Yes, it’s March, and that usually means lower productivity and a heightened sense of chest thumping tied to respective college basketball teams, atleast in North America. (I am very guilty of this given that my alma mater is a No.1 seed). While pockets of fans are tuning in across the rest of the world as well, these fans are probably much more interested in the madness of the Cricket World Cup taking place in Australia and New Zealand.
Given the time of the year, it was only appropriate for The Service Council to jump in and join the fun. While we didn't host a single elimination tournament of our member organizations, we did host the 4th edition of our Smarter Services Symposium in San Diego between Mar 10-12, featuring presentations led by organizations such as Zappos, HP, Safelite Autoglass, KONE Elevator, Ingersoll-Rand, Xerox, Vivint, and more. We were also fortunate to welcome senior executives from the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres to share their perspectives on the importance of service as it ties to the overall fan experience in a hospitality and sporting environment.
We’ve created a library of resources tied to the event and will continue to add discussions and presentations over the coming weeks.
There was so much important information shared over the three days. Here is my attempt to summarize the top 5 takeaways and focus areas.
A Talent Challenge Awaits
We’ve documented the mounting challenge when it comes to a retiring service workforce. 70% of organizations are expecting an exodus of workers due to retirement in the next 10 years. While increasing efficiency and investment in automation may eliminate some service-related vacancies on the front-lines, there will still be a major shortage felt in supporting service demand. In addition, organizations are also changing the hiring and training protocols of their front-line service agents to focus on broader customer management. We also hear a lot from organizations around the redistribution of skilled workers to higher-level support functions to assist front-line agents and customers in times of service recovery.
A Crisis of Information
Organizations spent a lot of time over the last 3-5 years building listening platforms. These could be in the form of VoC initiatives, social media investments, or even in the mode of remote monitoring investments. While organizations have become very good at gathering information, very few have been able to consistently drive insight from the collected information. The areas of analytics and business intelligence will continue to see a surge in investment, both as it relates to technology solutions as well as the search for talent.
Customer Value Communication is a Major Struggle
The Internet of Things (IoT) and remote monitoring was a consistent theme of discussion across the event. Organizations that have invested in IoT have seen tremendous returns in terms of service business results. Yet, these haven’t necessarily translated into better customer results and increased customer loyalty scores. The issue is that while IoT enables predictive service and or more effective reactive service, it reduces the visibility of the service organization in the eyes of the customer. It presents a communication challenge to servicing organizations to continue to make customers aware of the value presented in a service relationship. Does this value take the form of loss aversion, higher service performance, or customized offerings? That's yet to be determined as different customers align with different messages.
Collaboration: A Long Way to Go
There still exists a basic lack of process in linking service with other business groups. While there is some maturity in linking service and sales to promote revenue opportunities, there is a big gap in connecting service with IT, product design, engineering, and marketing. The first step to enhancing collaboration is in building a process that links various groups. The next step is to build alignment tied to the customers’ needs. The third step is to use data as the grounds of collaboration.
Service and Customer Experience Design is an Underappreciated Discipline
Organizations have gone back to the drawing board to build new services for customer value and revenue generation. Yet, very few organizations actually take a further step back and re-evaluate the design of their service offerings, and more importantly the design of the experience that their customers go through when seeking service or information. Design is an underappreciated discipline, one that can really help organizations maximize effectiveness.
We’re at an interesting juncture in the transformation of service organizations. Leaders are looking to find the appropriate mix between automation with human interaction, self-service with assisted service, customer satisfaction with profitability. These are all themes that we will look to dive into over the coming year of research and collaboration. Its appropriate to end with this quote shared at the event:
“Our field agents had never heard the passenger safety belt alarm go off. It was totally new. They had seldom seen one of their managers, much less had one of them ride along with them to learn about a day in their lives on the front-lines.”