Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.

May 31, 2023 | 10 Mins Read

Live Tour 2023: Paris Highlights

May 31, 2023 | 10 Mins Read

Live Tour 2023: Paris Highlights


Sarah shares a synopsis of the topics discussed at the Future of Field Service Live Tour 2023 stop in Paris on May 24th.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro.

I am coming to you from Paris. We just wrapped our third stop on the Future of Field Service live tour for 2023 in Paris. We had a great day yesterday, a wonderful lineup of speakers. We had a smaller group with us at this event, which was really nice because everyone had an opportunity to really engage with one another, get to meet one another, have some really good breakout conversations in addition to our interview sessions, and I think people really enjoyed that opportunity. I had one person tell me that it felt like we created a Field Service family in Paris, which was really nice to hear. So, I just want to share some of the highlights of the sessions yesterday, what came up at the event, and some of the points that I thought were really interesting.

So, our first session of the day was with Sebastien Garric, who is the Director of Service for France at GEA Group. And Sebastian joined to talk about GEA's service transformation and three major components of that, which is the importance of mindset, customer centricity, and the role that plays, and also remembering to prioritize and continually work on operational efficiency. So, GEA is a manufacturer who, like many, is seeing the massive opportunity to focus more on service within its value proposition. But obviously for a company that has a strong manufacturing history, that's where the importance of the mindset shift and the change management comes in.

One of my favorite things that Sebastien said is advice someone gave him in his career, which is that we should welcome problems and look at them as opportunities rather than a nuisance or something to avoid. And I think that that's a really good point, and one that particularly when you think about some of the major topics in service today that we often refer to as challenges, they are indeed opportunities for companies to get a bit more creative and innovate, and I love that attitude. So that was great. Next up, we had Ravichandra Kshirasagar, who is the Vice President for Digital Buildings and Global Commercial at Schneider Electric.

So Ravichandra joined me to talk about how Schneider is re-imagining the role of the field technician for 2025, 2030 and beyond. So we started our conversation really talking about how he manages his time to be sure that he's meeting the present day needs of the business, but also carving out this time and making sure his teams are carving out time to think about what will 2025 look like, which as he mentioned will be here before we know it, but also 2030 and really starting to put some steps in place today to be preparing for how quickly things are changing and what that will look like.

So obviously he's in charge of digital, and Schneider is really, really focused on helping its customers achieve more sustainable buildings. And they have a really exciting and I think compelling mission for their workforce to be a part of. But internally, we talked a lot about how the field technician's role will change based on technologies that are available for increased automation and a lot more remote service, as well as as the organization continues to look at outcomes that can provide to its customers, how that might change some of the roles that have traditionally been filled by one field technician. So one of the things that I really liked that Ravichandra brought up is that they've actually not too long ago changed the name from field technician to service technician. That seems like such a small thing, but when you think about this idea of leveraging more automation and more remote capabilities, it's thinking ahead a bit about the fact that that role soon or even in some areas today, will not be completely a field role.

So we may have people that split time between an office or even working from home and then going onsite part of the time. So I think simple shifts like that, they sound like, "Oh yeah, totally." They require a lot of thinking ahead and also thinking about what is representative of the role today, what will fit into the future. So we had some really good conversations about how they're thinking of the evolution of that role. And I think that that initial step of changing the name from field technician to service technician, Ravichandra also spoke about how from a digital perspective, as the volume of data that they are collecting and using with their customers increases, they've had to bring in a lot more analysts to really work with that data and make it insightful for the employees that are interacting with customers and for the customers themselves, which we know will certainly be an increasing need as well.

So really great conversation, really good insight into how we can both focus on what we need to be doing today, but also be thinking ahead because we know things are moving quite rapidly. The next session was with Marie Cobessi, who is the Director of Aftersales Service Projects and Transformation at Fnac Darty. So Marie is responsible for essentially determining in service which transformational projects the company will prioritize and decide to take on, and then making sure that they are achieving those objectives in a way that aligns with the strategy for each. So one of the things Marie brought up that I think everyone loved, again, quite simple in nature, but incredibly effective and impactful. Marie spoke about the process that they use for the prioritization of transformation projects, which they refer to as the four Cs. So the first C is customers, the second C is employees, but the French word for employee starts with C.

The third is cost, and the fourth is carbon footprint. So those are the different pillars that the company looks at every time it's evaluating which transformation projects to prioritize its investment and time in next. And I saw a lot of people taking notes and thinking like, "Oh yeah, that's great." And also some folks that shared which of those they sort of currently tend to focus on and why it might be important to take a look at all of those. So Darty not long ago introduced a subscription model to its customers for service. So the company services all sorts of different home appliances. And traditionally that's been done on a warranty basis or I believe also on a per repair basis. And so moving to this subscription model has led to a lot of growth for the organization. And Marie also talked about how to navigate that, but it's a value proposition that has positively impacted the customer base, the organization.

And then we did talk quite a bit about the impact that it's had on carbon footprint, on the ability to extend the lifecycle of products and therefore reduce waste and improve reuse and remanufacturing, things like that. She talked about the focus that the organization has on continuing to evolve from a customer experience perspective, but also from a employee perspective, some of the areas of opportunity that they have to further improve the tools and processes that the field technicians use so that it makes their daily lives a bit easier. And then she also spoke about the program that they have in place, an initiative that they've put in place to bring in new technicians to put them into a training program and to use that as a way to increase their talent pool. And then Marie and I also had a good conversation about her being a woman in service.

So we had two female speakers at the Sydney event, but both, one was an author, one was a consultant, so not necessarily service leaders themselves. Marie was the first woman on stage from that perspective. So that's kind of representative of where the industry is. And so we talked about what that has meant for her. She actually spoke about how she sees that as a positive thing and how in her mind, one of the things that we need to do to get more gender diversity in the industry is to make sure that we're showing and showcasing the ability to have work-life balance. And we talked a little bit about what that means and what that might look like, and it was a great conversation. Next up, we had a session with Jan van Veen, who is the Founder and Managing Director of moreMomentum, which is a community for service organizations in the manufacturing space specifically.

And Jan and I spoke about the gap that lies between the potential of service innovation and some of the reality of where we are today. So we talked a bit about what to prioritize and how, exactly far should we be looking ahead. For organizations that are thinking more about incremental innovation, what could that look like? For companies that want to focus more on disruptive innovation what should that look like? We talked about some of the differences between focusing on digital transformation, service transformation, and business transformation. And Jan brought up some great points, I think challenged me on some of my thinking, which I really enjoyed because as I mentioned to the audience, I really love having the opportunity to learn in these conversations as well. So that was really nice, and we were able to speak with some of the folks in the crowd about those points and compare notes and have a good discussion.

So that was really cool. And the last session of the day was with Emmanuelle Duchesne and Stephane Dabas, who are both from Culligan. So Emmanuel is the customer service director, and Stephan is the IT director at Culligan. So that session was really talking about how to create a productive and collaborative business and IT partnership that can deliver on the customer and employee focused objectives. So it was a really fun session because I didn't realize that Emmanuelle and Stephane had worked together for over a decade, and they have a really fun rapport and relationship. So I joked with them after saying it was kind of like a old married couple. They were finishing each other's sentences. They were kind of poking fun at one another. It was really fun.

But they had some really good perspective on what the relationship or really lack thereof between the business and IT looked like when they started with Culligan 10, 12 years ago and how it's evolved over time, why it's evolved and what it needs to look like today, and the recognition that these technology initiatives really need to be business led and what a productive relationship looks like in their organization. So we talked about the importance of building trust. Obviously we talked about the prioritization of needs. We talked about business case. We talked about how to navigate differences of opinion. We talked about the fact that Culligan is a highly acquisitive business, so they're often bringing in other organizations to their IT ecosystem. And we spoke about what that looks like and how they determine the path as they bring those companies on to what technology to leverage, et cetera. One of the things that came out of that session that again, I think everyone enjoyed is that Emmanuel shared that they have what they call a CX day where they have every function of the business.

So finance, HR, I believe every function of the business, spend time with a frontline employee either in their call center or in the field. And the goal of that is to really make sure that everyone understands that customer facing role and what service looks like in practice and has an appreciation for that. And again, this was one of the points that I saw everyone in the room writing notes on. I had a couple of conversations after that session about how impactful that could be, not only from creating that awareness among the different functions of the business, but also in the sense of making those frontline workers feel valued and appreciated and important because you're acknowledging how critical their role is and how you want everyone in the organization to be aware of what they do. So I thought that was such a good takeaway.

We had some breakout sessions where we talked about some of these different topics in small groups, which were really interesting, gave everyone an opportunity to pick each other's brains, get to meet one another. We had some time over lunch and at the end of the day to socialize and network, and all in all, it was a great day. From the UK and Paris events we do plan to try and release as many of the sessions as we can here on the podcast, so that way you'll have an opportunity to hear more of what was shared in detail. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, stay connected with us at You can sign up for the insider, which will deliver a recap of the latest content to you every other week in your email inbox. We also have three events left in the live tour. We have Minneapolis on June 15th, Dusseldorf June 21st, and Stockholm September 7th. So if you can make it to any of those locations, would love to have you be a part of our community. Events are free to attend for service leaders, and you can view the agendas and register for any of those events on the website. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can Learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

May 24, 2023 | 11 Mins Read

Live Tour 2023: UK Highlights

May 24, 2023 | 11 Mins Read

Live Tour 2023: UK Highlights


Sarah shares a synopsis of the topics discussed at the Future of Field Service Live Tour 2023 stop in Birmingham on May 17th.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of  Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. So we just wrapped the Birmingham Future of Field Service Live Tour event, so our UK event, which is the second of this year, our first event was in Sydney in March. And I realized I did not do a recap podcast for the Sydney event, which is unfortunate, but I'm going to chalk up to the time difference and jet lag and get back to it with the UK event. So this episode is going to be a bit of a recap and some thoughts on some of the key points that came out of this week's UK event. I liked doing these reflection podcasts last year because I thought it was interesting to go back and see what some of the common themes were that came up globally at all of the events.

Hopefully the video, for those of you that are watching this, looks okay and the sound is okay, because I had some travel challenges getting to Europe and ended up not having my luggage. So thankfully I, of course, had my laptop with me in my carryon, but the camera and headphones that I typically use aren't with me, so we'll just make do.

All right, so the UK event, we had a great day of sessions, a combination of interview-based sessions where I welcomed some great speakers to share their stories, their challenges, their lessons learned with the attendees, and then we had time both in the morning and in the afternoon where we broke out into small groups and had some sort of workshop or round table discussions to allow everyone an opportunity to really engage and share some of their own experiences.

The first session we had was with Alec Anderson of Koolmill and Dr. Parikshit Naik of the Advanced Services Group from Aston Business School. The Advanced Services Group, if you aren't familiar, are experts in servitization, and they're actually based in Birmingham, and they work with a variety of companies who are on the servitization or advanced services journey, one of which is Koolmill. Some of you may be familiar with Alec if you listen to the podcast regularly, he was a guest a while back and talked about their journey to servitization, so he shared a bit of that with the audience. Koolmill is in the rice milling industry, and it's quite interesting not only how their equipment is a differentiator, disruptive to the industry in how it is different than traditional milling equipment, but also how the servitization business model, or the as a service model, has been disruptive to the industry.

Some of the things we talked about during that session, one is really how, for companies in manufacturing that have a really deep legacy or history, a lot of times it's the cultural shift, the mindset shift to or around servitization that can be one of the most challenging aspects, or at least one of the earliest challenging aspects, so we talked a bit about that. We of course talked about the different benefits of the ASA service model in Koolmill's example, so we talked about the benefit to the company, we talked about the benefit to its customers, and we talked about the benefit to the environment and how it ties in with sustainability.

We also talked about how companies need to really look at servitization as the continuum that it is and understand that it's not a mission you can embark on and complete quickly, it's something that you really need to plan for over a period of time and really consider the different layers of transition that take place. So the Advanced Services Group is a really good resource in that way because they have a lot of content broken down into what that whole continuum looks like and what some of the biggest considerations are, also some of the most common challenges that organizations make.

So Alec shared some of his own experience, and then Parikshit added to that from the perspective of a lot of the other organizations that the Advanced Services Group works with, and I think really the mindset or the culture shift was a big one, understanding that when you start looking at advanced service offerings, or servitized offerings, you need to realize you're not going to be selling those to the same people that you sold your traditional products and services to, so making sure that you know factor that into your process. Another part of what came up is making sure that you wisely select the first company, or the first couple of companies or customers that you work with on your offering. So how you pilot it, find folks that are a little bit more innovative in their own mindset that you can really partner with to make that offering a success before you start to position it to some of those that are maybe a little bit more skeptical or resistant to change.

So that was the first session. The second session was a conversation with Adam Barrett, who is the Operations Director at Mitie Fire and Security. And Mitie is, like many organizations, facing a lot of challenges related to talent scarcity. They're having a hard time recruiting and retaining field technicians, and they are working on looking at that from the perspective of over the long term, how do they bring more people into the industry, create apprenticeship programs, et cetera. But in the short term, Adam spoke about their need to really focus on maximizing their resource utilization. So they had some pretty inefficient processes in place related to how they scheduled, dispatched, how the technicians ran their daily, weekly, even monthly routes and workload, how information was exchanged, duplication in data entry, and things like that.

So again, it's interesting we tend to think of all of these, what's the latest and greatest things? Everyone wants to know, "How do we use ChatGPT?" But it's important to reflect back and make sure that there aren't some really fundamental inefficiencies taking place in your business, because that can be a really good place to start. So Mitie has deployed the IFS Planning and Scheduling Optimization solution, and Adam of course spoke about the pretty immediate and significant increases in efficiency, reduction in travel, ability to redistribute schedulers and dispatchers, those sorts of things.

But one of the things that I thought was really interesting about his session is he spoke about the impact that planning and scheduling optimization has had on the workforce's emotional wellbeing, and almost from a mental health perspective. He was explaining that the processes that were in place before, there was a lot of, not only a lot of wasted time, which in retrospect was probably quite frustrating for folks, but a lot of back and forth, and sometimes even technicians that would place blame on a scheduler or a dispatcher of, "Well, why would you send me here?" Or, "I don't want to do that job."

And he explained that taking some of that stress away, so taking those one-to-one interactions and opportunity for disagreement away, but also taking away the responsibility on the field technician to really juggle this huge workload where now they're just given one job at a time, it's always the next right job for the overall matrix of their SLAs, et cetera, has really reduced the stress on their employees and also allowed Mitie to give them some flexibility by factoring in to the planning and scheduling optimization solution this employee wants to start their day at this time, this employee wants to make sure that they are back home by this time, the solution can factor all of that in so that they're able to give some flexibility to their employees that has helped with change management.

So if there's an employee that wants to take their kids to school every day and they want to start their day at 9:30, Mitie is very supportive of that and they can factor that into the solution. If there's an employee that wants to be home by a certain time every day, same thing. I thought that was a really interesting and probably under discussed aspect of how we can use that technology to create some value for the employees.

The third speaker that we had was Venkata Reddy Mukku from Bruker Nano. Venkata also was on the podcast not too long ago talking about his commitment to people first leadership, and giving some specifics around how he accomplishes that. So he came to the event to share some of that story with our audience as well. To me it was such an important session because you can tell that there's this divide right now in service organizations where some are really embracing this mentality, they're understanding that we can't only be looking at customer experience, we need to be considering employee experience and making sure that our employees are engaged and satisfied. Not only is that imperative from a recruiting and retention standpoint, but it's truly the only way that we can accomplish the objectives we have to differentiate our business and grow through service.

So there's this group of companies, I think a growing group of companies and leaders, that have recognized that and are working really hard to put actions behind it, and then there's more of an old school group that is still really hanging on to that control type of leadership, how do we ring every last ounce of productivity out of people? Really not looking at people as people, but looking at them as resources or assets, and I think that divide was pretty clear in some of the discussions, at least that I was a part of at the event. And so I think sharing perspectives like Venkata's is so important because I really think he represents a growing group of leaders that are embracing today's realities and really leaning into what modern leadership looks like, and I think the leaders and the organizations that can do that are going to be leaps and bounds ahead of those who are holding onto the way it's always been, so really great session.

Next up was Ged Cranny with Konica Minolta. Jed came to talk about Konica's remote, what they call remote by default mission and how they're putting that in place. So Ged's been with Konica for a long, long time and had a lot of insights to share about how the business has evolved and the necessity for the business in really looking for ways to work smarter. So one of the things we talked about here is this misperception sometimes that when we start talking about remote service, the goal is to move entirely to remote service. With Konica, and with many others, that's not the case, they're not trying to get rid of field service or move to a remote only type of service environment, but they are looking to make sure that they are resolving simple issues remotely, making sure that they're maximizing first time fix, so using remote as a way to make sure that the technician that does need to go on site knows exactly what they're going to do and has any parts, tools, skills that they would need to resolve that issue when they're there.

So really, again, similar to Mitie's stories, taking a lot of those inefficiencies out of the business and just essentially modernizing what their service delivery looks like. So I think it's a journey, Konica is on a journey that a lot of companies either are on or will soon be on, because when you think about the intersection of customer expectations, talent shortages and talent evolution, and the technological capabilities that are quite readily available today, it just doesn't make sense to continue operating in a way where you're going onsite just to triage, and then going back to do a repair, or just not leveraging what's available.

And then the last session of the day was Adam Rodda of Bosch and Russell Masters with Amey, who did a session together with myself on change management. So what are some of the challenges with change management? We know it's important, everyone always says that that's the one area they wish they would've spent more time on, or that's the area where they got off course. If they look back like what's one thing you would do different, change management. But while we know that, it continues to be under prioritized. So we talked a bit about why that is, what some of the challenges are, and we talked about the need to really make employees feel involved, to really listen to employees and take their input and put it to action.

We talked about personalizing the why. We talked about making sure that you are doing pilots and early adopter programs so that you can get some real world input and feedback before you try and roll a solution out to the masses. We talked about leaning into power users and having them help with communicating the change to everyone else. So we talked through those things.

The part of the conversation that stuck out to me the most is really around this idea of we tend to think of, or have historically thought of change management as this project-based or program-based thing. So it's tied to, okay, we have this change coming, we need to make sure we're managing it, and there's this temporary focus put on communicating around that change and getting people to accept it. But in today's landscape, change is really ongoing. It's continuing to amplify, it's continuing to speed up, there's not really a point in sight, or probably in our future, where we're go back to more of a stable or a stagnant type of environment.

So with that being said, I think one of the most important parts of that conversation was around, do we need to stop thinking about it as change management? So stop thinking about it as this temporary thing, or this thing tied to a project, and start thinking more about how the topic itself ties in with leadership and company culture and really a mindset and processes and a culture of agility and flexibility and continual improvement. Because that's really what companies are focusing on today, whether that's through technological innovation, or whether that's through development of their value proposition, it's not really a finish line you're crossing and then taking a break from, it's something that's ongoing. So I think we need to really start redefining how we talk about change and what that looks like within our organizations.

It was a great day, it was at a venue called The Compound in Birmingham, which was a really, really cool space, and big shout out to Joanna Darby and the team that does all of the logistical planning for these events, it was really well put on, I think the attendees enjoyed themselves and enjoyed the ability to take some time away from their daily lives and come together as a community, which is something that I always am happy to see.

So that's a little bit of insight on what happened in our UK event, next up is Paris, and then we have Minneapolis on June 15th, Dusseldorf on June 21st, and Stockholm on September 7th. So if you're able, I hope you'll come and join us for one of the events. If you're not, you can always find content on all of these topics by visiting us at While you're there make sure you sign up for the Future of Field Service INSIDER so that you can get a recap of our content delivered to your inbox every other week. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS, you can learn more by visiting As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

May 17, 2023 | 24 Mins Read

Outcome-Driven Innovation

May 17, 2023 | 24 Mins Read

Outcome-Driven Innovation


Sarah welcomes Tony Ulwick, strategy expert, innovation thought leader, author of Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice and What Customers Want, founder, and CEO at Strategyn, to share why he views innovation as a science.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. We talk a lot on this podcast about outcomes-based service, today we're going to be talking about outcome-driven innovation. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today, Tony Ulwick, who is a strategy expert, innovation thought leader, author of two books, Jobs to Be Done: Theory to Practice, and What Customers Want, as well as the founder and CEO of Strategyn. Tony, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. 

Tony Ulwick: Sarah, thank you so much. I appreciate it. 

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. So anything to add to your bio? Do you want to talk at all about your background, your journey, and any context for folks? 

Tony Ulwick: Sure. I think talking about how I started my interest in innovation is interesting because it came out of necessity. I was working for IBM at the time, this was back in the 1980s, and I was part of a team that was going to change the way people did home computing. It was a bit promising, it's a product called the PC junior. The only problem with it is the day after it was introduced, the headlines in The Wall Street Journal read, "The PC junior is a flop." And it was.  And it got me really wondering about how a company like IBM, with all its vast resources, could invest in something that turned out to be a flop. And the funny thing was, but not funny, the horrible thing was it took us a year to reconcile that it was a flop, pull it from the market. It was a billion dollar failure.  

So we got to be very interested in thinking through, well, how can we avoid this? I didn't realize at the time that this was a problem that existed across every company, I thought it was an isolated incident, but it's not, of course. And I've spent my career working through better ways to innovate and creating an innovation process that would help you conceptualize products that you know are going to win in the market before you start developing them instead of finding out after you launched them that they failed. 

Sarah Nicastro: It's interesting though, a lot of the conversations that I take part in or hear around innovation we talk about the fact that failure is a part of the process. So was it that it was that far along and that big of a failure that you felt some emotion around? Or I guess what are your thoughts on failure being a learning opportunity, not something to completely avoid? 

Tony Ulwick: Well, the way I like looking at it is if you fail, certainly you're going to learn something from it, but why wouldn't you try to avoid failing? I don't believe that innovation has to include failing, because you know what you're trying to do when you're innovating, you're trying to create products that will, in our terms, help people get a job done significantly better. So if you've come up with an idea that doesn't do that, then why would you pursue it? Or if you can prove that the concept that you came up with does get a job done a lot better, well, that's going to give you the confidence of knowing that it's more likely to win in the market. 

So there's some very basic things we could look at here to help avoid failure. One thing I find interesting is even to this day a lot of companies don't consider innovation to be a process, which I find interesting. And of course the innovation success rates are quite low, and it's just assumed that failure is part of this and you can't turn innovation from an art to a science, there's just too many unknowns, there's too many variables that can't be controlled. And this is the thinking I've been through for the last 30 years, what are all those variables that are causing failure and how do you control them? Because if you could, you could turn something that seems random and unpredictable into a scientific process, and that's exactly what we've done. 

Sarah Nicastro: And we're going to obviously talk more about that, but you mentioned the art and science aspects. So to you, is it a combination of both? 

Tony Ulwick: Not really. It's definitely far more science than art, because the way I like thinking about it is once you know exactly where to focus your value creation efforts, in other words, once you know where people are struggling to get a job done very precisely, and once you know that, you can come up with solutions that will address those parts of the job. We rarely... I'd say never, we have never run into a situation where companies say, "We don't have any ideas." People don't say that. They usually say, "We have so many ideas, we don't know which ones to pursue." And so now we're doing idea management and they think about innovation as an idea management exercise. I don't think about it that way. What I think about it is more like a problem solving exercise where people are struggling to get a job done, let's figure out how to help them get it done better. 

So if we know precisely along what dimensions they're struggling, we can focus our creativity on those dimensions and solve them. A quick example, we've worked with Bosch helping them enter a North American market, and once we identified the top 14 unmet needs in the marketplace, it took them just three hours to conceptualize a new circular saw that addressed all those unmet needs. And as they said, "Well, it's not as if we hadn't had these ideas before. The problem is we've had thousands of ideas before. We just didn't know that these 14 in this combination was the magic win." 

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So I want to go back. I feel like I jumped over my first question. So let's go back there before we go ahead, because I always have other things come to mind and I'll get us off track. So let's start with making the decision to focus on innovation. So can you talk a little bit about if an organization, if a company wants to focus on innovation, what's necessary to do so in terms of mindset, leadership, any of the factors? 

Tony Ulwick: As we often say, to be great at innovation, you need a great innovation process. This is true of any business discipline. If you want to be great at lead generation, you need a great lead generation process. You could run that. I think there's 140 some odd business processes that are common, it's true of everyone, which means you have to treat innovation as a process. Again, as I mentioned earlier, half the population believes innovation isn't a process. Well, that's problematic. So if you think it isn't, then you're not really going to work very hard to try to turn it into something that's filled with discipline. So the first step in taking on innovation is to recognize that it is a process, and that often requires a different mindset. The mindset shift is generally a shift from a solutions first orientation to a problems first orientation. So a lot of people that believe innovation is not a process, believe that innovation begins with ideas. 

And then you take those ideas, you go prototype them, test them, get feedback from customers, iterate on the product, go retest, and you go through this iterative process until hopefully eventually the product that you've come up with addresses the customer's needs to the degree that they want the product. Well, that is a very, very expensive way to learn customer needs. The other approach is a problems first or a needs first approach where the goal is to understand the job the customer's trying to get done, break it down into its component parts, understand how they measure success along each step of the way, and figure out where are they underserved in getting the job done. All this can be done with precision. And as I mentioned, if you know the top 14 or 15 or 20 unmet needs in your market, then you can focus on them very specifically and help come up with a solution that helps people get the job done a lot better. 

So I think just that mindset shift and knowing that that's possible is the first step. I'd say the second step is then getting everyone on board with an innovation process that aligns people and the organization. So everybody can be rowing in the same direction, focused on value creation, and so they're not debating what market they're in or who their customer is or what a customer need is, but if they agree on all that, then they can sit and debate what is the best solution for my customer to solve that particular problem. So it's a transformation, you're shifting a mindset where people don't agree on what a need is to the entire organization agrees on what the needs are which you're unmet, and now we're debating the best solutions. That's where you want to get the organization. 

So I should mention, Sarah, we've done a lot of research on these very specific questions, and we find that in over 80% of product teams, they don't agree on the best way to define a market. They define a market as a product or a technology or a geography or a vertical or a persona or a use case or so on. Over 90% of product teams don't agree on what a customer need even is. Is it an exciter, a delighter, a feature, a value driver, a specification, a requirement, a pain, a gain? And we've heard all these terms used interchangeably as if any input into this process is going to yield a great result, and of course that's not true. 

We know that over 80% of product teams don't agree on the best way to segment markets. So they segment generally around personas, use cases, demographics, psychographics, attitudes, and these are all done as proxies for segmenting around unmet needs, because the goal of segmenting is to find groups of people with different unmet needs, but companies don't segment around unmet needs because they can't agree on what a need is. So it's this combination of factors that's causing companies to go off track. So if you could align your organization around a common language of what a market is and what a need is, so you have a common language of innovation in a process that leverages that insight into something more predictable, that is half the battle. 

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So we're talking about the how of innovation, when we think about what are the best areas of opportunity for any given company, what is the advice you would give someone on how to find the areas of innovation that will yield the best results for their business? 

Tony Ulwick: And that's a great question. Not only do you want them to yield the best results, but they have to be within their capability set as well. So there's two things happening here. You want to figure out where's the customer underserved in areas that we can address? That's more or less the question you're trying to answer. And to figure out where they're underserved, that is where the outcome-driven innovation process comes into play. And again, I've alluded to identifying the precise underserved needs associated with getting a job done, focusing on those, of course, that lays out what I'd like calling the most efficient path to growth in problem space. So in other words, here's my opportunities in priority order, in problem space, but I may not be able to solve them in that order because I may not have the capability to address that top need or this other need or so on, so you're going to have to come up with solutions that you can address that will put you on the most efficient path to growth from a solution perspective. 

But there are some general rules of them that we follow that lay out the best ways to grow, and it's always growing from the core, because this is where you have the greatest set of capabilities. So most products get only part of a job done. You could be a kettle maker, for example, and a kettle's used heat water to a desired temperature, but people are using a kettle to maybe prepare a hot beverage for consumption. It's part of a bigger job. So the market isn't the kettle market. The market is a group of people who are trying to prepare a hot beverage for consumption. So if you take that as an example, you can grow from the core. You can say, "Okay, I'm a kettle maker today and I can focus on heating water to the right temperature better than anybody else." And that's a good starting point. Take your core, take the thing that you're doing, and do it exceptionally well. In other words, satisfy all the unmet needs associated with getting water to the right temperature. 

Once you've accomplished that, you can look adjacent. You can say, "Well, what's the step that comes before heating water to the right temperature, and what is the step right after we've heated the water to the right temperature?" And say, "Well, can I get more of the job done?" These appear to be adjacent markets, but they're really part of the market as the way the customer defines it, because they're trying to create a hot beverage for consumption. And then, of course, if you can get the entire job done on a single platform, that is the next expansion to growth. And it's often common to see a kettle maker, for example, get disrupted by a company that gets the entire job done, like Keurig or Nespresso, where they have their machines that get the entire job done in a single platform. 

But you can see that trajectory coming years away. 20 years ago, you could sit there and know that, well, people are heating water, but they're trying to create a hot beverage for consumption, and you could envision the solution to the future and figure out, well, how are we going to get there step by step over time? So that's more or less the formula I like thinking about that works really in every company, that's the most efficient path to growth for me, problem perspective and from a solution perspective. 

Sarah Nicastro: Can you talk a little bit more about the outcome-driven innovation methodology? 

Tony Ulwick: Sure. So the approach is broken into five steps. The first step is to define a market, but not as a technology or a product or a use case or persona. We're going to define the market as the group of people trying to get a job done. So it could be consumers who are trying to prepare a hot beverage for consumption. Sounds simple enough, but oddly enough, it isn't. A lot of companies don't want to define the market around a group of people getting a job done. They'd rather define it around a geography or a persona or a use case and so on. So if you have that debate within an organization and people can't agree on what market they're in, it's going to be hard to go take the next step in the ODI process, which is to uncover the customer's needs. 

Now here we're going to define needs a little different. We know people are getting a job done, so we can break that job down into steps and figure out how do people measure success along each step of the way. So in the case of the kettle maker, minimize the time it takes to get the water heated to the exact temperature, minimize the likelihood that it cools quicker than it should cool, minimize the likelihood of overheating it to make it too hot. Now, there's very specific metrics that you can use to make sure you're getting that part of the job done perfectly, we call those statements the customers desired outcomes. They're solution independent, so they're not tied to a product, they're stable over time as the job is stable over time, they're unambiguous, they're knowable and discoverable. There's no such thing as a latent outcome, because we often talk about latent needs. 

We say, "Customers don't have latent needs. They only have latent solutions." They can't envision a microwave, they can't envision the automobile when they're riding horses, you've heard all those arguments, but they do know what they're trying to accomplish. Those jobs stay stable over time. So focusing on outcomes from that perspective gives us a long term focal point and a value map for, or a map of value creation, I should say. The third step is then to figure out, well, which of these needs are unmet? And to do that, we put surveys together that go out to some portion of the population, it may be 1200 or so consumers of kettles, or Keurig machines, and we would ask them to tell us how important is each of those outcomes and how satisfied are you with your ability to achieve the outcome given the solution that you're using today? So what we're looking for quite specifically is where are they struggling in the job given the solution they're using. 

And we can plot this out mathematically. So we've created what we call the opportunity algorithm that takes the importance of the outcome and then subtracts the importance minus the satisfaction. And so if a need, an outcome is really important to most of the population, but most of the population is dissatisfied with it, well, then we would say that's an unmet need, so we can figure out which needs are unmet and to what degree. And with that, then we can focus on the needs that are most underserved in a market. The next step, which is extremely important, is to recognize that in most markets people don't agree on which needs are unmet. This goes back to marketing 101, there are always segments of people with different unmet needs. It's true, we've proven it over and over again. Having said that, how do you discover those segments? Again, by segmenting around personas, or use cases, or demographics, psychographics, attitudes, behaviors, they're all proxies for doing what you should do, which is to segment around the unmet needs. 

So once we know what these needs are, maybe half the population wants to minimize the time it takes to get the water heated to the right temperature, and they're unsatisfied with that. Maybe the other half says, "I want to minimize the likelihood of exceeding that temperature and getting it too hot." People disagree on what's important and unsatisfied. So you'd want to know that so that you can create products or maybe different products for different segments that will satisfy their unique unmet needs. Again, it's marketing 101. It's just hard to do in practice. 

And then the final step is to take that information and build out your strategy. The first step of that is what we call the innovation strategy, which is picking what segments do we go after and which element needs to be targeted. In that Bosch example I mentioned much earlier, there was one segment that had 14 unmet needs in the market, and that's where Bosch focused its attention. They said, "In order for us to win and differentiate against DeWalt and Makita, we're going to go after that segment, address those 14 unmet needs, and position in this matter." Then comes to product strategy. How do you do it? I know what I'm going to go target, I know what segment I'm going after, what features do I have to have on my product? And it could be hardware features, it could be service features, it could be software features that can come to bear to help customers get the job done better. 

And in the end, what you've done is you've created a solution that you know is going to win in the market. And how is that? Well, because the feature set that you've generated is tied to a set of needs, and you know those needs are the most unmet needs in the market because you've done all that research, and you know that by satisfying those needs, you're going to get the job done significantly better. And we have a threshold too. We say, "If you can get the job done, about 15% better or more, that's the tipping point." 

Now, if you come up with a product that just satisfies one unmet need a little bit better, nobody cares. Would you switch from your favorite brand of anything if a new brand got a job done 1% better or 2% better? And the answer's generally no. So if you can reach that threshold, that's the tipping point. And the trick, of course, is if there are 14 unmet needs in a market like Bosch discovered, the question isn't how many of those needs do we address, the question is how do we address all those unmet needs so we can make a big difference? 

And I think it's that mindset shift that makes a difference as well. A lot of companies stumble along and have to go through incremental improvements, product iteration after product iteration as they discover one or two unmet needs, but to the customer they're never getting the job done a lot better, so they can't go with an upcharge in their price and execute on a differentiated strategy. They're stuck more in a sustaining strategy, adding features, maybe even adding costs, but not really increasing their profits. So that's a dangerous position to be in, and you can overcome that by understanding all the unmet needs in a market upfront and going after quite a number of them. So you're looking like you're creating a breakthrough solution, it's a radical solution compared to what existed before, because it's gotten the job done so much better. 

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Now, you mentioned earlier the difference between innovation and I think you said idea management, and so we talked about how sometimes these innovative ideas pick up a bit of momentum, but then get to a certain point and just fizzle out. So for companies that are looking at ways to innovate within an existing business, our audience, like I said, is typically looking for ways to evolve and transform from a service perspective, what is the trick to taking those ideas and really getting them to scale, and have an impact on the business? 

Tony Ulwick: Well, you're assuming they're good ideas, but when you're going down this idea management path as your approach to innovation, generally there's not just two or three ideas, there's thousands or at least hundreds of ideas, and somebody's responsible for evaluating them. So how would you even evaluate an idea? So the first thing you'd do is you'd say, "Well, is that idea in a market that I want to be in?" That's how we approach it. We'd say, "If that idea is addressing a group of people trying to get some job done, who's that group of people? What is the job they're trying to get done? Do we want to play there?" So that's the first test. Assuming the answer is yes, then you'd take the next step and say, "Are people underserved in getting that job done? And can we help them get the job done better? Do we believe we can't? Do we have the capabilities?" 

If the answer is no, then you don't want to go play there. If the answer is yes, then you go to the next step. The next step then is investing in understanding what are the unmet needs in that space. And as I've described the ODI process, figure out precisely where the customers underserved, so you can come up with solutions that will address getting the job done significantly better. Now, it may be that the original idea that you had really does the trick and it gets the job done a lot better, or it may be that it's getting part of the job done well and that you need to enhance it so you build on that idea so it turns into something that will get the job than 15% better or more. 

But what we're doing here is we're trying to move this ideas first mindset into a market first mindset. In other words, don't start by saying, "Hey, I have a thousand," or I think in Bosch case it was 10,000 ideas. I know IBM at one point had an ideas database of 100,000 ideas in it. What do you do with all that? So what you'd rather do as management in an organization, instead of saying, "Everybody have lots of ideas and we'll figure out which are good," what you want to do is say, "We want to go after this group of people who are trying to get this job done, and here are all their unmet needs." Now, organization, go out, figure out ways to satisfy those needs, and we can be successful in those markets, that's how it should work. And so organizations who are becoming outcome driven follow that kind of thinking, pick the markets that you know are attractive, that way you you're playing in the right ballpark. Where to play, ODI helps figure out how to play to win, and then you can go on to be successful from there. 

Sarah Nicastro: So the piece about identifying the unmet needs makes perfect sense. What I'm wondering though is a little bit more about the process of... Let's take the Bosch example. So with Bosch, they had this group of people for whom shared this 14 unmet needs, and they decided that was a good fit for them strategically to go after. So what happens then from that decision to keep them on track through execution? 

Tony Ulwick: That's a great point because teams can easily get derailed once they start developing products and go off track. I think the beauty of having a set of metrics like these outcomes that we talk about to guide your decision making process and the trade-off decisions that you make through development are absolutely critical. Like in the case of Bosch, people are trying to minimize the likelihood that debris flows up in their eyes when they're making a lengthy cut, or they're trying to minimize the likelihood that the extension cord gets caught on the piece of plywood as they're leaning over, making a cut. There's very specific things. So if you know those are the metrics, that helps guide you even in development, so all the way through launch. So you can conceptualize the product up front that you know is going to win, but it's only going to win if it satisfies those outcomes. 

So it's often the case that when we go into development, we turn the concept into a product specification or product requirement that gets acted on with this added information, and we can even add to it, minimize the likelihood of the debris flying up in the user's face. Well, what is the likelihood of that happening? Is it 100%? Does it always happen? Does it happen half the time? And you can quite literally measure it. Engineers can set up an experiment and say, "It used to take this amount of time to go to get this part of the job done, and now it takes this much time. We've made progress. It's measurable." 

Sarah Nicastro: I guess I'm trying to think through this in the service context and a service example, because obviously a lot of that is far more intangible than product specifications and some of those types of measurements. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that. 

Tony Ulwick: Sure. So let me give you an example. We worked with an agriculture firm that made seeds and fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, a bunch of products, and we studied the job of growing a crop. That's what growers do, they grow crops. And we studied that job from beginning to end, understood all the metrics they used to measure success when getting that job done in a solution agnostic way. When we were done, there were about 50 of the 150 outcomes that related to service-oriented solutions, they had nothing to do with pesticides and herbicides, they were really more along the line of getting help at the right time, or having things show up at the right time, or things like that, that can't really be solved from a hardware standpoint, they can only be solved from a service standpoint. But they also discovered another 40 or so outcomes that related to information flow, which lent itself to software solutions or digitalization as it became digitalized farming. There are many outcomes that growers were underserved with because they didn't have the right information at the right time. 

And then, of course, a whole bunch of needs related to the hardware products that they already made as well. So by studying the job at that broad level, from the customer's perspective, it takes you out of that mindset as to whether or not you're a hardware company, a software company, a service company, you're a company that's going to help people get the entire job done. The entire job generally requires all three types of solutions, some hardware solutions, some software solutions, some service, not always, but you should think along all those fronts. Most hardware companies certainly can find opportunities to find underserved outcomes that could only be solved by services or by software, so it's great for them to move in that direction. A lot of software companies don't like moving into service or hardware because it's much more complicated, lower margins impact, valuation, all that type of stuff. But generally, it makes good sense for a hardware company to go into services and to go into software even, because it can help with their growth and valuation. 

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. So we've talked through a couple, but if we think about what are the most common mistakes you see companies make, and what's your advice to avoid those? What comes to mind? 

Tony Ulwick: The biggest mistake is failing to recognize that innovation is a process and that it can't be turned into a science. The biggest mistake is thinking that it's impossible to hand over a set of needs to a product team that are complete, that points out precisely where the customer's underserved. I think companies are still on this ideas first mindset and struggle to break out of it, and it's pervasive. Like I said, if half the companies believe that innovation isn't a process, or those that do believe it is a process think it's all about ideas management as opposed to uncovering needs and discovering solutions that address them, that's the biggest mistake. 

And that's where the mindset shift has to come into play. And we've been at this for 30 years, we've certainly changed some minds over the years, people see that this works, it intuitively makes a heck a lot more sense, but behaviorally it's very hard to change the way people want to approach this, because it's really fun having ideas and getting people to rally behind your idea, and seeing it get developed, seeing it come to market, all that is super fun, but it's not much fun when it fails. And I think if we start with the end in mind and know that we are creating solutions to help people get a job done better, we can prove to ourselves that the idea that we had will get the job done a lot better before we start developing it so we don't have the IBM PC junior mistakes. 

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. Tony, tell everyone where they can find more information on you, the books, and the work that you do. 

Tony Ulwick: Sure. So our homepage is, it's strategy with an N on the end of it. That is one location. You can contact me directly at And there are two free books available as well. Well, it's the same book. It's available as a ebook and as an audiobook, and that can be found that with all hyphens, jobs, hyphen, to, you get the idea. So that's available there for free download, and that should set you on your journey to develop a new mindset about innovation. 

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. All right. Well, Tony, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your insights with us. I appreciate it. 

Tony Ulwick: Sarah, thanks so much for the opportunity. I appreciate it as well. 

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. 

Tony Ulwick: Thank you. 

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks. You can learn more and find more at While you're there, be sure to take a look and sign up for the Future of Field Service Insider. Also have a look at the Future of Field Service live tour dates, and be sure to register for the event nearest to you. You can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter. And the Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening. 

Most Recent

May 10, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

3 Ways Remote Capabilities Are Significantly Changing Service

May 10, 2023 | 32 Mins Read

3 Ways Remote Capabilities Are Significantly Changing Service


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

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

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

Steve Goulbourne: Absolutely.

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

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

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

Steve Goulbourne: Look forward to it.

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

Most Recent

May 3, 2023 | 15 Mins Read

Thoughts on Field Service Palm Springs 2023

May 3, 2023 | 15 Mins Read

Thoughts on Field Service Palm Springs 2023


Sarah shares her observations from the 20th anniversary of Field Service Palm Springs, which she attended last week. She also summarizes the “5 Lessons We’ve Learned in the Last 20 Years That Will Help Forge the Future of Service” that she presented in her keynote.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. So this week, I was at Field Service Palm Springs. I wanted to record this onsite, but I ran out of time and you can tell by my heavy sweater that I'm back in Pennsylvania. But it was the 20th anniversary of the Field Service events, and I'm sure some of you that listen have attended before. They have Field Service Palm Springs, a Field Service East event, which typically used to be in Amelia Island, last year was in Hilton Head. There's Field Service Europe, and then they have a series of Field Service Connect events in different areas. And so it was the 20th anniversary. I was asked a couple of times and was racking my brain to try and remember what was the first year I attended. I'm thinking it had to be 2009 or 2010, I certainly don't remember for sure, but it's been quite a long time.

And when I first attended the event I was typically one of two, maybe three, women at the entire conference. So that's certainly something that sticks with me because I remember, and I shared this a bit this week, the first presentation I ever gave, and it was horrible. It was horrible. I was very nervous and certainly some of those nerves came from being in a room where I was the minority. So we've come a long, long way. The attendance this year was really good and certainly consisted of a lot more diversity. So there's a long way to go. We're not where we need to be, but one of my observations was just looking around and thinking about how much that aspect has changed in the time that I've been attending.

I really enjoy this event every year, not only because it's in a beautiful setting in Palm Desert, which is nice to look at out of the windows, you're not spending a whole lot of time enjoying it per se, but it's a really nice backdrop. But there are people in this industry that I have now seen year after year for over a decade, and it's given me an opportunity to build some really great relationships. And it's always nice to see those people and have a chance to catch up. And it's also nice to have an opportunity to meet new people every year. So it's a great event, and the attendance was good this year, the energy was good, and I think it was a really great 20 year celebration for WBR and the team that puts the Field Service events on.

When I think about the progress the industry has made, it was representative to me in the diversity in attendees. Now, if someone from outside of our industry walked into the event, I'm not by any means saying they would take note of how diverse the crowd is. We're not necessarily that far, but comparatively speaking, I guess is my point. The other thing in terms of progress though that stood out to me is the topics being covered. So this year it felt like there were a lot more conversations related to leadership, to employee engagement and company culture. And those things to me show that service is becoming less of a silo and more a foundational aspect of the business because when service is or was a silo, it's easy to just focus on more of the operational things, and that's what this event used to be primarily about.

But as service becomes perceived as more of a path to growth, those other aspects start making a bigger and bigger difference because the responsibilities you're giving to your team are different. The, not ability, the responsibility you have to create a culture where innovation can thrive becomes a consideration. Obviously, there's a lot of conversations about talent. And I think that's not only because companies are struggling to find talent, but also because the type of employee field service organizations want today is different than it used to be. They want people that are more self-starters, more entrepreneurial in spirit, more empowered, more creative, and that's something that just demands some of these other changes when we think about leadership and things like that. So I really enjoyed hearing about that.

There was a session on the first day of the event from Darren Elmore of RICOH, and that session was primarily about how they are incorporating a remote first service approach, which I'm hoping to have him on the podcast to talk about. But he also talked about five essentially excuses that companies use to not innovate. And I shared a recap of that in our article on Monday. And I really liked that portion of his presentation even on its own before he got into their journey with remote service, because that's where we are. We're not necessarily talking as much about how do we incrementally improve. We're talking about how do we innovate and how do we evolve to what the next generation of service and field service will look like. So I love that. On day two, I think, yeah, day two, Charles Hughes with High Wire gave a presentation on the realities of employee burnout and the responsibility leaders have in creating better work-life balance for their teams and for themselves.

I thought it was a great session, and I also think the fact that a topic like that is on the agenda is just representative to me of progress and evolution in the space. Josh Zolin was at the event, so Josh was on the podcast before, I should have looked up the episode number. He wrote the book, Blue is the New White, he is the CEO of Windy City Equipment, and he took over his family business and he is a huge advocate and evangelist for the skilled trades. And he gave a very powerful presentation on day three talking about how we use stories to paint a better, sometimes a different, sometimes just a picture, to people about the opportunity for careers that services represents. So that was, I think, a really great session as well. So there was some great things that took place, and I gave a very short keynote presentation on day two.

I took the opportunity with the 20th anniversary theme to talk about if I were to step back and look at my observations in the time that I've been in this industry, what are the five macro lessons from the last 20 years? So really we'll say 15 years. I haven't quite been in this space 20 years, but what are the five lessons that we have learned that will really need to remain top of mind as we forge the future of service? So for those of you that weren't able to be at the event, I thought I would go through what I shared and share some of that with you. So going back to Josh Zolin's point on day three about the power of stories, I mean, I talk about that a lot. For those of you that listen to this podcast with any regularity, that is really the premise of this podcast. It's sharing the stories of service leaders, what's on their mind, what are they working toward, what are they grappling with, what lessons have they learned, et cetera.

And I think the fact that I am in a position to hear those stories, day in and day out, over a really significant amount of time at this point, because it's stories they stick in my mind. And so there's a quote, "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten." It's Rudyard Kipling, and I really, really like that quote and like Josh, I am a big believer in the power of storytelling. And so when I think about reflecting on the years I've been in this space and what were these macro lessons that stood out, I'm sort of consolidating a lot of different stories to present to an audience about what are those core themes. And the reason that I can pull those together is because there's a lot of different stories that stand out that really illustrate some of these points. So let me share with you the five lessons. So the first one is service is a path to brand differentiation and revenue growth.

So I'm sure to some folks, that sounds very obvious, but when I started in this space, that was not an obvious statement at all. Service was perceived as a cost center. All services that I was talking with folks about were very transactional. The revenue model put a lot of focus on speed and efficiency versus value or customer experience, which meant that the workforce, the emphasis was really on productivity and technical skill versus things like soft skills and the customer journey, things like that. So it's one of the most fundamental shifts that I've witnessed in my time in this space, this recognition that service holds so much power in terms of our brand identity. It really is an ability to differentiate your business and a path to grow revenue. And I think most organizations that I speak with today have learned that lesson. They've had that recognition.

However, I think when it comes to taking that lesson and turning it into capitalizing on that potential, there's just still a lot that can be done. So there's so much more opportunity for organizations to put a focus on service, to use it, to create that brand experience and that differentiation, to move toward outcomes-based models, to leverage technology that exists today to be more predictive and to really transform the value proposition that they offer to customers, which can lead to new types of digitally focused and digitally driven offerings. It can lead to new lead to new service models and new revenue models. I think there's still a huge amount of opportunity for co-innovation with customers.

So it's a lesson that I think most have learned, but one that we need to keep thinking about because the potential that exists, the potential that this lesson could teach us, is only limited by the restrictions a company puts on itself. So that was the first one. The second one is the frontline worker is a powerful position. So tied very closely to the first, but here's where I think in terms of the continuum, the recognition of service as a path to differentiation came first. The recognition of the role the frontline workforce plays in doing that came after and for some, is still a work in progress. So historically, employees were viewed as assets, and the focus within organizations was more so on controlling them, getting them to comply with whatever change was happening, getting them to execute on the job that the company wanted them to do.

There wasn't a whole lot of acknowledgement between that correlation between the employee experience and the customer experience. And again, I said this before, there was more focus on technical aptitude versus the incorporation of soft skills and how that changes the customer relationship. So when you think about that evolution combined with the challenges companies face today around talent, this is an area where we really, really need to be thinking about that frontline worker is a very powerful person in terms of our customer experience and our brand identity. So what does that mean in terms of what that role looks like, what their experience looks like, how we treat them, all sorts of things. So we know that we can't exceed in our goals for service growth without the frontline. And as our service delivery evolves, the frontline must evolve with it. And the way that we treat our frontline workforce, the way that we leverage that position, the way that we empower them, et cetera, has to change as well.

I think a big part of that is moving beyond that inclination to want to control, and instead focus on what it takes to empower those workers and create more of a sense of ownership. So that is number two. Number three is technology when applied well is a great enabler. So this is obviously another very clear lesson we've learned. However, the point I talked about here is that, again, if you look back to when I started, a lot of the interviews I did were companies moving from actual paper to their first generation of a field service management solution. I would say that's very, very rare today. Most companies have been through that evolution, and they're now moving to their second generation, third generation and beyond of their service management systems. The technology though, has come a long, long way in terms of the sophistication and the functionality and the capabilities that exist. I mean, it really is impressive what technologically speaking, is possible today. I think what is happening is that a lot of the organizations are catching up to being able to use the capabilities that exist today.

So I think as organizations, there's a lot of layers of change that come in to digital transformation. And so I think we're at a place where really the technology providers are a bit further ahead than, not all, but some of the organizations in terms of really putting the internal change in place, refining workflows, all of those different things, to make sure that they have a good really well working foundational service management solution in place before they start to look for ways to augment that. So when you think about some of the more advanced capabilities that are in use today, augmented reality, machine learning, AI, all of those things, they all have very attainable practical applications for businesses today. And you see certainly some organizations that are ready to leverage those capabilities and are doing so with incredible success. When I look at the industry as a whole, I think there are also a lot of organizations that are catching up to being able to put those tools in place and really leverage them to their full capacity.

So there's been a lot of change, and certainly there's a lot of variety from business to business on where people stand. But there's just this idea that the technology has changed so much that some organizations are still trying to move beyond maybe a first or second gen solution to a more modern solution that's fully functional based on today's standards, and then leverage some of the more sophisticated capabilities. The companies that try and rush through that foundational step and they're on maybe an outdated or a poorly deployed foundational system, and then just try and layer in these new capabilities, tend to see issues in doing so. So it's just one of those things where it is a great enabler. It's not only a great enabler, I mean it's really, really just a necessity for today's businesses. It just needs to be handled in a way that aligns with business objectives.

So that was number three. Number four, the most successful companies change before they have to. I skipped ahead of myself. I guess going back to the technology point, the main point I wanted to make is that while there are so many powerful capabilities that exist today, they're only as powerful as an organization's ability to manage change. So I guess that's the conclusion of what I was trying to say. The companies that have gone through the school of hard knocks in managing change and coming up with a good way to do that, they're a bit ahead in being able to implement some of the more advanced technologies today. There are other companies that are still working on managing that change well so that they can leverage everything that exists today. So all right, onto lesson four. The most successful companies change before they have to.

So again, when I came into this space, things were really stable, maybe even a bit stagnant, and then things started to progress at a far slower pace than we've seen in recent years, but we started to see changes in our consumer lives from a technology standpoint. We had the introduction of the iPhone and Amazon and all of these different things that really started to put pressure on customer expectations across any industry, even those that are not really consumer centric. And so digital transformation has changed our ability to have always on constant real-time communication across the organization and with our customers. And that has just snowballed the amount of change that has taken place. Of course in the last couple of years, we've had a whole lot of other things that have forced organizations into other degrees of change, and the reality is it really isn't slowing down.

It's only getting faster. So there are companies that embrace that reality and have reconciled the fact that they need to be a lot more flexible, nimble, agile in how they work. And there are some who are still maybe looking back with longing on what was 15 or 20 years ago. So I think the message here is, you don't want to be forced to change. You want to be making the decision to do so before it becomes a necessity. Again, Darren Elmore from Rico had a great message within his session that I shared some of in Monday's article, but this idea that you want to do the disrupting, you don't want to be disrupted. And I think complacency is really at odds with creating competitive advantage. So we need to get comfortable with that reality. We need to be thinking outside of the box, looking outside of our own industry for inspiration and information and really thinking about from a company culture and leadership perspective, what are we doing to create a culture of innovation and eliminate fear of risk or fear of failure.

So I think that's a big opportunity for the industry going forward. Number five, we must prioritize people first and profits will follow. Again, when I started out, this was all very cost center conversation. It was very just like I said, employees as assets. It was very cut, cut, cut, minimize, et cetera. And that maybe worked for the place that businesses were in then. But today, with the opportunity for service as an opportunity to differentiate and to grow, we need to think a bit differently about how we juggle that or how we strike the balance and how we think about not just short-term objectives or the quarterly goals, but the big picture. This is true in how we treat our customers as people and how we focus on building better relationships with them and understanding their needs, to a degree where we can innovate from the outside in. And it's certainly incredibly important when we think about how we engage with our employees, our talent, our people internally. So I'm not saying this in the sense of profits don't matter, numbers don't matter.

They absolutely do. I just think that the companies who are focused solely on that are taking a very shortsighted approach. And I think that there is a lot of ties in with this lesson to the realities of what's important to attracting, attaining, and retaining talent today, what customers value from the companies they do business with in terms of its authenticity, it's commitment to them and to its people, et cetera. So I think this is a big trend going forward as well. And again, how that ties back to company culture, individual leaders, et cetera, will be really interesting to watch. There's another quote I shared that says, "The purpose of knowledge is action, not knowledge." So I think there are certain situations where these are lessons that have been learned, but maybe not applied as much as they can be. So that's why I wanted to reflect back on some of them because I think they're not only representative of the biggest changes I've seen, not only attending this particular event year over year, but just thinking back on all of the conversations I have and all of the things that I've witnessed.

They're representative of that change, but they're also really five of the keys to unlocking the potential that exists as we move ahead. So that's what I shared in a much faster manner, by the way, at the event, and I hope that you can take some value from that as well. So it was a great event. If you haven't had a chance to read Monday's article that talked about some of the points from Darren Elmore's session related to embracing innovation, please have a look at that and stay tuned. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity in the coming months to get some of the folks that I connected with at the event to come here and share their stories with you firsthand. So that's it for now. You can find more at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insider so that you don't miss any of our weekly articles or podcasts.

Also, make sure you take a look at the live tour schedule. We have events coming up in Birmingham UK on May 17th, Paris on May 24th, Minneapolis on June 15th. Yes, June 15th. Dusseldorf, June 21st, and Stockholm, September 7th. So if you are near any of those areas and would like to come and join us for a day of conversation and connection, I would love to see you. All of the events are free to attend. You can register for the location nearest to you on the website, so As always, the Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at Thank you for listening.

Most Recent

April 26, 2023 | 25 Mins Read

How to Fortify Your Service Business Amid Economic Turmoil

April 26, 2023 | 25 Mins Read

How to Fortify Your Service Business Amid Economic Turmoil


In a session from Future of Field Service Sydney, Sarah talks with Jordan Argiriou, Director, Service Solutions APEC at QIAGEN about how the company is channeling its service focus to navigate current economic conditions.

Sarah Nicastro: So what we're going to talk about is some concepts around customer centricity and this idea that right now everyone is facing some sort of economic realities, turmoil, et cetera. And so I mentioned earlier that historically, service was seen as this cost center where it would be like, "Okay, well where can we cut? We'll cut here." And I think companies with the recognition that it is a profit center need to find ways to be cost conscious without it negatively impacting the employee experience or the customer experience. So we're going to kind of talk about some of those elements a bit. But before we do that, tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your role and Qiagen.

Jordan Argiriou: Sure. Hey, so I'm Jordan Argiriou, as everyone can see. I'll start with the personal side. I'm married, a father of three beautiful kids. That's the gray in my beard, everyone I think can all relate.

Sarah Nicastro: There's barely any, so they must be well-behaved.

Jordan Argiriou: No, it's true. They're not too bad. I've worked, initially started out as a service technician slash engineer, and that was with an Australian company, very small. Moved across to a company called Biolab, which some people may recognize in the room. Quite a large Australian company for biotechnology and within that space. Biolab was then acquired by Thermo Fisher. So I was there approximately 10 years. And now with Qiagen. So started off as the Australian Head of Field Service, or Australian New Zealand Head of Field Service. And now I look after service for APEC. So Director of Service for APEC.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. Okay.

Jordan Argiriou: And been with Qiagen 10 years this year.

Sarah Nicastro: Now would everyone here be familiar with Qiagen

Jordan Argiriou: I don't know. Is anyone here familiar with Qiagen?

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. This, yeah, so maybe talk just a little bit about what the company does.

Jordan Argiriou: So we are a leader in biotechnology, again. Molecular testing, research from the life science academia side, clinical testing. Something that people may be familiar with, quite obviously, is COVID testing. So we have the robotics, the instruments, the kits, the consumables. So end-to-end, sample to insight, a solution for the customers.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So when we're facing economic turmoil, I think this gut reaction can be to look internally immediately and start looking for, "Okay, where can we cut? How can we cut," et cetera. Let's talk about how there's another way to do this, which is Qiagen's approach has really been to look externally and to use this as an opportunity to connect with customers more deeply in a different way and do a lot more listening. So tell us a little bit about this idea of resisting that urge to just cut, cut and to really take that conversation externally first and learn what customers' changing needs are.

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah. I mean, look, and I think we're all facing the same challenge. We heard it with the round table discussion. The post COVID effect of having to do things very differently versus what we traditionally did, is obviously still in effect somewhat today. And it's going to continue because it's something that we've now become quite accustomed to and we've adapted to and we've changed, the whole world's changed in how we're working.

However, I think we all do a lot of listening. Through, across the whole service industry. Again, from your presentation this morning, from the discussion, there is a lot of listening going on as to what the customer needs, wants, would like to see for the future. I think what we've done differently or what we have done differently is assemble teams internally. So both actively listening, actively surveying customers, asking them what they want. We all do that. That's traditional.

What we've done now is to put together teams globally from very different diverse backgrounds that wouldn't typically be on that sort of team and ask them to create a solution for the customers. Also, in conjunction with that, asking the customers to be part of that pilot, trying it out. The advantage we have here in APEC is that we work with a broad range of markets. So we have some that are very, I guess still emerging and in their infancy, where we have the country we're sitting in today of Australia where it's quite a mature market. So we have a good stretch between the two to know, "Okay, this is working there, it could work here." Something that we might overlook in Australia by saying, this is what's always worked or this is what traditionally works in the mature market. We may be able to adopt something, an idea from an emerging market that we could implement here today.

And that's what we've done in terms of listening to the customer. So it's continuous improvement. And that's again, normal for most industries that we're looking at here today. However, adding that extra component of the internal people saying, "Okay, this is what we know works, but what else could we do?" Again, specifically Australia has a lot of good best practice that we could adopt in the emerging. However, they have a lot of new technology that they might adopt quite quickly that we would be more, "Let's analyze it, let's test it, let's look at it. So that's working today for us."

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now, do you have any examples of... with the customer listening you do, and the way that you've built those teams internally, like new offerings that have come out of that? So we saw this during COVID, and there's different industry examples. So for instance, there's a company that we work with in the restaurant industry. Well, restaurants were closed. So at a maximum they were doing some volume of takeout business, but a lot of them were shut down. And so obviously if your livelihood is servicing that equipment, there can be some panic. But they look for ways to help introduce new, maybe even temporary offerings to help keep the equipment. They can't just let it sit, either. So just really getting creative about as the customer's needs change or as the economic landscape changes, how can you get creative and adapt?

Jordan Argiriou: So one of the initiatives we undertook was to look at, so not so much implement in each country, but to look at the customizing of our offering to each sort of market: what their conditions asked for, what the customers needed post COVID, or during COVID, post COVID, and then to come up with a customized solution that would fit that country or region. It sounds quite simple, but it's actually quite difficult to do because each country and region has all these different needs and there's north and south and there's different types of agreements and products that they want. So we've come up with a semi customizable approach to service.

The other thing we did as well, actually, just to add to the answer before, was to survey our sales team across the region and globally as well, and ask them, "What products are you comfortable selling? What works for you?" Again, sounds simple, sounds something that you could do anytime. But post events, post coming out of that COVID environment and not being able to have a touch point with the customer, or a very forced touchpoint where they didn't really want too many people out on site in their laboratories, specifically for healthcare providers. So we asked the sales team, "Hey, what are we doing? What are you comfortable selling? What would work?" And that in conjunction with asking the customers with the offerings we came up with, we've come up with some fairly customizable solutions for customers.

So like a subscription service instead of going for the whole agreement because of the economic pressure. Various other products that we are starting to put together now to be able to offer them some relief from the economic pressure, but at the same time keeping their operations running as they were before.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think sometimes if we look at it in terms of opportunity instead of challenge, in an economy where customers have their own cost consciousness, sometimes that can be a good thing for service. I mean, if you manufacture equipment assets, organizations are looking to extend the life because they don't want to make new CapEx investments. If you can offer these new arrangements as a service, that might not be what you have done or maybe an ideal, but it's a way to think outside of the box.

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: What I'm curious about though, Jordan, is when I hear customized, I think that being at odds with scalability.

Jordan Argiriou: That's true.

Sarah Nicastro: So how do you strike that balance between customizing offerings to the customer need without it becoming unsustainable for the business?

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. So the word customized is quite appealing to the service industry and to customers because they're thinking, "Great, I get this end-to-end solution, I can prolong the life of the instrument, et cetera, and I'm getting exactly what I would like." However, as you said perfectly, it becomes quite challenging for a company to be able to manage the customization per product, firstly, per market, per economy, per everything. So it becomes quite a challenge when you're presenting that sort of solution, because you know that the next step is to customize even further. And you'll get to a point where you literally can't do anything more. And the customer's going to say, "Well, you've run out of ideas, or, "this is now the new norm that I can ask for whatever."

So we do have a limitation in terms of customizing. So you have your base agreement and then you can add on and things like that. For future scalability, I mean, it's going to become a world where we're going to have to customize our offering for the long term. However, there has to be an end point. Otherwise you're going to end up spending a huge amount of money. Well, not just money but time, effort, employee engagement with the customer just trying to figure out which customer has what, which it's quite a difficult process.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I think this is interesting. It kind of bleeds into one of, I guess another of my favorite conversations. You can tell, I happened into this space and now I'm such a nerd about it because I'm like, "Oh, I love talking about this." But what this makes me think of to some degree is not that there isn't any actual customization to what you're offering, so I'm not saying that., but I do think we have this whole conversation right now about what is the narrative we're creating with customers? What is the dialogue we're having with customers? And how is that maybe different or how different does it need to be from the dialogue we're having internally? Okay. So what I mean by this is customers want to feel that you are customizing your solutions to their needs, but that doesn't necessarily have to mean that every solution is completely customized to their needs. It can mean there's a menu of standard customizations, et cetera.

So there needs to be this acknowledgement that the way we talk about things internally is not always the way we should be talking about them externally.

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So I have this example, one time I was talking to this gentleman... He was so frustrated and I felt so badly. He's like, "Well, we've invested in IoT and no one will buy it." And I'm like, "Because they don't care that you've invested in IoT. They care about what value-

Jordan Argiriou: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: ...that provides." But the reality is we struggle a lot with taking the innovation that we're doing as a business and turning that into a value proposition that resonates with what our customers want. So I guess in my mind, I'm thinking part of it is like, yes, I'm sure there is some customization, but there could also be more perceived customization than actual customization.

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. And you raise a good point. The value proposition is probably the strongest part of that customization. If you can't deliver an end-to-end solution for what they need, and like you said, you invest heavily in technology in terms of their accessibility remotely. A lot of customers might just see it and go, "That's great. I'm not going to use it."

Sarah Nicastro: Or, "Great, well that's saving you money because you're not on site, so I'll pay you less."

Jordan Argiriou: Yes, correct. Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: This is another one of my favorite conversations. Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Yeah. What this makes me think of is I had this conversation once with a gentleman from a company in the US called Spencer Technologies, and he used the analogy of, hopefully this makes sense, if you go bowling with children and you can put the bumpers up, so like bumper bowling, the customer just thinks that they can... But really you're keeping them in the lane you want them to be in.

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Hopefully I'm making sense to everyone. So you're finding ways to meet this customer demand to have more flexibility, more customization, personalization of offerings. If you think about where we're headed, we talked quite a bit this morning about the world of delivering outcomes. What do you think is coming along?

Jordan Argiriou: I don't think there's going to be an end to the customization. And again from this morning, from the round table, one of the comments was, and I think it was yourself that made the comment, that the next generation coming forward, the generation following that, they're all now accustomed to having things immediate. They're having at their fingertips. They're wanting that sort of interaction. As they become consumers, managers, leaders within businesses, they're going to adopt that same idea. No matter the cost, because it's going to become... it's already become the norm in their world. In ours, it's starting to seep in. It's here, but we're still, I wouldn't say resisting, but we're still being realists about what we can do and what our capabilities are.

But by the time they enter the landscape as, like I said, either employees or consumers or leaders, that is very much going to become everyday life. So we're going to see a lot more of this. In my opinion, a lot more. So that customization, the digitization, it's going to become normal. So if you think about it, with any sort of piece of technology that you own, you can customize it to be you. But again, it's within those bumpers that you have that. However, moving forward you can see it's becoming a lot more open-ended and you can completely customize what you're doing with that bit of technology, which I think will translate into us as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. I think it's also interesting when you think about this conversation of delivering outcomes, ultimately a customer wants more to be able to rely on you to do something they don't want to need to do. They just want the peace of mind. However, we don't live in an age where anyone's comfortable trusting entirely that you'll deliver that. Meaning they don't want to be hands-on, but they want to at any point be able to look at a dashboard, a real-time visibility into the fact that you're doing what you said you could would do for them. So there's this, I think, parallel need of, "I want you to do it. I also want to know at any given time how you're doing it, what's going on, what the status is, et cetera."

So let's talk a little bit about talent and what you see there. So whether it is being agile and adapting to economic challenges and being creative, or whether it's hopefully that normalizing and moving towards this next phase of delivering outcomes. How do you see the role talent plays in that? And how are you navigating that?

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. So I think that there's a, yeah we spoke about it earlier today, with talent retention not only being around a career path, not only being around incentive and conditions, but more around the diversity, the sustainability, all of those factors together. And something that I truly respect of our company, of Qiagen, is they implemented very strong type of diversity targets 14 months ago. Which in my opinion were probably perceived at the beginning to be a checkbox. I'm just being blunt, and this is my opinion here.

Sarah Nicastro: We're all friends here.

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. But it was perceived that it was something that we needed to do as part of a corporate responsibility.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure.

Jordan Argiriou: However, come to this day today, we have seen these initiatives and programs that we're running really be part of our everyday lives. So they've actually, our executive team has done an extremely good job of number one, correcting gender diversity across leadership. It's an extremely... I mean, the company at the moment is probably 50/50 gender roles on either side. A lot of leadership where typically it was governed by, service leadership as a good example is typically male dominated because that's who's-

Sarah Nicastro: Because they progressed through... yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: Come through, right. But I would say now our global service team is more or less 60/40, which is a challenge in itself to get to that number. But we've found really good talent within our marketing side, within our financial side, within our... Even from our global product services side that actually run our third level support. And we've introduced that. So in terms of retaining and attracting, the activities that Qiagen have put in place some time ago have really paid off today because we are attracting the right people now. We are attracting a stronger group of people applying for positions, because they're seeing a pathway no matter... Where you're located where you are, you can have a pathway forward if you want to move into that space.

Otherwise, even if you want to stay within your own space, there's lots of lateral moves you can make within the organization. I think one that pops into my head now is post COVID everyone was talking about the... What's the word? The great resignation and people moving on and shifting and everything else. Our global head of HR at the time said, "No, it's actually the great re-imagination because we want to offer, instead of moving along and going to the next place, we want to offer lateral moves for people." So is it, if we can't offer you what you really want in the future in this position, then we can think about a different pathway.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: And really mixing it up and allowing people to go into country, taking on different roles. It's actually been a very positive experience. And when it comes to service, we're doing the same thing in the region. We're changing things up. We're looking at the traditional structure differently. Not having the traditional service manager, supervisor, engineers. It's changed quite a bit in the past, I would say, three years for us.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that perspective of the great re-imagination.

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: I had a conversation recently about how so much of the potential in service is about how you perceive it. Because each of these challenges is also an opportunity, but you have to push beyond the realities of the problem. And that's not to say they are not real problems, but you have to get over perceiving them only that way to be able to see that opportunity that lies beyond there. I love that. Danielle, I'm assuming it's uncommon for a company to start DEI as a checkbox exercise and then realize, "Oh wow, this is actually really benefiting us."

And again, not to spook out our internal organization but all credit, in my opinion, goes to our CEO for really driving all of... I mean you've got that whole sphere of diversity and there's a lot of tags in there, but he's really driving that forward, and that's the next phase for us. Because again, traditionally male dominated, traditionally very structured sort of org charts that you would see and think this is how we're going to move forward. But all of that has changed and it's actually been an extremely positive shift for the company. So it's amazing.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I hope you don't mind me sharing how we met.

Jordan Argiriou: Course not.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So Jordan and I met a few years ago, and I think I reached out to you because you had attended Field Service Asia.

Jordan Argiriou: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: And I wasn't there myself, but I was looking through the folks that spoke at the event and I reached out and said, "Hi Jordan, I have this podcast, I'd love to have you on." Et cetera. So anytime, I mentioned at the beginning, my goal is to be the voice of the industry. So that means I don't have an editorial calendar, I don't believe in them. I think there is not much value in my content if I'm driving an agenda. So my goal is always just to connect to people in the industry and chat with them to understand what it is that they are really struggling with, learning from, passionate about, and then help them frame that into a conversation that will help others. That's my job.

So we set up this sort of introductory chat, very informal. And here is this tough guy from Australia and I'm like, "Hey Jordan, so here's what the podcast is, blah, blah, blah. So if you were to come on, do you have in mind what you might want to talk about?" And he was like, "Mental health." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I love this." Right? Because you don't often hear that from a man or in field service, I mean. But-

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: ...a lot of this stuff. So I want to talk about this a bit. Because at that time we were in the midst of COVID, and so there was a lot of things you were facing as a leader with very real struggles that your teams were having. But I mean, in reality, we have barely navigated out of the COVID climate into all of these other crises.

So as human beings, I think most of us have faced some really, really tough points over the last few years. And I think we're foolish as leaders to not acknowledge that our employees are human and have had the same. So I just wanted to bring this into the conversation. Because I think when we talk about company culture, creating a psychological safety among our workforce, this vulnerability, this openness, mental health and making sure our people know that we care about that aspect as well is very important. So can you just maybe share a little bit about how you saw the gap in that not really being something that was being addressed or supported? And some of the ways that you put focus on that?

Jordan Argiriou: Yep. I think there's two sides to that. So I'll share my side and then what the company actually did post, or during and post COVID and what we've set up for the future. Recognition of what was going on was truly that we were all going through the same thing. We all faced the same challenges, the same frustrations. I think us in Melbourne probably had a little bit worse than other people. Anyway, being the most locked down city. Just slightly.

But I think that highlighted to me, it was conversations we were having with people such as Carrado leading the service team here in Australia, other staff in the region leading service teams, they were still in the field. So specifically for service, yes, everyone was struggling on the outside. The service engineers were still expected to get in their cars, to get... If I think of India, to jump on a train where they could cross borders, where there was very strict control.

It all impacted the teams dramatically. But they would be exhausted at the end of the day. Not physically, because they've only gone out for one job because there wasn't much going on. But mentally they were thinking, "Here's another checkpoint, here's another thing where I'm going to get asked to produce papers." So all of that and on top potentially becoming sick because you're in that environment where there are COVID cases right next to you-

Sarah Nicastro: And who do you have at home?

Jordan Argiriou: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: That you need to protect.

Jordan Argiriou: You've got your family at home, you've got your children. The impact on the kids who were locked in as well with not being able to go too far, et cetera. So from that, we started having different discussions, started thinking differently about how we deal with the teams, what we can do for them. Are there little things we can change every day to make life easier for them?

These are small changes, but for them, they were enormous. Things like reaching out. I mean, Carrado, probably one of the better ones who's also quite passionate about mental health honestly. I'm not talking him up because he's my colleague, but it's more-

Sarah Nicastro: I don't mind.

Jordan Argiriou: No, he's very passionate about it. So again, staying in constant contact with them, asking if they're okay, "Do you need a day? Do you need something else? Can we provide something for your family to be able to be a bit more comfortable during this time?" So we did all of that in the region. And it actually ended up that we retained, I think we retained everyone. I think it was one or two that moved on to other companies though. So it was a natural progression, but we did retain the entire team.

The second part of this is though, what's come during and post COVID is that Qiagen has set up a lot of global user group... Or not user groups. Global collective groups. There's one called, and we put a Qia tag in front of everything. So there's Qia Thrive, Qia Diversity. So there's ones that cover general parenting throughout the pandemic, general parenting post. And now just being a parent, being able to juggle potential economic struggles that are happening for everyone. And country. And then, there's a lot of talks that happen, live face-to-face discussions.

And from those groups, we then come up with initiatives that roll out into the company. So the most positive part for me is that the senior leadership or our executive council are actually a part of all of these groups. So they're sponsoring these groups. I am part of the Qia Thrive group as a global leader in there. And again, things that we talk about, the initiatives that come out of it... and it's all stuff that we are all contributing to. So these aren't topics that we're going, "Okay, they're on this list, we need to address them. There's economic pressure, there's..." These are topics that are coming up in discussion, and if they are considered to be quite critical, then we move forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. So I think there's a couple things I want to say. So going back to the podcast conversation we had, we talked about some of the things you were doing at that time. And just to maybe paraphrase a couple points, I think it really, there was no magic bullet to making it a focus in the business. It was really about treating every conversation as a human conversation and starting with, "How are you? Are you okay?" Looking, sharing vulnerably your own status so that people know it's okay to also share.

So a lot of times there's these big issues and if you're not a mental health expert, it can seem daunting. Like, "Well, how do we accommodate for that?" But when we're dealing with people, it's really, intent is so important. Because I think if you come from a place of genuine intent and people feel that, that in and of itself helps tremendously. But just normalizing the conversation is something I think you said, "You can't just have a retreat once a year that's like a mental health guest speaker, whatever. It needs to be part of the day to day."

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think that's really important. I also think when we talk about how this topic ties in with the overall talent conversation, a lot of times we say, "People are our most important asset." but they're not an asset, they're people. And people don't want to be perceived or treated as an asset, they want to be treated as human beings. So keeping that perspective and making sure you're connecting on a human level, you're not treating people as a line item on your balance sheet is also important.

Jordan Argiriou: I think as well, there's an aspect to when you've got a team of leaders under you or reporting to you. Under you, sorry, is a bad term to use. Reporting to you. I think you need to remind them to stay grounded. Because quite often a younger, and this isn't the generalization, but a younger leader who has progressed quite quickly can sometimes perceive their team as like, "Okay, I'm in charge now. This is what I'm going to say. This is how it goes." And then they get so caught up in the everyday and the challenges we're facing now with expenditure pressures at a high level, particularly we don't want to pass that down to anyone so we deal with it within our sphere. However, that person that gets caught up in that pressure and then forgets the human side of reporting. So this is where it comes back to having to coach them to remind them to stay grounded. I was in those shoes one day, some time ago. If you don't stay grounded, that team quite quickly disrespects you because you're prompting the disrespect.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: They don't respect you as a leader.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think that's a really good point. With the economic pressures that are reality right now, it can be really easy to unintentionally pass that burden onto the frontline.

Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: But at the end of the day, that isn't their responsibility. And so making sure that you don't negatively impact the morale, how they feel about their roles, et cetera, just because the organization itself has these pressures, I think it's a really important part of the discussion.

So I mentioned earlier this idea, going back to the topic of just navigating the need to be cost conscious without sacrificing employee experience or customer experience, what opportunities do you see to better leverage or expand leverage of technology to work smarter instead of harder and to look for ways to help?

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah. I think we heard it this morning that the connectivity, the remote connectivity into the instruments, which is something that we're now investing in quite heavily. So any new instruments will come out with some sort of connectivity and pre prompt to us that there is something wrong. However, the other side is that we are now looking at solutions that will enable us to be able to repair or offer some sort of fix, post sending someone out. So that impacts both, not just the employee, but also... Sorry, not just the cost saving to the company, but also the employee. Because there's less stress on them to be able to have to go out and repair this instrument physically versus being able to do some sort of a remote repair or it can be done elsewhere.

And that, again we heard it at the round table, that the remote connection is something that we're all trying to do. Is it what our customers want today? Not everyone. I think within our space they are asking for it more and more because they want less interaction physically-

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: ...and they want operations to be as smooth as possible. So moving forward, I mean this is going to be the next step. Within the space we work in, the biotechnology side, the healthcare side, this is going to be that next level. To be cost conscious as well, it can be a heavy investment at the beginning. But if you've got everyone aligned, then if you see an outcome that's going to be positive, and again, get that feedback from the market, get the feedback from internal, get the feedback from our engineers as well as to where that should go, then that's where we'll head.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I agree. There's a ton of potential in remote. And I think that it's goes back, it's maybe the best example right now of how the value proposition to us as an organization and the value proposition to our customers are two very different things. And they have to be articulated differently. If you can speak about it... It's not about saving truck rolls to them, because all that translates into is, "Let's pay you less."

Jordan Argiriou: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: It's about faster time to resolution, right? So it's making sure the narrative matches the appropriate party.

Jordan Argiriou: Yeah. And I think what you said before about being more customer-centric, that's something that in my opinion, was lost somewhat during COVID. Not because we weren't still customer-centric. We still wanted to keep them online. We'd wanted the lowest downtime possible. However, we also tried to do it in a way where it was the most efficient way and we had to be there quickly and in and out. It was very rushed at one point. Then we got used to the idea of having to do it. Or by used to it, we had to do it. We adjusted.

Now that we've come back, I feel as though, and not just within the service space, but other companies that we see have taken that on board and kept it, but the customer centricity isn't there anymore. It's more of a transactional, the relationship isn't there because they're not on site as often.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: So changing the scope of an engineer to be more than just the person who turns up and fixes it, they already have a relationship but you can improve on that as well. Giving them different skills.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: Again, keeping it customer-centric. So again, and then if you think about a cost in the long run for a company, I mean if that engineer is selling that second, third, fourth instrument, fantastic. Right? I mean...

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Jordan Argiriou: No reductions, I'm just saying.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. No, for sure. All right, any final thoughts or comments for folks here?

Jordan Argiriou: No I think, look... Yeah, absolutely. First of all, thank you for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for coming.

Jordan Argiriou: I appreciate it. And thank you for everyone for turning up and offering valuable feedback as well and having good conversations. But in terms of what we've just discussed, I mean, if we don't... Okay, so on the mental health side, if we don't stay on top of it's going to just consume us. You're going to lose talent. You're not going to be able to retain the right people. If you don't structure your organization to offer engineers and others a pathway to where they want to go, it doesn't have to be specifically up, sideways, wherever. Just offer them something that is a bit more tailored to them and feels like you're listening. Then I think overall, the customer centricity, the savings and everything else will cover themselves because you're looking after your people.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, thank you.

Most Recent

April 19, 2023 | 29 Mins Read

A Logistics Leader’s Perspective on Innovation, Digital Transformation, Diversity and More

April 19, 2023 | 29 Mins Read

A Logistics Leader’s Perspective on Innovation, Digital Transformation, Diversity and More


Sarah welcomes Trine Storgaard Nielsen, Head of EMEA Ocean at Flexport, for a discussion on drive, strategy, innovation, being a working mother, fostering greater diversity of thought, and much more.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be getting a logistics leader's perspective on innovation, digital transformation, diversity, and more. I'm excited to welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast Trine Nielsen who is the head of Ocean, EMEA, at Flexport. Trine, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Trine Nielsen: Thank you so much, Sarah. I'm so excited to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm happy to have you. Okay, we're going to talk about a lot of things today. But before we get into it all, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your role, anything you want to share about you.

Trine Nielsen: All right, thank you. So my name is Trine, as you mentioned. I'm 38. I am Danish. Apologize for the accent to everyone. I have 18 years of experience in the logistics industry. I have lived in four different countries during those 18 years, and I have primarily spent my time in commercial roles, actually ranging all the way from a back office in Mumbai, India and to being customer-facing and dealing with clients directly.

Before joining Flexport, one of my most recent roles was in Twill, which was a corporate innovation in Maersk. Maersk is a big carrier in the logistics industry. And I think if I've had quite a few jobs, that's how you work in Maersk. But if I had to talk about some personal characteristic, sorry, then I focus a lot on customer outcomes. I am very passionate about leadership and I care a lot about the impact that I make when I go to work. Now, I've joined Flexport, which is super exciting. It is a tech company in the logistics industry. The purpose is to make global trade easy for everyone, which is something that personally I'm very excited about.

And on a personal note, I have my boyfriend Casper and we have little Vigo who is 20 months old. So also a recently new mom.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. So a lot going on, which is exciting.

Trine Nielsen: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Trine and I had the opportunity to meet and have lunch in Copenhagen not too long ago which was awesome because a lot of times, I have folks on the podcast that I don't actually get the chance to meet in person. And it's your energy for innovation and creating new offerings to help customers achieve their outcomes is what I found really interesting about you. So I'm excited to talk about that all a little bit more.

I came across Trine, her LinkedIn profile, because you were doing some content with Frank Mattes. Frank Mattes, who has been on the podcast before, spoke at our Frankfurt live tour event last year and he wrote the Lean Scaleup. So if you all haven't listened to that podcast, I'll put it in the show notes. It's definitely worth a listen. But his content is a lot related to scaling innovation, so figuring out for organizations how they come up with these new ideas, but don't keep them in a bubble or let them fizzle out, but rather integrate them into the broader business. And that's something you have experience with, which we'll talk a bit about later. But when I came across to your profile, I loved the opening line of your bio on LinkedIn. You said, "I go to work to make a difference every day for customers, the company, and for people around me." What I wanted to ask you about that is how do you know when you are accomplishing that mission?

Trine Nielsen: That is a good question. Coming from a digital transformation background, one thing I've learned to appreciate a lot is data. I think there's two aspects to how I look at that. There's the data-driven aspect and then there's the more personal, empathetic feeling around it. When looking at data, I think in my past roles what I've focused a lot on is NPS. So really, how happy are customers with the service that we're delivering? And I've actually in the past spent a lot of time understanding in more detail exactly what is the customer feedback.

I've been fortunate also to work with employee engagement tools. I have experience with Gallup and Officevibe, so the old school and the new school, which I find, especially Officevibe, is something that I've used very actively with my teams. And also if you work in a global environment, you can keep track of the engagement constantly. You can go down to quite detailed levels. That, I have used a lot as a leader to make sure that the teams that I'm dealing with are feeling engaged.

And then of course from a company perspective, I know at the end of the day, a lot is about profit. I think also the impact on society is something that is being measured a lot more. But I know at the end of the day, working for a company, you need to deliver the profit. So to me, the perfect triangle of creating that positive impact is to deliver very exceptional on all of those three aspects.

And then I think the more personal, to me, feedback is a gift. I'm used to getting a lot of feedback from people around me and I actively ask for it. And then seeing especially growth in people, seeing customers being able to deliver better results because we have helped them out. I think it's the more softer aspects that it's not as analytically driven, but where I feel that there's a lot of things to measure as well.

Sarah Nicastro:I think it's those wins that resonate emotionally that keep you energized about that mission, you know?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, so if you look back at your career trajectory, a lot of your roles have in common that there's a vision to grow and transform, and you've played various roles in helping bring that vision to life in a meaningful way. What that makes me think a little bit about is how sometimes we get a little bit stuck or lost in the differences between vision and strategy. So can you talk a little bit about what each of those means to you and why they're both important?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah. To me, the vision is the greater purpose. It's how you look at the future and the impact that you want to deliver in the future. If we look at the vision that we had in Twill, it was about leveling the playing field in global logistics. We found that a lot of small companies were always being down-prioritized in terms of space, especially during Corona, by the way. There was not enough space. And typically, it's the big corporations who then have the power to get the space. And I think I've always rooted for the underdog. And I think to really breed innovation, a lot of it will come from small entrepreneurs. So we had this vision of leveling the playing field, especially for someone who just has one container. I think that vision sets the direction and gives the connection and feeling of purpose when you go to work.

And our strategy was much more related to how do we then enable that vision. One of the big game changers in logistics, I think, was the entrance of technology. I completely understand why small companies have not been prioritized in the past because moving a container from A to B is a commoditized business. The thing is, when technology comes into play, it actually changes the environment. And you can build very effective solutions that can make dealing with the small guys much more profitable than it was in the past. But in the past with the profit margins, when there's pressure on everything, you optimize for scale. You drive economies of scale. So I think for me, the strategy was all about technology and how to solve the problems through technology. But the vision was something that was closer to my heart in terms of okay, let's make this equal for all.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think when I think about our audience, leadership level mostly in service and across a variety of industries. When I think about people that are maybe similar to you in their desire to innovate and see innovation come to life, and wanting to look for ways to do new things, to be creative, to have that vision, not just for incremental improvement but for real change and growth, it makes me think about the vision is so important to make sure there's alignment on.

Because sometimes, I've talked to individual leaders who their vision for where the company could go or where the service offerings could go or where the technology landscape could go, whatever it is, and the company's vision, they're not aligned. And then it makes someone like you who is energized by seeing this stuff come to life just get very frustrated. Because if you are someone who's innovation-minded working for an organization who is not, then you're going to feel very stuck. So I think that vision is yes, that mission, but making sure that there's alignment on that vision throughout the organization, that you as an individual feel like you're in a place that has a vision that's fits what you want to do in your career is really important.

The other thing I was going to say is what you were saying about Twill and leveling the playing field, it made me think of a conversation that I had on the podcast with a gentleman named Alec Anderson who is the managing director for an organization called Koolmill with a K. And they're a very innovative company that manufactures rice mills. I learned so much about rice milling that I didn't know before. But it's really cool because their machines are innovative in and of their own, but they're using an as a service business model, which is disruptive in that industry because it's typically been incredibly expensive CapEx equipment that to your point, a lot of smaller rice mills could not afford or could not afford to update, could not afford to maintain, et cetera. So from a competitive standpoint, they were at an extreme disadvantage, oftentimes not even able to really sustain because it was almost like the industry was just targeting the very top level of these producers.

And so we had a really interesting conversation about how technology and shifting business models can democratize innovation. Because what they've been able to do is not only introduce innovative equipment but do so using a business model that makes it attainable to everyone, from the largest to the very smallest mills. And it's really interesting when you think about how that does level the playing field and change the game when it comes to making innovation accessible to everyone. So it's really cool parallel in what you're talking about.

Trine Nielsen: And I think one of the things that I was extremely proud of when there was the total logistics chaos during the COVID pandemic, we managed to protect companies who would've never... Companies would've gone bankrupt because they didn't have any goods to sell, and we managed to protect them in the most highly pressed capacity situation ever in the industry. And innovation can be a lot of things. To me, it's also sometimes about changing mindsets about business models and so forth. And I feel proud that at least we were able to really make a massive difference for a number of companies, and technology was a part of that. But maybe we helped a few innovative companies actually survive, and I hope the business is thriving still today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's really cool. And you talked about your mission. That's goes back to making a real difference.

Trine Nielsen: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So I want to talk about digital transformation has been a through line in different roles you've had. If we think specifically about Twill, bringing that concept from that vision to reality. We talked a lot about digital transformation and the way it enables a lot of change, and I just want to talk through some of the aspects that are important to consider and get your perspective. The first you mentioned at the beginning of the conversation which is always focusing on customer outcomes, can you talk a little bit about that?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah. I think there's many ways that you can look at a business model, and I've now seen many cases from many different companies. But I think in an industry that has historically been extremely product-driven, it has become commoditized. It is so easy to focus on productivity, economies of scale, and so forth. I think my learning in the digital transformation area is that if you focus on how to actually solve customer problems and trying to do that in a different way, so by focusing all of your efforts on delivering positive outcomes to customers, a lot of the other topics will actually follow. Customers will be willing to pay a little bit more because the value is there. But so if you take a process, you can focus on making that process extremely effective. But if you focus on delivering high quality outcomes to the customer, the effectiveness will often come along.

So I think what we were very successful in was to sometimes in the short term accept that we were not perfect on effectiveness, but over time we would be much more effective because we were so dedicated to delivering a specific outcome to the customer.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. I think when we talk about the potential of outcomes-based service, like I often say, when it's done right, it's very mutually beneficial. So to your point, if you are leading with that in mind, a lot of what you're trying to accomplish internally or efficiency-wise, et cetera, can come because you're focusing on what your customers value.

You mentioned earlier you're a huge fan of data. So how does that factor in when it comes to digital transformation? And I'm thinking either from the perspective of making sure you are achieving what you've set out to achieve in your transformation, but also leveraging data from the standpoint of customer value proposition.

Trine Nielsen:  love customers. And customers tell you a lot of different things, and they all say they need something different and they need something very specific. And what I love about data is the fact that it is an unbiased, unfiltered way of, for example, understanding how your customers behave, which can then help you understand what they truly need. You also need to listen to them, of course, but the data can help you detect the deeper problem because you can analyze their actions and understand it through that, at least if you're working in a platform type of business.

I also think data takes a lot of the bias out of the conversation. I think to be honest, during my 18 years, I've made a lot of decisions based on gut feeling in the past where data was not as easily accessible. That was what leadership was all about. It's like you have a lot of experience. You use that to make the right decisions. But I think as data has come in, it's been such a gift because it has helped me remove some of my biases, helped me forget some of the things I've learned along the way because things change over time, and it's just given me a lot better customer insights, but also faster, in my opinion, better decisions and more innovation.

I know that might be a little bit fluffy, but I think a perfect example is instead of asking 10 salespeople which customers should we prioritize, instead you can look into all the data. You can really try and assess which of these customers has the best potential, has the best impact to your business, fits best to your, if we talk about service model, fits best into your network. You can just make a better and more informed decision that will also deliver the better outcomes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think the point you made is interesting too about all good points. The other thing I'm thinking about in terms of, like you said, customers all, it's not that they're not unique or that they don't need different things, but they're all going to think they're more unique than they are and need something different than they do. And so I think a lot of times, we see companies struggling with how much to customize offerings or solutions. And I think there's a really interesting conversation to be had around this idea of... Because the conversation you have externally and the conversation you have internally can be very different, right?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Because of the data. You have the ability if you are leveraging data well to create systems internally that are pretty standard but make the outcome to the customer feel quite customized. Does that make sense?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah, I agree.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think that's really interesting as well. But I love the point about relying on data to remove some of your bias.

Trine Nielsen: And let's be honest, scalability is absolutely critical. We were targeting small and medium-sized companies. If we started customizing, every customer needs to feel that they get their needs met, but it has to be in a scalable version because otherwise, your cost to serve will simply be too high to make it profitable. So the scalability point to me is I agree so much, it's critical.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, all right. When you think about digital transformation, can you talk about the role of leadership and the need to create creative, challenging, and trusting environments?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah. I think leadership is going through a transformation these days. I think there's a lot of talk about diversity. But also as technology is becoming more and more something that we're dealing with, I think depending on how long you've been a leader, at least when I started having my first leadership position, we were at the macro level. Excel was the most used tool. And suddenly it's technology that is complex. Even if I tried, I would never be a technology expert. But the way of working when you deal with technology and digital transformations, it just requires, at least in my opinion, a different leadership mentality because you have to...

I think in the past, I felt like everyone expected me to have all the answers. Where today as a leader, you need to accept that there'll be people around you who are smarter, who are maybe more well-educated than you, in some cases, even some who are better paid than you because that is what's required to get the best talent. And I think facilitating the diverse community where you combine the people who are experts in technology space with people who are experts in the business space, because at the end of the day, digital transformation is all about taking something that we know and have done for many years and then doing it in a digital way. So trying to combine those two worlds, I think, requires a much more humble approach where you facilitate people rather than give all the answers.

I think my experience has been that actually if you don't have a strong vision and the strategy is not clear, it will be extremely difficult to be a successful leader because those two things is what will drive the team in the right direction. And you need to accept that the team has to come up with the answers. So you need to trust that they understand where you're going. And I think it is a humbling experience as a leader feeling that you are so dependent on your team, but I also think it's extremely healthy. And I think it just fosters so much more creativity when instead of having one brain to rule them all, you have maybe eight brains who collectively try and solve problems. So I think digital transformation is the perfect example of how diversity of thought can truly come into play. And it's probably where we see it coming to life the most at the moment compared to more traditional business models.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. On the diversity note, I think based on what we chatted about when we had lunch, in both of our worlds, logistics and service, there's a lot more room for diversity, okay?

Trine Nielsen: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: When you think about that, what are your thoughts on how we bring that diversity of thought into these industries that are typically very homogenous?

Trine Nielsen: I have this feeling that there's still some legacy which we need to accept. We're not going to change the world tomorrow. Also, because as a female, and I believe you feel the same way, but I would never accept getting a job simply because I'm female. I want the job because I'm the best candidate. That is part of my pride and DNA. But historically, I think it's a very human thing. We hire or have hired people who look like ourselves. So I think there's something that we need to solve in terms of making sure that we actually... Because I have seen teams that are extremely diverse delivering so much better results and outcomes compared to teams that are not. There's something about the way that we go about hiring. There's something about the way we go about looking at capabilities. We need to take the personal traits and way of working a bit more out of the conversation.

And I don't think I have all the answers for how we do it, but I like there's some companies, if you have a group of people who are part of a hiring panel, that can help take some of the unconscious bias out of the process. There's also in some companies where they always have to have a female as part of the final two, three candidates. And as I said, I believe that you should always hire the best person for the role. But I think there needs to be a process where leaders are assisted to hire more complimentary skills, but having that support in place.

And then I think we need to give it a little bit of time. I'm seeing in the logistics industry, things are changing. They're changing slowly. But I'm also seeing, Maersk is a massive company. There's almost a hundred thousand people now. And I'm not there anymore so this is probably six months old knowledge. But at that time, the talent base at the levels, every five years or something like that, the talent base of females if we just talk gender continues to expand at the different levels. So I think the focus on nurturing, appreciating different ways of thinking and working, and helping leaders actually facilitate that in the best way, I think is good. And then we also need to evaluate our leaders on different parameters potentially, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm, yeah. Absolutely agree on that. I think part of the legacy that exists is different layers of sometimes very unintentionally toxic leadership. I think that's just reality. You have a lot of times there's these glaring toxicity gets dealt with because it has to, from whether it's a legal standpoint or a PR standpoint, et cetera. But there's these different layers of bias, just very outdated thinking or beliefs that it's a lot harder to pinpoint where that is in businesses and how it's affecting diversity, but also teams. When you have, just that permeates, you know what I mean?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: I do definitely agree that we need to be really digging into this idea, as you stated, the role of leaders has changed from needing to know it all to needing to enable a lot more. And as part of that change, what's required is different, and we need to make sure that we're measuring based on today's means. The other thing that's interesting, because you mentioned that you rely a lot on data, and so it's an interesting catch-22 with this idea of I think to some degree companies saying, "Well, we need to have this type of candidate be one of the final few," or what have you. Those type of parameters, they get put in place. Sometimes it's I think people are like, "Well, if you don't measure it, it won't change."

So from that perspective, I appreciate the fact that people want to at least pay attention. The problem is it's like they're acknowledging it but they're not understanding it. And I think a lot of it comes down to what is the why behind any given organization focusing on diversity. If it's because you feel like you have to, the outcome is a lot different than feeling you know you will be better, do better, have greater success because you value that diversity of thought. So it's not about checking a box of we need X percent women, we need X percent this category, this category, this category. It's we need more diversity because it will help us achieve our goals and grow and be different.

Trine Nielsen: And I think to be fair, it's also... I have had the pleasure of leading an extremely diverse team, and I have seen the outcomes and the results of that, which were, in my opinion, exceptional. And I don't take credit for that. I give full credit to the team. I was just a facilitator. But I think if you've never experienced that, how can you value it? So I think this, I agree. It's a catch-22 because we need to somehow force the initial phase, and that can be done in different ways. But I also have this feeling that when if everyone just tries being part of a trusting diverse team, they will feel so quickly why it adds so much value. But in a big corporate where you've done things the same way for many years, you also don't know what you're losing out on. So it's not a burning platform.

And I think that's also what will hold a few people back, because we need to get it done. But my business is running fine, so not really the biggest priority.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. And you have, again, it goes back to these individual leaders who quite frankly, managing a diverse team, if they've one, not seen the value, but two, they're probably complacent in managing a lot of people that are different iterations of themselves, which is easier than learning how to evolve as a leader and embrace new ways of working, be more humble, et cetera. So that's where I think it's a really good point that I think going back to your point about you don't want to get a role just because you're a woman and they're trying to check a box. This is where I think the measurement can't just be on what are the final hires and/or even who's in the final interviews. It needs to be on how wide of a net can we cast to get more diverse applicants? Because then if you can bring them in, you have more selection to work through the process.

But to your point, it needs to be not only that. It needs to be on leadership because leadership ultimately will have an immense impact on not just your ability to bring in diversity of thought, but retain it. Because if you have leaders that don't value that in the ranks and these people are reporting to them, they're not going to want to stick around.

Trine Nielsen: And it can be extremely uncomfortable. I'll be super honest. Having someone in your team tell you off because the data says something and you have thought something else your entire life, that is uncomfortable. Having to coach someone who is a PhD and you are a shipping professional, it is extremely difficult and challenging. But I also think it is one of the most fun and most developing... Well, one of the most interesting development areas as a leader. But yeah, uncomfortable for sure.

Sarah Nicastro: I think you said this earlier, but we just recently had our Future of Field Service event in Sydney and one of the topics that came up in a conversation we were having around company culture, leadership, et cetera, was this idea of reverse mentoring. And that's the crux of it is, to evolve as a leader, you have to understand that you have just as much to learn from the people you're working with as they do from you. It's not this idea of a hierarchy so much as it is creating that team approach.

So when we think about diversity, I know this is getting into a subset here, but it's a subset you and I both fall into and bonded over a bit, which is being working moms and balancing motherhood and careers. So you mentioned Vigo is 20 months, and here you are. You're still here. You're still passionate about what you do. You're still driven to contribute and create and innovate. But I think what we talked about is the reality that oftentimes, the companies who want that type of drive and talent have environments that make those roles incredibly difficult for anyone who is raising children to realistically take. So I guess I'm interested in what do you find most challenging? What to you makes it worthwhile to undertake the balancing act? And what do we wish that employers could take from the conversation to consider in terms of having folks like us on the team?

Trine Nielsen: Having incredible working moms.

Sarah Nicastro: Who have sick kids often.

Trine Nielsen: All the time who get sick themselves and sometimes don't sleep at night, yeah. The challenging part, and I think we actually touched upon this when we met in Copenhagen, we as women.... Men have worked as fathers for many, many years and had great careers and so forth, so it is doable. I think as a woman, we are different, which is also part of the diversity. We maybe have a slightly... One of my core priorities is to be an incredible mom. I feel like I brought this little person to the world, and I feel like it's my primary job to make sure that I try my best to create a great human being who hopefully one day can make a great impact in the world, which actually at the end of the day is when we talk about having a purpose-driven or vision for something, that is a great purpose.

But I think the challenge is that we as women are met with a lot of legacy. This is how females should be. I've met that before having kids as well, to be honest. And I think that's also changing, but it is difficult to have people look at you like you're not good enough because you are working X number of hours or because you have a career job. You mentioned this, Sarah. You get asked, "Oh, how is it to be away from your kids when you are traveling?" But probably most men will never be answered or asked that question, and it makes you feel like you are wrong.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Trine Nielsen: I think to me, that is really challenging because none of us want to be bad parents. I don't think men want to be bad parents as well. So being met with that constantly is quite a pressure. So all of you out there, keep that in mind when you meet some of the working moms. I think making it worthwhile is everything. I actually feel that I'm a better person. I'm a better leader. I feel like I am much more productive. I get so much shit done, stuff done in half the time because I have to and because I want to prioritize being with my family. And having a kid now, the first part is not so fun. But now, it's actually really fun. And I think it gives nice perspective.

When it comes to what companies can do, I think honestly, there's so much potential. There's fundamentally, I think, flexibility for everyone is such a gift. And I think the COVID pandemic has also, if we want to look at the bright side, that is one of the things that came with it. So I'm at home today. I work at home much more than I did before, which saves me transport. And it gives me focus time. Before, I was sitting in an open office. But it also means that I can do a bit of laundry so when the kiddo comes home, I'm there. There's not 10 other things that I need to do. So the flexibility for me is absolutely critical.

I also think something really simple as changing maternity and paternity rules and payment during maternity and paternity is extremely important because in small companies, I think a lot of females or working moms are out of the running because there is what if they go on maternity leave? Europe is different. In Denmark, a woman can be out for up to 12 months. So having someone who could potentially be out for 12 months can be a very large expense. So I think there's a lot of structural things that we as society can do to make it more equal also for the sake of the men. Why shouldn't the men get paid on paternity leave?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Well, also you mentioned flexibility for all, and that's a really good point. First of all, it wouldn't be fair to only offer flexibility to women because they may be moms, but more importantly, you and I have talked about the fact that we both have very supportive male spouses. So them having flexibility helps because it creates a better balance in the home ecosystem to say, "The pressure isn't on me to have the flexibility to be able to run to school or to do this or whatever." It's shared, right?

Trine Nielsen: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So yeah, that's a good point. IFS did a video, a panel discussion with some folks for International Women's Day, and our chief customer officer, Mark Moffitt, was interviewed. And I loved one of the points he made which was around your point of, "I get comments that a lot of men in my role wouldn't get about being away from my kids. Who's taking care of your kids? Et cetera." And he said, before you ask someone a question or make a statement to someone, could you reverse that and could you say it to another gender? Or if you wouldn't say it to everyone, just don't say it. Because there's a lot of... And I don't think it's ill intent.

Trine Nielsen: No.

Sarah Nicastro: Its just people aren't aware of, to your point, then as a mom, you walk away and I'm like, "Oh my gosh," questioning all of my life's choices. But at the end of the day, I think you and I both love what we do. And so we are moms and we love our children, but part of what makes us who we are as human beings is being passionate about the work we do and doing that work. So it's a balance that to us is worthwhile. And I think there's a lot of benefit to employers to be creative about how to support not only women and working moms, but all their employees, to have a good balance and to offer more flexibility, more resources, more support to... Everyone can benefit from being able to better integrate their work and their lives.

I don't like the idea of balance. I think it's more of a blend. If you can be in an environment where you're at work and something happens with your son and you're not scared to say, "I'm really sorry, but I need to go be with him, and we'll have to pick this up tomorrow," and then they know you will. So they get the benefit of having your intelligence and your talent. You don't have that constant stress of, "What if? What if? What if?" It's just, "Okay, today is a great day to put 90% of my energy into work, and tomorrow it might have to be 5% because the little one's sick and I have to stay home with him," or what have you. So it's an interesting thing to sort out.

Okay, I realize we are over time. Do we have time for one last question?

Trine Nielsen: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay.

Trine Nielsen: Let's do it.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. The last thing I just want to do is go back to the role you had at Twill. When I found you through Frank, his post had said that you created this offering and experienced 400 times growth in three years. I'm not sure if that's accurate. Sounds like it is. So extreme success in taking this idea from vision, putting the strategy in place, executing on the innovation, and more importantly scaling it. If you look back on that journey, particularly if you look back on that journey thinking about listeners that might be fighting some legacy, what is the biggest lesson you learned or words of wisdom that you would share with folks from that experience?

Trine Nielsen: I think, listen, a corporate innovation can be challenging because the legacy can hold you back. But I also think the legacy can be what really fuels you to move with speed. Looking back at everything, by the way, it was a massive team effort and a lot of people involved to make it a success across the world. But I think one of the things, the first couple of years, we did not have much traction. We were not sharp enough on who our target customer was. We did not have enough focus because of that so we were developing left, right, and center, and we were not sharp enough on what is scalable, what is not, what is truly needed to win in one particular place. So strategically, we made a shift where we said, "Okay, now we're focusing on this segment of the market and we're going to do everything we can to win it."

And I think that was the game changer because also when we did that, it was much easier to say, "Okay, on these five points, we will use the legacy way of working because it will not add any significant value to the customer that we try and rebuild this from scratch." So that means speed and reduction of complexity. And then we said, "Okay, these five points is what will truly differentiate us and what we feel will make us win with this segment, so this is where we have to really challenge the existing legacy, think different, and build something completely different."

And I think because it was in a corporate context, trying to find that balance between how do we not disturb the corporate enamel too much by being too creative? So these things we will do your way, yes, yes, yes. And then trying to see how do we get the corporate to also change their way of working through being very insightful on customers using all the data that we have. So never speaking of, "Oh, but we need this because it's nice," but saying, "We need this because we can see from the customers they're acting like this so we have to change this process."

I think one of the big challenge that we had was how do you get priority when your business model is all about delivering something in the future. So delivering for potential where in a big corporate, everything is about delivering right now. And I think that was something that was a constant battle, and that slowed us down more than we would've liked to. You can say we grew significantly. It was a combination of a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck. So the COVID pandemic, customers not having space anywhere meant customers came to us so we could pick and choose which is actually really nice and very fortunate. But they also only came to us because we had been out trying to find them before so they actually knew who we were.

And I think hard work, a bit of luck, and a different way of thinking is what enabled us to do that in three years. It was crazy. We made so many mistakes. We had so much fun. And I think we all had that purpose of allowing the one container person to be as successful as the big corporations, and I think that was a really game changer.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that. And I think there's plenty of points in there about, to your point, driving progress with specifics, focusing in so that you're not trying to be all things to all people, at least in the beginning. You get that initial success that you can look to scale. And I think you mentioned that it was slower than you the first bit. You didn't make that much progress. So I think it's a lot of persistence and tenacity.

Kudos to you and the team to seeing it all the way through.

Trine Nielsen: Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. All right, Trine, I've taken so much of your time. I really appreciate you coming and sharing with us. Thank you for being here today.

Trine Nielsen: Thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, you can find more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the biweekly Future of Field Service INSIDER so you can stay up to date on the content. Also, take a look at the remaining locations for the Future of Field Service Live Tour events, and register for the one closest to you. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

April 12, 2023 | 25 Mins Read

Electrolux’s Consumer-Centric Transformation

April 12, 2023 | 25 Mins Read

Electrolux’s Consumer-Centric Transformation


Sarah welcomes Kristoffer Brun, Service Operations Product Manager at Electrolux, to discuss how the company is transforming across the board, including service, in a consumer-centric way and the impact those efforts are having on service execution.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be taking a look at Electrolux Consumer-Centric Transformation. I'm excited to be joined today by Kristoffer Brun, who is the service Operations product manager at Electrolux. Kristoffer, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Kristoffer Brun: Thank you very much. Hello.

Sarah Nicastro: So this is your first time here on the podcast meeting, Kristoffer, but he and I have had a number of conversations and he, alongside one of his colleagues, spoke last year at the Stockholm Future Field Service live tour event. So happy to have you with us before we get into the story of the transformation that you have underway, just tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your role and the Electrolux business.

Kristoffer Brun: Yes. I can start with saying that I'm really looking forward to the next Future of Field Service event. So yes-

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you.

Kristoffer Brun: ... looking forward to it. I joined Electrolux over four years ago. It was actually not my first contract with Electrolux though, because I spent two summers during university working in one of our factories where actually my brother worked at the time as well. So I already had a personal connection to the company before joining this time, I should say.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, and a family connection.

Kristoffer Brun: Indeed.

Sarah Nicastro: Now he is not still with Electrolux, is he?

Kristoffer Brun: No, nope.

Sarah Nicastro: No. Okay.

Kristoffer Brun: Yeah. But overall, Electrolux group leading a global appliance company, brands such as Electrolux, of course, AG, Frigidaire in the US and more than a hundred years old, we celebrated a hundred years a few years ago. Headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, where I'm based. And I am working as a product manager for service operations tool and processes in Europe. And in Europe we have a landscape within service operations where we have both employed the service technicians and also of course service partners. So within a country, we can have a mix of both employed service engineers and service partners.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. Okay. So that lays the land. Now, I think one of the most important things you said there is a hundred year legacy. And transformation is hard overall, but it can be particularly hard for companies that have this deep rich legacy because you're really digging in and changing the way that people have worked for quite a long time. Now, at Electrolux, I love the way that this transformation is structured because it's, in my opinion, the way it should be done. It's not a transformation for transformation's sake or this concept of, well, we just need to be modern, so let's do X, Y, and Z. It's consumer centric, so it's centered around your customers, how their needs, expectations, preferences have changed, and then matching internally how you need to adapt to that in terms of whatever transformation it entails.

So we're going to talk obviously and mostly today about service because it's the future of field service and you're in service. But I guess to start just broadly explain to people, the drivers for this overall company quest of consumer centered transformation.

Kristoffer Brun: I think we are like many companies, and this is a few years before I joined even, but us and also many companies with us at the time, or let's say a decade ago or so, was more or less looking at consumer interaction as a necessary evil. Basically discussing how to reduce consumer contact. While of course, we and many others shifted that mindset to instead, today the Electrolux Group purpose is around the shaping, living for the better, shaping living for the better consumer. We're basically, our products and services are simply helping consumers in their lives. Can be instead of just having an oven instead that we are making great tasting healthy food for friends and family. We help consumers care for their clothes by making them stay new, great looking for longer. These thoughts and messages and visions basically.

And related to that, of course, it means that we would like to have as much data as possible across the consumer journey, and where we can of course also own the touchpoints to a greater extent. And the focus has been for many years now to make it easy for our consumers to interact with us at every stage of their journey with us, from purchase and ownership, et cetera. And with that, we have restructured the entire organization around this new mindset. And of course a lot of initiatives around having the consumer at the heart of the business model, both central of course, but a lot of focus locally out in the countries in how to work in making the consumers happier. So it has been an extremely impressive journey, I must say, although I wasn't part of it from beginning, but just looking at our NPS and CSAT curves, extremely amazing.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think, you telling that story is representative of the trajectory of viewing service as a cost center. So to your point, it was not that those customer interactions were a nuisance, but it was something to be minimized. It was something to be as efficient as possible, not something like you're saying now to put at the heart of the business. So an opportunity to understand what do they value, what do they want, and how can we take that insight and use it to differentiate ourselves and to add more value or become their brand of preference, et cetera. So I think what's interesting to me is that a lot of organizations recognize the opportunity of service as a profit center versus a cost center, but for a variety of reasons, they don't actually tackle their transformation through the lens of customer centricity. And so that's what I think is good about Electrolux, is this recognition of, okay, so there's an opportunity to change. We need to do that by orienting what we do around what our customers want, need and value.

A lot of times companies can assume they know, okay, well if we do this, we'll be better. And then our customers will feel that impact, but they're not really positioning the need for that journey around that customer experience. So I think that's a really positive mindset and it's a good anchor for a lot of the change. So we'll get into this a bit later, but change is hard. So if you can tie that to we're doing this for our customers and here's why, here's how versus we're just doing this, period.

Kristoffer Brun: And especially if you're doing it as an organization instead of just one or two roles within the organization that should drive this and try to influence the others here. We basically restructure the entire business model purpose, organizational structure, all of it. And I think of course, that it takes a lot of courage to do that and a lot of hard work, obviously. But yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Especially from a business that has a hundred years of history. I was being interviewed by someone the other day that's working on a thesis and they're looking at different service business models and they said, "Well, what's the difference between a company that will take this on and a company that won't?" And I said, "Honestly, a lot of it is leadership, it's mentality." Because to your point, complacency is very appealing for a lot of folks. And it does take courage to change. And I think this journey that you're on is one that people will have to embark on one way or another at some point, but making the decision to do it proactively and go this road is definitely courageous. So this is a journey at Electrolux to the point we just talked about. This is not just a service transformation, it's a company-wide, consumer centric transformation. Obviously service plays a big part in that. So let's talk about that part specifically. What is the contributing factors of service and how have you looked at the ways in which service needs to evolve to contribute appropriately to the company's mission?

Kristoffer Brun: I mentioned the purpose before and beneath the purpose, we have also three drivers. So that is act as sustainable, create better experience, and always improve. And I think service operation ties into actually all of these three drivers one way or another. So it actually plays quite a big part in our overall strategy. And in short, it's all about the consumers today and always has been I guess, they expect a smoother service appointment booking. So if something is wrong with my appliance, I would like it to be easy to book a visit. Obviously, since it's an appliance, I very often would like a technician to be here as soon as possible and with information and reminders perhaps leading up to the visit. And I also expect that the technician should solve it first visit, because otherwise I can't cook for another two days or whatever that can be.

And obviously on top of that, I expect the technician to be tidy, professional, et cetera. And our technicians, they have an extremely difficult task at hand here because they are in some of the most private environments of all consumers bathrooms or kitchens, basically. Often, the consumer needs to be home and they are often quite interested in what a technician is doing and worried, of course. Will I be able to do the laundry tonight or not, basically. So it's a quite stressful experience. If you think about it from that perspective, considering service technician in other industries, for example, B2B with a planned maintenance, et cetera. But basically, we needed tools and processes that could support this to meet the consumer's expectations around this. So for example then, we needed an optimization engine that could help us utilize the technicians in a way that we could reach maximum number of consumers in a day or give them the act sustainable aspect, for example, drive less kilometers per job. So yeah, it ties into so many of the company’s overall strategy basically.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And it's interesting, this evolution that we've seen in the way customers were approached, perceived, communicated with 10, 15 years ago versus today, the expectations are significant for a brand like Electrolux to keep up with. And I think that it bleeds into a B2B environment for sure. The expectations we have in our personal lives are influencing the expectations in the B2B service landscape, but consumers of all, the tolerance level is very low because we've just become accustomed to the real-time visibility and the ease of logging onto an app and all of those things so it's a lot to keep up with.

So you're looking at, okay, how do we take these expectations? And in part, part of the solution is leverage technology that will help us manage that complexity so that the outcome for the customer is a seamless experience being there as quickly as possible, first time fix, et cetera. So you landed on IFS as your service management provider, and then a few weeks into the project COVID hits. So that's a major, major disruption at the beginning of what is already a very big transformation project. So talk a little bit about what that meant and how you adapted and managed to move the project ahead and stay focused on the transformation.

Kristoffer Brun: Yeah, I actually remember more or less when COVID hit the project, say it was a Friday evening and we had planned a workshop the week after in Stockholm, physical workshop where people were flying in from all of Europe. And this Friday afternoon we all received the text messages from Electrolux basically with the instructions around physical meetings with immediate effects. So of course the chat, it was quite a crazy Friday evening from that sense. But we basically moved it from physical then to online within just a few hours. And Electrolux, at least in Swedish standards. They were very early and very proactive when this hit. And we were actually weeks before other companies in limiting physical meetings and really putting our own restrictions in place before actually it was forced upon us basically. I must say, I was very impressed by how that was handled by the company.

And of course also we had office restrictions immediately as well. But I think also that moving one day to another from physical meetings to online meetings only, we were also able to come together as a group very well, although a very big group, but we were able to do that in a very short amount of time, I must say. And it can be a natural effect with a external threat like COVID, right? But we really did it and we had a great team doing the best with the situation at hand, basically. And we have been struggling as well to find our new ways of working in the new world, especially on the meetings booked versus meetings needed, and I guess at least other organizations to struggle with that as well, because in an online world it's so much easier to book an appointment with.

And it's also easier to add more people than really needed because it's just a click away to add one more instead of meeting in a room face to face. Because if you do that, everyone should be contributing more or less, but it's slightly different online. And of course, we sat centrally, both in Stockholm in the headquarters and working remote with a local pilot country implementing a solution that was new to us, new to them. So of course we would like to have met the local organization much, much more. And of course the end users, but also the local project team. But I must say that I'm very impressed in how everyone involved in this exchange and the positive attitude, I must say, because the local team came from an unsuccessful pilot just before this pilot where they rather than complaining, just went on the horseback again, more or less, and delivered this pilot instead with very good business results so far. Very, very good transformation work.

And I think that this was a part of that success. The pilot country and all the other countries that will be using the solution, were part of making the decision, which solution to go for. So we involve all the end, I wouldn't say the end users, but the countries that will be using the solution. We involve them all in the decision process with the central people of course as well. And on top of that, of the local team, we have the central team based in several countries and working in imperials more or less day and nights to deliver. So it has been extremely impressive to see also from the big change that COVID brought on top of everything else that needed to be done, basically.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. All right. So you have the central teams and the local teams working together. You mentioned that prior to deciding to implement IFS, you had had a pilot of a different solution that failed. And so I think that's important to mention just because it contributes to the complexity of managing the change. So I think it is amazing that the teams reacted the way they did because they could have just been frustrated by that experience and let that blend into negativity and instead, like you said, got back on the horse, they were invested in this project and choosing a solution and all of that. But I think to have to change gears and do this entirely remotely is really, really tough because this idea of change management is really the biggest challenge most companies face in a service transformation. And so removing the opportunity to interact in person, but like you said, when you're doing it remote, there's so much that changes.

People can hide in the meeting and not contribute. It's harder to read if people are okay or if they're frustrated or if they're struggling. There's all these things that become more complex. So I think it's incredible that you all pulled together and stayed focused and figured out how to navigate that and still progress. Is there anything from that experience that stands out as a lesson learned? How do you think particularly the local teams, what do you think it was about their minds that allowed them to not get negative but stay focused on moving ahead?

Kristoffer Brun: I think it's very much and leadership question this. And the attitude and the atmosphere that we leaders and of course also locally in that country provided and was the messages that they were sending locally basically. And I must say also, it's quite impressive that we dared to say that the previous solution was not what we wanted and let's take another route because that is expensive, that is time-consuming, that is a hard way out. Instead of trying to fit whatever process into a solution that is not really fit for that purpose. I'm sure that other companies and ourselves likely in the past would've gone that route instead because that is easier. We have invested so much to this point, so let's continue to do that instead of just taking a completely different route. And I think also that mindset together with that this country and all the countries were part of the new solution, the new route forward, that also led to that mindset, to that approach in the end. Because everyone got what they wanted this time, it's safe to say.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, you're absolutely right. That is a hard decision to make. And maybe part of the mentality going into this project was unappreciation for the fact that the company was willing to start fresh and say, "Okay, let's get what we need to get. And we're listening, we hear you that this isn't going well, so let's stop and work together to find the right thing." Yeah, that's a really good point. So another aspect you shared with me that I thought was really interesting and impressive is that 50% of the European implementation team working on this project are women, which is awesome, and not always the case or often the case in service. So I'm curious, your thoughts on how do you feel like having that diversity of thought contributed to the success of the project?

Kristoffer Brun: First of all, Electrolux Group is working extremely hard as a company with what we call diversity and inclusion where agenda is one part and it's part of the yearly sustainability report available on our website. And the vision there is to become a leader in diversity. And we do a lot of initiatives around this internally of course, but also externally. So we partner with a yearly event in Stockholm called Women in Tech, for example. And the past few years at least, I've seen an increase within the share of women working in the products without being involved at least. So I'm quite impressed by this. You can see that we as a company are succeeding in this. And traditionally, we talk about contact center, mainly women and service operations, mostly men. And I think that is changing. It's changing now, and it's changed since I joined this has changed. So just the four and a half years where I've been here, I see a big change in this.

And of course if we take it also to also other nationalities, if we take that approach, we have a central team based in a variety of countries across Europe, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Denmark, and also in the Stockholm headquarters, we have so many nationalities working under the same roof. So it's a fantastic mix of both nationalities and locations and gender, I would say. And of course we have effects of that in terms of not being as streamlined. New angles, new ideas or creativity I guess is the word I'm looking for. So there are a lot of synergies to come from this. And of course it could be easier to do if you are a really big company, of course. But I think it's quite cruel to be a part of a company working very hard with this. I think it's for the employees, it's something to be proud of, I think.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, and I think if you take it back to the overall mission we're talking about, which is this consumer-centric transformation, I have to imagine you have diverse consumers. And so-

Kristoffer Brun: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: ... putting a focus on creating an organization that is representative of your customer base helps a lot with being able to bring in different perspectives of what would be helpful in the transformation. And I think that companies, DEI is a huge topic right now, but it's one that there's a big difference between companies that are just paying attention to it to check a box and companies that are making real progress. And I think that progress comes from a recognition of how the diversity of thought, it's not about we need X percent women, we need X percent, this type of person, this type of person, et cetera. It's about knowing that the more diversity you bring in, the more creativity, the more perspective, insights, skill sets, and the better that helps you be if you're looking to innovate and transform and evolve. So I think that's really cool. And I think 50% women in service operations in a European team is a really, really good example of that work paying off and benefiting the organization.

Kristoffer Brun: Indeed.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. All right, so here we are midway through the journey or partway through the journey, and Electrolux has some guiding principles in place to keep you focused on the consumer centric transformation initiative. And so I just want to talk a little bit about what those are, where you are today, what your thoughts are on what comes next, okay. So I'm going to list them off and then you just talk about however you want to talk about. But they're the consumer experience, the employee or what you often call end user experience. The idea of exceptions only, meaning automate whatever's possible to automate, information sharing and collaboration and performance visualization. So these are like the five pillars. So can you share a little bit about where you're at, where you're going and how you're using those principles to stay focused?

Kristoffer Brun: And I can mention that this is the service operations product mission and our base try also to connect the overall strategy from the company overall business model into how our processes, functionalities, and features basically fit into the big picture. And I don't really have the how to all of these yet. So it's basically themes where we would like to evolve, where we would like to build. And I can say that we're not running short of things we want to do at the moment, but rather it's a hard work of prioritizing it. But we can start with the heart of the business model, again, the consumer experience and remember that they would like us to be there as quick as possible, solve it first to try being informed, leading up to the visit. And we have seen, very, very good results in both CSAT and NPS since Go Live and functionalities here will of course be going forward, route optimization engine, the new functionalities coming there.

So there of course I wouldn't very... Where I will explore future possibilities with IFS going forward in how we can make that even better. And of course, also how can we forecast our workforce in terms of what happens with the different scenarios. So what happens if service repair volumes drops by 20%? What would that mean in terms of our workforce forecasting? Because the data is there in the system and we are doing this outside the system, but how can we tie those processes and tools now together? And maybe we have some machine learning, maybe we have some AI on top of this as well. So I think we have a lot of possibilities going forward in that area.

If we then go into the end user experience, and to your point, it can be both employed but also service partners, but the end users, they would like a system that is intuitive, efficient and value adding. And basically here we're looking into also connecting everything in one place. So if we have a system where everything then user needs in their daily work, and also it could be less frequent such as working with electrolytes. What do I need there? What kind of systems? What information do I need as a service partner? Then everything should be one place. The time needs to be over very soon at least where a user or working with Electrolux need, I don't know, five, 10 different logins to different places. Sorry I don't remember where now, but I read somewhere, the technicians are not afraid of technology. They are afraid of bad technology. And I think that's our responsibility not to bring bad technology.

Sarah Nicastro: I agree.

Kristoffer Brun: Yeah, and very quickly you mentioned it, but around the automation and validation exception handling, basically, I think, and this ties back also to one of the drivers around always improve, because we should all always review our processes and see whether we can reduce repetitive work and instead move to more value adding work. Because we should basically always reserve capacity to improve these things, but because it's so easy that you define a process, you go live and then that's it basically. And then you work on new things. But I think, and this is of course tightly connected also to the end user experience, but here we will have a lot to do always, I should say.

Sarah Nicastro: Just keeping up the date and continually improving, like you said. Yeah.

Kristoffer Brun: Yes. And also of course, preventing end users to enter incorrect combinations of different fields, et cetera. it's quite easy to prevent that these days.

And if we go then to information sharing and collaboration, it's basically a statement, and this is my statement I guess, but basically new technology enables new ways of sharing information, and collaborating, and driving business results. What can we do with that? What can we do with this new technology? And one of the questions we are working with is around how can we provide the employee technician or our service partner technicians with just enough details to successfully execute the service repair? And that is basically information of course from the consumer during the booking for information from the past, from similar visits, and of course also with the experience we have with this consumer, et cetera. But how can we tie everything together and share that information to prepare the technician for the BC as well, the examples.

And in term of terms of the last team, performance, visualization and reporting KPIs, dashboards, et cetera. But one thing I really would like to begin to one day is gamification and basically what gamification within a service operations landscape could look like. And here if there are others out there with this experience, I'm very interested. But basically, how can we make our teams, our end users, competing with each other’s, with themselves? Three, for example, could that be something to look into? You completed 10 successful visits in a row. Here's a, I don't know, a recognition at least, or a notification around it. And also I would like to build it evolving around the consumer. So rather than focus on how many visits we have executed, for example, look at it, how many consumers we have helped. So tying back to the consumers and face there as well. But that would be really interesting to look into.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So like you said earlier, there's no lack of things you'd like to do, it's just a matter of moving ahead. And I think that's good. It's really representative of how the use of technology has changed. Similar to, we talked about where consumers were a decade ago versus today, technology a decade ago versus today, you used to take a solution, deploy it, let it do its thing and move on to something else. And with the sophistication we have today, there's always ways to continue to improve upon what you have and look for, okay, well we have this capability, I bet we could also use this in this way or over here. So the goal isn't to just put something in place, achieve the minimum possible performance and then let it roll. The idea is to invest in a solution that you know can get more out of overtime and can grow with the business. So that makes sense. And it's good to have a to-do list keeps us busy.

Can you just share quickly, you're still in the process of deploying the service management solution, but what have you seen so far? Where are you at with that today?

Kristoffer Brun: Two things on top of mind. First one is the importance of involving the end users. And maybe no use these days, but if we do the whole work beforehand, if we understand where they come from and the current processes, their current challenges. Because if we can tackle a few of these, we already have a quick wins in the transformation journey already there. And if we can have them involved across basically from business requirement gathering to design phase, and then from there on, we already have a win there because they have been part of this and we haven't made this stupid central, this bad technology basically what I referred to earlier. So we have a win already there also on the transformation side of it. And on top of that, we have better processes. So I think it's a given.

And the second one is around simulation beforehand. We now have a system which offers this. And I think the times we spent before Go Live simulating different scenarios, simulating different optimizer settings. It paid off Go Live because we didn't impact the consumers in that extent that we could have done if we went live and then set the mix with the settings afterwards basically.

So I'm quite confident that we had a positive impact on the consumers actually. And of course from a transformational side here as well, if we involve the key users that will be working with the resource optimizer, they are involved in these simulations, so they build understanding from the tool. They had the ownership of the settings earlier and we also have that already from that point, instead of having that from the goal line or from the training later on.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now, you mentioned earlier that you've seen improvements in CSAT and NPS. What about the objectives of increasing visits per day, reducing kilometers per job? Where are we at as far as achieving those objectives?

Kristoffer Brun: So we have seen a positive impact in both of these areas as well. So we are doing more service repairs per job now, service repairs per day than before. And of course driven kilometers is also less now. So we have seen both of them from the Go Live, which is of course really impressive.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think the goal is looking at those things and how they all intersect. So with a tool like IFS, PSO, so that's what we're talking about, an AI-based planning and scheduling optimization. The goal is to be able to do more visits per day, but not just to do them, to do them in a way that ties to those increases in CSAT and NPS or contributes to that and to reduce miles without affecting that consumer experience. And so that goes back to the objective is to do these things, to make these improvements within the business that all contribute to this better consumer experience. So it's not about, well, we achieved one of these goals, but unfortunately we didn't hit the other two. If you can do it the right way, you can achieve them simultaneously. So last question is, for you as a leader, what is the most important lesson you've learned in this journey?

Kristoffer Brun: I know that I sound like Michael Scott in the TV series The Office or David Brent for UK listeners, but it is to have fun. And basically what does that mean in this context? Basically in implementations like this, I would argue independent of company, that everyone is under a lot of pressure, at least during time periods. So basically how can we as leaders support our teams, especially like we talked about earlier today in an online world. And how can we recognize good behavior and good performance, and how can we motivate, how can we inspire in front of a webcam? And I think definitely if we as product managers now in this case for the Field Service operations, we are responsible basically to connect what we are doing to, in this case, Electrolux groups business model and strategy. Everyone needs to be on the same page. What we are doing today impacts the entire business model, how the entire vision, how the entire strategy.

And I think in order to have more fun, or at least to be more motivated, we would need to have a clear and understandable product mission connected to this strategy so we understand why we are building what we are building, why this feature is important. And of course, like we said, a sense of belonging in an online world, it's hard. Just a few years ago we shook hands and as hello to in a meeting, and now the standard hello phrase is, can you hear me? And I think we have a lot of things still to do here in this online oriented world, and I learned a lot, but I guess I fortunately have a lot to learn around that as well.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that's such a good answer because you're right, the transformation itself is pressure. Obviously we talked about how that was compounded in this case by COVID hitting, which was an immense amount of stress and angst for a lot of people on top of work. And there's always going to be something, right? And so looking for the opportunities to have fun. And as a leader, remembering that in so many ways, your attitude and your mindset sets the stage and people will mirror and mimic that. So if you can look for ways to be enthusiastic and celebrate the wins, even the little ones, and have fun and make people feel connected, then it's a lot easier for them to handle that change and to show up with the mindset of, yeah, we can do this because we're all in it together versus it being some frustrating task that they're being mandated to do.

So I think that's a really important answer. I like it. Good. Well, Kristoffer, thank you so much for coming and sharing your experiences with our listeners. I always enjoy talking with you and we'll have you back at some point in the future to see where things are at and how the continual improvement journey is going. But in the meantime, look forward to seeing you in Stockholm soon.

Kristoffer Brun: Very good. See you soon.

Sarah Nicastro: All right. You can find more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the future of Field Service Insider, which is how you can make sure the latest content is delivered to you every other week in your inbox. Also, check out the live tour schedule so that you can join us at the location nearest you. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

April 5, 2023 | 29 Mins Read

How Whirlpool Creates Field Service Differentiation

April 5, 2023 | 29 Mins Read

How Whirlpool Creates Field Service Differentiation


Simone Silva, Senior Director of Consumer Services and Matt Ganus, Director of Home Services, both at Whirlpool join Sarah to discuss how they’ve taken a path to field service differentiation using independent service providers and how they’ve done so without sacrificing collaboration, customer experience, or service success.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we are going to be taking an inside look at how Whirlpool creates field service differentiation. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today, Simone Silva, who is the Senior Director of Consumer Services. And Matt Ganus, who is the Director of Home Services, both at Whirlpool. Simone, and Matt, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Simone Silva: Thank you, Sarah. It's a pleasure to be here with you today.

Matthew Ganus: Thank you, Sarah. It's a pleasure to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. Okay. We're going to have ourselves a regular party here, and I'm going to do my best to make sure, it's been a long time since I've had two people on at once, but I think I can handle it. Okay. So to start, I'm just going to ask you both to share a little bit more about yourself, your backgrounds, et cetera. And Simone, I'm going to start with you. I think most people are familiar with the Whirlpool brand, but if you can just also recap the organization as well, that would be great.

Simone Silva: Sure, no problem. So starting with Whirlpool, Whirlpool Corporation has a portfolio of iconic brands, not just in the United States, but all over the world. Here in the United States the brands that we go to market with are the very popular major appliances brands, Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, and Amana. So pretty clear segmentation in different portfolios by brands, but we do believe that's one of our strengths. We go to market with products that really deliver to the experiences that our consumers are looking for. Whirlpool has 111 years of history in the United States and in the world, so it does make us very proud to be part of such a great corporation. Switching gears to myself, I've been with the company for 16 years now. It's hard to believe it's been that long.

And prior to Whirlpool I worked in automotive for additional 11 years. But here with Whirlpool, my experience has been in quality and service, so about half and half. So half of my tenure with Whirlpool in product quality, supplier quality, and half of my tenure with the company in field service, and more recently in the last four years leading consumer services as a function for Whirlpool. For us consumer services is inclusive of our B2B and B2C contact centers and all of our home services, home delivery, installation and appliance repair.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, great. Thank you, Simone. And Matt?

Matthew Ganus: Yes. I started with the company about 15 years ago. Most of my responsibilities were all within consumer services. I actually started off as a call agent into the call center with an array of responsibilities. Started on the front line, went into project management, and even got the opportunity to lead our executive corporate teams. I transitioned to service about five years ago to help elevate the service as a differentiator strategy. And as we focus on services, my team's responsibility to deep dive into process opportunities for operational improvements in the field.

Sarah Nicastro: Awesome. I always say when people have been at an organization, especially today, we know that talent is tough, turnover is high, et cetera. When people have been at a company for 10, 15 plus years, I always say it tells me that the company does a good job of not only keeping people happy, but giving people opportunities to grow and expand in their careers, which I think is really cool. Okay. Simone, when we chatted previously, you said that about seven years ago, Whirlpool made the decision to really focus in on field service as a path to differentiation. We're going to talk a little bit about how the company has done that. But can you talk first about how the company recognized the opportunity to use service in that way and really put more power behind the brand through its field service function?

Simone Silva: Sure. Well, I like to describe this as, it all starts with the realization that when a person makes a decision to purchase an appliance, that person is making a long-term commitment. Nobody buys a major appliance for their homes to be a short-lived product that they will deal with for just a couple of months and then be already looking for the next replacement. We are talking about durable goods that will very likely be part of a person's life for the next seven, 10 years, many times way over that timeframe. In pretty heavy use you deal with your refrigerator, your stove, your microwave, every single day, multiple times a day. What we realized is that when somebody makes that commitment to one of our brands, we need to offer more than just the product itself. We need to offer an ecosystem that comes with that product and really impact their lives in a positive way.

That's the role that service can play. 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. I said it started with that realization. It was about seven years ago, like you said, that we agreed to pursue that opportunity. So to really make service a differentiator for each one of our brands, and it's not just the look and feel, we are not talking about a technician that shows up in someone's home with a branded t-shirt and when they go on the next appointment they change shirts.

It's not just the optics of it, it really goes down to leaving that home and leaving the consumer with a very positive experience, an experience that makes them want to stay loyal to our brands. Matt can for sure talk more about all the details of what we do there, but we do take seriously the opportunity of being welcomed into somebody's homes and really make the best of that. Not just repair an appliance that needs repair, but also educate that consumer on the best way to maximize performance and quality and really make their lives easier by utilizing our appliances.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. I talk to companies every day that are looking at how to evolve through service, expand their business through service, differentiate through service, et cetera. And you mentioned that Whirlpool has 111 year old history. And so it's really common that even once a company recognizes that there's this potential to use service more strategically, when you're going from just a long history of a product focused mindset, it's a big change to put service at the top of the list as well and to have that be top of mind. One of the things that I thought was really interesting is we talked about the fact that the company, I think in part to work toward that mindset shift, the company will have a service leader go side by side with a salesperson to customers so that you're always representing service alongside the product and making sure that the brand is always seen internally and externally as both.

Matt, can you talk a little bit about that process and the thinking behind it and what you've found by, I don't want to say forcing them to unite, but I think it's making sure everyone's working together.

Matthew Ganus: I think it's really critical that you have a collective strategy on the sales and service side. Sales, they have to sell the product really well and it's important to showcase if, products do fail and we don't expect them to, but if a failure or repair does occur, we need to have the right service recovery processes, not only to fix the product, but ensure that we regain trust from our consumer within the service network. I look at this as service as a true catalyst for brand power. And when you couple that with the right selling strategy, this is where I believe that differentiating in the marketplace can truly occur.

Sarah Nicastro: It's a stumbling block for a lot of companies, right? Because they focus on the service transformation within the service function, but not on connecting it to the other parts of the business. It's a missed opportunity, because a customer becomes a customer through that sales process, but if you have service there from the beginning, it makes for a more seamless customer experience. And it also reinforces internally the mindset of the fact that the product and the service go hand in hand. So service is as of seven years ago a key focus in terms of differentiation for Whirlpool. And we're going to, again, talk about some of the specific tactics and processes, et cetera.

But another thing we have to mention that I think people will find interesting, is that Whirlpool made the decision to focus on providing its service exclusively through independent service providers. Simone, can you talk a little bit about that decision?

Simone Silva: I sure can. We've explored both models. We've had many years of experience with a factory service model, and we also have a lot of years of reliance on independent providers. I think that anybody who is really invested in understanding the service industry will come to the conclusion that in the United States the most successful service companies, most of them start as a family business and they are on the fourth, fifth generation within that same family. The way I like to think about it is that by partnering with those providers, we get the best of both words, because we come in with the drive and likely shoulder the infrastructure of a big corporation, and we pair that with the passion of a small business owner or a family owned business.

It is very regionalized. We do know that our characteristics when it comes to regulations and licenses and things that are very particular to the subdivisions or the different geographies in the country by partnering with independent providers, that factor already starts to not be a roadblock for a large corporation operating out of the headquarters here in Michigan. I think independence have more agility and flexibility to scale up and down to our service needs more so than what a large corporation would have. But it doesn't come without a very high level of trust and partnership. Like I said, we only were confident that this would be a model interesting for us and right for Whirlpool, because we had the right relationships with those providers, we had their absolute loyalty and passion for our brands.

When you talk to any of our providers, particularly the ones that are from what we call the W service network that's a subset of independent providers that manage most of our volume in the market. They speak about our shared consumers with all the same passion and willingness to provide a great experience that any of us would within Whirlpool. So when you have all those elements, there is no reason why not to leverage that as our model and build up on all the positives of it, the small business mindset, the passion, the knowledge of the different regional areas. That's what I see as one of our biggest advantages.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that. And I think that when you talk about the decision strategically to put more focus on differentiating through the field service experience, I think for some people then saying, and we're doing that through independent providers, those two things would be at odds with one another. Do you know what I mean? That's what makes this an interesting story because you have found a way to, like you said, bring together the best of both worlds. And so we're going to talk a little bit about how you're doing that. Matt, were you going to say something?

Matthew Ganus: Just to build on that, Sarah, I think we've had, to Simone's point, both models, our internal technicians and independents. I think there's benefits of both. I think what we see as a unique and interesting dynamic to play out here is the entrepreneurial spirit with our independents, as Simone alluded to, we look at these entities in the marketplace as entrepreneurs. And I think that provides a level of skin in the game if you can look at it as we both partner with a trusted relationship. And I think if we back up and we start to see how this relationship plays, we mutually agree that we need to improve, we have to have the right operational efficiencies and ultimately we want to deliver to the customer expectations and those requirements to have a five star experience.

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. It doesn't always have to be a hands-off management system. In fact, we found the more integrated and embedded we both are, that partnership continues to grow and both of these relationships I think have a significant amount of skin in the game and we win or lose together.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that's a good point, Matt. It's mutually beneficial, but it's also shared risk I guess, or shared reduction of risk. And what by that is if you think about an entrepreneur, a lot of times the objective there is they want to be independent. They don't want to go work for Whirlpool proper, they don't want to sell the family business, they want to be independent. But with that comes the risk of, okay, am I going to have enough business from quarter to quarter, year to year? And so this partnership gives them some stability. And then on the flip side, it gives Whirlpool I think a lot of agility. Simone, you mentioned not having to worry about those regional differences. Being able to trust those providers with some of the things that don't need to be Whirlpool's core competency or area of expertise, allows you to not have to focus on all of it and leverage these partners in a more agile way than if you were trying to globally or even regionally standardize everything. So yeah, really interesting.

Simone Silva: Sarah, one aspect that I think is very critical and at times people in corporate jobs like ours, we lose sight or we don't think of how relevant that is, is to design an experience around the consumer behaviors. The human element was that individual who will make the first phone call to request a service visit. When you run market studies in this area, in North America, you see that there is a tendency, there is a preference of consumers to rely on that company that they drive by every day and they know it's a reliable service provider associated with Whirlpool. They have in smaller towns, they have kids who go to the same school and that's the reality of our service industry. It would be not very smart of us to ignore that fact and just assume that consumers would also value our approach to service with a one size fits all, a national provider as being their best choice.

No, when they have that trust, that reliance on a community small business that they're serving, we are better off partnering with those companies and bringing our very best to them, but also leveraging what they can bring to the table in order to deliver that ideal customer experience that we want the Whirlpool consumers to count on. It's definitely a win-win and they know we depend on them, but we also value our partnership. We are here for the long run and year over year they have our commitment. Don't take that as we don't hold them accountable. Matt can speak to all the details of our management operating systems, our governance, but at the end of the day it's all to make all those independent providers better and together deliver an ideal customer experience.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. All right, so Matt, let's talk about some of those aspects. You said, and Simone said this to me the first time we spoke is, we have to keep in mind that going independent doesn't mean being hands off. I think a lot of that trepidation comes from you're just relinquishing all control and hoping that the people you are partnering with will do what needs to be done. And so we're going to talk about how that's not the case. We're going to go through some of the ways that Whirlpool is working to direct, equip and empower its field force via the partnerships. The first thing I think we've talked about a little bit, which is this regional approach. You are taking this regional approach, but you have district managers, am I understanding this correctly? That gives regional leadership to pair with the contract workforce or the independent service providers. Can you talk a little bit about that structure?

Matthew Ganus: Yes. Think of it as deploying consulting services across the nation. And a lot of the times our service providers teach us way more than what we can teach them, but we believe it all starts with the proper values, establishing them within their culture, what type of tools they're utilizing on a day-to-day to potentially solve problems, and then how do they maintain the proper disciplines day in day out to maintain the results. So some of the things in terms of our methodologies of how we work is all around continuous improvement and lean tools and principles. We believe by applying these and we've tested, and these are tried and true establishments of how our partnerships work. In terms of governance, and we think about this as our operating rhythm. We call our management operating system here the foundational elements of how we work.

We look at, what are the process nodes that make up taking care of a consumer? Do we have all the right attributes? Is there waste within that process? Where do we want to find improvements? How do we start to go and prioritize those improvements one by one through maybe even a process failure mode effective analysis? Establishing this type of infrastructure into our service companies, we believe makes them stronger and ultimately allows them to solely start to identify and get very excited when opportunities or problems arise. There's a couple of other things around capabilities and competence building that I wanted to talk through as well. We do have traveling trainers. We have what we would have depending on some of the opportunities that we see, byproduct categories and dedicated training that goes across our network.

But it was not only focused on the technical altitude, it's also the soft skills. And that competency development is really critical, When we do have a repair needed, an elevated experience that as we aspire to achieve and we have to think about in some cases fixing the consumer first versus the product and focusing on listening and learning from our service providers is very critical on how we do that emotional intelligence in the home and ensuring that we have the right consumer interaction training. And that's deployed through our competency development training in-house. And if we do those things right, it all equates to what our output of measurements are. We're very big on the numbers here at Whirlpool.

We try to measure all the things that are valuable within the experience, but measuring performance such as customer ratings or even operational metrics, it really is a way to look at are we meeting expectations? Are we delivering upon our promise? And if we are coming up short, what are our actions to get us there? And that's really what our regional approach is with our field service business managers across the nation.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So those regional managers, I have a couple questions on this and I'm assuming our listeners would be curious too. How many independent service providers do they work with and what do those relationships look like? How often are they interacting? Are they interacting in person or do those people only work remote? What do those relationships look like?

Matthew Ganus: From a relationship, ratio based, it depends on the region, it depends on the district, but you could have a field service business manager that takes up anywhere from 150 companies depending on their market. What we do have is different tiers within our network. We do prioritize our exclusivity. That's where we have a lot of companies that have gone all in with us, and we see this as a competitive advantage. So a lot of our time is spent there. And how the relationship dynamics play out is, obviously we look at a relationship based approach. We feel like we have the right relationship, we're going to get the right result, but results are going to take a response and they're going to take folks that are going to listen and apply and also have us listen and apply what they need from our end to be in position to win in the marketplace and ultimately take care of our consumer.

What I do think is critical though is, you still have another 149 service companies that are out there that need to be taken care of. It is all about how we put together an operational rhythm through the management operating system. We do look at how do we optimize, how do we automate, how do we create self-service options? Those are very critical. So the reliance on these field service business managers are minimized and they can go after truly what the strategic priorities are in the field.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. I want to go back to the point you made about the exclusive partners. So going back a couple years, there was a podcast I did with a gentleman from Foxtel in Australia and they had an all contract model, different situation, different industry, et cetera, et cetera. But this idea of prioritizing those relationships makes sense. And I'm just curious, what motivation does Whirlpool give those providers to be exclusive providers? Does it just happen or are there incentives for them to be or do that? Do you know what I mean?

Matthew Ganus: Yes. What we have here is an earned performance model. And so as performance is recognized, the market is earned by the service provider. It's critical for us to do our part to position them well to win the market. But as Simone alluded to, we hold our servicers accountable through the 200 plus MSAs across the country. Majority of those are filled with our exclusive providers. And as they are performing, what we've done in the past is we've recognized that performance by actually clearing out some of those servicers that we're in those markets as backups, as long as they're providing the proper availability, meeting our customer expectations, we do everything that we can to create more of a healthy, viable service network, especially with our exclusivity.

Simone Silva: And it's a conclusion that we get to together with them. Part of the things that those district managers are charged with is really to understand the exact service need for the area that they cover. What is the demand? Align what we are seeing from a service calls standpoint with sales projections, what are the new products that are hitting the market and likely staying within that area. So that business intelligence allows for them to understand, okay, do I need to grow an exclusive provider that might be based out of a highly populated metropolitan area and give that company an opportunity to expand? Am I better off because I'm in a rural area with houses that are miles and miles apart from each other to operate through independence? There is a strategy behind each one of those decisions. But when we see an opportunity for somebody to turn exclusive, there are a few things that needs to be true. So performance for sure is one of them.

Healthy demand, flow of business going into that company is another one. And at the end of the day they get to that decision by themselves, because they also see all of the efficiencies that they can gain and efficiencies translate into higher profitability by simplifying their operation, by eliminating the complexity of filing service claims with two or three or four warrant administrators, by having to keep their workforce trained and up to date in a variety of different brands. If it's hard along for them to get familiar with all the products in our portfolio, our four brands, imagine if they are a shop that serves everybody else. So they get to those conclusions and we only convert somebody to the exclusive model when it's mutually beneficial, it needs to be a win-win.

We really take along that commitment of high partnership and that district manager will get to that conclusion together with a candidate when we have a company that is a candidate for exclusivity. But fair enough, we do prioritize. We would like to see that model growing even bigger than it is today.

Sarah Nicastro: Now, this is maybe an unfair question because it wasn't one we talked about, but I have to go off script when I think of things that are really relevant. We've talked a lot about how this works when it's going well. The investment that Whirlpool is putting into having these regional managers that work with these different companies, investing in capabilities and competence building, et cetera. What happens when it doesn't go well? Okay, so what I'm envisioning is, what if there's a company that you're saying, hey, we're doing some traveling training and we want to come through and meet with the team, blah, blah, blah, and they say, no, we don't want to, or they don't want to really meet or engage a lot with the regional manager.

I guess I'm talking about there would be in the metrics if there's a glaring problem, that's going to come up and you're going to be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a bad customer experience, we need to deal with this immediately. But I'm just wondering, knowing that the objective is differentiation through field service, through a very positive brand experience. I'm not necessarily asking how you weed out any flagrant problems because that seems like they would surface, but more so how do you move past the relationships where they don't want to be as collaborative as Whirlpool wants to be? Because that is the risk, right? Is the companies that aren't engaged or don't want to participate, that's where you would be nervous about the customer experience.

Matthew Ganus: I can take a shot at this one, Simone, and then maybe you can fill in the gaps. Sarah, as I talked to a little bit of the management operating system, I'll bring it right back to that. We do have early warnings being identified or signals within the management operating system that says, okay, things just aren't going the way that we expected. And the first thing that happens is you get a phone call, right? I will say with our network, and maybe we're spoiled and lucky on this, 99.9% of the time you have service companies that are willing to work with us. I think it's really important to set those expectations at the beginning of the partnership. We're very diligent on who we authorize. You're just not coming into the network to be authorized for no reason, or we just put a check in the box and you go do your thing and service our consumers.

We're looking at how do we actually build a fundamental relationship with you operationally, and that's going to take both of us to do our part. And as I start thinking about the authorization process, we have robust governance and systems that they have to be approved for. It starts with the background checks, it starts with making sure that they have the right insurance and all of the criteria established there to be an authorized servicer. And as we're going through that process, that process is long data. This doesn't happen over 24 hours. This is a two, three week process where we're working with that company. We have a whole onboarding package, it's a playbook that we share. Within that playbook we're setting the expectations of, what are these metrics that you need to hit? If they aren't hit, what are going to be some of the consequences?

And what we do is we give everybody the benefit of the doubt of what do we need to bring to the table to make you successful? And we start there, we ask questions, we go and see. A lot of my team is traveling across the country on a weekly basis. I just came back yesterday from New Jersey. There are a lot of time and dedication here, commitment to going, seeing operations. When we go and see, it's just not a honk wave, we bring donuts and coffee and we'll see it in the next couple of quarters. It's a matter of let's go in and really diagnose your operations. What's the assessment? Are you healthy? Let's look at everything end to end. Let's map it out. And that lean and continuous improvement methodology is critical. And if they're not embedding that, what does it take for them to understand a couple of those problem solving techniques so we can get these incremental wins.

And after we've exhausted all of our resources and things still aren't happening right, of course we have an improvement plan and we have consequences behind that. But it's within, I think, the relationship expectation that we do everything to be successful and we grow together. And 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 can we operationally change or adjust to put us back into a winning position.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense.

Simone Silva: I would give kudos to Matt and his team for how detailed, how granular that management of the network in the entire country is. They have all of their early signals like Matt called them, down to a zip code level, down to technician level. We have the ability to chase every single one of those signals. And honestly when you approach a problem that way, it's less about finger pointing and having that very cold relationship where we are paying for a service and they need to service well. No, we are there to problem solve. And then they are very open to that. In my couple of years leading this team, some people might get the wrong idea there that we hire and fire companies every other day and it's not really the case. We have a very consistent and sustainable base of service companies that are wanting to work with us.

A lot of them have opportunities for improvements, but we are working together to address. And so there were very few and rare cases where we had a straight elimination of somebody from our network. And it's never a quick move. We consider the consumers that will be impacted. We make sure that that district manager once again has a plan for that area because we need to have coverage. And I agree with Matt, maybe we are spoiled because we rely on, I wouldn't be afraid to say the best ones out there. They are working with us, but we also have very strong coverage. I used to ask the team, why our coverage is not 100%, it's 97%? Their answer has always been, we only do not cover the zip codes where there are no appliances, cemeteries, airports. That's the kind of thing.

But jokes apart. That puts us in a position that whenever we are dealing with problems and chasing those signals, we have time to put a plan together and make sure that the service needs for that area will be taken care of.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. I didn't mean to insinuate I think you have a lot of those, it was more the conversation around the early indicators, because you don't want to wait until you see a lagging indicator in customer experience to notice, okay, maybe something's off here. So that makes sense. Okay. Have a couple more questions I want to try and get through. I'll put this to both of you, which is really just, there is this element within companies that sort of fear this model, that fear lacking control or that they're going to sacrifice quality or consistency of service. And so what would you say to that fear?

Simone Silva: I think that the 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 that customer experience and together we succeed. So that's how we see it. That's how I hope we come across when we approach service companies and we walk the talk there, we play fair and transparently, transparently to recognize them for their successes and transparently to hold them accountable for their misses. I think when we first started seven years ago or six years ago when 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 should we, why would I put all my eggs in the same basket? How can I be dependent?

But I think time has showed then 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. I don't know, Matt, if you would have different thoughts about it.

Matthew Ganus: No, I don't. I think it's just really critical for us to, from an OEM perspective, demonstrate that we're all in as well. I think once they realize that we're in it together, the fear doesn't necessarily become eliminated, but it does minimize. And then how you work with the opportunities or the problems that are presented, not just focusing on the inputs, but also the outputs. And demonstrating we have an operating system, we do business assessments, we look at the health, we also bring in their perspective. And that's critical. Like I mentioned, and just to reiterate, we're continuing to learn nuances of how service operations are ran every single day. There is just not a plug and play strategy out there. But these servicers, especially the ones that have demonstrated great performance and just becoming very much differentiated in the marketplace from a brand representation standpoint, these companies teach us just the agility that it takes.

And a lot of times we have to try to keep our pace up with theirs. And so I think that's what minimizes the fear, is when you both come to the table, you both have skin in the game and you can look at each other eye to eye and say, yep, we're in this together and our definition of success here is to win and to be very healthy as we continue our journey together.

Sarah Nicastro: Simone, I think the point you made about control is so important. Like you said, it isn't about control, it never has been. Because for a lot of companies it is. That's the fear. But I think that's really the crux of how this entire industry is evolving, because whether we're talking about Whirlpool as an organization looking for how best to partner with independent service providers or whether we're looking at internal leaders, looking at how best to manage W2 workers, relying on control and compliance is not the way that you're going to get the outcome, it's partnering, empowering, equipping for success and then trusting. Yes, is that a little bit scary? Sure. But no one is having success with control as the objective, whatever the model is.

I think that was a really good point. Okay. I know we're over time. I'm just going to ask you guys a last question, which is, I'm going to ask you two different questions. Matt, I'm going to ask you, if you think about the way that Whirlpool invests to make these relationships successful, is there an element of that that you think has the most impact or that companies who are trying to achieve what you're achieving are most commonly missing?

Matthew Ganus: I think just as some lessons learned being five years in, I probably personally underestimated just how important relationships were in the industry. And if I think about really service, I think maybe we might have an opportunity to look at it differently. It's actually just a people business. It's not a product or service business, it's all about dealing with people. And when you get those things right, you unlock capabilities and potential. That's what a lot of our companies have taught us. And I think once you see that being embedded into a culture, now you really know that you have the right partnership there. I think it's not relative on investment. It's a matter of what are those infrastructures that you can build out and ensure that that is cascaded across your network and how do you put that philosophy into a significant amount of companies that can get that right.

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. All right. Simone, last question, looking back on your 16 years at Whirlpool, what would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned? You're on mute.

Simone Silva: I could probably split my answer into two here. If I try to stay focused on Whirlpool as a company and their relationships, I think we really leave our values on ours leave, and we take very good care of our people. Whirlpool is very people oriented, and that's probably one the biggest reason why I've stayed for with the company for so long and intent to continue. It's that true and genuine care for the people that make Whirlpool a successful company. If I answer your question more specifically to how we go to market and do service, I think we are not afraid of trying new things and adjusting and being flexible. So yes, we are 111 years old. Yes, we operate in field service through a network of independence that's made of family businesses that started four generations ago, but that doesn't put us in a position that we are complacent and not open to what is next.

I think we are very open to understand the different generations that are out there, not just interacting with our appliances, but in need of service and their choices as ways of communication, or what their expectations are for service. And I think we try to bring that to our network of servicers too, that they too need to be open and remember that when a consumer is assessing how good or bad we are and a service experience they had with us, they are comparing that service experience with the one that they had for their cars, with the ones that they had with their internet provider. I think our words today is so, everything is just so tangled. We are surrounded by all these experiences. That was a big learning for me with Whirlpool, that we take that as a very important thing. We don't lose sight of it, and we are in constant pursuit of how to adjust, how to better respond to that dynamic, not fight it and not be in denial, but to adjust for a better outcome.

That's to me, one of the biggest things that I've seen. And that translates into being customer-centric and putting the consumers first. It's not what Whirlpool can do for them, is how Whirlpool serves them and how Whirlpool responds to their unmatched needs and expectations. And so I think that comes across very consistently in our actions, in how we go to market, how we manage our service network.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that. I think for the people listening that are still focused on fear of losing control, they should shift to being afraid of complacency, because that's the real thing to be scared of at this point. All right. Thank you both so, so much for coming on and sharing with me and our listeners. I really, really appreciate it.

Simone Silva: It was a pleasure to be with you here, Sarah. Thank you so much.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, thanks.

Matthew Ganus: Thanks for having us, Sarah. Appreciate the opportunity.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. You can find more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insider so you can stay up to date, and register for the Future of Field Service live tour event closest to you. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

March 29, 2023 | 36 Mins Read

Busting the Biggest Burnout Myths 

March 29, 2023 | 36 Mins Read

Busting the Biggest Burnout Myths 


Sarah welcomes Cait Donovan, burnout expert and host of “Fried – the Burnout Podcast.” Cait and Sarah demystify burnout as a buzzword and Cait shares insight not only for individuals concerned with burnout but also for companies looking to reduce burnout to retain top talent. 

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we are talking about the biggest burnout myths. So we are here to bust the biggest myths that exist about burnout. Really excited for my guest today, who is Cait Donovan. Cait is a burnout coach, author, and host of the Fried Podcast, and I love that you say you're on a mission to end burnout culture. So welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Cait Donovan: I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: When Cait and I connected to prep for this, I had to stop myself multiple times of trying to turn it into a one-on-one coaching session related to my own burnout. So we'll try not to do that today either, but this is the topic that of course, is timely, relevant to so many folks and companies, right? So whether it's from an individual perspective, the leader's perspective, looking for ways to support their teams or the company, thinking about the relevance of this topic, a lot of different perspectives. So before we get into it all, tell everyone a little bit more about yourself, your journey and how you came to be the burnout expert.

Cait Donovan: Well, I'll start with the burnout expert. I always have a trouble with the word expert, and if we're going to use Malcolm Gladwell's sort of description, then 10,000 hours I covered ages ago, so we can go with that if we need to. But we'll start with I'm a super nerd. School was always easy for me. I got through things. I got a full scholarship to college. I did all the right things, and I think that when I started my burnout recovery, when I realized I was burnt out, I spent a lot of time digging in the research, and one of the things that really ended up standing out to me was that I wasn't represented in it. At the time of my burnout, I was a female entrepreneur, and all of the research was on corporations and hospitals, and I just sat there thinking, "Well, that means there's a lot of gaps in the research."

So I have spent the last seven years, I even went back to school for another degree because I really needed space to be able to dig into some of these gaps. So talking about the burnout myths is really important to me because there's a lot of things that I see out there where I'm like, "No, no, not that."

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So you were an entrepreneur when you kind of hit your burnout phase, or I guess realization, right?

Cait Donovan: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So what were you doing at the time, and then, so you've written a book, you host a podcast, you do a lot of public speaking and you do coaching. So tell us a little bit about how that journey has unfolded.

Cait Donovan: I realized I was burnt out because of an article. I saw an article, I started reading it. It was about burnout. This was 2016, and it was one of those moments that I know that people say that they have now when they listen to my podcast that I was going, "Tick, tick, tick, tick, oh, shoot." I just kept going down the list and saying, "Oh, okay, this is what's happening to me. And I had been struggling for quite some time." When I look back on it, I really think that my burnout was a good six or seven years long, and I couldn't figure out what was going on, which is strange because at the time I was practicing as a full-time acupuncturist and I was living in Prague, and I didn't understand how someone with the kind of knowledge that I had and the introductions to meditation and stress management and all of those things that are a part of my medicine, how it could happen to me.

Plus I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. So I was a little annoyed that it happened to me. I'm like, "Why didn't I fix this before it happened?" I was a little bit mad at myself. So when I went through the process of healing, I was writing about it online, not for any purpose, just for the sake of saying, "Hey, this is what's going on." People started asking for help, and then I got to a point where I did all of that research. I read through every single thing that was available on burnout in 2016 over the course of one year, everything that was downloadable, and I did it through Cambridge University because my husband was doing a post-grad at the time. So I had all the access to all the university libraries. Like, "Get me everything." I read through it all, and I was reminded of a Charles Bukowski poem about being an author that I read when I was a senior in high school, I think, and I remember reading it and thinking, "Oh, someday this is going to be me."

The poem starts out, and I'm not going to say it word for word because I don't know it word for word, but the idea is you shouldn't be a writer until the words are so piled up in your body that you can't help but get them out, that they're just pouring out of you because you can't keep them in anymore. I remember reading that and being like, "Someday that's going to happen to me." This is when it happened to me. So I wrote the book, not even really for anybody else, I wrote the book because I felt like if I didn't get this information out of my head, I was never going to have room to learn anything ever again. I needed to make space.

So when I finished writing the book around that same time, I had just gone through an injury. I ruptured my achilles, I was unable to work. We had just moved back to the United States. I wasn't able to work. I was in bed all day every day because I couldn't stand for 16 weeks, and the podcast was born during that time. The podcast was born out of a few different things. There's an origin story somewhere out there in the interwebs if anybody wants to look for it. But the dual goal of creating a resource for people and gathering stories for my book that weren't just about me was behind it at the end of the day.

So then the podcast started nine months before a pandemic hit. So people always say, "How do you create a successful podcast?" I'm like, "Get lucky with timing," because you can't control that bit. So I got really lucky with timing, and both of those things catapulted the rest of my work. So all of my coaching clients come directly from the podcast, or 98% of them come directly from the podcast, and a lot of my speaking engagements can come from there as well. Even if it means that a listener is saying, "Hey, there's this speaker I know that has this podcast about burnout," and is sharing it with their HR team or their people.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, what a wild ride. So let's get into our myths. So the first one isn't so much a myth, but more bringing clarity to I guess a working definition of what burnout is. So there can be some misperceptions or maybe widely varying thoughts around what burnout actually is. So can you start by just talking about what is it, and why is it commonly misunderstood?

Cait Donovan: In order to do this, I always go back to the definition that has been accepted by the World Health Organization because we have to start at a common place. According to the World Health Organization definition, which is based on research done by Christina Maslach and a whole team of people, burnout has three components. The first one is physical and emotional exhaustion. This always makes me giggle a little, and this is part of the problem. Almost any symptom on the planet can fall under physical and emotional exhaustion, so that's confusing. The second is cynicism and detachment. So feeling like you're alone in the world, being really negative and cynical at work is part of it. Those two things both have to be there, and there has to be a third aspect. So all three pieces must be present. The third aspect is feeling like your work is not impactful slash you're not able to be productive and/or both. So those three things in a bubble have to all exist for it to be burnout.

Additionally, the definition states that this is primarily work related, so this is where things get confusing. First of all, physical and emotional exhaustion is confusing because physical exhaustion is fatigue. It's also headaches, it's also sluggish digestion, it's also crappy sleep. There's a lot of symptoms that can be related to physical exhaustion. So how does it present in people? So that can be confusing. Emotional exhaustion is also, well, what does that really mean, lack of bandwidth? Well, lack of bandwidth will lead someone to crying, another person to anxiety and a third person to eruptions of rage. So again, what does it look like? And after talking to hundreds and hundreds of people over the years, the biggest problem is that it looks a little bit different in everybody.

In Chinese medicine, we say that your weakest places in your body, which some of them are constitutional and some of them are gained because of life experiences, your weakest constitutions are the ones that will be exploited in high stress situations. So if you were in a car accident when you were 12 and you had whiplash, your burnout will likely have some neck pain. So that makes it make more sense to people to say, "Well, this person had asthma as a child, so they're having trouble breathing as part of their burnout." You might not have any issues with your breath during burnout, but you're having massive headaches because you have a genetic predisposition to migraines. So it's a little convoluted.

I think the next part of this definition that makes it difficult is there's so focused on trying to delineate burnout from depression because there's some overlapping factors that in order to delineate it, they're saying, "Well, this is work related," and the fact of the matter is it's not just work related. And so I think that that's something that will evolve with time. So I was really glad that you used the words specifically working definition, because this is very much a working definition. We have a lot to learn. There's a lot of gaps, and this is the best information I can give you at this time, understanding that if somebody listens to this podcast in five years, it might not be correct anymore.

Sarah Nicastro: Right, that makes sense. So then it seems like one of the biggest reasons it's commonly misunderstood is because those three characteristics can look really different based on an individual's experience. A lot of times when people want to understand something, they want to simplify it to where it's very specifically defined. They can look at it, and this is one of those things that you can only do to a point because huge aspects of it are very individual.

Okay, so I think we'll get into explaining it a bit more as we go along. So the next kind of myth I want to walk through is twofold and that is that people tend to see burnout one of two ways as the individual's duty to repair. So it's the person's fault or it's a result of their work environment. In reality, it's a lot more complex. So let's talk through those two things. So the first part being the individual needs to take care to avoid burnout. So this individual responsibility, so let's talk about why that is not so simple.

Cait Donovan: I think I would start by adjusting the sentence slightly and saying that it is an individual's responsibility to recover from burnout, but I don't actually believe it's an individual's responsibility to avoid or prevent burnout. I think that's a societal, cultural, organizational piece. So after everything that I've done, I can say with clarity that burnout is not ever an individual's fault, just never. I've never seen it be somebody's fault.

What does happen is that due to various situations in childhood, everybody has them. Some of them are traumatic, some of them are not really traumatic, but they create coping mechanisms and behaviors that each person chooses that allow them to feel safe. If those coping mechanisms and behaviors involve problems with boundaries, perfectionism, people pleasing, et cetera, that person will be more vulnerable to burnout. So those are some type of trait almost. I mean, I don't really want to say trait because trait is more innate and more baked in than this, and these are responses to life, but these are coping mechanisms that people are using and use them successfully for most of their lives, but leave them vulnerable to burnout.

It's not their fault that they created those things, and most of the time they're not even aware that they do it. So how can somebody be at fault for something that they created as a coping mechanism when they were four, right? That's just not even fair. However, once you've already burnt out, nobody can fix it for you, but you. You can work with someone like me, you can work with your doctor, you can go to a therapist. Of course, you can get support in the recovery process, but if you don't decide to go through the recovery process, fixing the outside world is not going to change it for you because there are concrete physiological changes that happen in your body that require healing. So this is the individual piece.

The organizational piece comes from a lot of the research that ends up saying that 80% of burnout is due to the organizational dysfunction, toxic organizations, et cetera. I have not found that to be true personally. When I talk to people, it usually ends up looking about 50/50, and my sample size at this point is around a thousand people. So I need five times that in order to make it a reasonable size study. So I'm starting where I am, but I do not see this 80/20 split. However, that doesn't mean that the culture of the organization has no effect. The culture of an organization has massive effect. If there is a tendency toward overwork, if there is a lack of fairness, if there is no recognition or praise, if there is a lack of community, if there is a values mismatch, these are all things that were talked about in a previous episode.

So we don't need to deep dive into those. People can go listen to that episode of the Future of Field Service podcast to get that. If those things are all out of whack, again, the environment is creating a vulnerability for burnout. So when I use the word vulnerability, I'm using it really carefully because we don't have a way to study burnout that would allow us to say that X or Y is a cause. There are a lot of correlations, and a lot of those correlations have been proven time and time again. So we are inching toward the word cause, but we aren't there yet. And you can't do an experimental study on this to check for cause for sure, because it would be completely unethical to expose people to things to see if they burn out or not, right?

So every time you see burnout and cause somewhere I've made the mistake, you'll find it in my material, but every time you see that somewhere, I want you to stop and remind yourself that yes, there might be a relationship here, but we can't talk about it being a causal relationship.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. So okay, so we talked about a myth is that it's the individual's need to avoid burnout. Not true. Another myth is the workplace is responsible for burnout and why we're seeing so much of this also not entirely true.

Cait Donovan: Untrue.

Sarah Nicastro: It is, but not in its entirety, right?

Cait Donovan: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: But the other thing that we haven't talked about, and I'm curious how it fits into the overall issue is as you mentioned, the societal aspect. Can you talk about that piece a little bit?

Cait Donovan: Yes. So the model of burnout that I've created is a biopsychosocial model, and there's six places that can affect you. The first one is work. We've got that. We know that the studies are done. We have the research. The second one is self, and this is all these trauma response things, right? But again, not your fault. It's just something that leaves you more vulnerable. Outside of that, we have culture. So right now we can talk about the United States culture because that's where we are. I have insight into other places because I have lived all over the world, but we can talk about this culture. Within our culture, the patriarchy is an issue. So if you are anything other than a white man, you will have to fight for things more. If you are subject to any of the isms, racism, homophobia, homophobism, sexism, any of the things, you will be more vulnerable to burnout.

It is very clearly shown in the research that when you are subject to constant discrimination, even in many ways like microaggressions, you have higher levels of inflammation in your body. So there are actual physical responses to being in the group of people that is not treated as well as they should be. So this is a cultural thing that has a massive effect on burnout.

In the United States in particular, we have two values in our top 10 list of values as a country that are problematic. One of them is hard work, and the other one is individualism. This is a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of country. We know where it comes from. We understand our history, we get it. And also that is not how we were designed. As a people, we did not evolve that way. We need each other much more than we are allowed to feel that we need each other in the United States culture, and our sense of community is breaking down over time, which is making it worse. Again, one of the reasons why COVID had such an effect on burnout rates, because we were kept separate, we were isolated, we lost a lot of our communal factors. So all of those things matter. So that's from a culture perspective as an overall culture and overall society.

Now we put those things into a workplace where very often those same exact things are concentrated, and this is how a workplace can create vulnerability for someone, especially if it's in combination with some of the bigger cultural issues, some of the self issues. There are also health components. There is a portion of your genetic code that's responsible for telling your stress response, how it should function, and there are epigenetic changes that can happen to that code. So an epigenetic change would be is something like a volume button that gets put on a little piece of DNA and it will turn it down or turn it up. So it can either make your stress response more hyperactive or it can turn it down so that you don't have an adequate enough response to situations, right? So it's like a volume button.

If you are not having the same stress response as most other people, you're not going to be able to manage life the same way as most other people, but you don't know this about yourself because it's an epigenetic change. So you're wondering, "Well, so-and-so can handle it, why can't I?" So you push harder, right? So this biological thing can be a problem. If you have a chronic illness and you don't pay enough attention to it and you're ignoring it because you want to be able to do what everybody else can do, this is going to be a factor.

So there's all of those things. Then we have family stuff where the trauma comes from, where the coping mechanisms come from. So if you have a family unit where you were parentified, where you were made to feel like you had to be in charge in your household, that will lead toward poor boundary issues, people pleasing, et cetera. If there's poor attachment styles, this is a whole psychological gamut of things, but your family of origin and your family of choice can both affect how you react in the world, how your stress response system works, and whether or not you're vulnerable to burnout.

The last piece is environment. We don't like to think about this because it feels like it doesn't matter, but it really does matter, and there's plenty of research that connects how many trees you see during the week, how much time you spend breathing fresh air if you like, the color of the walls of your apartment. Stuff like this really, really matters. So if your home is in an unsafe neighborhood, you hate walking into the building and you hate the color of your walls, you're going to be more susceptible to higher stress levels through things that seem to not matter. So all of these things combined to me are provide a web of causation for burnout.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, no, that makes sense, and I think it gives a really good perspective to folks on why it isn't so easy to say the individual or the organization. There's a lot more to it than that.

So I want to go back to the myth that you've already negated in what you said, which is an individual thinking, "This is my fault." okay. So you already said that that's not the case. When you are working with people who are going through burnout, how do you help remove shame because I would think layering in shame for feeling burnt out only slows the recovery process? So how do you help people to move past that and not feel personally responsible?

Cait Donovan: I package that into shame, blame, guilt, and judgment. If anybody ever listens to my podcast, they'll hear those four words always sort of packaged together and for good reason. To me getting information, like the information that I just told you helps people to release some of this just naturally because they're saying, "Oh, I get it. I get that all of these reasons happened. If there's 87 things that make you vulnerable to burnout and I have 80 of them, well then it can't be my fault. Clearly this happened." I think that's part of it.

I think another part of it, especially when it comes to this shame portion, is asking people to talk about it directly. There's very clear correlations between name the shame, and then it starts to dissipate. This is a Brené Brown thing, right? Name the shame. So just say it, saying it, which means that my job is to create a safe enough space where somebody will say it. We talk a lot about the guilt and the shame that comes from taking time for yourself and prioritizing yourself.

A lot of that is just a practice of doing it and noticing that everything's still okay. So we call this gathering data in my work, so I give people this sort of home experiment to do. I want you to go out and practice this and gather data about the responses and reactions, and then come back and report to me what's happened. Most frequently, if we put it into that, we're putting you in an observer mode. So now we're going into Buddhism and meditation, which this is the healthiest mode from which to view your life. We're putting you in the observer seat. Once you get into the observer seat, you're practicing. So you're not trying to make it happen. Take some of the pressure off and you know that you need to do it multiple times so that you have enough information by which to base some sort of new truth on.

So we are challenging the beliefs and truths that you have had ingrained in your body your whole entire life and saying, "Yeah, but can you prove it? Prove it to me," right? Because in science, a hypothesis is never proven. It's only falsifiable. You can only say like, "This is false," or you keep trying to find a way to make it false. That's how we get to theories and proofs, et cetera. So prove me wrong. Prove yourself wrong. Go gather data. Let me know what happens. And it gamifies it a little bit. It makes it a little bit lighter and gives people an exercise that they can use.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, okay. So another myth that I think is worth talking about is this idea of I or they, depending on if you're looking at it from the person experiencing or the environment they're in, just need to push through.

Cait Donovan: So the reason that this doesn't hold up to scrutiny is the physiological changes that I mentioned earlier. I'll run through those quickly so that people can understand why we can't just push through. I am only going to talk about the brain because we have a 45 minute to hour long podcast to do, and so we can't do all of the symptoms across the body, but just the brain alone should allow you to see that we need to take time and recuperate. When you are under chronic stress for extended periods of time, chronic chronic stress, let's extend the chronic part of it so that everybody really understands this. The front of your brain, the part, the piece that sits just behind your forehead shrinks. You literally lose neurons, you lose brain cells. That part of your brain is responsible for your executive functioning, which is your adulting, right? Your ability to plan, motivate, emotionally regulate, make decisions, et cetera. If the part of your brain that is responsible for you acting and feeling like an adult in the world is no longer functioning, what do you think is going to happen?

And how from that place are you supposed to just push through? You can't decide. You can't motivate. You can't do those things well, and if you can do one of them, you use all the power your brain had that day and you can't do any of the other ones. So pushing through is literally not possible.

There are two other things that happen in the brain that I think are really important. Another part of your brain that shrinks during this time that goes through hypotrophy is your hippocampus, and that's where your memory is. So you lose access to your memory. You can't catch things as easily. You're losing things, you're losing words, you're losing ideas. So planning and deciding, maybe you get through those things, but then you can't remember what the hell it's all for, so you're stuck again.

Then there's one more part of your brain. Of course, more things happen, but these are the critical, your amygdala, there's two of them. One on either side is responsible for scanning your environment at all times to look for danger. This is why the environment and the people you surround yourself with are so critical. The amygdala instead of shrinking gets bigger. So the parts of your brain that are supposed to be able to talk you down, plan, be logical, be rational, are shrinking, and the part of your brain that's like, "Fire alarm!" just got bigger and more sensitive.

How do you push through that?

Sarah Nicastro: So it's interesting, this explanation. So I'm going to share personally for a moment, which I don't know if this will make sense to you as a public figure or content creator, what have you. Like I do, but I don't share personally. Do you know what I mean?

Cait Donovan: Mm-hmm, yes.

Sarah Nicastro: I do. I'm very open, but there's also limits to, I think the detail people want to hear, but what you're saying really hits home to me because I've shared publicly. I have a seven year old son. He was diagnosed January 22nd, 2019 with type one diabetes. He was three at the time. And so there's a lot of layers to this, right? Because it was a terrifying thing. It was traumatic for sure. I actually was diagnosed afterwards with PTSD, and that was on top of already having anxiety, which I've also spoke publicly about.

But so it was four years in January, and the impact, I can notice on my executive function, my memory, and I'm assuming the last bit, that would feed into anxiety, right?

Cait Donovan: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Because it's your ability to basically self-regulate diminishes to where that becomes something that's harder and harder to control. All three of those things are absolutely present. So then, you think about that in the context of what we're talking about today, which is burnout. And I've said this before, but in a very surface level way, one night we were up a lot treating lows, and for people that understand, I'm grateful that he only has type one diabetes. So I do have perspective in the sense of it is something that he has a really good chance of living with to old age.

That being said, okay, what a lot of people don't understand because it isn't a super well understood disease, it's an autoimmune disease, so there's nothing he could ever do to cause it or fix it. He will die without insulin, point blank. And we are responsible on a day-to-day basis for dosing him insulin, which is a liquid that you mess that up and it can have dire consequences. So literally it is life-threatening and his life is in our hands. He can also have low blood sugars, which can have those consequences.

So it is a very chronic form of stress, and that's compounded by the fact that it will never go away. So you have to learn how to navigate that. So I've shared before in a kind of, I'm authentic, but no one wants to hear the gory details either. But I've shared a reminder for people from a professional standpoint, if I'm up all night treating low blood sugars, and then I'm on a Teams meeting at 8:00 AM the next day, you never know what someone is going through. So always be kind.

But also from a burnout perspective, if you think about just that one example, and that's just me sharing one example, everyone has their own versions of what they're going through, that to your point, is these contributing factors that it's not my fault. It's no one's fault. I said this to you when we were prepping. I'm probably categorically burnt out, but so everything you're saying about the impact on the brain rings true. What I'm also though interested in mentioning or getting your thoughts on, and we talked about this a little bit from your own personal experience too, is that I think a lot of times another myth is that there's this negative connotation of being burnt out means you're doing something you don't like doing.

So either you're showing up kind of like, "Ugh, gosh, I don't want to do this anymore. "I'm burnt out" or the organization is forcing you to do this thing that is causing you to be burnt out because it's not what you want to be doing. You and I were talking about the fact that you can absolutely love what you do, which in my case is my reality and still be burnt out. So can you talk about that a little bit? This idea of it doesn't have to have this negative connotation in this sense of coming from something unwelcome.

Cait Donovan: Yeah, I think the danger of that comes from the world of spirituality that says, "Anything that's wrong in your life is because you're not aligned somehow." And the only thing that I will say in that is that within something that you love, there can be aspects of it that are out of alignment with your values, and that can add to your burnout story. So I think it's important to be able to look at the thing that you love and understand that you can do it forever, but you might need to shift some mindsets, some perspectives, and some behaviors in order to make it really tenable for you.

For instance, as an acupuncturist, I was coaching people and giving them acupuncture within one session. I was totally overstepping my own boundaries, and I love doing both of those things. So I wanted to do it, but it was not nearly enough time or money exchange for me to make it actually worth it. At the end of the day, I got the recognition, I got the praise. I have clients that I still talk to. I haven't lived in Prague in four years. I'm friends with these people now. I created great relationships, but I was giving much more than I actually had the space for.

And when I moved into coaching, I had to learn how to not overstep my own boundaries in those situations, how to give people what they need but not overdo it. Part of the reason I was overdoing it was because I was afraid that if I wasn't giving people extra all the time, I had no value. So I had to do some work with a therapist on self-worth and on value. So this kind of goes layer, by layer, by layer, by layer, by layer into what you need to get into at the end of the day, if you're doing something that you love and you're burnt out, there are ways to adjust to make it okay.

Sarah Nicastro: So now, this is the last thing I'm going to say about my personal experience, but I have found with me, and I don't know that it's necessarily a type of burnout or personality type, but one of the ways I navigate this, and it could just be volume of things going on, because we talked about the chronic illness thing, but then there's work, there's travel. I am my mom to two kids, marriage. You have these compounding things.

For me, it very much ebbs and flows. I have times where I feel like I can absolutely do it all. This is great, boom, boom, boom. I'm energized, whatever. And then I have times where I do feel burnt out. Now I am fortunate that I have the ability to scale up in the times where I feel I have more to give and pull back to an extent in the times where I need to. Where I struggle is when I can't pull back as much as I need to do. Do you know what I mean?

Cait Donovan: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: But would you say that it is something that ebbs and flows, or is that more stress versus burnout? Do you know what I'm saying?

Cait Donovan: Yes. And I think that it is more stress versus burnout, because when you are in burnout and your brain has those changes, that's like saying, "I have PTSD today, but I don't have it tomorrow." That's not really true. That's not how it works. So I think that when it is burnout, you can have some good days sometimes, but most of the time it's not good. Most of the time you're feeling pretty bad.

In chronic stress, you can have those differing things. And I think the important thing to realize there is when those good things are, because things are just sort of okay, and when they are on adrenaline and caffeine, paying attention to that so that you don't end up in a place where you can't up and go anymore. You don't have that oomph anymore.

So I think what you're saying is actually a really great red flag for most people. If you are going through life and you're kind of going extreme to extreme pretty frequently, you're in a chronic stress pathway that can lead you to burnout, and it's a little bit dangerous, and you should pay attention to it. Life is always going to be stressful. There's always going to be stress that happens in your life, but a lot of stress can be healthy and positive. So it's not all a burden, and that's a whole separate conversation. But Alia Crumb is a good person to follow for that.

And so I think the thing after burnout for me is that I'm not afraid to burnout anymore. Mostly because I don't think that I would allow myself to get there because I know what to pay attention to. I also know that even if I did, I'd be able to get out of it because I've done that before. So yay. And when I'm starting to enter that place of higher stress, I notice it faster usually through paying attention to resentment. That's my red flag sort of thing, and I can shift things right away. So not necessarily change everything immediately. Sometimes things take three months to change because you have to implement a business decision differently or something like that, but you can decide to do things differently.

So I think, this sort of cycle that you're describing happens on a smaller scale in everybody's lives all the time. If you have to stay up with your kid and then you wake up in the morning and find out that your mother fell, and you have to be on a Teams call at eight or nine, you're not going to be fully present. And that day is probably going to feel pretty bad, but that doesn't mean you're burnt out. It means you're having a bad day.

So the question is, how big are the amplitudes between your extremes? How frequently are they happening? And can you soften the curves a little bit? Because it's okay to have a little bit over wave that's just humaning.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure, yeah.

Cait Donovan: Right?

Sarah Nicastro: That makes sense. So you mentioned resentment. So talk about, again, myth would be that resentment is a negative emotion, but let's talk about how it can be powerful when it comes to burnout.

Cait Donovan: Resentment is my favorite emotion. It's the best one with burnout because it tells you everywhere that your boundaries are off. And I use the words are off intentionally. Your boundaries being crossed from the outside is not actually something that happens all that often. It might be 30% of your boundary issues. The rest of it is you either overstepping your own fence to do more for other people than they're asking for, or opening your gate and then being mad that somebody's in your yard. So I think it's critical to have a tool that allows you to say, "Oh, I actually want a fence here." Okay, then you can figure out how to put a fence up and resentment when you pay attention to it will show you the patterns and themes in your life that need to shift in order for you to manage your stress better because you're keeping some things out and/or letting some things in, because boundaries are also about asking for help and asking somebody to come into your yard or into your house and bake some muffins because you don't have time.

So boundaries should go both ways, both keeping people more at bay or keeping tasks more at bay and asking for help. That's a two-way street that I think most people don't talk about, but resentment. And as a general rule, the anger group, as I like to call them, resentment, irritation, frustration, annoyance, anger, those emotions will tell you exactly where your boundaries are off, exactly where they need to be adjusted. And it might start off with, "I'm frustrated every single day because I'm making my eggs, and they always stick to this damn pan." If you're starting your single day with frustration over an egg pan, go to TJ Maxx, get a new pan, stop it already.

So if we can adjust a lot of these small things, we'll find that we have more energy for the big things. So I don't think that people should look at resentment and then say, "Oh, I have to have a serious conversation with my mother-in-law," roll back deal with your coffee mugs and your pans and your blankets and your laundry first, and then build up to it when you have more energy. But it's an incredibly useful tool.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. So let's kind of take this back then to the workplace aspect, because let's say that as individuals, let's just make a generalization here, we are going to do a better job of paying attention to our resentments and looking for these areas where we need to either set better boundaries or ask for more help. So from a workplace perspective, the speaking that you do for the corporate world, how do you encourage those entities to contribute to the burnout challenge by making some changes in their companies to better understand, et cetera.

Cait Donovan: So it depends on what's going on. It depends on what's going on in the company, but usually, we'll start with the six factors in the workplace that have been researched to death that we know are correlated with burnout. And we only choose one of them at a time, and we work on that and we see what happens. But if one of the factors, for instance, is a values mismatch. The values mismatch can happen in two ways. It can be a values mismatch between a company's spoken values and values in action. If that's the problem, then we work on that. How do we get those things to be closer together so that people are not reacting to the lack of integrity? Or it can be a values mismatch between an employee and a company. If you find out it's a values mismatch between an employee and a company or an employee and their direct manager, that's not a good fit for your company.

So sometimes we do talk about the fact that quitting for burnout isn't always necessary, but if you are in an environment that's constantly going against who you are as a person, you probably should look for a better environment, both for the benefit of yourself and the benefit of the company. Sometimes having people leave is the best possible solution, so we look into things like that that say, "Hey, what's really going on here?"

The other thing we talk about a lot, and I think this is the most important piece, is the modeling of good boundaries by leadership. So if leadership says, we're not going to do emails after six o'clock, but then sends an email at 8:00 PM well, again, we're lacking in integrity. You're breaking down trust and people don't know what the expectations are. So get real good about that. If your company can handle having a policy like that, it's worth it to have one, but schedule-

Sarah Nicastro: Or whatever they are, right?

Cait Donovan: Whatever it is.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think that also seeing it in action the other way, so setting those boundaries, but asking for help. Leaders that are comfortable, and we've talked about this a bit on this podcast related to mental health, leaders that are saying, "I'm going through a hard time and I need to take some time off," or whatever those things are, right? But not hiding that or doing it in a way that people understand it's okay. Yeah, that makes sense.

Cait Donovan: Yeah, the modeling is the most important part. I had someone on LinkedIn that wrote a post, and I wish I could remember who they were to give them credit, but I don't remember. They said that they started to try something new because they were dealing with some culture issues at their company. And they said, they started one of their weekly team meetings by saying, "This is a task that I really struggled with last week," and, "Either this is how I got through it," or, "This is who I asked for help," or, "I haven't solved it yet. Does anybody have any ideas?"

Sarah Nicastro: I love that.

Cait Donovan: They started with, they said, "First failures, what did you fail at last week?" So this allows everybody in the room, this increases the level of psychological safety and allows everybody in the room to go around and then say, "Hey, this is what I'm struggling with. I haven't gotten help with it. I don't even know what to do." Or, "I struggled with this thing and this is how I fixed it. So if you are also struggling with this thing, this option might work for you." And this sort of failure share moment brought their team back together. It was the only thing they changed.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think we had talked about knowing how to talk about burnout. I mean, there's also this idea of it doesn't have to be burnout as a topic always. It can be how are you struggling? What are you struggling?

Cait Donovan: I think those are tough questions. I think those are tough questions because people don't always know, especially when it comes to chronic stress and burnout. Like, "I'm not struggling with anything. I'm fine." And then three weeks later, they're taking FMLA because they can't function anymore.

So I think that the modeling is a better way to do it because that creates space for just natural conversation to arise. It says, "Oh gosh, your son has diabetes. My mother has diabetes and she refuses to stop eating candy all day, and I don't know how to manage her." Dr. Kristen Donnelly taught, taught me this, the root of the word empathy, when you look at it in any language, in definition, in all different dictionaries all over the world, I think she looked at like 140 sources for the word something ridiculous. The root of the word empathy always has the word understanding in it. So if you want to increase empathy, you have to increase understanding. And understanding is a lot easier thing for most leaders to work on because it's easier to grasp than the idea of empathy. It's really easy to say, "Oh, my son has diabetes.," And for somebody to be like, "Oh yeah, my mom too," or whatever the heck, all of a sudden there's a different understanding. When you understand someone better, you are more likely to grant them grace.

When somebody understands you better, they're more likely to grant you grace. So creating that normal sea of life, it doesn't mean you're going to talk about your life all day, every day at work, but allowing the pieces of your story that you feel safe with to be part of the work environment will create more space for people to understand you, empathize with you and give you grace when you need it. And the same goes for you and other people. And this is modified by the oxytocin hormone, which is fascinating, but that's a whole nother deal.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I think there's a lot more side conversations. I just want to end with, I want to talk about warning signs and then anything you would urge companies to consider in terms of how to respond to those resources to provide, et cetera. So what should they be looking for and how should they be reacting?

Cait Donovan: So if you are a company and you are looking for signs of burnout in your team, you should be looking for attitude change. Somebody that was always positive and is now negative, Nancy, that's a problem. You should be noticing attitude change. You should be noticing shifts in production. So if somebody can't keep up anymore and they always could, something's wrong, and you should be looking toward an increase of complaints about a person from other people in the company, even if they're just sort of whispers and things happening in the background. If you're noticing that a lot of people are annoyed with one person, either that person is a bully and needs to be dealt with, or that person is burnt out and needs support.

So there's those three things I think are really important. And as for what companies should do, it really depends on a combination of the company culture, the parts of the company culture that are contributing most to burnout, and how much buy-in they have from leadership. Nobody that is a team lead that doesn't have support from leadership should try and implement these things because it is impossible to carry this load by yourself, and you shouldn't have to.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. All right, I know we're out of time, so we're going to have to end there, but hopefully at some point I'll be able to have you back. In the meantime, let folks know where they can find the Fried Podcast, your book, any other information about your coaching, speaking, et cetera.

Cait Donovan: I think the best thing is to just share one resource because it's easy to remember. If people look up FRIED. The Burnout Podcast, they will find it anywhere they listen to podcasts. They'll also find the website and all of the information is available through there. That's one thing, and I would like to give one more resource before we wrap up, if that's okay.

Sarah Nicastro: Of course.

Cait Donovan: And when I was talking about all the brain changes, I know that some of the people listening were like, "Yeah, but then what do you do about it? How do you fix it?" You do not have to take six months off to fix it. Okay? One thing that is accessible, and by accessible, I mean free and available at all times is a guided "meditation" that's either called Yoga Nidra, N-I-D-R-A, or Body Scan Meditation. These are basically the same thing.

Andrew Huberman calls it non-sleep deep rest. It doesn't matter what you call it, but doing this for 10 to 11 minutes a day for 30 days will improve the functioning of your brain, calm down that part that's growing and regrow those parts that are shrinking. And so that's something that if you were listening and you're like, "But my brain is now broken." Don't be afraid. There's a super cheap, super easy way to help yourself. So go find, go to YouTube, go to Insight Timer, go to the Calm app, whatever it is that you use, type in Body scan or Yoga Nidra or whatever it is, and start practicing that to buy yourself back some of your function.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. I feel like you were talking directly to me.

Cait Donovan: I sort of was.

Sarah Nicastro: I know. I can tell. So I'm going to get on that. No, I know, I do. I've said it on here before, and anyone that's listened all along is going to say, "You said you were going to start meditating a long time ago." I do. I do. I do. So yeah.

Cait Donovan: Well, this is an easy way to get that in that doesn't really feel like meditating and doesn't really require you that much work. It's just easier.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. Okay. I'm going to give it a go, 30 days and I will report back.

Cait Donovan: Great.

Sarah Nicastro: Cait, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. Everyone look for FRIED. The Burnout Podcast, and it's Cait, C-A-I-T,, correct?

Cait Donovan: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. You can also visit to find more content, including some of the podcasts we reference today on burnout and mental health. Be sure to subscribe to the Future of Field Service INSIDER and look for the live tour event nearest to you. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent