“Change or Perish!”
These words of wisdom from Doup Lipp, former head of Training for The Walt Disney Company, at last month’s Smarter Services Symposium seemed directed at me. After spending 7+ years with one organization, I am entering a new challenge and welcome change as I join the Service Council as the new Director of Member Research & Communities.
Change can be scary, but it has sparked a renewed passion in me. Over the two plus days of last month’s Symposium, I had the pleasure (and the excitement) of jumping into the deep end of the pool even before I officially joined the team. After the fog of newness cleared, I was able to settle in and do what I truly enjoy – listen to experts in service, learn a few new ideas, network with business leaders, and be challenged to continuously improve and evolve. There were many takeaways, but here are a couple of areas I found integral to a changing mindset for service and the future of excellence:
- Have a vision for the strategic, but embrace the tactical. Headlines drive buzz and are often delivered with bluster. But I was quite intrigued at the event to hear many of the service leaders discuss the importance of small victories and making changes that can positively impact the service experience today, not some far off future in 2025. Too often we get excited about the transformative, big idea and forget that battles are won in the trenches every day with the customer. One bad service interaction or incomplete work order can lead to sustained failure. Working on the little things may not seem flashy, but they can help deliver value to customers now. Strategic planning for the future of the business is clearly necessary, however the success of service depends on the continuous improvement of individual processes and interactions on the ground, which happen every day.
- Engagement in the field is no longer a dirty word. When thinking of a field service technician or engineer, most of us would envision a picture of a person with a hardhat, rugged device in hand (I know, tablets and smartphones are becoming the norm), driving a utility van or truck. These rugged men and women carrying rugged-ish devices to complete dirty jobs seem to reside in a world that doesn’t care about (their) feelings or levels of engagement. Engagement is something for office workers and HR teams to think about. But from the opening keynote on Day 1 to the closing session, the value of engaged service workers was touted as not only the right thing to do but also the path to sustained profitability. This shouldn’t come as a shock; the front line service worker is often the face of the organization to the customer. And therefore, shouldn’t that face be engaged, happy, and motivated to go above and beyond the work order? Engaged employees are more likely to deliver exceptional experiences to customers who in turn just might decide to renew a contract with you as opposed to finding your competitor. The alternative to engaged service employees is something to avoid.
- Service should be a race to the top for the customer and not the bottom line. Over the years, I have spoken with many service organizations that have invested in technology to transform a process to primarily reap efficiency gains or cut a few costs from the business. This short term gain could not have been farther from the lessons shared by the service leaders on stage throughout the event. Time and again, the discussion on the stage, in the halls, and over cocktails revolved around prioritizing the delivery of value to the customer first while also ensuring the service team is given the tools to excel. The short-term gain of cost containment can lead to a long-lasting loss of value creation for the customer. In 2016, customers have options and a strong voice, and this is one reason service organizations must increase the value being delivered and not cut down on what provides differentiation.
Those are just a few of my thoughts. I look forward to continuing the conversation over the next many days and months, and hopefully I will see you at next year’s event to be held once again in Chicago on September 13-15, 2017. As a sneak peek into next year's Symposium, over the next eleven months we will be exploring some interesting topics such as technician empowerment, customer partnerships, and IoT preparation. These topics, plus many more, surely will end up on the stage in Chicago. So mark your calendars and let me know if there are other topics that you feel need to be discussed. And finally, if like me it is time for you to make a change, instead of perishing, join our community today to learn from your peers and share the knowledge.