Article | September 19, 2017

Field Service Skills: How To Balance Business And Technology Competencies

By John Hamilton, President, Service Strategies Corporation

Field Service Worker Skills

In my last article, I discussed why essential leadership skills need to change and examined the new attributes required for future field service leaders to be successful. Many of these attributes, including embracing diversity, being a fearless decision maker, the ability to bring a vision to life, etc. could be classified as personal leadership traits. These traits must be complemented with a solid business acumen, as well as a thorough understanding of the latest service-enabling technologies and strategic planning know-how in order to round out the ideal skill set of the future service leader.

Let’s examine in more detail eight of these business related competencies:

  • Know how to run service as a business. This requires knowledge of industry economics and fundamental financial management. At a minimum, they must be able to read and analyze financial statements, understand how to perform cost/benefit analysis, develop the financial justification for new capital acquisitions that deliver a positive ROI, and include Net Present Value in the calculation. The new service leader is required to manage their business as a stand-alone P&L and make a significant contribution to company revenue and overall profitability. In fact when run properly, service can contribute a significant percentage to the bottom line.  
  • Understand technology trends and innovations. Understand all the latest IT trends and determine if any technology could be applied and leveraged in the service operation to drive efficiencies and add value to customers. There are many innovative technologies available to enhance services such as IoT, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, BOTs, Data Analytics, Knowledge Management, and more. The service leader needs to constantly monitor these trends, evaluate the merits of each technology, and determine how to integrate the technology into their service model.
  • Grasp Capacity and Resource Management. Leverage capacity and resource management tools to evaluate viable opportunities to increase productivity and maximize efficiency. This includes how to scale the business quickly to meet either increased or declining service demand. Outsourcing nearshore or offshore should be options that service leaders evaluate thoroughly as well. Another resource factor to consider is the generational changes in the workforce with the influx of millennials and retiring baby boomers. Older management techniques to hire and motivate staff may not be as effective in the future.
  • Master Change Management.  Every organization is undergoing some form of change. Unfortunately, most of these change initiatives fail due to internal resistance because the organization lacks a change management strategy or methodology. Service organizations need to transform in order to play a more significant role within the corporate structure. This transformation requires new leadership skills to sponsor change and to engage change agents to drive success for every organizational change, whether it be large or small.
  • Have Service Delivery Model Awareness. Service delivery models vary widely and can depend on the type of service being delivered. The primary technology services are field service, technical support, web self-service, and professional services. Many of the traditional delivery models are outdated and haven’t adapted to the changing needs of the customer. Too often companies are delivering service based on what is convenient for them rather than what the customer wants. Clients want more advanced outcome based services. Leaders need to do a better job of evaluating the driving forces that influence their service delivery model and prepare to adopt more responsive and dynamic service delivery processes that focus on customer success. Innovative variations to account management and collaborative service are examples of new service delivery options that leaders need to prepare to embrace
  • Understand The Value Of Service Marketing and Branding. While services provide intangible value that is very significant, it seldom gets the same marketing attention as the company’s products. As mentioned above, many companies are starting to leverage service as a key differentiator to mitigate product commoditization. The new service leader needs to understand the value of marketing, how to create new viable service propositions complete with pricing strategies that align the service and corporate brand image.
  • Promote Customer Experience Alignment. Developing a complete and accurate view of the overall customer experience has become a major focus in recent years. It is a complicated process because all customers don’t share the same needs, so some level of segmentation is required. The service organization has the most direct contact with customers, more so than any other organization within your company. A method called “journey mapping” can be used to identify all the touch points your company has with the customer. The data derived from this exercise can be used to streamline every interaction to improve the overall customer experience. The service leader is ultimately responsible for ongoing customer adoption and loyalty, therefore should be the key executive and driver of any corporate customer experience program.
  • Commit To Service Strategy Development. Many service organizations operate in a constant reactive mode and seldom get the necessary resources to deliver a consistent level of service quality to customers.  For this to change, it is imperative that the service leaders commit to creating a vision for services and a strategic plan to implement this vision successfully. They need to understand the various business strategy frameworks and use whichever is most appropriate for their situation. The strategy should have a horizon of at least three years and include immediate, mid-term and long term planning phases. Equally important is to link the service strategy with the corporate strategy and to ensure all senior level executives are aligned and engaged to support the execution of the strategy.

The fundamentals of leadership haven’t changed. Success starts with focusing on your people. Having the ability to create a vision that will inspire and motivate your staff to achieve the desired objectives is imperative. What has changed is the economic landscape, and the additional skills outlined for future service leaders highlights how demanding this role has become. Ongoing training is essential to develop and enhance these skills so that leaders can anticipate future service demands, create the strategies to drive the business forward, implement the required changes effectively, market the service brand to achieve a balance of customer success and loyalty, and contribute to the profitable growth to the company.

If you are interested in upgrading your leadership skills, sign up for the new educational program for Service Leaders offered in San Diego Oct 10-13th, 2017.
Service Strategies Corporation developed this unique four-day program based on input from many service executives