Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we are going to be getting an inside look or listen at Ricoh's mindset meets toolset approach to remote service. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today Darren Elmore, who is the General Manager of Service for Ricoh, New Zealand. Darren, welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast.
Darren Elmore: Thank you, Sarah. I'm glad to be here.
Sarah Nicastro: Great to have you. I had the lovely opportunity to hear Darren speak a couple of weeks ago, it feels longer than that, at Field Service Palm Springs. As I alluded to on social media for those of you that follow regularly, I was hoping to have him on here to talk a little bit more about some of the thoughts that he shared at the event. So thrilled to have you. Before we get into all of that, just tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Darren Elmore: Okay, where to start? I guess like as you said, I am Darren, my current role is GM of Service at Ricoh, New Zealand. But you may pick up by the accent, I'm definitely not a native Kiwi. We immigrated out here from the UK back in 2005, so it's been about 18 years we've been out here now. But I suppose by, I think about the career then, it's about 25 years I suppose we'd call it the technology industry. And that's pretty much been with Ricoh and within the print industry, but all of that time. So I've held quite a few different roles over that period, but it's predominantly been in service starting off as a field service engineer and just taking on different roles as I've got to the level of the GM role that I'm in now. So it's been a fun ride so far.
Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. And when you were in Palms, was it your first time in Palm Springs?
Darren Elmore: It was, yes.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay.
Darren Elmore: First time on the West Coast as well, so yeah, that was really good fun.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yes. Good. Well yes, when we chatted after your session, I said, "Did you came from New Zealand?" I think Maureen said it's the furthest they've had a speaker travel so far. So yeah. That's exciting. Hopefully you had a chance to enjoy it a bit. So we're going to get into some of the details of Ricoh's approach to remote first service. But before we do that, when you were opening your session, you talked about some of these, you said reasons, which is a nicer way to put it. I say excuses, but some of the things that companies often say or convince themselves of when they are not innovating and one of those, so I recapped those in an article last week. Sorry for the interruption. I recapped those in an article that I shared on social media last week. So we won't go through all of them, but one of them was around the fact that innovation can feel risky and it can feel risky to the business and all of the different people within the business, but it can also feel risky for an individual leader.
I really like this point a lot because you hear all these quotes, "No risk, no reward", or there's one, I don't know who said it, but it's "Only he who risks is truly free", which I really like. "Good things don't come from your comfort zone", all of these things. But they're all great words that don't necessarily do justice to the emotion behind embracing the real risks. So I was just wondering if you could speak to how you as a leader approach that? How do you work through the emotions that come with taking risk and how do you think it's impacted your career?
Darren Elmore: Yeah, well first off, I think it was important to address that as part of the talk in Palm Springs. I think it's one of those things you're trying to get across a message to a group of people, but potentially at the back of the head is like, "What does this mean for me and my reputation?" It's all well and good, the fact that you've done it, but if it fails, what does that mean? So I guess what I first want to do is explain the difference in what I call small eye innovation and big eye innovation. If you think of small eye innovation as just those incremental changes that we make and still they're absolutely essential for that just continuous improvement that we all still need to do. But then the big eye innovation is I suppose more reserve or I suppose the riskier projects.
Another one's that are more likely to produce that disruptive change that I spoke about as well and deliver it's accelerated growth for the organization because essentially that's what we're trying to do, but that's only if they succeed. And I guess this is where that whole idea around personal reputational risk comes in and it really brings me back. I did a master's in commercialization and entrepreneurship probably about five, six years ago now. And vividly, I still remember one of the articles that we were asked to read and it was a HBR article and it was a Wharton professor, George Estee was his name. And it was titled, "Is It Real? Can We Win? Is It Worth It?" And it was a real good article that just spoke about managing risk within an innovation portfolio. And so for me it really resonated with me and I did a lot more research around that. And it was really about how you minimize the risk in big eye innovation.
And so really it's about taking calculated risks. So for me, when a project, what we've delivered sort of first starts to grow length a little bit, it's about doing as much groundwork as possible before hitting the go button. It's about doing your research and really just trying to minimize the risk of failure because I think, as I said, if it's successful, the organization wins. If it fails, it's probably the person who loses. And that's really about your own personal brand and your reputation that you're putting on the line. So for me that was a real big factor in whether we actually do something or not. I mean, yes, it's about doing the research and really understanding whether this is something that will work, but it's also, I suppose about understanding what the risk is to yourself if it doesn't, and try and find that balance between the two as to whether it is something that you're really willing to, I suppose, put your reputation on the line by minimizing that risk as much as possible for it to be the success.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, no, I think that's really, really interesting. And I think the idea of minimizing risk by taking, not only taking the proper preparations, but doing the research and going into it, knowing as much as you can about different challenges that might occur, et cetera, is really smart. I think one point that's come up in some of my previous conversations is if you're looking at upper case eye innovation, you can't mitigate the risk, you cannot get rid of it. I see a lot of companies that are innovating but hedging bets when it comes to they don't want to go all in, right? They're trying to figure out how to curb that risk. And then you're putting yourself in the lowercase eye category essentially. I mean, you can't get the same outcome without that risk. And I think that's true from an organizational standpoint and also as individual leaders. You really have to be willing to place some bets on yourself in areas that you believe strongly in that can have an impact on the business. Yeah, so I think that's--
Darren Elmore: Definitely, it's almost part of the role of any leadership position. I mean, yes, we're talking about service leadership, but across any organization you're kind of in that role to make some of those big bets and let's say it's doing as much as you can to ensure that you are just minimizing that business as much as possible.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, it's interesting. I had an interview for another podcast a couple of days ago and I was talking to someone who is an author, has experience in the industry, has a consulting firm, et cetera, and he was very, very firm on the point that he believes innovation is a science, not an art. I have a really hard time agreeing with that fully. I'm not saying it's both, I think, right? But I think like anything it's not that cut and dry because I think a lot of it is maybe as we're talking through this and I'm thinking you can create the formulaic part in terms of how you want to approach innovation as a business, but you can't put a formula on the individuals that play a role or the leaders to commit to that process to have the courage to see that through. That's where I feel like a lot of the art is because it's about some of those human characteristics and that sort of thing. I don't think you can just plug anyone into that role and they'll succeed in carrying that through.
Darren Elmore: I'd agree. I think there's a component of it that is teachable. I think there is skillset that can be taught, but I'm also a firm believer that it actually comes as part of the culture of the organization. If you've got a leadership team that will support people in taking risks, and even if there is failure, as long as we are learning from failure and still moving forward, that also plays a big part I think, in the mentality of people about whether they're willing to take risk or not.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. I think that going back to what I mentioned earlier about seeing companies or hearing about companies that are really looking to hedge bets, part of that is the culture, and getting more comfortable with, like you said, it's about strategic risk and it's not about just throwing caution to the wind and making irrational or irresponsible decisions. It needs to be very calculated, very strategic, but when it's done that way, it's important and maybe even essential for businesses to be doing today so.
Darren Elmore: It's getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, for sure. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about the journey that you've taken. And so Ricoh has adopted a remote first approach. So just tell us a little bit about how the journey started, where you're at today, what's sort of the lay of the land?
Darren Elmore: Sure. Yeah. So I think as I've said before, I mean really this started probably four years ago now, kind of sitting in my office. I look across the contact center here and it's a blended contact center. So we've got principal teams and cloud support teams as well. And really it was kind of just looking at the resolution boards for our IT support team and it must have been a little bit of envy when you're looking at these guys and seeing around about 80% of all their service tickets are being resolved remotely. And that's a lot more to do with the products and services that they're supporting as opposed to ourselves in the print industry, which is obviously very asset heavy. But it really did start me thinking about what were the opportunities for ourselves on the print side to be able to emulate at least some of what they were doing in our IT services supporting.
At that time we were probably resolving about 25% of all our EM service requests remotely, which was still a fair number I think at the time, but I think it was something that we always thought we could do more. It was good, but it wasn't great. So like I said, that got us to thinking about how we could make some changes and just prior to COVID we'd started to look at even how we measure and incentivize our field service engineers. Could we get them to be looking at doing more remotely? They've got a lot of tacit knowledge in their heads and a lot of time you dispatch them to a job, they could pretty much look at it and go, "Oh, that model, that machine with that particular problem. I know what that is before I even look at it." So we started to encourage some different behaviors there about. Well, if you're pretty sure you know what it is and it's not something that requires physical adjustment or a part to be replaced, how about talking to the customer and see if we can resolve it over the phone?
So we'd started that path already and that's when COVID kind of hit. And as we know, it kind of changed not just the way that we work, but the world that we live in pretty much. And really then it was the feedback from the customers at the time was, "Hey, we've got this problem but we really don't want it to send anybody to site at the moment. Can you help?" I think that really for us then was the catalyst for the big change of the mindset that we really wanted to be able to talk internally and go, "This is what our customers are actually expecting of us now. This is probably the best opportunity that we'll get to really align with both our customer needs and our business requirements as well." And so it was during COVID that I really started to ramp up the tool set side of things as well.
So we needed a tool set that would be able to deliver in a remote first world. And so that really was, I suppose what's got us to the point where we are today and it's almost a massive paradigm shift from where we were, I suppose before we started this journey. It was just built into our industry. Customer makes contact, we dispatch an engineer, engineer goes to site, fix the machine. So to almost turn that upside down and go, "Well, actually we're going to start doing this very different." Those are definitely a few conversations about what if this doesn't work? So these are the things we've had to consider, but we definitely felt that that was the right time to actually really jump into it and really kick in. So we've just wrapped up FY 22 and so we've gone from where we were pre COVID at 25% of remote resolution.
We've just finished off the year of 42%. So we're seeing an increase of 17% over the last four years, which is fairly significant and we're still starting to see that move the dial just a little bit further. Even in the start of now at year '23, we're sitting around 47% year to date so far. So like I said, way back in the day we set this goal of probably not achieving what the IT support team were. I don't think that was ever going to be something that could be possible, but we've got a number in mind of 50% to see if we can get there and we're in touching distance now and so maybe we can get there and go beyond as well. But it's definitely, as you said, it is about how we bring the people on that journey and really start to talk to them about the mindset and the approach of how we actually interact with customers today, what the expectations are from our customers, and how do we get the two to meet together and use a relevant technology tool set to be able to execute on that as well.
Sarah Nicastro: So can you talk a little bit about the importance of that mindset/toolset balance?
Darren Elmore: Yeah, totally. So for me, this has been the biggest part of the change. And so I really believe they hold equal importance. You can create an amazing tool set for the teams to use, but if you're not talking them through what it is we're trying to achieve and probably more importantly the why of what we're doing, then you simply won't get the behavioral changes that you want to see and it just makes it a real struggle to actually execute on that strategy. So I think if I just put it simply that the mindset has to come before the tool set if you want the buy-in from the teams that are going to be using the tools, otherwise you are just investing in a tool set that metaphorically, it's just going to count the dust and you won't get the take-up that you need. Yeah, that's why I honestly believe that you can't do one without the other either is equal as each other.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I think you would say, or maybe did say during your session that from a mindset perspective, COVID really fast-tracked that. Is that accurate?
Darren Elmore: Oh, most definitely. Most definitely. And like I say, what's the saying about how the crisis comes opportunity and I think for us, we had a little bit of time when we went into that first lockdown to really start to think at that time obviously everybody was pretty much working from home. There was only essential businesses that we were still providing services to. And so it really gave us that opportunity to hit the reset button and accelerate what it was that we were already starting to think about maybe six, 12 months prior to that. And so yeah, we just had to see that as the time for us to really turn our sport model upside down and really shake things up and yeah, as we talk about some calculated risks, but really think that paid off for us customers as well.
Sarah Nicastro: So for a company listening to this that for whatever reason didn't sort of take that opportunity presented by those conditions to put something like this in place but wants to do so now, can you share any advice on either side, the mindset side or the tool set side that you've learned that people could keep in mind as they're going down this path?
Darren Elmore: I think on the tool set side, it's definitely a case of take off the blinkers. I think if you look only within your own industry as to what's going on, you are quite limited in understanding what the possibilities are. I think you really have to cast the net wide and look across all service industries because you'll see things that go. I can see what they're doing there. Doesn't work exactly in our industry, but that's adaptable for something that we could do. It just gives you a greater breadth of understanding of what is available. So I think the first thing is don't limit yourself to what you know. On the mindset, definitely. I think that is such an important piece to ensure that the messages are getting down to those who are doing the work. At the end of the day, they are the most important people, they will be delivering the strategy for you.
So that is the absolute key part of the mindset change is the communication piece. It has to be clear, it has to be understood and it has to be accepted by those who are doing the role. So huge fan of Simon Singh and finding purpose and why into a lot of the things that we're doing, especially when it comes around to change and how we go through change management. And so getting the buy-in and the understanding of why we're making changes is really the thing for me that gives you not just the acceptance, but I think also from the field service teams and remote resolution teams who are doing the work. The understanding that what this is adding not just to the business but also to the customers and also to themselves. It's the triple win the way that we've approached it.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I always think about when we talk about remote service or even automation in other forms, to some degree I think it tends to cause or can cause fear among the frontline that well, if they're trying to turn all of these visits to remote visits, then what does that mean for my job? I think it's an important point to think about because I mean for most organizations today, they don't have enough field workers, so there's not enough labor to go around to do the work that needs to be done. So no one should really be fearing for their job.
It doesn't mean that what it looks like day to day may not evolve or change, but I don't think many organizations are in a situation today where they're looking to increase automation or increase remote resolution so that they can get rid of a percentage of their workforce. They're doing it so that they can work smarter and be able to take on more work with the talent that is available them today. So I think that's one of the points of concern that might cause some resistance or some emotion that companies need to be sure to address with people.
Darren Elmore: Yeah, I mean we're in a position at the moment where we've got different pillars of our business that are growing at huge rate. So around our connecting collaborate, our cloud services, our meeting room technology. So for us as well it's allowing us to take on some of the support elements for these other business units as well and saying we've already got the labor in place, we're working in a way that's different, so maybe even what those other teams think we do at the moment. So it gives them an insight into the possibilities that we can do adjacency services internally as well, which has the added benefit of demonstrating to our field service teams that there's a wider scope of products and services that we can cross scale upscale and get you guys thinking a little bit differently about your careers as well. So these are all the things that have come out as a result of some of the actions that were taken. So it's been hugely positive across the whole business, really.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now I know that mean it's still a fairly new journey for you and for Ricoh, but you're further along certainly than some if not many. I do think that adopting a remote first approach is something that presents a lot of potential to organizations to really, like I said before, just work smarter, you shared some of the results that you've seen so far and it's significant. So if you think about where do you see this heading for Ricoh and for others in the industry over the next one to three years. How do you view the potential that exists with remote capabilities?
Darren Elmore: Honestly, Sarah, I think we're right at the precipice of some amazing things at the moment. I think with what we're seeing, the exponential rise of AI large language models, then I think it's the opportunity is not just for remote resolution, but also for customer led self-service journeys to really be improved and it's going to provide both service providers and customers with a level of support that I don't think we've ever seen before. So yeah, I think I truly believe this is probably the most exciting time to be involved in service right now. There's so much change taking place and so many opportunities for organizations who really just want to challenge the status quo, challenge themselves, challenge their own organizations and just begin shifting some of those really long held paradigms of what service traditional looks like. So yeah, I think we're in certain amazing time right now for where the possibilities are for service support to go and that definitely includes remote first as a service strategy.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I agree. You mentioned earlier the increase that you've seen in remote resolution and you shared some additional thoughts at the event around, not thoughts, data at the event around how that translates into savings for Ricoh and what that looks like, which is really significant. But the other thing you touched on is that there's a sustainability component to this as well. So this is something that I think today people don't talk about as much as the impact to the bottom line or the impact on customer experience, et cetera, but I think that conversation will continue to become more and more important. So is that something that factored into this decision or is it something that's just sort of an added bonus? How do you look at that sustainability piece?
Darren Elmore: I think it crosses a little bit of both. It was a known entity that it would have an impact on our sustainable credentials, but I guess it's also been a nice to have as well. Ricoh globally is a very sustainable organization. It's committed to a 63% production in direct greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 when compared I think to the 2015 levels. And so by us reducing the number of onsite service visits that we complete, we're actively contributing to this goal as well. So I think the environmental credentials that come with this are definitely something that we speak about internally and it's also a really good piece for us to talk about externally to not just our customers, but potential customers as well.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So we've talked about the sustainability piece, we've obviously from a customer perspective, they're getting faster resolution when you're able to help them remotely. And then we talked about the increase in remote resolution. Is there anything else that we should talk about from the standpoint of what you've achieved so far?
Darren Elmore: Definitely, I think one of the things that we're missing at the moment is the customer satisfaction. We've seen some amazing results in our CSAT scores as well. We conduct surveys, post completion of the service request. And in the free text field, we've had some really good comments. I remember one not too long ago where we had an end user saying how great it was that they felt they were part of the solution, they were able to actually take part in the resolution, made them feel like you got a typical person when they weren't really. But again, that's us leveraging off the tool set and technology that we're able to do things that five years ago just weren't possible. So yeah, we're definitely seeing, you've mentioned it's an increase in our device uptime, so we're optimizing productivity for customers as well. And like I say, when we're getting the feedback where they're actually enjoying being part of the solution as well, then that's a huge bonus.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, yeah, that's awesome. It's always good when you're getting positive comments in the freeform section, right? Okay. So you mentioned Darren at the end of your session in Palm Springs, you said, "As a sales organization, our CEO has never talked more about service than he does today." And I wanted to ask you about that because I'm curious why do you feel that is and what does that tell you about the business today?
Darren Elmore: I think many organizations across a lot of different industries, at Ricoh we operate in on the print side in a very commoditized market. So it's less about the product and much more now about, I suppose, service that's being delivered and how that becomes the differentiator.
So I really believe that then the onus is on service leaders to demonstrate both internally and externally that they have the opportunity to be the difference and promote service in a way that just maybe hasn't been thought of before. So I guess we've almost kind of come full circles as the way to do this is to take those calculated risks, look at how within your organization you can deliver the big eye innovation and these are the things that will capture the attention of those at the top when we start to talk about, "Well, here's something different that you may have not seen before." And it starts then to have some service led conversations inside the company, which then helps with our sales teams as well, famous customer, did you know? And that's something that again, is a differentiator so we can start to lead with things that are a little bit different as opposed to the product itself.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, yeah, it's really cool. To look at the progression and seeing service organizations struggle to feel that they even have a voice within the organization to it being something that you say the CEO has never talked more about, it's a really cool progression and certainly representative of the opportunity that exists so. Now you mentioned you started as field technician and now you're the GM of service for the organization. So what would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned in your own journey?
Darren Elmore: I think for myself, having I suppose done the job, if you like being there, done that at the front lines, and for me, it's just about being really clear in the communications around our strategy. We've got to have a healthy innovation pipeline and just bring your people on the journey with you. But I think definitely what I've learned over time as well, it's about not settling, but just good enough. What's that saying about if you shoot for the moon and even if you miss your land amongst the stars, we've got to be looking to aim high. So I think once you kind of promoted that high performance culture within the division or within the organization, you really get people thinking differently as well. I think that that's what leads to some of those, what if kind of conversations and having the ability to think about it and go, "Yeah, we could do that," is something that you need to take on. So yeah, I think that's it. Just about being clear in what it's that you wanting to achieve, make sure it's communicated really well and aim for themselves.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And to the point you made earlier when we were talking about the tool set part, you mentioned the importance of looking outside of your own industry. I think that's also important when you think about innovation and just these thinking big and different ideas, different food for thought. You shouldn't just be looking to what is our direct competition doing and how can we one up them by an inch. You know what I mean? You should be looking outside of your own competitive set for those new ideas and those what if could we, you know what I mean? Those are conversations that they shouldn't just be shot down, they should be embraced and you never know what you might come up with if you as a leader and encourage your teams to think outside of the box and to bring those ideas in. I think that's a really good point.
Darren Elmore: Yeah. There's a great example I can give you there again. Here, our national carrier in New Zealand now on global scale. It's a very small airline, but they win lots of awards. And when I was studying, no, again, what makes them different? When they were looking at innovation, they weren't looking within the airline industry about what's new and what's the best. They were looking at organizations like Disney and the best hotel chains in the world, but then it was all about not the flight, it's about the customer experience. And so where do you go to find out where's a really good customer experience, hotels and theme parks?
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.
Darren Elmore: That's the job. So yeah, I think that's a great example of looking outside your industry to see what is going on and what it is we want to achieve, but don't get blinkered by the industry that you live in.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, really good stuff. All right, Darren, well I appreciate you coming on and sharing with us. So thank you for that. It was a pleasure to meet you in Palm Springs. Pleasure to have you on the podcast and I hope to stay in touch.
Darren Elmore: Sarah, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Now it's always great to have conversations with people who are passionate about both service and innovation, so I've really enjoyed this time. So yeah, thank you for asking me to join you on the Future of Field Service Podcasts.
Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. Thank you. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insiders so that every other week you will have our latest content delivered to your inbox. You can also take a look at the remaining events we have left on the 2023 Future of Field Service live tour schedule, and register for the one nearest you. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.