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May 30, 2023 | 7 Mins Read

Trends Among the Contract Workforce to Factor into Your Overall Talent Strategy

May 30, 2023 | 7 Mins Read

Trends Among the Contract Workforce to Factor into Your Overall Talent Strategy


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

As we look to determine not only what the role of the service workforce of the future looks like, but how we’ll fill those roles with talent hard to come by, we’d be remiss not to factor in the contract workforce. Some companies have already embraced the contract model, even exclusively. Others have been hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons. But recent trends discussed here may weigh into your strategy. 

There are many factors at play: aging workers, a Covid-sparked recalibration among workers when it comes to what they want out of a job, and preferences of younger talent that want a lot more flexibility. According to a recent study from on-site talent management platform Field Nation and research firm Radius, one impact of these factors is an increase in talent preferring an independent contractor role. 

I recently had a chat with Mynul Khan, founder of Field Nation, about the trends they are seeing in the IT services sector. Their recent study found that larger numbers of IT service professionals are opting to become independent contractors – 98% of respondents said they preferred independent contracting or a hybrid set-up to a traditional full-time position. (You can download the study here.)

Q: People may think of IT as a market that might face less recruiting challenges than other skilled trades. What is driving the shortage of field service techs in the IT sector? 

Mynul Khan: Finding and retaining skilled labor is a significant challenge across all industries, from manufacturing and construction to insurance and high tech. Some reports estimate an industry-wide deficit of 3 million workers across the skilled trades over the next five years, and according to Service Council research, 50% of field service organizations currently face a shortage of resources to meet service demand. And the IT field services profession is no exception. 

Today the IT field service industry has more work than ever before, with digitization of customer experience growing exponentially, and not enough skilled professionals who can do the work. That’s what we have been seeing and hearing from the industry consistently over the last couple of years. 

There are three major trends in the market that are present, creating that perfect storm, and here for the long-term contributing to the labor shortage crisis. 

The first is often referred to as the “Silver Tsunami” which means there is an aging population in field services with one-third of workers 50 years of age or older. This finding is consistent with Service Council’s field engineer survey results – 50% of IT techs are 45 years or older. Whether IT, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, you name it, this issue is plaguing trade workers across the market and the entire community. 

Another trend is low unemployment sitting at just below 2% (CompTIA). There are options for people of all demographics to choose in terms of the work they do. Why they are not choosing to get into the IT field services business is not something covered in our research but my experience and in hearing from technicians and customers reveal there are a few things that could drive support – creating more flexibility and autonomous work environments, which is what we heard from the independent contractor study, and the importance of mentorship to drive community and skill-building. 

And finally, this unprecedented boom in technology deployment. Massive amounts of technology is being deployed everywhere from retail to home to offices to restaurants to warehouses. And all of these require an expert to install, maintain and refresh, and devices connected to the network. Then comes the infrastructure work with cabling networks and connecting it all to back-office servers. 

What’s encouraging is the growth and preference to be and to stay an independent contractor for years to come. From retirees lending their skills to side hustles to professionals choosing to contract as their full-time career, our study found workers of all backgrounds are looking for something that works for their lifestyle, with one-third sharing their desire to stay working for 11-plus years. Embracing a new way to think about your labor model and aligning to your organizational goals is the only way to get ahead of competition and deliver profitable growth. 

Q: What has made contract work more appealing for the technicians? 

Mynul Khan: According to our recent State of Independent Contracting in Field Services Report, flexibility (36%) and control and autonomy (27%) top the list for technicians in 2023. While income is still a consideration (20%), having the ability to control their work and life, create a schedule that works for them and their families, is at the heart of why field service workers are choosing independent contracting. That insight is critical when designing roles for today’s workforce.

More importantly, these independent IT field service professionals are increasingly satisfied with their decision. 82% say they are satisfied or highly satisfied with their work. 

Q: What about the downside? How are techs grappling with things like benefits/insurance, reliable income, and business management?

Mynul Khan: Just like with any role, these are all considerations for independent contractors. Unpredictability in income and schedule were shared as the most difficult things about being a contractor. In some ways, this is the other side of the coin in that flexibility and having autonomy are the top reasons to be an independent contractor. This, along with healthcare, retirement and other benefits, in particular, are something to consider when making the shift to this kind of work. These are difficult issues to work through and our commitment is staying engaged in the conversations with key trade associations, our technicians and customers.

In terms of reliable income, the great thing about working as an independent contractor is you can pick up work where and when you want. These people can also work with more than one client at a time, mitigating risk. If one client cuts budget and goes in a different direction, the contractor may have a couple other clients to lean on. Some of these independent contractors have several sources of revenue, too – IT and field service work is just one stream. 

Q: For businesses hiring these contractors, what are some of the key advantages? What makes the use of contractors or a blended workforce more or less appealing?

Mynul Khan: In some ways, companies are being forced to adopt a blended workforce model. IT spend as a factor of revenue has increased 40 to 50% since 2019 (according to research and advisory firm IHL group), which is driving businesses to find new ways to ensure schedule flexibility and widespread availability of IT professionals across locations. 

For the businesses that are ahead of the curve, they’re already recognizing that a blended workforce helps them meet temporary workload needs, increases productivity, provides a reliable solution for completing tasks, and keeps costs down. And maybe the most important benefit to hiring contractors right now is the ability to access specialized skills and hard-to-hire talent, nationwide. 

However a field service leader decides to divvy up the work is really up to them, but it starts with taking a deep dive into how they can achieve their goals in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

Q: How are independent technicians connecting with employers? What technology is helping make this transition easier for businesses and contractors?

Mynul Khan: Increasingly, contractors are turning to digital labor platforms (full disclosure: Field Nation is one such platform). The availability of these digital labor platforms has increased fivefold in the last 10 years, and businesses have taken notice.

According to MBO Partners’ State of Independence in America Report 2022, 41% of independent contractors who provide services to businesses reported finding work on labor platforms, up from 15% in 2015 and just 3% in 2012.

Like anything, being an independent contractor has both tremendous benefits and a few challenges. Finding what works for you is most important. Independent contractors are passionate about their craft, spending time in both the front-end and back-end tasks – from selling and marketing to invoicing and collecting. Over time this becomes burdensome and takes away from the work and quality outcomes they could be bringing to businesses. That’s why on-demand labor platforms are so enticing. 

Q: Are there particular market conditions that might change the dynamics of the demand for contract work, either tipping the industry toward more freelancers, or pulling them back toward full-time positions?

Mynul Khan: Market conditions are constantly shifting. So, it’s tough to say what, specifically, would tip the industry one way or another. However, I do think it will continue to tip toward companies using more independent contractors. The average contingent labor share of enterprise workforces is expected to increase from 28% today to 33% in 18 months, and 36% in 5 years, according to the Contingent Labor Imperative Report

While this shift in labor model is growing, the reality for companies that are moving from W2s to independent contractors is feeling secure in knowing quality outcomes for customers is unchanged which means trust in a tech representing their company like an employee would is critical. 

May 22, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

The Hard Work of Soft Skills

May 22, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

The Hard Work of Soft Skills


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Across sectors, companies are grappling with labor shortages, shifts in how, where and when people work, and a spike in retirements and quit rates in a number of critical professions. In field service, one very large group of people (the Baby Boomers) are retiring, and younger employees are entering the workforce with very different backgrounds, skills, and expectations.

The reality of more open positions than available workers has led to an arms race in perks and salaries to attract and keep employees. What is less discussed, though, is the thinking and evaluation companies are doing around what skills they want those new workers to have. A shift in priority from technical skill to softer skills, including communication, attitude, and teachability, is taking place according to many service leaders I speak with. 

There was an interesting piece on The Hill earlier this year about the increasing importance of soft skills or social skills across different industries. LinkedIn reported that soft skills were featured in 78% of the jobs posted globally over the last few months. You can read the article here, but the overall theme was that when it comes to hiring, focusing on what potential employees know is going to be less important than how they approach the job and solve problems. How do they cope with uncertainty? Can they show empathy? Can they work collaboratively with clients and coworkers to address challenges?

The need to focus more on soft skills relates to something I have touched on in a few past articles and podcast interviews – vulnerability. In this case, though, customer vulnerability is the focus. Service technicians and customer support personnel are working with clients when they are in a vulnerable state, whether the customer is a homeowner with a broken furnace or a plant manager who had to shut down a line because of a problem with a machine. 

To really deliver great customer service, technicians need to be able to read the room, so to speak. What is it the customer really needs? Fixing the immediate equipment problem is usually at the top of the list (and that should always remain a key focus, of course), but there are usually other priorities on the client's mind, too. In the case of the homeowner, maybe they are expecting out-of-town guests, or they are worried about heating their house during a big storm. For the plant manager, they might be under pressure to deliver a big order ahead of schedule. 

Whatever those underlying needs are, they cause emotions that can lead service to fall short if not navigated adeptly by service personnel. This can mean something as simple as listening, acknowledgement, empathy, and clear communication. Sounds simple, right? What makes soft skills hard is that they can be far more challenging to “teach” than technical skills. And, according to many that I’ve interviewed recently, they are skills that many younger workers entering roles really lack.  

Differentiation Hinges on Soft Vs. Technical Skills

What exacerbates the need to improve your team's skill sets around the non-technical aspects of service is that the advantages you may have around technical competency, scheduling/dispatching optimization, or diagnostic capabilities are leveling off. As service becomes more digitally focused and more of your competitors adopt the same service automation technologies, there are diminishing returns when it comes to competitive advantage based solely on technical skill. As such, now and into the future, your ability to differentiate through service will increasingly depend on your reliability, those interpersonal interactions, and delivering customer insights.

So, what types of soft skills are we talking about? There are a variety, and some needs differ based on the structure and scope of the frontline worker’s role (which is also changing, but that’s a topic for another article!). But while it may seem elementary, you should start with the basics of on-site behavior – think of anything necessary to ensure a customer feels respected and well cared for during a visit. This can include where to stand when ringing a doorbell, practicing polite client interactions – especially when a customer may be frustrated, and awareness of any missteps that could make a customer feel uncomfortable, unheard, or unappreciated.

Communication is key. Your technicians should be trained to keep clients informed of their service status – what the diagnosis is, how they will fix it, how long it will take, and what progress they are making. Answer questions as quickly and thoroughly as possible and follow up if there are any outstanding issues (like a part being on order). It’s one thing to have a service visit end without resolution, but another for the customer left wondering what the next step is.  

Empathy is also incredibly important. You can’t really teach how to have empathy, but showing empathy may take some work, particularly in industries where technicians have been trained to be laser focused on the mechanics of fixing the problem at hand. 

Be sure you are also encouraging curiosity and active listening. This is important in avoiding miscommunications or missed expectations and can also lead to uncovering new customer needs. Technicians should be skilled at asking customers what they want/need, making sure they understand their answer, and continuing the dialogue until a customer’s needs are fully uncovered, understood, and documented so that they won’t need to be repeated at another point in the customer journey. 

Remember that fostering soft skills of managers is important, too. Many existing managers came from technician roles, so may have the same lack of these skills that’s evident in a generation of workers for which they weren’t nearly as important. Your technicians need good managers; they are going to have a hard time delivering friendly, empathetic, and competent service if they are exhausted or stressed out. If your scheduling, technician workloads, or performance measurement metrics are out of balance, that will eventually lead to a drop in service quality. 

It looks like a lot of companies are already doing the hard work of fostering more soft skills. A McKinsey survey from 2021 found that the majority of companies were doing more skill building than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned before, this has also come up in a lot of conversations with service leaders and consultants – including in my conversation with Venkata Reddy Mukku at Bruker Nano Surfaces & Metrology, in this piece about the role of leaders in service transformation, and my article from last year on mental health and the workplace. This shift in how organizations are hiring and what skills they are trying to identify and foster may be a challenging one, but I am excited to see the impact it has on what the future of service looks like. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on what skills (hard, soft or otherwise) you are looking for in your next generation of service technicians and leaders and how you are upskilling or reskilling your more tenured teams.   

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May 15, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

How Long Until Traditional Service Delivery is Dead?

May 15, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

How Long Until Traditional Service Delivery is Dead?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Technology enabling remote service is fundamentally changing how and when service is delivered – and as you may have gathered from the headline, I firmly believe it's going to play a bigger and bigger role in service moving forward. To be clear, I don’t believe the traditional field service visit will ever completely disappear, but I do think relying on only traditional methods of delivery (customer calls with issue, technician visits to diagnose, repairs or perhaps has to return to repair) is a practice that will soon put a number of service organizations at a competitive disadvantage.

A lot of firms were forced into some flavor of remote service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, using software to remotely diagnose or even remedy equipment failures, leveraging online video to support customers or other technicians, and in some cases implementing augmented or virtual reality (VR) tools. We learned that these capabilities provide some compelling options for making our service operations smarter rather than always trying to work harder to keep up.

Yes, remote service also raises some questions that can give service leaders anxiety. How do you maintain the personal connection with customers in this environment? Is it going to cost technicians their jobs? How reliable is it? Will customers pay for it if they don't see a tech in their building? While valid points, answers are being found at a rapid pace and many companies are committing to a remote-first service model.

In last week’s podcast, for example, I spoke to Steve Goulbourne, the Global Service Program Director at Mettler-Toledo, about the company's experience with remote service, its disruptive potential, and how he is responding to some of those concerns.

Mettler-Toledo began embracing remote service during the pandemic because they needed a way to take care of customers without going on site. Because of the types of equipment the company services, remote-only interventions are often not feasible. While software fixes can take care of some problems, a technician still usually needs to install a spare part. However, as Steve describes it, remote service at Mettler-Toledo is really a way for technicians to arrive on site for that spare part install better prepared and informed about what the job will entail. They are using the technology to arm technicians with enough knowledge to maximize their first-time fix rates.

Repeat Trips Compound Talent Shortage Woes

“We can actually see what's happening versus a traditional triage where you're asking questions,” he said. “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 equipment fixed the first time. That's the most important to our customers because that increases their uptime.”

At Mettler-Toledo, like many others, the first truck roll has traditionally served as a diagnostic/triage visit. In some cases, the technician can’t even start the repair during that initial visit. That's a costly way of doing things, and can lead to some disappointed customers when the first technician on site tells them to expect a second visit, with a completely different engineer and a different set of parts and tools.

“Those second visits, they drain capacity,” Steve said. “And I think when we listen to the voice of the customer a lot of times … 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. So if we can improve the capacity by reducing those unnecessary second visits, I think that definitely helps.”

Saving those second visits doesn't just help with first-time fix rates, uptime, and net promoter scores; it also reduces costs. Depending on the industry, each truck roll can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Remote service also helps with the service sector's current talent challenge by more efficiently using technician time. In an era where there is a shortage of qualified service engineers, it’s not hard to make an argument for maximizing resource utilization by reducing unnecessary site visits.

Steve also pointed out that younger technicians entering the workforce not only expect to see better use of remote and mobile technology (which, as digital natives, they have been raised using), they also want to minimize their time on the road. In some industries, technicians may spend several days or even a week at a remote site diagnosing and fixing a problem, and a lot of that time is often spent waiting on parts or information.

Using remote service tools to minimize time on the road puts service jobs more in line with the work/life balance these younger workers are looking for. “If we can get better resource capability and resource capacity because we're using these tools, it means we can plan more effectively,” Steve said. “By planning more effectively, we can make sure that that person does nine-to-five hours, or whatever they may be.”

We covered a lot of ground during our discussion, so I would encourage you to listen to the entire podcast here to find out more about how Mettler-Toledo is using remote service to improve operations. As for the question of how long until traditional service delivery is dead; it’s hard to say – but the business case for embracing a remote-first approach is very strong and I expect we’ll see a lot of stories similar to Mettler-Toledo’s in the coming year.

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May 8, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

Keeping Digital Transformation Safe and Secure

May 8, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

Keeping Digital Transformation Safe and Secure


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

With service organizations deploying new technologies at a rapid pace to stay competitive and improve their customer experience, we must be sure to fully examine the security ramifications of those digital transformation initiatives. With every mobile device, mobile app, smart device or Internet of Things (IoT) endpoint, you are bringing greater intelligence into your business; but you are also introducing new vulnerabilities to your networks.

When it comes to connected field service, cyber security should not be an afterthought. Small and mid-sized companies are as much as three times more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals (you can read more in this Forbes article). If you think your regional HVAC service company can’t possibly be on the radar when it comes to cybercrime, you need to think again. Increasingly, criminals are launching ransomware and other types of attacks against all types of companies (there have even been attacks against regional utilities and school districts). If you have data, it can be stolen. So how do you ensure that while you are driving technological advancement, you’re also mitigating cyber security risk?

Charlie Hales is the Managing Director at Waterstons, an Australian business and technology consulting firm. Charlie joined us at the Future of Field Service Sydney event and spoke about how service organizations can leverage new automation and intelligence technologies while still keeping their company secure against cyber-attacks. I asked Charlie for a follow-up discussion to go into more detail about cyber security and field service, and you can read about that discussion in the Q&A below.

What are the biggest cyber-security risks that service-based businesses face today?

Charlie Hales: With the move to remote working during COVID and advances in technology to monitor and manage systems remotely there has been a push to do more with less, including implementing remote access technologies. Some of this was implemented quickly without looking at best practices from a security perspective; this has actually made companies less secure and added vulnerabilities to the service-based business and the clients they’re supporting. If you work in the infrastructure sector this is even worse with new legislation to ensure better security implementations and data management in place. So, all companies should review what they do in this area to ensure cyber security is factored in. This doesn’t need to make access harder, to be clear, which is what some people think. The technologies available these days to protect businesses are great and can keep the access seamless but also secure.

As companies seek to increase connected assets, incorporate more automation, and drive more predictive models, what needs to be top of mind from a security perspective?

Charlie Hales: Everything that is connected to a network and the Internet adds a new vulnerability to your environment. This does not mean you shouldn’t use this new technology, but it does mean you need to implement and manage it correctly. Also, there is a misconception that everything needs to be updated 100% of the time, but this is not the case. You should do so for critical infrastructure and anything storing your data but items like printers, smart IoT, CCTV, etc., can be updated less often as long as they are on a separate network with no access or very limited access to the network connected to your critical systems and data. This network segregation between IT, OT and IoT is crucial, along with access controls and information management.

Automation also comes with benefits as well as risks. Automation is great for companies that want to implement it for repeatable tasks; they just need to think about where human elements need to be added or where monitoring should be implemented to ensure this automation isn’t breached. For example, if the automation usually pulls in data from a process to help with new orders and there was a big fluctuation in order volume, this should be flagged to check that nothing is amiss.

What’s the #1 mistake you see companies make related to cyber security?

Charlie Hales: The #1 mistake is that companies think cyber security is an IT problem. IT teams are great, but they are not cyber experts and shouldn’t be expected to be. Cybersecurity needs to be built in at a board level (they’re ultimately liable if something happens), factored into corporate risks and managed and driven through the business accordingly in partnership with the Cyber and IT experts.

Over the next five years, what changes will most impact how companies need to approach cyber security?

Charlie Hales: In Australia, we will see data management and protection. With recent breaches throughout Australia there will be a move to implement things similar to GDPR across Europe.

Globally I see more collaboration defining what can/can’t be done and managed (and by who), and recent examples include the likes of ChatGPT and TikTok. What you can use where and what data can be stored where is a hot topic at the moment, and I only see it getting bigger.

For companies looking to better understand the topic of cyber security, what resources do you recommend?

Charlie Hales: There is so much out there. A couple of examples include and They have some great videos for CISOs as well as other videos for various roles in the business. But where I would start is to engage an expert to work with you in your organization to understand your business and what risks apply from a cyber security perspective. If you support infrastructure, you will have very different requirements than a manufacturing plant. What you need to do and what business risks you can accept will be very different. A general solution for all companies is not the answer. Understand what is critical to your business and then apply appropriate cyber security around that.

Given the shortage of IT staff in general and cyber security specialists specifically, how can service organizations make sure they are properly addressing their security needs? What options are available?

Charlie Hales: There are many cyber security consultants out there so find a partner you trust to work with. That way you can actually get a multitude of skills for less than recruiting an in-house team. If you are a large organization, you will likely want someone internally to manage your cyber risks and program of work, but you don’t need all resources in house. That will be cost prohibitive at the moment. You can get multiple part time staff members from a provider with varying skills for less than a full-time person with expertise across multiple areas.

Any other comments?

Charlie Hales: Don’t think that cybersecurity is a massive issue that’s too hard to look at, or that a breach is something that won't happen to you. It will. What are the biggest risks to your business, customer data, production line, internal designs? You need to protect them. Find an expert that can understand your business to advise you about where you can add the best cybersecurity protection for your organization. That way, when an attack does happen you can recover quickly with little impact to your business and your clients.

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May 1, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

Have You Avoided Innovation for Any One of These Reasons (aka Excuses)?

May 1, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

Have You Avoided Innovation for Any One of These Reasons (aka Excuses)?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I spent last week in sunny Palm Springs, California for the 20th anniversary of WBR’s Field Service event. Despite wracking my brain to remember which year was my first, I am not quite sure if it was 2009 or 2010. What I do know is that this year’s event looked a lot different from my first – we’ve come a long way. I’ll share more of my thoughts from the event, as well as a look into the keynote I delivered, on this week’s podcast. But in the meantime, I wanted to share a bit of one of the sessions from day one that resonated. 

Darren Elmore, GM, Service at RICOH traveled from New Zealand to Palm Springs to talk about RICOH’s approach to adopting a remote-first service model. I am not going to get into any details around that story because I am hoping Darren will soon share it himself on the podcast, but in his presentation, he began with talking a bit about how service organizations need to embrace innovation. I couldn’t agree more (as you probably know!) and the point was reinforced throughout the remainder of last week’s event – what was once a fairly stagnant industry has changed immensely, and that change is only snowballing. Companies who get comfortable getting uncomfortable will be those who make the highest profits, attract and retain the best talent, and create impactful customer loyalty. 

But as we know, change is hard. In Darren’s presentation, he shared five reasons he hears for not innovating (aka excuses):

#1: We’re successful today. As he said, “Success today doesn’t guarantee success tomorrow.” Yes, it can be hard to choose to disrupt successful smooth sailing with innovation, but the alternative is to remain in your comfort zone until disruption finds you – and creating disruption versus reacting to it is a better position to be in.

#2: We’re too busy. Everyone is busy in some way; that’s no reason not to take a strategic view of your business. Staying focused only on today’s fires ensures you’ll be surpassed by competition that does the necessary work of determining how to balance the needs of today’s business with creating the business of the future. 

#3: Customers aren’t asking for it. Darren shared the famous Henry Ford statement about customers asking for a faster horse, not a car. Innovative organizations don’t wait until innovation is requested or demanded, they look for ways to create new value that customers will be excited about – and appreciate not having to ask for. 

#4: We tried it before, it didn’t work. Efforts of innovation rarely succeed on the first try; failure is part of the cycle. This mentality is fear-based, and a fear-based culture is at odds with innovation. What you tried before is irrelevant beyond what you can learn from that failure and it’s certainly no reason to avoid trying again. And again.  

#5: Innovation is risky. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “no risk, no reward.” And it’s true. Playing it safe will get you mediocre results, at best. Risk is necessary at times, particularly when it’s calculated and intentional. And one point Darren made here that I love is that this isn’t just about the risk of innovation to a business, but the personal risk of innovation to the leader spearheading it. But we need to shift our thinking around risk to not being perceived as only a negative but also a potential opportunity. 

I’m looking forward to hopefully having Darren come share with you all more of his story of personal risk in the journey RICOH is on in remote-first service, and I’m also looking forward to sharing more with you on Wednesday’s podcast about last week’s event. Stay tuned!

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April 24, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management: End of an Era 

April 24, 2023 | 3 Mins Read

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management: End of an Era 


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

For the past seven years, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management software has served as a touchstone in the industry, helping field service organizations select technology to improve operations and giving software providers a gauge of how they measured up to their competitors. 

But going forward, companies will need to look elsewhere for guidance and validation of their technology investments. Back in January, Gartner informed the vendors participating in the Magic Quadrant that it will be retired report after the 2022 edition with plans instead to transition to a Market Guide format expected to launch later this year.  

Why the end of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for FSM? Gartner cited several reasons, including the fact that many of the vendors assessed in the report have achieved what they describe as a “high level of functional parity,” and that vendor movement from one position to another has been slowing.

The quadrant divides vendors into four categories – Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players. In retiring the assessment, it seems Gartner feels that companies like IFS (which has been ranked as a leader in all seven reports) are consistently strengthening their position in the market while improving their technology, and that vendors in other categories have found a comfortable lane that they don't seem to be expanding out of any time soon.

While this “high level of functional parity” may mean the end of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for FSM, it doesn't mean innovation isn't continuing. Field service remains a dynamic market that demands a high level of execution when it comes to optimizing and automating workflows. 

In the final report (which you can access here), Gartner notes that the estimated revenue from packaged FSM software licenses, cloud subscriptions, and maintenance reached $3.51 billion in 2021, an 18% increase from the previous year – and did so during a period of economic instability and a global pandemic. There were product improvements across all 10 of the critical FSM capabilities identified by Gartner, and in the ability to deliver great customer service.

Gartner identified a few key trends in product development, quite a few of which we have discussed in previous articles and podcasts: 

Augmented Reality: Gartner says that all of the vendors in the evaluation now have augmented reality solutions to enable video collaboration and live guidance in the field, and a lot of customers are using these capabilities to work with technicians for diagnostics and support.

Sustainability: This is a big buzzword in a lot of industries, but in service the focus has been on energy efficiency. Some organizations are at least partly cost-justifying their FSM investments through reduced fuel consumption thanks to better routing, for example. The software helps companies reduce truck rolls and keep driving distances and idling to a minimum.

Knowledge Management: This functionality keeps growing in importance, particularly given the high number of retirements and overall shortage of technicians. Some FSM packages are providing features that help better record insights from actual service visits and leverage artificial intelligence to curate and provide easier access to those insights for other technicians.

Self-Service: Again, with fewer technicians and call center staff being asked to shoulder more work, the trend toward customer self-service portals is also accelerating. Customers can initiate and track work orders, pay for services, and even initiate some diagnostics using these products.

So, what’s next? In the final report, Gartner touches on some needs that will likely influence further FSM software developments over the next few years, including the use of machine learning and natural language processing to mine service data, cross-organizational collaboration, new regulatory guideline support, better subcontractor integration, built-in integration with other platforms (like ERP, digital twins, and knowledge management), and more advanced analytics.

It'll be interesting to see how Gartner will continue watching the FSM space through its Market Guide but moving forward it may be a bit more difficult to get the same kind of comparative look at how the software tools are evolving. To stay up to date on how IFS is addressing the needs of service management and beyond, visit

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April 17, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Whirlpool’s Winning Mindset Around Independent Service Contractors

April 17, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Whirlpool’s Winning Mindset Around Independent Service Contractors


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

When I talk with organizations about leveraging independent contractors in service operations, the number one concern that surfaces is the lack of control such a model gives that company, with specific fears surfacing related to inefficiency and customer experience. But what if focusing on control is actually a part of the problem? Perhaps if the focus shifted to partnership and empowerment, control would be a non-issue. 

This point surfaced in my recent podcast conversation with Simone Silva, Sr. Director of Consumer Services and Matt Ganus, Director of Home Services, both at Whirlpool. Whirlpool is a well-known brand and has been selling appliances for more than 100 years, but even with that history and brand equity (along with its sub-brands like Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and Amana), competitive differentiation is still critical in the appliance market. A few years ago, the company began to focus more deliberately on how service can help create that differentiation.

Appliances are some of the few consumer goods that, when they break, require in-home service. That makes the importance of the service experience unique. If your refrigerator is on the fritz, you have a technician in your kitchen while you worry about losing a few hundred dollars’ worth of groceries. Appliances are a long-term investment, and Whirlpool recognizes that service plays a big role in fostering brand loyalty. 

“When you go to market with a portfolio of products that carry that credibility of high quality service, of friendly service that will be available in any place where you need it, at the time that you needed, I think this gives peace of mind to consumers that is definitely part of the consideration set of whether or not they should be making an investment,”  Simone said.

But here’s what surprised me in our initial conversation – despite their focus on increasing brand differentiation through service, Whirlpool opted for an outsourced approach. The company’s field service model relies exclusively on authorized independent service contractors.

What Simone and Matt quickly pointed out is that using independent contractors does not need to mean a hands-off approach. We spent our time discussing exactly how the company has executed a strategy for service differentiation, relying on only independent providers, that’s working well. While I urge you to go and listen to the full conversation, here are some of the key points they shared. 

5 Best Practices for Working Well with Independent Service Providers

First, I will point back to the mindset of partnership rather than control. “Yes, there’s some fear. I think that fear keeps us on our toes and keeps us honest to what we intended to achieve with our model. It's not about taking control over their businesses; it's never been. It's all about the customer experience and together we succeed,” Simone explains.

Second, Whirlpool acknowledges the expertise of each independent provider and focuses on the mutually beneficial opportunity. The contractors in their network get to remain independent, while tapping into a reliable stream of service revenue; Whirlpool can benefit from the trust these service providers have built regionally, without having to maintain a vast network of technicians.

The authorized Whirlpool contractors are successful regional businesses that already know their markets well and often have a positive reputation in the community. Being able to plug into this customer trust rather than needing to re-create it provides Whirlpool a lot of flexibility and scalability. Matt says they really view these contractors as entrepreneurs, and that they are forming a partnership. “I think if we do it right, we've learned that these efficiencies not only help serve our mutual consumers, but they also can deliver higher profit margins to the bottom line. And together it becomes a very viable partnership.”

Third, the company focuses on building trust with each independent service provider. That means honestly and transparently recognizing the successes of the contractors and holding each other accountable when things go wrong. “[W]hen we signed the first exclusivity agreement, there was a lot of fear. That was a new thing. And a lot of companies were like, why would I put all my eggs in the same basket? How can I be dependent?” Simone said. “But I think time has shown them that we were true to that initial value proposition of the elevated experience, the highest quality levels. And by consequence they would grow their operation in a healthy and profitable way. I think the fear being there doesn't bother me. I think it is that constant reminder that we need to deliver on that value proposition and never deviate from it.”

Fourth, Whirlpool invests in the success of their independent providers in a variety of ways. The company relies on careful vetting, provides plentiful training, and has in place regional management to ensure good working relationships with each partner. 

Whirlpool also focuses on accountability. Regional managers work closely with the contractors to ensure consistent service delivery and customer experience and to help them apply best practices. There are training programs not just for technical repairs, but also for soft skills that can help technicians navigate the sometimes-complex emotional landscape of home appliance repair and add that positive personal touch that often sets service apart.  

Finally, Whirlpool takes care to recognize performance of its independent service providers and reward work well done. If issues arise, the company works closely with the contractors to diagnose and fix the problem. “When things don't go right, it's not about pointing the finger, it's about let's go to the data and understand what we can operationally change or adjust to put us back into a winning position,” Matt says.

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April 3, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

Here’s Why It’s Time to Set Your Sights to Total Experience (TX)

April 3, 2023 | 5 Mins Read

Here’s Why It’s Time to Set Your Sights to Total Experience (TX)


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

I’ve spoken with a number of people recently about how I feel like in field service we’re amid a bit of a reckoning at the moment, and here’s why. When service began to be viewed as a potential profit center, companies became hyper-focused on customer experience (CX) and many failed to recognize the correlation between CX and employee experience (EX). 

Layer on continuously increasing customer expectations resulting from our always-on, constantly connected environment; an evolution of what the frontline role consists of; a global pandemic and the resulting extreme talent pressures and now we’re grappling with the reality that seizing the potential of that service profit center simply isn’t possible without ensuring the employees who bear responsibility for that brand experience are not only engaged but fulfilled and empowered. 

As Elizabeth Dixon, former Chic-fil-A executive and author, said in our recent podcast, we must remember that our CX will never be more than the overflow of our EX. “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,” she explains. “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 we’ve recognized the importance of CX, which is great. And field service organizations have deployed a range of technologies and strategies aimed at giving customers better visibility, improving response times, shortening technician arrival windows, improving SLA compliance, and generally giving customers more control over their experience – which are also great things. But, with service-centric industries across the globe struggling to fill technician positions thanks to accelerating retirements, the pandemic-initiated Great Resignation, and a general drop in people entering the trades, we have to do more – and a big part of that “more” is equalizing our focus on EX to be on par with our focus on CX. 

But like a sports team that over-invests in offense at the expense of defense one season, and then attempts to overcompensate by doing the opposite the following year, we must remember that the customer and employee experiences are inextricably linked and cannot be tinkered with in isolated silos. They feed into each other. So that, my friends, is why I think it is time to shift our thinking and approach toward the total experience (TX). 

The Big Picture of TX

TX is a more unified view of the business that links the customer and employee experience across channels. It's a circular approach, where improving things for employees leads to better customer satisfaction, which in turn helps you align your team with your business goals. Gartner listed TX as one of the top strategic technology trends of 2022, noting that TX also incorporates user experience (UX) and multi experience (MX), with an eye on improving customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, and loyalty.

This more holistic view can give organizations a better chance to reach their business outcomes. In part, that is because to some degree employees and customers want the same things – more personalized and streamlined digital interactions; faster access to information about the service being performed; a more manageable schedule. Ignoring that fact can really erode your outcomes. Companies that have taken a more ham-fisted approach to customer service often do it on the backs of their technicians – insisting that they meet increasingly stringent CX requirements, but not giving them the tools or flexibility to do it without burning themselves out

Streamlining employee workflows and empowering them in the field and within the organization can help companies improve customer satisfaction, which is a theme we have seen pop up multiple times in recent podcast interviews. But being able to do these things well requires strong leadership skills and a genuine appreciation for the connection between EX and CX so that the TX approach is prioritized in earnest. 

In my recent conversation with Venkata Reddy Mukku, Vice President for Worldwide Service and Support at Bruker Nano Surfaces & Metrology, he shares some excellent input on how he and his teams focus on empowerment. “If they have that sense of ownership, they find creative ways of helping customers and also making sure the customer understands what our goals are so that we work towards a win-win situation,” he said. “With trust and ownership, people think out of the box, and they come up with solutions.”

You can also see the thread of importance of leadership pop up in my conversations with Dr. Elizabeth Moran about the neuroscience of helping lead your team through change, and in my interview about independent contractors with technician Tamika Fields

Gartner’s research points to a pay-off for coordinating your customer and employee experience efforts, with companies that take a TX approach potentially outperforming competitors by 25% in satisfaction metrics. By 2026, they expect 60% of large enterprises to leverage TX.

The problem right now is that while there are plenty of platforms that can help you measure all of the experiences that make up TX, there isn't a unified platform that can link them all together. Organizations have to do some internal work to get visibility into how the employee and customer experiences affect each other and understand the impact of their efforts.

That work includes mapping out the customer and employee journeys (and seeing where they intersect and defining where you need to make improvements); establishing cross-functional teams to lay out the business case for TX; creating workflows so that customer and employee feedback leads to an actual business response; and figuring out how to integrate and manage data from the multiple systems involved and managing and measuring customer and employee experiences.

I think TX also highlights the importance and increasing need for trust, with your customers and employees. You have to trust that your customers know what they want, even if it does not cleanly align with your own business strategies. You have to trust that your technicians really want to help your customers, and equipped with the right environment and resources, will come up with creative ways to get to those outcomes. When Eduardo Bonefont took his current role at BD, he was faced with a disconnect in the EX – listen here to how he tackled that challenge, using eNPS and other tactics to equalize the focus between CX and EX and realizing the benefits of a more TX-centric approach. 

Has your company tried to bridge your customer and employee experience initiatives? I would love to hear about your thoughts, insights and experiences.

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March 27, 2023 | 6 Mins Read

5 Pillars of People-First Leadership

March 27, 2023 | 6 Mins Read

5 Pillars of People-First Leadership


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Have you listened to last week’s podcast with Venkata Reddy Mukku, Vice President for Worldwide Service and Support at Bruker Nano Surfaces & Metrology? If you haven’t and have the time, I’d suggest you take a listen to his words of wisdom. For those who need the cliffs-notes version, I am aiming to share here some of Venkata’s key points – because the perspective he has is so important to leaders of today’s service organizations. 

We know the landscape of service has changed significantly in the last ten, even five, hell two, years. Yet many leaders cling to methods and tactics of leadership that simply don’t fit today’s needs – focusing on control that squashes creativity, all the while looking around and wondering why other companies are having more success remaining relevant, attracting talent, and innovating. Then there are the leaders who see the industry’s evolution clearly and who are stepping up to the plate by pushing themselves to learn, grown, and change to be effective by today’s standards. Venkata is one of those leaders. 

The foundation of Venkata’s approach is a very simple formula he follows to keep his priorities aligned in the way he feels is most important: 60/30/10 leadership. He focuses 60% of his time and efforts on his internal teams, 30% on customer KPIs, and 10% on commercial metrics. “It's the people that are delivering those numbers,” Venkata explains. “If you don't take care of people, those numbers will not come. When it comes to service revenue and growth generation, if we take care of our teams, if we take care of our customers, the commercial part becomes easier.”

I really appreciate how clear Venkata is in his prioritization of time, and how much conviction he has that if we, as leaders and organizations, do the right things by our people and customers, the numbers will follow. But what does people-first leadership look like in practice? Venkata shared some examples in our conversation, which I’ll break down into five pillars. 

#1: Change How You Hire

Like many service organizations, Bruker used to make its hires based on technical skill. As the role of the frontline worker has changed, and therefore the traits that contribute to success in that role, the company has updated its hiring process to reflect the importance of attitude, soft skills, and cultural fit. 

“We have equal weighting for our technical and non-technical skills. Communication, attitude towards work, teamwork, and the culture they were part of before and what type of culture they would want to be in. We try to make sure that by the time our recruitment team filters the CVs most of them are technically capable,” explains Venkata. “But what we really look forward to seeing in a candidate is how they approach if we use some scenarios. We try and understand their behavior, their thought process, and then how they would fit into our organization.”

#2: Take a Human-Centric View

Another point that came up in conversation is that Venkata is sure to treat employees, “as humans, not resources.” I think this is such an important point and one of the core ways a leader’s view must evolve – yes, numbers on the balance sheet matter and all employees can be viewed in terms of their contributions. But when we view them as people versus resource, perhaps they’ll contribute more?

Beyond making the distinction that employees are human beings versus simply company resources, Bruker encourages behaviors, actions, and decisions that support this belief. “We try and make sure that people put themselves first, and we try and put it in action. Whenever someone is sick, we try to be empathetic. When they come back, they know that my team has been rooting for them, they come back with full energy and do their best,” says Venkata. “It's not always easy; there are challenges here and there. But at a high level, if you really create that environment where people can be themselves, take care of themselves, and then take care of their family, they actually can contribute more to the organization than if you just say, you’ve got to do your work. We don't care what's happening with your life or with your family. That detachment is not going to help in the long run.”

#3: Create a 3C Culture

Company culture plays a big role in the employee experience and, in my conversation with Venkata, there were three characteristics that Bruker is focused on that stood out: fostering creativity, creating connection, and connecting to a purpose. 

Venkata emphasized that it is important to give team members purpose in work beyond simply meeting commercial metrics. “Our technology helps people to find cures for cancers and to come up with the latest and greatest chips for all the cars and phones. We tell our engineers, ‘You are not just coming to just fix something or install something. You are changing how we live for future generations,’” he explains.

Another important aspect of the company culture is giving employees the freedom to be creative – and the awareness that it is OK to make mistakes. Encouraging input from anyone and everyone in the organization is a way for companies to aim toward being more innovative while giving high-drive talent an outlet for their ideas and a sense of contribution. “I always say, the best idea wins. It doesn't matter if it comes from a junior engineer or from a senior director. We want to talk. If you have a better idea, please speak up,” Venkata says.

And finally, creating a close-knit team helps promote commitment to the company’s vision and objectives because employees feel they are in it together. “Meeting everyone under one roof and having a bowling game or doing some activity takes us a long way, really makes them feel connected to different people that they talk or interact remotely all the time. That helps them build bonds and engage better,” says Venkata. “When people don’t have those connections, the attrition is much higher. So, it's very important that we create that bonding, we create that environment for people to meet, share knowledge and help each other.”

#4: Invest in Employee Success

Not only is Venkata investing 60% of his time into focus on his teams, but the company is committed to investing in employee success throughout the journey – and that starts with ensuring the onboarding process is smooth, effective, and impactful. 

“Once we get somebody on board, the next thing is making sure we have a good 30, 60, 90 plan, because that's when we can make sure that the team member gets settled properly. We can't expect them to do very well if we don't give them the right tools at the start, especially in the first 30, 60, 90 days. We try to make sure that those first three months are productive for the team and make sure that they get, not just the technical knowledge, but also culture and the process of organization,” explains Venkata. 

Of course, that doesn’t stop after an employee is onboarded. Bruker continually looks for ways to provide not only training to keep technical skills up to date but also to give soft skills training, remote and online trainings, and to try and get teams together once or twice a year to maintain that sense of connection. 

#5: Focus on Empowerment 

If there’s one lesson I want you to take from what Venkata shared, it is this: you will get far more from putting effort into empowering your employees than you ever could from trying to control them. What Venkata’s efforts really center around is creating employees who are empowered and who feel a sense of ownership in what they do. THIS is how you end up with employees who delight your customers and help spur innovation and growth. 

“If they have that sense of ownership, they find creative ways of helping customers and also making sure the customer understands what our goals are so that we work towards a win-win situation,” Venkata says. “With trust and ownership, people think out of the box, and they come up with solutions. If you have rule book and say, this is it, people will stop thinking, stop coming up with innovative ideas to help customers, to help themselves and the company.”

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March 20, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Tips for Creating an Outcomes-Based Service Strategy

March 20, 2023 | 4 Mins Read

Tips for Creating an Outcomes-Based Service Strategy


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

The majority of service-centric businesses are somewhere on the continuum today of moving from reactive, transactional service delivery to outcomes-focused service models, and this evolution means putting customer needs front and center. Sounds simple, right? It is – in theory – but it is in reality a very significant shift from the break/fix model to an approach that moves beyond what the customer wants done at a given moment (fix this broken machine) to why the customer needs service in the first place (i.e., to improve uptime, efficiency, productivity, compliance, etc.).

At Schneider Electric, a focus on outcomes is a key aspect of the company’s goal to deliver 80% of services in a digital manner by the end of 2025. In last week’s podcast, I spoke to Ravichandra Kshirsagar, Vice President Digital Buildings Commercial and Services at Schneider Electric, and we talked a lot about the transition to understanding and meeting customer needs on a more holistic level and how the company is helping its customers retrofit and service their buildings to achieve cost reduction and sustainability goals.

When we dig into the layers of complexity that the shift to outcomes surfaces, two of the first hurdles to conquer are to really understand what its customers value and then determine how to categorize those needs. According to Ravichandra, outcomes is, at its core, about customer intimacy. “When you go deep into their organization with their people into their processes, that's where you find gold,” he says. “That's where you conceptualize the next level of service. That's where digital transformation actually happens.”

With a good understanding of what customers value, Schneider Electric then segments customer groups with fairly homogeneous needs across different markets, as well as what he calls global customers, with different needs based on geography. This exercise allows you to begin to define commonalities among what outcomes the customer groups want to achieve (i.e, improved sustainability) and establish baselines so that both the customer and service provider can measure success.

Prioritize Customers Keen to Co-Innovate

Another important point Ravichandra made is that Schneider also classifies customers based on their ability to (and interest in) take risks and innovate with new service delivery models and technologies. Determining those with the most interest helps you to define a top of pyramid to begin co-innovating with.  “Normally if you want to pilot a service and you want to go fast on outcome-based services, you focus on that top of the pyramid. This is where you can pilot, you can co-innovate, you can partner and you can ensure that dollars that you invest will get a return,” Ravichandra explains.

Assessing your customer’s interest in being more leading edge with how service is evolving helps you to focus your efforts on those who can help you shape and refine your outcomes-based offerings. “Not all customers are ready for the service of tomorrow,” Ravichandra adds. And that’s OK – that doesn’t mean those customers won’t also move to an outcomes-based model but having a realistic point of view enables service organizations to focus their efforts on those ready to evolve today while still meeting the needs of customers who prefer to stick with a more traditional approach for now.

While customer listening followed by appropriate segmentation are two of the early steps in creating outcomes-based offerings, you also must ensure you are capable of delivering on your promises. This means harnessing the power of today’s digital solutions. 

Schneider is focused on helping its customers achieve their sustainability and efficiency goals, while providing a comfortable environment to building occupants. Theirs, and any, company's challenge is to marry the technologies it has available to deliver on those needs in the right ways. Schneider has worked to retrofit existing buildings with modern technology to help deliver on outcomes, as well as provide software platforms that allow clients more visibility and flexibility when it comes to managing, monitoring, and servicing those locations.

Much of the evolution in delivering outcomes versus traditional services is adopting an outside-in mentality – creating a customer value proposition with the customers’ end goals in mind, rather than creating service offerings as an afterthought. Ravichandra emphasizes that, to seize the potential of service, it should be a consideration from the initial phase of product design forward. “When you are designing your offers, your products, you design services later, I think that is something we need to change,” he says. “You need to think about lifecycle, and that really changes the game with how we launch those offers, how we bring value to your customers. And the more we do that, the better we get at delivering services that bring value.”

Listen to the podcast to hear more details about how Schneider Electric is achieving service transformation and what Ravichandra considers the key three pillars (and key challenges).  

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