just go-

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: ... do their own thing.

That is not me saying, and I want to be clear, that is not me saying that folks like yourself shouldn't be independent contractors or companies should not leverage independent contractors. I'm just also stating that unless a company's strategy is to use all 1099 employees, these are some of the really hard questions they need to be asking themselves and grappling with. Because the realities are just that we know the frontline workforce, I say this all the time, holds so much power, because you are the person interacting with customers. You are ultimately the external arm of whatever brand or customer experience a company wants to provide.

You're also in a position where you see more challenge and more opportunity than many others in the organization. So if we're not listening and we're not involving and we're not leveraging that insight and perspective, we're doing ourselves a huge disservice while also making people that have the talents or the drive that you have feel that that environment is just not right for them. I'm really just urging people to hear what you're saying and think about how they start to make changes, however difficult that might be, to empower and encourage and involve and engage their workforce rather than just sticking to process/policy that has been around for a long, long time.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Does that make sense?

Tamika Fields: It makes perfect sense, because we are the unintentional mascots for any organization. I've worked for hospitals, nonprofit schools, I mean, government agencies, contracts, subcontracts, security teams. You name it, I've done it. Yeah, you are the person they remember, you are the face, so whether you're the begrudged, curmudgeon stereotype or you're an open communicator who is adapted and emotionally, intellectually keen, you're still what they remember, irrespective of you showing up two minutes before because somebody got sick or you've been there for two years. You do have the insight that it's impossible for you to have if you're not on the ground. It's just impossible.

And not to get into war and politics, but the reason why people feel the way they feel about President Zelenskyy with regard to the Ukraine as the Ukrainian people, because he's there, he's in it, he's not like removed, he's not detached, he's right there putting everything on the line with everybody else. We're the conduit. We as the frontline IT people, whether we're there every day... Again because I've been W-2, and I did that for years with the same people, seeing the same people every day and navigating the politics. You don't want to just be the guy saying, "Where's my red stapler?" If you're saying, "Hey, this needs to be resolved, maybe we can work on this. I know you can't fix it in three months, but maybe we can start the action rolling so that in three months we can have tangible plans that are implemented by the end of six months."

Most IT people have a realistic background and understanding of that. But like you said, if we're screaming, "We are here, and this is what needs to be done, and you have creatives," I feel like it's actually more cost effective for you to leverage the person that's willing to stay that's already W-2. Like you, I'm not saying get rid of all 1099 contractors, don't have independent consultants. Absolutely both are needed. But if you have somebody who has the quality, the skill, the growth, and the expansive scalable mindset within your organization, you have brand loyalty by default. You don't have to train that, you don't have to adjust that, you don't have to have the little nuances that change when somebody's going from just having worked at a hospital to now working for DOD contractor to then working for some nonprofit art school. Because there are shifts that most people can't do, and that's why they always have the stereotype of the IT person, the flat asset, and this, that, and the other. But not to digress.

Sarah Nicastro: It's a good point. No, I've talked on this podcast before about, I think as the nature of field service evolves, we need to start thinking about maybe part of getting more creative is not just about how do we offer flexibility and how do we offer more autonomy, et cetera, but also maybe we somehow segment roles differently than we have in the past. Because there are different talents, and they have different value.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So maybe you have a very technical talent that can repair X, Y, Z, but they don't have an interest in the customer experience or the relationship building. It doesn't mean that talent isn't a talent, it just means-

Tamika Fields: Agreed. 

Sarah Nicastro: ... there are other talents needed. I have some thoughts on how that might evolve, which is not the topic of this podcast, but I think it's another point for people to consider is you will have people that are willing to just show up and do the work, and then you will have people that have fresh ideas. They're both important. Don't stifle one and pander to another. Figure out how to harness both talents and skills.

Tamika Fields: You have to. It's practical.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep, for sure. I want to shift gears a little bit, Tamika, and talk about, as an independent contractor, so keeping in mind that our audience is companies that would potentially hire folks like you to either augment their full-time employee W-2 workforce or some companies are taking the strategy of using all independent technicians. I want to shift gears. We've talked a lot about what attracts you, what do you like and enjoy about being independent and thinking about that through the lens of how do we bring some of that to the full-time employee. I want to shift gears and talk about how do we take that into consideration for organizations to work successfully with contractors, okay?

Tamika Fields: Mm-hmm.

Sarah Nicastro: One of the biggest concerns, if not the biggest concern, that companies surface when they're unsure about how to leverage a contract workforce is that they fear that brand or customer experience will not be as strong as it will with someone who, like you said, is only working with customers in that sector, who understands the intricacies of that brand, et cetera. What are your thoughts on that concern and its validity? And then let's talk a little bit about what good relationships look like and how that can be offset a bit. Sorry, I always ask multiple questions at once, so first - what are your thoughts on that concern?

Tamika Fields: Well, okay, so it is a valid concern. I don't 100% disagree, but I largely disagree because I feel like, okay, if you have a professional who's adept and at a certain level in the industry, there's a level of embedded communication skills and decorum just by virtue of being in the industry at that level. So you have to think in terms of whoever the HR person is or whoever the temp employee services person is that are bringing these people on and onboarding them, you have to present to them what it is that's needed so that they source correctly for that role. If you do that, then that concern, it's mitigated just by working with your onboarding person or the HR person or the technical recruiter that's within your company or whether you outsource that. And so, as far as that, to me that resolves that.

But of course, nothing's cookie-cutter. The representation of an ideal vision of what a company would want to get the quick turnaround of the deliverables and have all the projects on task, perhaps someone who's not... You're worried about, I guess, people being complacent and just coming in there because the high dollar last hired consultant and they just come in and do the job. Again, even if it's hot tasking, we're behind, we're trying to catch up before we lose this contract, you still have 15 minutes to an hour to onboard somebody with the proper expectations of the contract. If you've got time for people to sign NDAs and to make sure that the routing number is correct, you've got time to have them sit down and even just have a meeting like this, like, "This is our company, this is our vision. We know this is a short project, short turnaround, but you represent us at all phases and this and this. These are our mission statements. This is what we bring to the table. Our customers are used to this expectation. This is our standard operating procedures."

If you don't have time to do that, then you're probably in bigger trouble. I kid you not, that's a 15 to 45 minute moment of communication. Bring everybody in, make space for that, lay it all out, have them repeat it back to you. If you've got nothing else but add another 30 minutes to role play, and then you're done. So what have you invested? 15 minutes to an hour and a half of somebody in HR and communications time to do that with a contractor. But most people don't think that way. So it's not even the fact that they don't have the skills and resources already available, they don't think about it. They're just like, "Well, we only want people who already know, who are already working here." You've got people working there 10, 15, 13, 5 years who don't even understand the vision and the brand of the company, who could care less. That's just a fact.

And then you have people who are just like, "Hey, I'm a chameleon. I'm here for you. You pay me for the service. Part of that service is me representing you in every aspect. And then you get all of the benefit of my years of experience from all of the other companies." But, of course, I'm pitching my identity, my experience because this is what I do.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's a really good point. Now, to take that a step further, okay, that's really good advice, are there relationships you have where you're getting feedback on performance and/or feeling appreciated or recognized when you are providing above-average performance as an independent contractor?

Tamika Fields: I do. I don't want to sound like hubristic, but every single job that I have taken since the one that I mentioned in January, they have within the first week, if not the first day, asked me to stay permanently.

Sarah Nicastro: I was going to say, "How many times are you... "

Tamika Fields: How do you say this without sounding arrogant? But I mean, I'm not…

Sarah Nicastro: No, no, honestly, I've thought that since the beginning of the conversation. Yeah, because that's the thing, and that's why naturally I started with thinking in my mind and talking about how do companies attract, bring on board, nurture, and retain talent like you, because it is what they all want. I mean, I can absolutely see how that would be the case. The challenge though is, what are you getting from the experience of not being tethered to a particular company, and what does that mean for the future of the workforce?

I also think there are aspects of this conversation, there's company or industries that have very seasonal work. There's industries that go through big ebbs and throughs, and they need to be able to scale up and scale down. It isn't all about just that they're not providing an experience that full-time employees necessarily want.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: There are a lot of aspects that can make the use of a contract workforce be a valid option. But, I was bringing some of those points up because I talked to so many business leaders and service leaders that are really struggling with talent, that I know it is part of the challenge. In terms of best practices though, so I'm thinking about advice you can give to companies who are looking to work with contractors, so investing the time, 15 minutes to an hour and a half to really set the stage and provide clear expectations sounds like something people would think to do anyway, but I'm not shocked that it doesn't always or often happen. What does the follow-up look like? Other than people trying to just hire you in full time, do you have any thoughts for companies on how would you like to see them deliver feedback and let you know either, "Hey, you did a great job." or "Hey, we set the stage for you, and you didn't really deliver what we were looking for." or "We'd like to not necessarily bring you in full time, but we want to continue to leverage your services and that sort of thing."

What I'm thinking about, Tamika, is I did a podcast quite a long time ago with company in Australia named Foxtel that only leverages contract technicians. What they've done is almost sort of Uberized their process. They have a scorecard... and it's a very simple scorecard. It's only four things so the stages set when people start. They work with a firm that helps them with this, but it's very clear to the contract worker, "Here's what we need you to execute on." They continually get ranked, and the people that are getting the highest scores in those clearly-defined areas get the best and most frequent jobs. It's essentially, the better work they do, the more they're able to stay independent but rely on that company for the best jobs and the highest volume of work to the degree they want to accept it. And then obviously at some threshold, the people that aren't doing a good job, they just go by the wayside.

Tamika Fields: Yeah, definitely sounds Darwinian, but yes, it works. I was going to allude to that, similar to what Field Nation uses and very, like you said, Uberized or Lyfted or if you want to use those brands to reference that. The scorecard system works so long as there is, of course, quality assurance and checks and balances in there, because we're human, we're dealing with human beings, and there's subjective biases that need to be addressed. But outside of that, to me that is the ideal way because you get immediate feedback, you have the clear and present expectation, and then you have the follow up. Like you stated, I have several companies that have worked with me last year, wanted to bring me back on for seasonal work. Some things they only need you seasonal to cover when their main IT people are out. Also asking me to come on board in a similar situation.

It's not always, like you said, just the fact that they don't want you or they don't have the model set up for that. But that company in Australia, what they're doing, I think if they could incorporate that within the model of the corporate umbrella, I think that would actually help. Because some people need, I wouldn't say daily, but some people need more immediate feedback and course correction. Even the people who like to just tunnel vision, "I'm in my cube, I'm doing my thing." And again, we need them. We need the analyzers, the data people, the people who are just going to sit there and, "This is the process. I follow the process. I came in at this time, I leave." There's a place for everybody because I'm inclusivity, not exclusivity. We need everybody. We need the people who don't want to lead, and we need the leaders. We need the visionaries, and we need the people who need everything to be painted out black and white, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

So yeah, that definitely would be the way. Like I said, I have organizations that just straight up said, "Hey, we only need independent contractors right now, but in the future if a position opens up, please... " They're very direct. Or, "This company changed their mind. We were going to hire you for this, but please go back to our website and look." A lot of companies that are IT contracting firms, they just directly say that because they also know it has to be reciprocated, and they also know what they really can't offer. "Oh yeah, we definitely want you, but we don't have the role available. At contract fell through, we don't have that." or "We want you to come back next year, but we only need you next year, 10 months from now," that type of thing. And with the understanding that, "Well, you do realize I can't just tread water for 10 months."

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Right.

Tamika Fields: "So if I'm not available at that time, it is what it is." But the relationship doesn't have to be lost because I have literally won one company three times, but I was already doing something else. But it's the same company that contracted me last year. And then they wanted me again for the actual thing that they contracted me for, but now at this point I'm already doing something else. But every single time we engage, we're solidifying the relationship. I still want to work with them. If the moon is in the southern sky and Jupiter's on its right, I will be there. But if it doesn't align, we don't have to burn that bridge just because it's not working out.

For some people having space for that to keep in their database those names and numbers, you never know, even if it's like five people, "But we really haven't worked with them and this many time years. And every time we try it doesn't work out." "Hey, but if you keep them and if they're alive and they're working and they're building their skill sets, when it does hit, you'll have them." As opposed to every single time we clear the database and forget about it. So that's just one aspect in addition to what you mentioned about the Australian company, in addition to the way field things and many other ranking systems work, but of course with the quality assurance built into it for negating inherent biases of our humanity.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. That makes sense. Are there any other thoughts you have, advice for companies listening to this, how to create a positive working relationship with the contract workforce? Do you feel like we covered it, or is there anything else you would-

Tamika Fields: We've been pretty thorough because we hyper threaded our questions and our answers. Sorry to talk over you, but let me see. I'm reflecting, I'm reflecting on what we've said so as not to be redundant, but...

Just continue to keep an open mind as far as diversity. Talent matters based on what talent can do, not what talent looks like. In many cases, not even necessarily what they sound like. Obviously, you want to have the base level of communication. In this country, our language is English, I get it, but a lot of times people lose sight of presentation. When you're dealing with a technical industry, yes, okay, so this isn't a allocution or a... What's it called?... a finishing school. It's IT. So you got to think, at the end of the day, can this person route this network most efficiently? Can this person run these cables? Can this person actually recover this data and bring this up? If they can do that, you need to already have in place an understanding of, "We can groom and work on everything else." Because if they're spot on, if they're coachable, if they're honest, if they're timely, if they're respectable, don't let the biases of presentation take you away from hiring good talent.

That's the only thing that I could suggest. They're obviously inherent biases, but they're changing, but they're still not changing as much, because if there's 11 or 10 people in the room, there are three people who identify as female or present as female, because it wasn't like I asked, but I'm just saying. And then if you further get into the diversity beyond that, it might be me or one other person who's of the African diaspora, maybe an Asian woman, maybe a South Asian woman. I actually have to be honest, I've never worked with someone who identifies as part of the Latinx community.

Sarah Nicastro: No, that's a really good point.

Tamika Fields: Female, I mean. Sorry, I've worked with men.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah. I think that point is a really good point as well around diversity. You brought up Field Nation, so just quickly, you use the Field Nation platform.

Tamika Fields: I do.

Sarah Nicastro: How do you feel technology like theirs impacts the life of an independent contractor?

Tamika Fields: I feel like it's a game changer for people who haven't used it. I remember when I first found out about it in May of 2018, I was just like, "Wait, what?" It would've just been so helpful to know about it five years before that because that's when I came back into the IT industry after leaving because of burnout, because of lack of opportunity, because of feeling unseen and unvalued and just feeling like there's no room for me to grow because I just basically spent 20 years doing the same thing. And even the fact that I could just leave and step right back in proved that, you know what I'm saying?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.

Tamika Fields: Because it wasn't like I did some certification course or changed anything. I just stopped and I just started back. So for me, Field Nation, it opened the door for me to offer all the skill sets that I'd already had, all the ones that I'd learned doing augmenting and doing other things in the interim when I left the field briefly, that weren't being utilized in full-time employment because you get stuck in these niche roles. It just gave me greater pride in my work because I knew that I was like, "You're getting rated in real time. These are the expectations that you got to deliver." You don't have till the end of the week or those things where people like, I don't want to say fudge, but they hide in the gaps of the corporate workweek. I was just like, "You're paying me while I'm here to do the job. If I get the job done in two hours, but you're paying me for six, I'm going to tell you that I'm done in two hours." Some people don't do that.

I'm just like, "I'm done. Now, what else is it that you need me to do? If not, I'm leaving because I don't need the money that way. I want to be efficient. I want to get it done. I want to show you that, yes, if you hire the right people, this job that you keep paying people eight to 10 hours to do, it really only takes four to six." But have the expectation because Murphy's Law is real, and that is the God that I serve, but outside of that, stop spinning your wheels and wasting money. To be able to say that and not feel like you're going to get a low rating or get shunned in the coffee break room or just even that freedom to say, "Hey, quality assurance points, things that you can improve, ways that you can save money," and not feel like you're going to get some type of repercussion after, that was enough for me. But it just gave me a greater way that I could leverage my assets, not get stuck in each position more than anything, and that is what the platform offered me.

Sarah Nicastro: I'll link to Field Nation in the comments or the show notes for this. For people that aren't aware, it is IT specific, but it's a platform that allows companies to hire contract workers, allows contract workers to find open jobs, and then also to your point, Tamika, provides that real time feedback. Last question, what are your thoughts on how the talent space and the working environment will change over the next one to three years?

Tamika Fields: Well, if we don't get stuck laughing at all of what we call soft quitting individuals and the people who are just starting their own companies, I encourage more people to do that because it will just create what I call the catalyst for change that the industry's plural need. Because to me, IT is ubiquitous, and it's a part of all industries as a collective global market of companies and organizations. That was part of one of the reasons why I took it as a creative because people always talk about artists and creatives having the feast or famine or starving in order to exist. I'm just like, "Or I could do something that I'm already naturally inclined at doing because of my functional, obsessive engineering monk-like mind and have something that is permanent. I don't have an electrician degree because they also are always going to be here until the grid goes down or World War III, God forbid.

But I just hope to see continued diversity, inclusion regarding the challenges of the landscape. I feel like in a modern world, in a modern information technology field, tech work is the way, but also you can have onboarded W-2s longstanding relationships with field technicians that are part of your organization. I feel like the available independent contracting opportunities in addition to the full time employment opportunities, they're going to continue. As you say, the need is there. It's just that if we keep open dialogue with the diverse sums of experience that are being leveraged, it allows capable talent and intelligent technicians to just contribute in a way that's more sustainable in the long run. It just allows individual contributors like myself to make a greater impact. And now, I think that'll just make us all stronger than any one individual part of the whole.

And even that, it just makes everything run more efficiently because you have all these resources from the contractors, from the longstanding workers, from the people that are floating in seasonally. Whether they're using a platform or not, it just makes the information technology sector stronger. It makes us scale and evolve more exponentially to where all of the different organizations that uses this technology and uses these resources can apply it more broadly to what needs to be done and make those changes that you talk about from the archaic dinosaur model to the... If you want people to stop soft quitting, if you want the burnout to end, if you want people to stop phoning it in and telling you that they're busy, but they're never really doing anything or stringing out a project that they literally could have done over their lunch break just to get... like, "Hey, I need this." You know how it goes. That's how you resolve that, in one of the many ways. Because be open to change. Be open to growth. Keep the dialogue flowing.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, very good input. Thank you, Tamika. I appreciate you coming. I really enjoyed speaking with you. I think your perspective is one that is really helpful for folks to understand and think more about. Thank you for giving me some of your time.

Tamika Fields: Thank you so much, Sarah. Thank everyone for listening. All the companies or organizations, keep an open in mind to all the human beings who believe in technology, who believe in science, who believe in communication. Stay curious, be proactive, and just be representative of what you uniquely bring to the table in every collaboration.

Sarah Nicastro: I love it. You can find more by visiting us at You can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter, @thefutureoffs. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

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November 7, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

The W2 Vs. 1099 Field Workforce Conundrum: Addressing Struggles on Both Sides

November 7, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

The W2 Vs. 1099 Field Workforce Conundrum: Addressing Struggles on Both Sides


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

This week’s podcast is a really interesting one – I am talking firsthand with an IT service technician who is an independent contractor. There’s so much discussion and debate around what the service workforce should look like and how best to leverage W2 and/or 1099 workers to meet the needs of each company’s demands, but I’d never sat down with an independent contractor to ask some of the questions I believe our audience would want to understand:

  • What, if anything, would make you consider going back to a W2 role?
  • The #1 concern I hear about contract workers is protecting the employee experience – is this valid?
  • What steps do companies take in working with you that make your relationship with them most successful?

Tamika Fields, the independent contractor who specializes in IT services, happily answered those questions and more – giving her honest and thoughtful input. To hear all her answers and the deeper discussions we got into, you’ll have to tune in on Wednesday. But there are a few points that I want to discuss a bit here.

We Aren’t Giving Our W2 Workers What They Want

Recruiting and hiring full-time technicians is a major challenge across industries and geographies today. And while there are several reasons for this, it’s important to stay focused on how to control what you can to get the best results possible given all circumstances. With that said, I think the issue is that companies know the needs and desires of today’s workforce are different than those of the incumbent workers, but many (probably most) aren’t taking action to change to better deliver today’s wants.

I asked Tamika, is there anything that would entice you to go back to a W2 role?

She said, “I know there are some things that are beneficial when you have W2 employment, but the only thing that really would make me reconsider a full time employment role would be if I was in a position where the organization allowed me to have the exact same growth opportunities, flexibility, and autonomy to get the job done with an efficient manner in the standard of the white glove service that I provide irrespective of office politics, which is virtually impossible. I've only had that as an independent contractor.”

There are some key words here that stand out immediately to me, but I wanted to understand a bit better, so I asked Tamika about what some of those “office politics” feel like or prohibit.
She shares, “I find myself to be more proactive when I'm working 1099. I'm focused on the process and improvement. I do that anyway, but there's so many things that limit that in a W2 role because there's so many steps and approvals and people who don't see what's really happening and what really would change things and scale things to what they actually need. They see things on papers, it's abstracted, it's not tangible. They're not dealing with the forward-facing aspect of it, nor are they dealing with the actual infrastructure and what it is that they're doing or trying to do based on the industry that they're in.”

Tamika also identifies herself within our conversation as a creative (which I love). So, if we begin to break this down a bit, there are some core concepts that I believe many of today’s workers want that most of today’s service organizations aren’t finding ways to deliver:

  • Flexibility. Yes, I realize it can be challenging to provide flexibility in the sense we often think of it (work from home, flexible hours, etc.) given the need for service organizations to react adeptly to customer needs – especially so in some industries where SLAs are tight and responses urgent. However, I do believe that if companies were to force themselves to become more creative, they would find a way to delivery some flexibility.
  • Autonomy. Today’s workforce – OK, basically everyone – doesn’t want to be micromanaged. Sure, you are working hard to protect efficiency and to improve the CX, but you have to build trust with your employees that gives them some freedom to do what you need them to do in a way that feels right for them, because no one wants to feel they have no control over how they do their jobs.
  • Voice. When Tamika brings up how far away some decision makers are from what’s really happening on the frontlines, she’s emphasizing the incredible knowledge your field workers hold. By not giving them an opportunity to share what they are learning in their customer interactions – what problems or opportunities they see – or, even worse, giving them the voice to weigh in but then not listening, you are essentially saying you don’t respect the knowledge they have. Not only does this kill employee engagement, but it prohibits you from benefiting from really smart individuals who are having a higher volume of firsthand customer interactions that many others in your company (probably including you).
  • The ability to contribute to innovation. A creative like Tamika has keen observations, strong ideas, and a drive to implement improvements. But she doesn’t feel like in a W2 role, she’s able to contribute to change or innovation within the business because of all the “politics.” We need to work on creating a culture of creativity, collaboration, and innovation that allows those who incline toward these characteristics to have an outlet so that their ideas are channeled toward positive improvements instead of into frustration.
  • Empowerment. Tamika likes feeling she can take pride in what she refers to as her “white glove” service, and this is because she’s able to make it her own. When your employees feel empowered to be themselves, to bring their personality to what they do, to make (reasonable) decisions on their own, they give more of the CX you’re looking for them to give.
  • Growth. As Tamika says, she feels she has more growth opportunity as an independent contractor than she would in a W2 role. This is probably because most companies haven’t modernized the trajectory of their frontline roles to be in line with what many of today’s employees want – opportunity to progress. A worker who comes in with initiative and drive but is entering a system where they are expected to be at the same level of work for five, 10, 15 years likely won’t stay long. We need to evolve to providing growth opportunities within our own businesses rather than strong talent needing to go elsewhere to achieve their aspirations.

We Aren’t Giving Our 1099 Workers What They Need

Ok, so we can take from Tamika’s input some valuable perspective about why a worker who is often approached to take a full-time role after she provides contract service emphatically says, “No, thank you.” But what did Tamika share about what we can do better in working with independent contractors?

We discussed a few different points, but the one I’ll share here is around the #1 concern companies have when deciding to use contract technicians: that it will negatively impact CX. I asked Tamika her thoughts on whether this concern is valid.

“We are the unintentional mascots for any organization,” she says. “I've worked for hospitals, nonprofits, schools, government agencies, contracts, subcontracts, security teams. You name it, I've done it. And you are the person the customer remembers, you are the face, so yes, it is a valid concern.”

While she agrees it is a valid concern, she goes on to explain that it is one that really isn’t too hard to address – companies simply don’t often do the work. We aren’t investing the effort to set our contract workers up for success.

“If you have a professional who's adept and at a certain level in the industry, there's a level of embedded communication skills and decorum just by virtue of being in the industry at that level,” she explains. “So, then you have to think in terms of whoever the HR person is or whoever the temp employee services person is that are bringing these people on and onboarding them. Are you sharing the expectations? If you have time for people to sign NDAs, you have time to have them sit down and even just have a meeting, like, "This is our company, this is our vision. We know this is a short project, short turnaround, but you represent us at all phases, and these are our mission statements. This is what we bring to the table. Our customers are used to this expectation. This is our standard operating procedures."

It sounds simple, right? According to Tamika, it is a simple step often overlooked or skipped. “It’s a 15-to-45-minute moment of communication. Bring everybody in, make space for that, lay it all out, have them repeat it back to you. Maybe add another 30 minutes to role play, and then you're done,” she says. “So, what have you invested? Maybe an hour and a half of somebody in HR and communications time to do that with a contractor. But most people don't think that way. It's not even the fact that they don't have the skills and resources available, they don't think about it. They're just like, ‘Well, we only want people who already know, who are already working here.’ You've got people working there 10, 15, 13 years who don't even understand the vision and the brand of the company, who could care less. That's just a fact.”

Most Recent

November 2, 2022 | 38 Mins Read

What it Takes to Succeed at Outcomes-Based Service

November 2, 2022 | 38 Mins Read

What it Takes to Succeed at Outcomes-Based Service


In a session from the London Live Tour, Sarah talks with Mike Gosling, IT Service Platforms Manager at Cubic Transportation Systems about the company’s successful transition to outcomes-based service with the help of AI. Mike shares key aspects of the transformation, including the importance of change management, tips for success with AI-based tools, and the role of continuous improvement.

Sarah Nicastro: So next up, I'm excited to be joined by my friend Mike Gosling, who is the IT service platforms manager at Cubic Transportation Systems, and we're going to talk a bit about outcomes based service. So Mike is essentially offering a different perspective on the path to advanced services, and we're going to talk a little bit about what his journey has looked like, what some of the learnings are, what is coming next, etc. So before we dig in, Mike, tell folks a little bit about yourself and about Cubic.

Mike Gosling: Okay. So good morning, everyone. I started many years ago as an electronics engineer in a computing company working right down to mainframe PCBs and things like that. They did their forecasting in teacups, which meant that they collapsed and burned pretty quickly and I was made redundant. Joined Cubic, they weren't call Cubic then, and I was an engineer, working electronics engineer and they started introducing business systems into the company. One day I went into the manager of the IT team and said that I can do better than that because I thought they weren't doing very well. So I did, and he said, "Right, have a go."

Sarah Nicastro: I like that confidence.

Mike Gosling: Years of being rugby captains and things. Yeah, big personality sorry about that, guys. Anyway, joined the team and then very quickly because of my field service experience and things like that. And because I'd also been out in the field by the way, troubleshooting out in the field and things like that because they'd put me in charge of the full service systems. Now, very interesting discussions that we've had early on today. Very interesting. And we are now outcomes and I'll get to that, but I don't think we nec... Oh by the way, sorry. Cubic.

Who remembers a London prior to Oyster Card? Yeah, it was pretty rubbish wasn't it? Because we are the people that basically do Oyster Card. We are the people that do all of the transport for London and most of the UK travel infrastructure. We do it all over the world. We're world leaders. So if you go to Sydney, we are there. Manhattan, we're all over the world. We are the European hub, but we do influence the rest of the world. My little team punches quite highly in the business, so I'm proud of the team. Rob's here, oh just heard me say that now he's going to want to pay raise anyway.

So yeah, Oyster card. So now Cubic, one of the couple of the things about Oyster, I'm sorry Cubic is that we have two mantras, we've got many strategies, but two mantras that are very important to us. Winning the customer obsession and innovation and our journey to outcome based. Those were the pillars that got us there. And by following those, we then fell into outcome based. And I'll explain how. When we first got the contract years ago, with Transport for London, who's our biggest customer. Transport for London, is an amazing customer to work for as well as the others. We've got other amazing customers in the rest of the UK. But Transport for London are amazing because London is an amazing city. It's the world leader and they want to be the best. Manhattan, Oh no, no, London's better. Sydney, no London's better. So they drove us to make sure that our technologies were up to date as good as possible for the infrastructure that they're in.

We wanted to innovate and win the customer. So as TFL were going on the journey of trying to be the best city and having things like the Olympics where their travel infrastructure was put under huge strain and stresses and the whole world and the Daily Mail was ready to write the horrible headlines, traffic congestion in London spores Olympics. It never happened. It never happened because the entire infrastructure was that TFL put into place was magnificent, and we paid a part of that innovation. Well okay, we want to start using smart cards or oyster cards. Okay, well how do you do that? Off you go Cubic, could you do that? We'd like to do it, you want to do it? Let's do it together. You plug readers in, you start taking data off readers. So you build the back office infrastructure. So you have back office IT services to manage those and then all of a sudden it's kind of like, hold on, we can now start taking that data as well and using it to log incidents because there's loads of information on that.

And then that day can be backfed into engineering because we can improve the product. Brilliant. So everything's connected and then they say now we want to go cards, card payments. Yeah, card payments. So we have to then again do better integration and better tokenization and go through PCI compliance and all this other stuff becoming more IT services, more back office services. And then we introduce, because now they've got cat cables and things like that, we can introduce better PCs and control boards and things inside them. We can also start monitoring. And so this innovation between ourselves and transportation for London and other companies, all of a sudden you go to bed one day quite proud of the Olympics going well and all this and you wake up next day and we're an IT services company.

We're no longer a company that sells machines; we supply IT services to Transport for London, and Transport for London in the last rebid recognized that and came back and said, "Okay guys, now that everything's in place, your contract is no longer, we want 20 gates here and break and fix" is now you are going to supply hours of retail and hours of validation at stations and on buses and you're going to supply hours of back office system support for your IT services and you're going to supply hours of retail support for the retail terminals. And how you do that is entirely up to you because that's it. The outcome is those hours and you're going to take all the risk of that and you'll take the revenue because we all want money. But you're going to have to do that. Now from my team, how are we innovating? Well, we'd already started to try and be more efficient in the way... By the way, if you want to ask a question at some point, just jump in. But

Sarah Nicastro: All right, I'll just…

Mike Gosling: You want to hear a story? I can tell a story. We wanted to be more efficient the way we operated. So we had all these engineers all over the place and we wanted to grow the business because to grow the business all over the UK, we didn't want to just throw engineers at it. And one of the dangers about outcome based is everyone talks about Rolls-Royce, you talk about Rolls-Royce, it's fantastic hours of air. Well it's same for us. If we wanted things to be working for 20 hours a day when the service is open or 24, let's just plant an engineer there all day long. And then the moment it fixes, press the button, it goes again. The moment it fixes tweak that it's back again. Well that's just totally inefficient. We'd been starting to use tools, dynamic scheduling tools to make sure that our engineers are more efficient the way they move around the business.

Huge change in the way they operated. They were no longer being governed by someone phoning up and saying, "Yeah, can you pop down to Waterloo? There's a couple of gates broken down there, do them in your own time and call us when you finish." And the guy's saying, "Oh actually there's a cafe at Seven Sisters. Do you mind if I can pop up there first?" "Oh yeah, actually there is a job there. Go there. Yeah, don't worry about the Waterloo." That's just totally inefficient. So we had dynamic scheduling tools come in. We had mobile comms come in because we were starting... If you are getting enriched data from your machines to engineering looking at. You want enriched data from your engineers to how they fix that data. And voice interface is the single worst thing in entire world. And if you ever go down mobile comms, which some of you always do, don't narrative, tiny bit of narrative because otherwise exploited and you'll get rubbish.

Anyway, we were building that to become more efficient. We were building that to become more the way that we operated. And it was a hard change. We can talk about that if want to later on, but there was a hard change. So all of a sudden we wake up one morning, our equipment's monitoring itself, we're getting all this data in. Our engineers are efficiently being scheduled around the system and we are using mobile comms and it's all fantastic. And then all of a sudden TFL said "Right now we're becoming outcome services." And literally go from the L contract starts tomorrow, you've got three months until the new contract starts and that's the way it is. Maybe we can crowbar some of the stages in organically in those four stages, but basically we were innovating to suit our own needs and then bang off you go and start exploiting.

And we did. We started exploiting and the transition to it was absolutely fantastic because it was almost like, "Oh that's what we... Yeah you're right. This makes more sense now." And there are certain things that you start to do. So when you think of a walkway now everyone says, "Oh you said a walkway." No, that triggers brooms. That walkway is just something that collects validation and as long as it does that for 20 hours a day, we're happy, and we can change every part of that if we need overnight to achieve our... And we make much more use of parts. I know Rolls-Royce do it. I have friends who work for the airports. They steal from Peter to feed Paul to keep that plane in the air. We do very much the same because it's about those hours. So we totally change the way that our food service operation works, our logistics operation and all this data coming in that we got as well we're able to back feed into our engineering and therefore improve the IT services.

They improve the outcome, they improve reliability. So our journey was kind of an organic win the customer and innovate. And then because everything was in place, the customer says, "Well we want..." Oh by the way, I want, sorry before we'll let you a second.

Sarah Nicastro: It's fine. No pressure. Take your time.

Mike Gosling: TFL, they had a mindset themselves few years ago and I apologize if this goes out and someone from TFL sees this, I hope they'll agree what I'm saying is true. Should be because I've spoken to the main people but they want to treat every single person as valued patrons of the service because people come from the whole world round here, fella, and they want the experience of integrating with the transport situation to be exactly the same for everyone.

And what that means is that if someone boards a bus out in Gravesend or someone gets trained in Waterloo or someone gets on Ongar or someone... The experience should be exactly the same. And that's why they wanted outcome. Because it wasn't just, if it was break fix to us, we weren't worry about Ongar. That doesn't care to us. We'd make sure Victoria's Waterloo is always working because there's a million people a day. No, they wanted exactly the same level of service for every patron because they wanted to be world class London. And that's important. And because of that, when we setting up our systems and our contracts, there is a temptation, an old mindset, it's an old engineering thing. Look, there's a million people going through Waterloo every day. Get yourself down there, get down there, get down there. Come on Ongar, don't worry about it.

Three people and the dog, don't worry about it. No actually the penalties are exactly the same for that station as they are for that station. If we lose hours on that, they are as punitive as they are at Waterloo. Final thing, that means that the outcome is, although the outcome's the same, we give 20 hours of retail per day per device or validation per device at some of the stations because of the strange dynamics of some of the stations, be it access, be it certification, be it all sorts of things. The field service underneath that is totally different. It's almost like the little legs go in because my name's Gosling called I'm called Goose. Everyone's called Goose. So the little legs on a goose. Anyway, everyone thinks that it's like standard service to maintain that we've utilized the scheduling tools and we utilize the dynamic, the tools, we've utilized those business rules to identify these unique circumstances to make sure that we do maintain that level of service and all that outcome different from others.

And the way we use our engineers, the way we use our logistics, the way we have our access and certification and tools and skills there are many differences involved in that. They're pretty much all automated. But the result is that TFL you are to supply X amount of hours of retail, X amount of hours of validation and X amount of hours of back office support. And if you actually look at our schedules now, they're called LU services, they're called rail services, back office services, service transport services and retail services. Because we are not selling gates anymore. So that was a long introduction, sorry about that.

Sarah Nicastro: It's okay. All right. So that's Mike, that's everyone. So there's a couple things I want to comment on. So again, going back to the aha moments we talked about earlier, that can kind of spark this journey for Cubic, it was very clear because Transport for London with their objective of providing a high level of consistent customer experience across their whole system came to Cubic and essentially demanded, if you are going to be our partner then we want X percent uptime across the board. So figure that out.

Mike Gosling: And by the way, it's up in the near a hundred percent by the way. Yeah, it's not 60; its way up there.

Sarah Nicastro: I was going to say 96 or something.

Mike Gosling: No, it's much higher than that.

Sarah Nicastro: And so that put Cubic in a position of sorting it out and sorting it out quite quickly. And Mike and I have had a relationship over the past number of years and so we've talked about their journey quite a few times and one of the things that we just talked about, recently, is the fact that it really lended itself to them needing to be quite agile because it had to happen fast. They needed to act quickly and learn on their feet and get accustomed to that way of operating and then go back and refine. So the idea of, can we provide outcomes? Can we guarantee uptime as a minimum viable product? We need to do it no matter what. Then can we go back and reflect on, here's how we're doing it, here's how we can refine how we're doing it these things. And so there's some different learnings that come through doing it that way.

Mike Gosling: My team that I had that manage these services, that manage these because I didn't say that by the way. My team is responsible for the moment an alert appears on any device, be it a reader, be it an LCP, be it the back office. That alert becomes my property because we monitor it. We're monitoring the hundreds of thousands of bits of kit in the system in real time.

We then transform that. We decide whether or not it's an incident that gets logged as a ticket, which becomes a dashboard, which becomes a service report, which automatically sends engineers the mobile comms to all that happens automatically. I own all of that and that team, we use scrum ban process, we're trying to go to deliver when ready. But at the moment we have... We're not really sprints anymore. We've sort of got rid of sprints. We use the pull method from the scrum ban and that means we're very agile, which means that we can literally, the customer can come to us and say, we want this new change made. And if the timing's right it can be delivered in a number of weeks, days even sort of thing. Sorry.

Sarah Nicastro: No, that's okay. All right. So what I want to do is go back and talk about some of the key aspects of this. And so one of the things you mentioned is the idea of delivering outcomes manually is just impossible. If not impossible, I would say impossible. But if not, certainly unrealistic. The cost to Cubic of trying to scale up on man manpower, even if it were feasible to do that is not going to work. So you had to really rely on some of the technological innovation you already had underway and then add to that.

Mike Gosling: We had to totally even them with the contract.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So talk about the importance of automation and intelligence in being able to deliver outcomes and how that gives you the ability to, as you said, really be able to in real time react to whatever complexity comes up. Because to your point, no matter what happens circumstantially with the workforce, with the technology, with Transport for London things going down world events, etc., you still have to deliver that uptime. And so you have to be able to react adeptly to any sort of circumstance.

Mike Gosling: Yeah, this could be a long answer again, sorry. So first things first, a device fails, it comes all the way through our systems and it says no, this is not a false positive. It is actually an error. The field service management tool says no. We know empirically from our knowledge of learning because of knowledge, knowledge, knowledge that the only way that this can be resolved is sending in the field engineer. It becomes an incident, it becomes a work package that gets dropped into the dynamic scheduling PSO. PSO will automatically assign that to an engineer based on their skill, their location, their tools, their certification and the contract. That's key. We'll come back to that in a minute. The contract. That will appear automatically on the engineer's device, it'll just ping up. They'll say, "Oh we've got to go to Victoria again because I hate it."

But they've got to go anyway. They'll go, they'll do all the interaction on the device which is back feeding into the systems, which is by the way real time going onto customer dashboards. The customer can look at Victoria and drill on and say, "Oh is there an engineer on site and oh, what's he doing in that? So they can see all that in real time, which means that there's no need for loads of comms between the customer. They're almost embedded in our service room if you like. The engineer can resolve that issue, leave it, the dashboard's updated the job out done. The only human interaction with that entire job is engineer. No one else has touched it. That is where the strength comes in. 80% of the heavy lifting is done on those sort of simple jobs. The system set up those rules I said about are to manage those 80% of heavy lifting and to utilize the contract knowledge, the skill knowledge, the tool knowledge, etc, then you get accept management on top of it.

So we have exception managers who spot those things that go on and that might be different, there might be real world situations, there might be, let's horrible thing to say, but there might be a blue light situation that needs some things. They can then overrule it and then start moving jobs around that they need to with that real world situation. The next thing is you understand your contracts because it sounds like it's, as I said to you earlier, okay the outcome is just 20 hours of per device of retail scale that to a hundred gates, etc., etc. When actual fact, as I said you before every place has their different dynamics and certification and access and sending someone nine o'clock in the morning to fix a walkway at Victoria, you're going to get trashed by that. And also there are other little things.

If for example if we consume in hours and then we get more than a certain amount go out, not only are we losing downtime and we are not fulfilling the outcome, we're actually a degraded service. So we get penalized again. So our contract, there's 115 SLAs or something. So really, really, really understanding the contract, not just think, "Yeah, I know the contract," really understanding it and how each interacts with that one and how each bullies that one and how if you set it up to do that one, you're going to suffer on that one and all that. And because we've taken the risk on we, again, I might get told for saying this, we have a slightly different view of it maybe to the customer sometimes because they are engineers and there are people and there are concerns humans, every two engineers, different people and different concerns and different things.

So they have to be treated differently. So we then set the system up to suit those, the required skills, that required tools, that required knowledge, all those sort of things so that the 80% of the jobs can be dealt with that. There are a lot of challenges understanding the contracts. One of them, we really put a lot of effort in front end to understand the contracts to the nth degree and how that one bullied that one. And also, by the way, I forgot to mention these sound engineers work on other customers as well as TFL, so not bullying other customers as well. And they've got a different regime because some of them are still break fix, they're still buying a gate. We are truly outcoming our biggest customer. And so not being bullinosed. So that was one challenge. The other challenge is people, because when you've got a kind of a voice and the people like that, you build up friendships, you get this, "Oh can I leave early today?" "Yeah." "I don't want to go to Kings Cross. I hate going Kings Cross." "Okay I'll never send you there again." That sort of thing. So you have to work through those. You got to get those people problems to manage those people. And let's base it, we're all here because field service, we would be lost without the brilliant engineers out in the field. They are really the bread and butter. And it would be great if more of them came here actually. Maybe if customers could be more encouraged to people real world it here so that they could have an understanding of what we are trying to do. And then we could listen to them because we all think, "Hey, what they got to do is go and fix that gate and then it'll turn up," and say right. Two things about it. One, the station supervisor at that place is really strappy and won't let you warn at this time.

Two, there's a shelf that means it's really difficult to get your body in, three and these are the real world scenarios that we have to take into account. So learning that, learning that. And the final thing is the technology side of it, is the taking that data and making meaningful use of that data, understanding is that really a system? Is that really alert? We do something which I don't think I've ever heard anyone else do. We log self-resolve incidents. We actually, an alert might occur and clear itself, but we actually log it as a valid incident and it looks just a normal incident log. It's totally cleared itself.

Take full downtime for it. We aggregate them, we are so transparent to the customer, we can go to them and say, these are all your incidents including the ones that killed themselves and the downtime and what it was and everything like that. So understanding how your incidents relate to each other and how to failure them and all that. So it's a really interesting journey. But we'd already started doing that as I say. And then when the customer came it was like, now let’s proper naval gaze at those challenges and really understand the contract, the people. Yeah

Sarah Nicastro: All right, so the first thing I want to dig into a bit is talking about the technology a little bit further and here's how. So Cubic happens to be an IFS customer and uses both field service management, which is the solution that the ticketing would go through and that the technicians interface with as well as the dynamic scheduling, which is referred to as planning and scheduling optimization or PSO for short. Now PSO is an automated scheduling tool that uses AI and essentially is self-learning. And so one of the most impactful conversations I've had with Mike is around his and his team's learnings of what it really takes to make use of an automated tool of that type and meaning, it is powerful but only if you trust it to do its job. And so for Cubic, what that has meant is to your point, understanding first and foremost the contractual obligations for uptime to Transport for London and making sure that the system prioritizes those, but then also takes into account all of these other things, the technician skills, inventory, locations, events, other customer jobs, etc.

And so what Mike is saying is that through the work that they've done with PSO, 80% of their jobs are done in a completely automated fashion. Meaning the ticket comes in, the job is dispatched to the technician, completed by the technician, closed by the technician without anyone other than the technician interfacing at all. The other 20% are where he's saying the exception managers have to put some sort of manual effort into doing some of that work. Now that's a really impressive feat to be at that point, but what it took for you was setting your success criteria and sticking to them while you let the system do its learning without acting on the human instinct to intervene, right? Because that's what they were used to doing. So can you talk a little bit about that part?

Mike Gosling: Well, yeah, you probably noticed that I've got a fairly big personality and that I'm not easily swayed.

Sarah Nicastro: The thing I like about you.

Mike Gosling: So when we went live the first day with our turning the PSO on, we've talked about understanding the SLAs and the skills and the people and all that. I absolutely made sure that no one played with the system. We'd put a lot of effort into understanding how the jobs with the contracts were SLAs, they needed the skills, etc. And it was absolutely "Now guys, you have to leave it alone because it will only work 80% of the time if it's allowed to work 80% of the time." And if you start saying, "Oh I disagree with that," and moving, it will rearrange the whole world around it and you will not get a true figure. I'll come back to data later because data for me is, that's the next big thing is using machine learning to back feed into engineering and stuff. But anyway, so we were pretty strong and mandated on that.

We would put in these continuous improvement steps and we would have, the first one would be one week and then one week and then it would go to three and then two. And if anyone spots anything, save the plan, then write down very clearly in language that was not ambiguous, it had to be understood because it wasn't just me that needed to convincing, it was the steering group, which someone talked about earlier about the leaders, man over there, your leaders, service leaders are, sometimes they're in their ivory tower, they've climbed up and a lot of them are out of touch maybe. So, you got to convince those people as well. So you literally do it and they might will moan and they will complain and they will, "Oh no, look this, no, there's no way they'll do that job first before that one" and look okay, we've got it wrong, but let's leave it for now because maybe it's something else that's happening.

Take that data and then literally analyze its nth degree. Think about it, learn about it, learn from the data, understand how it is. Now we got the SLA wrong, the first week clearly there was one actually that we got completely wrong and it was sticking out like a sore thumb. We still resisted the temptation to mess around with it because we had, I couldn't change my own goal post. I said we were going to leave it one week, we had to, it was clearly obvious it was wrong, but no, it had to stay there the whole week. Then you model, then you implement, you go through everyone. Those continuous improvement, I'm not going to go through that process. After a while all of a sudden. "Any complaints today?" "No." "Any complaints today?" "No," actually it's quite like that and excuse me. Yeah, can I change that note? You can't change the words and all of a sudden it just literally fell off a cliff.

You know, had loads of noise, loads of noise, fell off a cliff. And then it was a similar story, with our starting to meet these service outcomes, we... Oh, I forgot to mention, when we introduce these tools, we collaborated with our customer to say, "by the way, we are going to introduce a tool that the long term's going to benefit you and us. You are going to love it as much as we are going to love it. But there might be a bit of a hit to start with." And of course they were, "Ah, you can't do that." Then when they realized there was a potential hit, fine, you work through it. And this is why working with a collaborative customer, it's fantastic. All customers, but I should say brilliant, we took that hit and then the same time as all the thing, it literally bang, it fell off and we started to see a huge improvements in our SLA, huge improvements where we were and enabled us to actually grow the business over a number of years without having to take any extra engineers on.

Because we had everyone that says when you introduce these tools, "Oh we don't have enough engineers, we need more engineers. Throw engineers at it." No, actually it turns out we had probably in less than we needed to start with and able to grow the business. Either don't have enough hours in the day, put the jobs into the schedule, what's all that there? That's all spare hours, it's all there. You can see it. So yeah, so it was quite interesting that being firm and I think that's partly why it was brought in very quickly by these senior managers as being a critical business tool and is now seen as a critical business tool. And in fact, again, I'm conscious, a couple of times I've given demonstrations on behalf of TFL to other transport authorities around the world because TFLs say, "Look at this, this is the sort of tools our people are using and it's wonderful how they use it."

So they're recognizing the value of it as well. So yeah, that was one of the things is hold your nerve. The three tips I will give is one understands your SLAs to the nth degree really go in and just don't think them know them and how they bully each other. Two is work with your resources, manage the resources. It's going to be horrible. There's going to be a lot of people that really are going to fight and complain and there are key influences. They might not necessarily be the best resources, but they're the ones that shout loudest in the pub in the corner at night when they're moaning, invite them into discussion. Let them have their say. If you get two gems out of them that you are able to implement, they'll recognize that and they'll sing them from the rooftops and they'll influence the staff.

I know it's a horrible thing to say, but sometimes this is how you win people over and if something they do suggest is not necessarily right, don't rubbish them. Give them the honest reason why it's not right and they'll go away hopefully respecting you and you'll have better respect from them and then take that advice. So understand your SLAs, understand the people and hold your nerve. Do not mess around with the system, it'll fight back.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think this is really important because at the end of the day to be able to deliver outcomes the way you are, you have to rely on technology. We've established that when we talked earlier...

Mike Gosling: And that's end to end. That is literally from... That is full IT services right the way up to the mobile comms. It all contributes to being able to do that.

Sarah Nicastro: And like we talked about earlier with James, ultimately when an organization can move to a Servitiization model, the more you can leverage tools like this to improve your efficiency, the greater your revenue is going to be, right? But time and time again, what we see is organizations who are hell bent on investing in automation but don't realize that they're not actually wanting to automate, they're wanting sophisticated technology but they still want to follow the old processes and have that manual interaction and you can't have both. So if you're going to try to leverage the power of an automated tool, you have to understand and be willing to commit to the process of getting it working the way it can.

Mike Gosling: And we are lucky that one of our key sponsors is on the board who absolutely, who lives by those two mantras winning the customer and innovate. And because he's on the board and he innovates and he's a very, very respected person and he's our assistant sponsor. He literally lives that and tells that. Rob will tell you, he's sitting at the back, we do have a couple of people still who've been at the company many years who still given the opportunity one Saturday morning when none of the managers there will start, "Yeah, I'll give you that job. No problem." And then you come in and go, "What the hell happened on Saturday?" But unfortunately this is the facts of life is that you can't... It's about managing those things. But yeah it is going to be committing to it and truly committing to it and living it and also plugging those continuous improvements in continuous to innovate.

I was saying about data, I'll come back to data because one of the things that I'm really keen to do now that we're getting all this data from stuff and is to really start, I was talking to someone earlier, we're starting to look at, I call it collision data, but basically if you look at say a device starts to fail, and I have done this in the past, I gave an example earlier; if you look at the ride device is failing, rather than fix the device, start looking at what's supporting that device.

And we found that certain things were happening at the same time, well hang on, 80% of the time that occurs that's failing, right? Well can you not engineeringly fix that rather than try to fix that, to cope with that and using that to make everything more efficient from an engineering point of view so that you are streamlining things so you're not building code on code on that to fix rubbish there. And that's something that we've started to do and we're really keen to explore it when we've got all this data because if you can do that, that's going to be in service longer, which means that we retain our targets, which we make more profit. So that's an area that I'm moving into.

Sarah Nicastro: And so going back to the topic of change management, it's a really important topic. I always say it's one of the topics I get most frustrated by because everyone talks about how important it is but then continually de-emphasizes, deprioritizes actually doing it. And that is such a big problem. You gave a couple examples of the very human side of this. So technicians used to be able to like, "Hey we have this thing at this station, can you go fix it?" "Yeah sure, I'll let you know when I'm done." They stop and grab a coffee, they do this or that.

And now they're far more structured, it's far more regimented and it's the right thing to do but that doesn't make it not challenging for them as individuals, right? And so I think it is an important aspect of these journeys. And so you mentioned, obviously, I like the point about looking for the biggest naysayers and try and get your arms around why are they frustrated, how are they frustrated and dealing with that head on. I think a lot of times we think if we ignore a problem long enough it will go away and that's usually not the case.

Mike Gosling: Invite them into the discussion.

Sarah Nicastro: Any other tips or advice when it comes to change management?

Mike Gosling: Well, it's other little things as well by the way, because you can sell the benefits of it because previously when it was all very much ad hoc, you'd end up with bizarre... When an exception would happen and the only resource available who's free, he may end up getting sent right across the other side of town at the end of his shift and then he'll moan about the fact that he's got, he's spending two hours of his own time traveling back to his home base. Well we set the system up to, it knows where they start and it knows where they end. So if they want to start at one place, maybe they end somewhere else, I don't know, maybe they've got a judo lesson or a mistress or something, I don't know, something like that. But wherever it is, the system doesn't care, we'll set them so that it will actually actively try to schedule them back to that place.

So the result is if they allow the system to do the 80%, they're going to end up fairly close to where they are going, which is a massive benefit to a lot of them. The other thing about it is also what was happening before is that when you were just ad hoc exception managers, there'd be a number of engineers that got lumped with all the rubbish jobs and all the do that and they're going, "Oh why is always me that's doing this?" This system's agnostic to that. As long as they've got the skills so they get a better variety of jobs, they get a better profile of jobs, they have more life, more work enjoyment and that sort of stuff because they're not the ones that are always dumped on to do the stuff because they're the ones that complain, "Can you go and do that job?" "No, I don't want to do that." "Oh sorry I know it's you again." So they get a better scope of jobs, they get a better things. And the final thing is that when, one of the frustrating thing, engineers actually like to do a really good job. I know that sounds strange but they actually do. That doesn't sound strange. What I'm saying is that we always, some people think of engineers like want to leave early and do that and I've portrayed them, they're brilliant. They are the bread and butter and when you give them a system where it's just go and do this job and do it and you're getting jobs, they're more empowered actually to do a what's the... They know that they're not going to have another phone call saying do this, where are you? What you doing? There's no kind of external pressure put on the mini board. They are literally just empowered to go and do a great job. Does that make sense? They got tools to do it.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it's a really good clarification which is if you are investing in the right technology and you're doing it in the right way, it should be something that is helpful to them. If you're hearing a lot of complaining, it's probably, it could be partially because something is not working the way you intended it to, right?

Mike Gosling: Right. Yeah, exactly. So they no longer get the continual, "Where are you? Are you going to be finishing the next? There's a job at so and so." It's literally, I mean we tried to introduce something into the system to give them an awareness that it was busy whereby we sort of changed the hue on the colors so that they were aware that things, it never really worked. Because in actual fact they just chug through the jobs and they get and do a great job. So you sold them a number of benefits about lifestyle, being back at home, being more able to do a variety of work and stuff like that. And also if you want a better variety of jobs, get an extra skill because the system does it by skill, bang the skill and then away it goes, it'll just automatically the next day you might get one of those jobs.

So there were that, that's some of the methods we used as well as introducing some of the people in and stuff like that. Yeah. Oh another thing is that learn, there are certain things that I said to you earlier, two assets, the same thing. They've both got to be up the exact same amount of time. As I said the outcome is so many hours, so many hours. But the way that they're environmental conditions, one of them might be strategically important for us for reasons that I can't go into, others might be rubbish, but we don't know some of those, the engineers know some of those. So we learn from the engineers those things and because we then bolt them automatically into the processes and the rules and the business rules in their FSM and in PSO the engineers don't have to suffer the pain that they were suffering because just get there. The system now takes those into account and kind of works around them.

Sarah Nicastro: Democratizing some of the knowledge that prior was only in a certain technician's brain.

Mike Gosling: Yes, yes, yes. Thank you. I'm going to remember that. Democratizing the knowledge.

Sarah Nicastro: So one more thing I just want to talk about real quickly Mike, and this is another thing I like about you is you know mentioned earlier that your team and this tool are well regarded within the business and with good reason. But you could've gone through the initial pain and adjustment and got it working well and then just kicked back and put your feet up and you are of the mind not to do that. You're very focused on continual improvement and ongoing innovation and I think that's a very important mentality for leaders to have today because the pace of change isn't slowing down, you don't want to rest on your laurels. So talk about what that looks like for you.

Mike Gosling: What it looks like for me is in my team I'm scrum band, I'm the product owner and I'm with other things but I have pillars they fall into. Number one is our customers, external customers, winning the customer. I said that winning the customer. So that's the main pillar. So when they request something it drops into that pillar of work. Number two is our internal customers. Because if you're going to win external customers, you might as well win your internal customers. In fact, it's probably more important to win those so that you can win the external ones. So it's external customers, internal customers, then you've got your business as usual making. So checking the logs, checking the sus, this size, this thing, that sort of stuff you know are making sure that the infrastructure's working. Three then these are the two fun ones. Innovation, ideas, innovation, innovation.

I've had an idea, drop it in there, let's go that. And then the final one is continuous improvement driven innovation. And they are two very different things because continuous improvement is very often because you're looking at an issue that's occurred and then you're back feeding into. Innovation is dropping pure innovation into that cycle. There's a sixth one which is heart to mind and that's a sort of an overlay one where we want to be a wonderful team that everyone thinks is fantastic and it's just a reminder of the fact that sometimes changing the color of something has no discernible need to anything other than just the heart of minds of something. Does that make sense? And these tiny intangibles can add up to a massive thing. So if someone comes to us and says, I've always been fed up that it's red, can we change it to blue?

Sure, let's do that. So they're the pillars and we drop our work into those and when we go to the customer and say, you know, are paying us and all that, we actually say to them, I'd like a few of my releases a year to be innovation. And you might not necessarily get the full benefit of that because some of it might be to do with the way that our processes work. It might be a process innovation, it might be a sort of an internal technology innovation. But because we are more efficient, you will ultimately see it. And they very often come back said Yeah but we are paying you to deliver... Yeah. And then what happens is because you have good discussions with them, sure you can have that whole releases for your innovation, off you go, do it wherever you like. So they're the pillars and they're be dropping and that's the way we work.

Sarah Nicastro: I like it. Does anyone have a question for Mike?

Guest: Hi Mike. When Cubic changed to the hours were up time in quite a rush really?

Mike Gosling: It was, yeah.

Guest: You talked about really meticulously understanding the new contract with on your customer side. Did that change necessitate a contractual change with your engineers?

Mike Gosling: I've asked that question and I think it probably did, but I was so deep in the systems working that I've never, I could have taken that away. I don't You are probably right. It probably did. It probably did I've got your details. I think I can I take that away and get back to you? Yeah, certainly because of the recording of information, we had to go down the GDPR route and understand the PII and that may have meant that there was contractual changes to allow certain PII to be recorded and stuff like that.

But yeah, can I come back to that? Because it did totally change the way that they're working. One classic example was is that the very first day I was in the office, an engineer literally got allocated a job and the phone rang and he phoned up to complain his exact words were, "I hadn't been to F-ing Kings Cross in 10 years and I don't intend going today," because the system had, because he'd built that personal relationship with the FRC. So they had totally changed their way of working. But yeah, I'll have to find that out for you.

Guest: Nothing perhaps more of an observation than a question then what I saw were you saying is that when you put in the sort of looking after those devices at scale with the automation, what you're actually doing is taking away all the manual time that Cubic were investing in sort of booking jobs and dispatching them to using the information you learn from the field to try and engineer in improvements so they didn't fail in the first place.

Mike Gosling: I've got this, Rob was going to get really well because I say this all the time, I've invented this, it's my term I think there's no one called toast, but knocking the corners of spheres. My team hate that. What it is we've designed, there is a service or machine that creates perfect spheres and then one day it starts dropping cubes out. So a whole team jump in to knock the corners off that and turn them back into spheres. And then the end result is that we've got spheres coming out of it. I'm always saying, hold on a second, why are we knocking the corners off spheres? Why are we not fixing it up upfront? Why are we not going back to the original process? And whenever we have our innovation it's like okay guys, are we just knocking the corners of spheres here?

And they all go, oh he said it again. But it's kind of a little mantra that says no actually let's go back to why is that? Is that actually failing because that is the thing or is it because something prior to its causing. You are always here, every system, oh there's a new back office release happening tomorrow. New back office release, new back office release, new DGC release, new back office release. Back office releases nine times out of 10 will actually be, if you've got integrated solutions and your IT services and readers and things, something's going to have an impact on that, whether you like it or not. And it might be that a transaction that's coming up there to pass a payment transaction is now colliding with a new clock in the back office that's doing this. Now they've never tested it in the real world expanse.

They did limited testing because we all know testing's very expensive. So you'll do workshop testing for one week 2000 jobs, bang real world, one week 2 million jobs fails, fails, fails. And that's where I'm really keen to look at that data and that's why I call it collisions because you look at it and say let's actually look at what's happening, what alerts are happening, what time is happening. Oh look that P1 is occurring because you'll get that file transfer the exact moment it's trying to do a reboot act or something like that. Oh hang on. What about if you separated those and that sort of thing? So apps, this is the thing I'm really engaged in now is that back engineering and I'm annoying quite a few people by doing that. It's difficult because it's difficult because once you've got something working really well and everyone's profits are up and everyone's applauding it and everyone's off having big cigars in race meetings and things because all think they're fantastic, upsetting the apple cart, it's like, oh and this is where innovation is.

It's like do we really want to do that? So we are looking at tools to have machine learning and stuff like that. But the other thing is by the way, you've got to have a story. You can't just look at data for the sake of it. You've got to be solving a specific problem. For example, that reader has a P1 that occurs 20% readers four times a period. That is, and then when you are looking at the data stop, you must not stray out of that. You must not go off and start getting, oh I've noticed this, hang on. Is it having a direct responsibility of that? If not part that for something else and come back to it actually that. Because that's the thing with data, you fall into this ocean of it, everyone calls it the ocean of data and you end up swimming in a massive sea of it. So make sure you really define your story and your success criteria. The success is that you'll no longer have P1s 20% of the thing.

Guest: Yeah, it sounds a really healthy thing to do. You're actually, service organizations are good at being busy and sorting out the here and now, but you sort of looping it back and preventing a lot of it is sounds a really good thing to do.

Mike Gosling: Let's stop knocking the corners off spheres. I think there's number one called toast, isn't it? Toaster comes out burnt and everyone scrapes the burnt off to turn it back into toast. It's same sort of thing, isn't it? Yeah.

Guest: Okay. Thanks Mike.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep. All right. So guys, we're going to break now for lunch. We are going to have 45 minutes for lunch. Okay. So everything is on the back bar, it's help yourself. So please go ahead and do that. And one favor that I will ask if you can each take just a couple of minutes on this back wall in this networking area, there's a board of what's your biggest challenge. If you can write something on there, I would greatly appreciate it. Okay, so that's your homework for lunchtime, we're going to have lunch and then we'll be back for three more sessions. So we'll see you back here around 1:30. Thank you, Mike.

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