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May 10, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

3 Ways Remote Capabilities Are Significantly Changing Service

May 10, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

3 Ways Remote Capabilities Are Significantly Changing Service


Sarah welcomes Stephen Goulbourne, Global Service Program Director at Mettler Toledo to discuss three major areas of impact that more sophisticated remote service capabilities are having (and will continue to have) on service.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about three ways remote capabilities are significantly changing service. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today, Steve Goulbourne, who is the Global Service Program Director at Mettler-Toledo. Steve, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Steve Goulbourne: Hey, thanks, Sarah. Great to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. Okay, so before we get into our discussion, just tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your role and Mettler.

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, hey, so I'm mechanical engineer by trade. So I guess found my way back here. Had a few years in sales, you could argue, perhaps crossed over to the dark side into sales. I thought that was the easier place to be. It turns out it actually wasn't, but I had about eight years in sales, including some time with Mettler-Toledo in a product leadership role. But for the last 12 years or so, I've been a service leader here at Mettler-Toledo. So I guess a good mix of that commercial and service leadership experience.

The role that I have today, I guess is largely defining a strategy for service, implementing that strategy and then executing that strategy with our global operating unit. So certainly not a one-man operation. Lots of stakeholders and lots of people involved. Mettler-Toledo is the world's biggest weighing and measurement equipment company globally dispersed across five divisions, encompassing lab, industrial, product inspection, retail and process analytics. So quite a broad reach and industry, but actually very linked in the way that we work.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. So I think the discussion we're going to have today, if there's a few key trends or areas of innovation that I'm most excited about or to see how they sort of play out in the industry, this concept of the growing capabilities that technology allows for remote service I think is really, really interesting because fundamentally it has the potential to really change how and when services is delivered. So I think it's a change that will translate over into roles and a lot of other aspects. So we're going to sort of talk about some of the different technologies that play a role in this augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and how these remote capabilities are really having this disruptive impact on the way we traditionally think of service delivery. So we're going to talk about three major areas that are evolving, but before we get into those, can you just talk a little bit about how the pandemic for Mettler spurred a lot of interest in these different capabilities?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I think it's an interesting one, the remote service piece. I think it'd been around for quite a period of time and as we know in the service space, there's always the latest and greatest that's been brought to market and remote was something that I think a lot of people knew about and a lot of people had been investigating and looking at for obvious reasons. I think there was some significant benefit there, but there probably wasn't a real driving need to go ahead and start a new tool and start with a new tool and really, I guess in some senses complicate what was a working model and then of course came along the pandemic. And I think one of the very few positives that came from that was it really forced a lot of organizations into adopting those new technologies. And the biggest one being that we had to find a way to, in the early stages of the pandemic, to provide service to our customers safely in terms of the technicians and of course our customers.

But primarily our focus was on our technicians finding a way to help fix people's equipment or at least diagnose issues with equipment without going to site, which was practically impossible without remote tools. And so I think ourselves, a lot of the industry really went and moved quickly towards those remote tools. I guess it was the nudge that we needed to implement it. And I think from that point on, it's been a little bit of a rollercoaster ride for everybody as there was a lot of adoption. And I think then probably finding our way to do this as we go, which is it is suboptimal, it's imperfect, but the pandemic certainly pushed us towards that. So as I say, I think I take that as a positive. It showed how quickly the organization can adapt, showed our resilience in a very difficult time and really allowed us now to implement a tool that that's having a real stronger profound effect in how we provide service to our customers.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think one of the points you made that's interesting is when there were a lot of restrictions in place and/or a really high level of concern around safety, it was to your point, you're nudged into what can we do remotely? Let's do that. And then as things normalized, you mentioned the rollercoaster a bit. So I think what happened in some of the other company I spoke to is once things normalized, it was, "Okay, well let's just go back to how we were doing things before," and maybe a little bit of resistance and then strategically thinking about, okay, so when we needed to do everything this way, here's what we could do. But rather than going back to what was, what's our sort of intentional strategy around remote service? And so then it becomes not out of necessity, but what works for the business and for the customers in the new world.

So I want to talk a little bit about your opinion on how these capabilities are forever changing service delivery. So like I just said, it would, I think, not be wise to just go back to the way it was, but we also discussed that specifically for Mettler-Toledo, and this is where the topic of remote service starts to vary a lot from industry to industry, company to company. But you mentioned that there really isn't a high likelihood of a lot of jobs being resolved entirely remotely, but there's a lot of insight that you can glean from these technologies that can really transform what that service looks like. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I mean, maybe just really quick, just to drop back into the previous question. I think what's quite interesting when you implement a technology like this, you go through the change management piece and you're right to say I think there was concern, pushback, perhaps it's something new, something different, and that's a normal reaction there. But obviously the pandemic just didn't allow us any time to go through that change management, why we're doing this, this is the benefit it's going to have. It was almost a case of within two, three weeks, "Hey, we have a remote tool, we're going to use this." So there's a way to find way through that. But you're absolutely right also to say that we just can't simply say, "Well, let's go back to as we were." Looking at it, this was the nudge that we needed. So yeah, I mean if we think about the remote tools and how they are changing service, I'm certain, it's not only Mettler-Toledo where that successful fix rate remotely being high, even to 50% is really unheard of and it's probably in the low single digits in terms of getting that fixed.

And that's probably due to the fact that oftentimes this is electromechanical equipment and certainly in our case it's electromechanical equipment with the use of hardware and software. And so of course from that perspective, that makes it challenging. I think where we have the opportunity to do an intervention with software, that significantly increases to the levels where you would expect. But I just think with the kind of equipment that we manufacture where we have moving parts, hardware, software, it's often required that the spare parts is needed and consumed when that occurs. And I think that it's more important to us to make sure that we're now fully understanding the issue with the use of the remote tools.

We can actually see what's happening versus just a, I guess a traditional triage where you're asking questions, this can really allow us to fully understand a situation before a truck rolls and then we can make sure that we send the right technician with the right skills and the right spare part to try and make sure that we get the first time fixed, that that's the most important to our customers because that increases their uptime. And of course from a business perspective, that allows us to reduce our cost to serve. And so I don't think we were disappointed that we weren't fixing things remotely all of the time. I think we went into that with our eyes wide enough open to know that that would be the case. So it's certainly had a different impact, but for sure there are still cases where we are able to fix something remotely and that's hugely beneficial both for us and for the customer.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think it's just important to, for organizations to be aware of the different areas of impact. It's not just about solving these issues remotely. It can also be about gaining enough knowledge to maximize first time fixed. There are situations where these same technologies are being used because companies want to allow customers to do more self-service, you mentioned the fewer truck rolls you have the lower cost to service. So there's these different measurements of success with these same tools that you can really match to your business. I think often there's some misperceptions when we talk about remote service first, I think people tend to think that the goal is remote only or remote as much as humanly possible, rather than just remote first or remote as a tool to really understand and examine what's going on. But then also knowing that there really are different use cases and different potential benefits and picking what best fits each service operation.

So you're gaining a lot of knowledge. You mentioned when it's a more software related issue, sometimes you are able to resolve remotely, but when it's not, you're maximizing your ability to repair on the first visit because you what you're getting into per se. So I feel like when you explain this to me, it sounds like objectively makes sense, why wouldn't anyone be doing this, right? But there's still a lot of question and debate that I run into about, I would say particularly augmented reality. Is there really any use case for it? And I'm always like, "Yeah," but it seems like there's some skepticism, some cautiousness. Do you have any thoughts on why that is and some of the reasons why there's maybe a little bit of lag in adoption?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I mean, it's a good question. I think it's one that probably has lots of answers and going to be, I guess, unique to the circumstances of some of the people and some of the organizations involved. I think cost typically is a strong consideration and particularly to your point of will we really get the benefit of this? And of course when you're investing any kind of funds into new tools, well you really have to have an ROI and you really have to understand where that's going to work. And so I think if people look at the low likelihood of a fix remotely using the tools as we've just discussed, then yeah, I can understand that. But I think it's kind of changing the view a little bit and having people understand that if the first truck roll becomes the triage where you go and you see what's wrong and you understand what's wrong, you assume that the technician has the right skills and the right spare path, but oftentimes don't.

You then want to be moving into what I call a necessary second visits and that first visit being only to do a triage and really I guess old-fashioned way of doing things, it's also a very costly way of doing things. And we talk about reducing the cost to serve for the business and increasing customer satisfaction. And that's actually the very opposite of that. And it becomes quite challenging then to explain to customers that we're going to come back perhaps with a different engineer in a different spare part. And so those second visits, they drain capacity. And I think when we listen to the voice of the customer a lot of times, and again, not unique to Mettler-Toledo, I think in the industry, technicians always get very high scores in terms of customer experience, but actually scheduling and finding time to be able to do the work is a challenge. And so if we can improve the capacity by reducing those unnecessary second visits, I think that definitely helps. And so I think if you think about it differently from a cost perspective, that's one thing.

I think the other considerations is then how you integrate the tool. And so again, I think at the beginning we spoke about, this came quite quickly, a lack of change management there, the how and when to use that and the process is to support it. That's a further challenge and it's something else to consider. And then finally I think how you monetize this to really ensure that you get that ROI if you don't consider the first piece that I spoke about. So I guess there's a number of questions there, and I think a lot of people have adopted the technology and are probably still scratching their heads and asking those very same questions when they've spent the money. Now how do we really get to leverage that? And I think we spend a lot of time doing that, and I think we've been pretty successful in answering some of those things because it became more changing the view and thinking about those unnecessary second visits, avoiding those, making sure that we get a first time fix for our customers.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Because we're talking about the cost to serve, which is important, just the wasted time really of having this whole first trip just to find out what's going on and then having to have someone go back. Obviously you mentioned there's the implications of customer satisfaction, right? They're still waiting for that uptime. I also think what's interesting as a part of this conversation is how it intersects then with sustainability because all of those unnecessary second visits are wasted truck rolls and unnecessary carbon footprint as well. So that matters more to some than others, but it's an undeniable aspect of the benefit of adopting this sort of approach.

Before we move on to the next point though, I want to go back to the monetization part because I think this is a really big sticking point for organizations and what I'm curious about is how you're dealing with that. So I'm going to ask that question first and then depending on your answer, I might have a follow up.

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, again, I think monetization has been, again, shifting the focus of how you consider monetization. And I think there are different ways to look at that. I guess the most traditional way is what revenue we generating from having this tool. So what's the ROI? What additional dollars, what pound, euros, whatever it may be, are we bringing into the business because we have this remote tool? And I think it's again, maybe shifting that perception a little bit around what that monetization is. And to me it's the monetization becomes we're saving those second visits, we're not going to unnecessary second visits, we're improving uptime for our customers, which improves our net promoter score, happy customers spend more. So that's one way of looking at that.

I think then if you consider, again the monetization piece, do we only have this for our contract customers, are non-contract customers able to have access to this? Of course, we want to remove the volatility of a service business by getting as many of our customers onto a service contract as we can, of course the benefits for customers as they can plan their spending more effectively. So there's lots of reasons to do that, but we want to be able to have some differentiators into our service contract.

And now if we start to include the ability to do remote service, that's adding value to a service contract, and then if we can see a deeper penetration of our installed base on contracts, that again becomes that monetization piece. But it's perhaps not the model of charging for an intervention at arbitrarily $500 to do an intervention on a job by job basis. And so I think that's still something that the industry is kind of wrestling with a little bit and in some ways where we were, but I think we feel as though the monetization comes from perhaps non-traditional route and you look at the reduced cost to serve and the differentiation of a service contract and deep penetration because of that, that becomes that monetization piece.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. So you mentioned that this idea of that first visit being the triage is just really sort of an outdated way of conducting service. I think this second aspect, how do we monetize this? What's the revenue model, is a really interesting piece that is going to continue to evolve as we go forward because we know that today's customers value outcomes more than they do products or even services. So this idea of whether that's delivered in a contract or whether some companies are getting to the point of a truly servitized model where you're charging per use, per uptime, that sort of thing.

Once you get to that point, it makes the conversation a bit easier because it doesn't matter how you achieve that outcome, it's just the fact that you are achieving it. I think for companies, which still today is the majority are not in that servitized model, it does raise some questions of, okay, well if we're lowering our cost to serve, then how do we make that money? If customers are used to paying us for our time and materials, then how do we evolve that? And I think it can be challenging, but it's a really important question to be working through, right? Because do you think there's no going back from that, right? I mean it's not like we're going to just decide we don't need to figure it out.

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I use the term, and I'm certain I haven't coined the phrase, I'm sure I've picked it up from somewhere or put it together from somewhere, but I think you said as well, we need to focus upon is outcome based pricing here, and it's the outcome that the customer wants their issue resolved and always reminds me of that old story or the old sales story where a guy goes into the hardware store and says, "I need an eight millimeter drill." And the guy says, "No, you don't." He said, "No, no, I need an eight millimeter drill." But he said, "No, you don't." He said, "No, I don't why you keep telling me I don't." He said, "No, you need the hole, you need the eight millimeter hole." And so I'm saying millimeters as a European there, I should have probably said, I don't know.

But for the Europeans that watch this, that kind of makes more sense. But I think they want their issue resolved first time just as quickly as they can. And if we fix something remotely using an AR or an AI tool, we've met the needs of the customer and outcome's the same more quickly. And I think the trick is here is to try to stop customers fixating upon the fact that a technician didn't come to site. And that's where the perceived value is because isn't. The outcome is where the value is. And so if we can stop the customer's fixating on a customer feeling as though a technician on site, that's why the value is we saw him, he came, he had a tool bag, he connected his laptop and he fixed that. Ultimately you're probably 24 hours down the line, but the outcome's the same.

And so I think again, it's that kind of paradigm shift in terms of not only how we monetize this, but also how customers view this. And I think a lot of customers are there, but a lot of the traditional customer base still thinks that if they're paying for something, they actually physically see someone if they don't, it's hard to comprehend. And so yeah, outcome-based pricing I think is something that we need to continue to push here. This is simply a better way of doing things. And I think a really great point you made, and people mention to me all the time where I'm talking about reducing cost of services, the green piece of that as well, reducing carbon footprints, something that we absolutely have to focus on as an organization, but also as an industry.

Sarah Nicastro: I think there's a couple components to this. One is this value-based narrative, and I think this is a big part of the challenge for people because I agree that I think customers are there. I think customers get it. I think the struggle really lies more in a company's challenge to have external conversations about internal tools. I see this a lot where it's like, "Well, we're implementing remote service so that we can reduce truck roll." Well that doesn't mean anything to a customer, it's great for you. But it's this idea of I think people would fear this conversation less if they felt more prepared to speak it in the terms of what matters to customers. Like you need the confidence of saying, "Yes, Bob isn't going to be on site, however we're able to resolve this issue for you in one hour instead of 36 hours," or whatever.

And not externally sharing the internal benefits, but rather focusing on what the customer value is and having that be a part of the conversation. So I think that's a really important skill or growth area that people need to focus on. And it kind of comes with this progression of service as a profit center. I mean, historically when it's a cost center, you probably didn't have a marketing function that was helping with what's our service value proposition. It was sort of an afterthought. But if it's going to be competitive differentiation for the organization, then you need to invest in refining that message and making sure that teams are skilled in delivering that message.

I know another piece of this with outcomes specifically is oftentimes you need to be engaging with someone different than you sold the transactional model to. So that can be another piece of it as well. But I think it's a really interesting part of the conversation. It's sort of this old school mentality and this old school way of conducting business and just getting up to speed, not only in the technology, not only in the operations, but also the communication, et cetera.

Yeah, the other thing I was thinking of too is this idea that how do we replace that feeling a customer gets from someone being there in these opportunities where we're doing remote service? So I was moderating a panel yesterday with Tetra Pak and TOMRA talking about servitization, and one of the points that we talked about is customers don't actually just want the outcome. They do, they want that peace of mind that you as an organization are going to make sure that my X, Y, Z is always working, but they also want the insight and the reassurance and the validation that you're doing that. So I also wonder if part of the removal of as much in-person visibility can be accomplished through different ways of providing that insight. So I think it's interesting to think about not only from a messaging standpoint, but in our communications with customers, how can we replace some of that onsite triage that's wasteful for everyone with different types of touchpoints that reassures them that we're still there as much we care as much, et cetera, et cetera. Does that make sense?

Steve Goulbourne: It does, and I think it's quite interesting in the sense that we talk about in the industry and certainly Mettler-Toledo being technicians of the trusted advisor, and they're definitely people who customers have that relationship with, and in many senses the technicians consider them, their customers not necessarily Mettler-Toledo's customers. And we spend a lot of time making sure that the technicians soft skills meet the needs. And that's very easy face-to-face. I think they're very comfortable in that face-to-face scenario, the hard skills being the, excise me, technical skills. But how does that translate when you're doing something like this, something remotely where you lose that interaction. Are we really looking into each other's eyes when we're talking and explaining something technically well, but we're kind of looking into a camera. And so yeah, I think it's a very valid point of how we give the customer that feeling of confidence that whether this person's on site they're doing this intervention remotely, those soft skills may be coming to even more focus and we really need to make sure that everybody's comfortable with how we're explaining this and how we're doing this.

And so yeah, I still think that that's something that will continue to develop and grow and soft skills remotely. Maybe that's a whole new thing to consider as well as this develops. But it's definitely something that relationship a technician has with a customer. And in many cases, certainly for us, that customer has known that technician for a lot of years and there's a deep trust there. If this is perhaps not their usual technician, it's remote, will they get that same feeling of that this is going to be worth it and if the way that when Bob came to site, this is the way that he did it. And so I think it's an important part and it's one that we need to consider greatly and deeply as we move forward with this.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. All right. So we talked about how remote is changing the way we can actually provide service, and then we talked about how remote is creating an evolution in how we monetize service. The third piece that we talked about that we think will be greatly impacted by these capabilities is around talent. So we know that this is a big challenge for companies across geographies and industries. Can you talk a little bit about how for Mettler-Toledo, what does the talent challenge look like for you and how do you see these things intersecting?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I think if you start to consider the remote tools really how that positively impacts talent and retention, it can feel perhaps a little bit tenuous in terms of saying, "Well, remote helps us there, how does that work?" But I think one way that when I considered this is that the industry in general, I think you're seeing a shift now in age profiles with Boomers starting to leave the workforce. Gen X is aging, I include myself in that one there, meaning more millennials are at the core of the workforce and now the numbers of Gen Z is increasing exponentially now as well. And so those generations have different needs, different requirements, and I know we're kind of into some HR, maybe blue sky thinking, and a reference that gets a little bit tenuous.

But one of the things that millennials or Gen Y talk about, and one of the big areas that the research has done, and there's a ton of research here, and Deloitte even have a survey every year that goes out that provides a lot of insights, this generation doesn't necessarily like to be staying away from home and doesn't like to say on Monday I leave and I come back on Thursday night and I've done a huge amount of work. They're actually what they like to do. They're digital natives, so they like to be using these digital tools to improve.

So if we are using AR tools to reduce those unnecessary second visits talks also to the carbon footprint reduction, definitely something that this generation is rightly very concerned about. But if we can get better resource capability and resource capacity because we're using these AR tools, it means we can plan more effectively and by planning more effectively, we can make sure that that person does their eight till six hours, nine to five hours, whatever they may be. And then they're home in the evening with their wives girlfriends, whatever it may be, families at home of an evening, they're not staying in a hotel, which is something that the more you read about this topic is something that something that's really important.

And so I think it adds that layer of more benefits to the people and also to the organization. If we're reducing overnight stays, that of course reduces the cost of service. That's kind of a secondary piece, but we keep coming back there. We're a business that has to run profitably, but if we can do that and then also satisfy the needs of this generation, I think that that's all the generations coming through. I think that that's a positive. So as I say, it's a little bit tenuous, but it's just another way in which that we're able to use the power of those tools to provide just a little bit of a different organizational side to the business that hopefully means that people want to continue working in this industry and format.

Sarah Nicastro: I think the other thing is the power of a tool like augmented reality. When you think about the changes in the workforce, you could have an older, very experienced technician that maybe doesn't want to be out day to day anymore, connected to a handful of newer, greener technicians remotely, literally to the point where they're over the shoulder really seeing what they're seeing, giving them direct coaching, move this, do this, et cetera. And that isn't a one-to-one relationship that can be a one to multiple, so the idea of being able to speed time to value of new employees because you have the confidence of them being coached or mentored by someone who has more experience, I think is really interesting as well.

It always surprises me when there's questions about the value or the fit of this technology. It just seems so obvious to me because when we talked about eliminating those triage visits and you have this fear sometimes, well remote's here to take jobs, there aren't enough people to do the jobs. You know what I mean? So the jobs aren't going away, you're just working smarter. There's still plenty of jobs to be done, it's just you're not wasting your time. I mean, there's a big difference. So it's interesting if you think about what we talked about earlier and this idea of using remote capabilities where it makes sense, but how the role of the frontline technician may change. What do you think that could look like in a few years time?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I think that we're in the very early stages of certainly the AI technology. And so yeah, I try and think about we're definitely going to see further advances in technology, further adoption of remote and AI type tools. But I don't see a time where a field service technician, somebody that has to go and change a particular part. It's one thing to have maybe the removal at some point in the future, machines are thinking themselves and saying, Hey, this is broken. Somebody needs to go and fix that. So I think it's still so early in that technology cycle. AI is always in the news recently, and anyone that's had any kind of interaction at all with chatGPT, kind of terrifying on one hand, but also really, really exciting and others. And so the development of this I think is while it's here, I think we're still wrestling with where, the how, and when to use this.

And I don't see a time probably in my working lifetime where we'll not have service technicians that need to go and undertake a repair. It just may be that whole triage piece becomes redundant, which in some senses is not a bad thing. That's kind of what we're trying to do with the tools today. But I think the way that the industry is moving, there's still a time where having an actual service technician is an absolute requirement. So to your point about the removal, I don't think this technology is going to remove jobs. I think it's just going to make jobs that little bit more straightforward, more simple for the technicians, and of course the customer is going to need more efficient, more effective fixes and even higher uptime than we see today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, this is one of the areas that interests me most about how our industry is evolving. I totally agree with you that I don't think there should be this fear of field service jobs being eliminated for all of the reasons you said. What I do wonder though is you know, mentioned earlier the increasing importance of soft skills, and then we talked about this idea that there's, as there's some increase in remote resolution or remote even triage, there is less face time. So then does that need to be offset somehow with a different type of customer interaction? And so this is the part I think is really interesting, whether we take our frontline workers and I think advance what we've mostly done so far, which is try and augment their technical skillset with soft skills.

Or at some point is there more of a segmentation of work and maybe a blurring of some lines where there's a technician that does the technical repairs, but maybe there's some sort of customer service manager, customer relationship role that it's not the same as wasting time to go on site for a triage appointment, but there's maybe a quarterly business review where there's more of that trusted advisor relationship. This is the part I think will get interesting because I'm a firm believer that the capabilities that we have technologically today are really impressive, definitely underutilized, which gives a lot more potential, but I think people still value human connection above all right? So not only do I think there isn't a point where there aren't field technicians on site, but I think the relationship with customers is always going to be important and there's always going to be some human element in nurturing that. So I think the way that can be done through service and what that looks like going forward is really interesting.

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I mean, I think what you're saying is you can see as things progress, the AI tools kind of taking the fault finding piece and somebody just goes to site just to do exactly what they get a report kind of spat out, we're kind of in Back to the Future territory, now I imagine what it will be like in however many years, but I do think that that's the way that's going. But I think if you look at how service businesses typically are built, you often have a core that's quite a small core of the kind of expert level technicians that know a lot of the equipment and have a lot of tenure. And so they've got a lot of experience, but the reliance on those more experienced people is high. And there's only so many of them, and there's only so many pair of hands available to a service business to be able to do that.

And actually you get to a point where those people are kind of become burnt out because that that's where all the deep technical questions come, "Hey, we've got a problem. We don't know what this is. Can you dial in? Can you call whoever it is on site?" And so I think the more we get to that machine learning that kind of says, "Was it this, was it that, was it this, was it that? We recommend this" and actually it keeps learning and you say, "No, that didn't fix it, but this did," then it says, "Oh, okay, next time I'll consider that." So I think it's still quite a way into the future. I think service, field service is still quite conservative for good reasons in adopting some of the technologies, but I think for sure that's where it's heading. But I think that that's a positive. Again, I don't mean to raise any alarm for anybody there at all.

I think it's just going to be more beneficial for technicians, it's going to make their job easier. They're going to be able to get to a site and just affect that first time fix and make the customer happy, which is always what a service technician generally wants to do. So I think that's where it's heading. But I think as we've seen with the adoption of the tools so far, it's a little bit slower, certainly I think, than the people that are working on these AI and AR tools. I think they wish that we would be a little bit better at finding ways to use this more effectively. But I think it's heading in a good direction with lots of benefits of both. And I don't see a time, as I say, in certainly my working life or I mean my working life that we'll see anything get anything different as it becomes easier.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Is there anything we haven't talked about that you think about when you look at how things are changing or what the future holds that either falls into the challenges category or things that you are excited about?

Steve Goulbourne: Yeah, I think probably one of the limitations of these tools, and they're things that are here today and are a challenge, and I think one of the big things that we hear is with a lot of the AR and AI tools, you have to have a good wireless infrastructure. And the infrastructure of organizations for internal use is often there and it's very, very strong. But externally, it can be a little bit of a challenge. And I think the reason for that is the inherent risk of cybersecurity. And I think that that is around as day-to-day we see it day-to-day big stories, people being quite rightly probably the most paranoid people in the organization with good reason. And I think that continues to be one of the biggest risk factors for organizations. So I think as we advance with digitalization, that fear of cybersecurity, which is absolutely right right now, I think is also holding back some of those advancements a little bit as well.

And as I say, perhaps some of the infrastructure needed to use these tools, you simply need a good wireless connection or a wired connection to stream video at the right level to be able to annotate on the screen and talk about those things. So I still think there are some limitations there and some big concerns around cybersecurity.

I remember a conversation I had a number of years ago with one of our larger customers, and he was getting really frustrated. The guy was getting real frustrated, "Hey Steve, why do you need to send a technician to our site? Why don't you just log in and do that?" I said, "Hey, that's great. That's absolutely what we wanted to do. That's music to my ears. Let's do that. I'll get our IT people to talk to your IT people, and we'll connect that." Safe to say it died a death immediately when our IT people, "Well, we need to connect to this." No way. You're not getting anywhere near it. So I think that there's a lot of progress need to be made around infrastructure, and I think there's a lot of thought goes into just how these systems interact safely and try and offset some of the concerns, absolutely the right things to be concerned about in terms of cybersecurity. But I definitely see that as being perhaps a limitation today and need some certainly brighter people than me to answer some of those questions.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. That's a really good point. Okay. So you mentioned 12 years as a leader in service. What would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned in that time?

Steve Goulbourne: I say this somewhat lighthearted, but service is hard. I think that I referenced I was in sales, and the reason I moved to sales was I was a mechanical engineer by trade. I worked as a service technician, and I saw the salespeople and I thought, they just drive around in a nice car, they take people out for lunch and pick up orders and they get paid more than us. And so that's really where I want to go. And so the reality was it's totally different. So that I was a national sales manager as well, and I saw both sides working in sales as a salesperson and then also the management side. And it's difficult and it's challenging, but actually I think it's not even close to service. There are so many moving parts to a service business. If you consider supply chain, the people involved, the customers involved, there's so many things there.

So service is hard. I think that was probably the biggest thing. Without even touching on service is intangible, if you've got a product, I can sell you that product. I can loan you the product, you can work with the products, it'll do all the things that I told you to told you it would do through the features and benefits. Service is intangible. And so I think that adds a layer of complexity and makes it more difficult. But I think probably the biggest learning is people. People is at the core of what we do with service. It's not just the hard skills, the technical piece that we touched on, it's the soft skills both from the technicians on site, but equally the salespeople, the back office people in most cases, customers are in need of help and support. They're frustrated or agitated or feeling as though in some way or another the organizations let them down and they need our service.

And so people are absolutely the core of what we do. And it was actually one of your articles that I read where you were talking about total experience, and it resonated really strongly. We've, for the last three or four years, really focused on customer experience, the voice of the customer and net promoter schools. But over the last few years, and again, I think the pandemic showed us with the great resignation and the focus on recruitment and retention, we need to look at everything and not just necessarily focus on the voice of the customer. Hugely important and has been hugely beneficial. But the TX piece I think that you spoke about is there. And so, yeah, service is hard. People are at the core of what we do, and that's really where I think a lot of our focus needs to go now is on that total experience. So yeah, I've learned a lot. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm glad I made the move into service from sales, didn't think I would. Despite being an engineer, despite having worked there, [inaudible 00:46:48].

Sarah Nicastro: I think it's a good point that it's hard, but what that makes me want to ask is what makes you stick around then?

Steve Goulbourne: I think it's the fact that it is hard, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Steve Goulbourne: And it's never boring. In any level of service, every day canon often is different, and I think there's still lots of challenges and lots of things to address, lots of ways that we can improve how we work, why we work, the work that we do, both for our customers and importantly for our own people. So yeah, I think there's that. That side of me kind of thinks I like the fact that it's hard, and I like the challenge of service. Would I be comfortable and satisfied in a job where it's pretty, not that many are, but where, you don't feel as though there's going to be a challenge today, literally any given day, at any time of the day, a curve ball can come your way, be it internally, external, a new entrance of a competitor, a new product, whatever it may be. So it keeps you thinking. And so yeah, I think the fact that it's hard is the piece that keeps me engaged and keeps me motivated.

Sarah Nicastro: And you have an opportunity to help people every day internally and externally, right?

Steve Goulbourne: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That's great. Well, Steve, I really appreciate all of your insights and you coming and having such a great conversation with me. So thank you very, very much.

Steve Goulbourne: No problem. I'm sure there was more we could have spoken about as well. But yeah, hey, they're really important topics and hey, I always enjoy listening and watching the podcast and learning. I think it's always, we said it's hard and it's nice to see you get so many great leaders on here and you can learn so many things. So yeah, enjoyed it. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you, and always happy to have you back for part two.

Steve Goulbourne: Look forward to it.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. You can learn more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insiders so that you get the latest content delivered to your inbox every other week. You can also take a look at the schedule for the 2023 Future of Field Service Live tour. We have events coming up in Birmingham, May 17th, Paris, May 24th, Minneapolis, June 15th, and Dusseldorf, June 21st, Stockholm, September 7th. So if you're in any of those areas, we would love to have you join us. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.