I really enjoyed talking with Dave Pattison of Mission Linen Supply for this month’s cover story. As you’ll read, Mission Linen Supply was able to get out of a field service rut to truly modernize and transform their business. But as Dave and I were talking, I was thinking about how this process really takes some initiative and some discipline. It’s easy to get stuck — when things are going all right, it’s easy to make the decision to stick with the status quo. Especially when your employees have been operating a certain way for 20, 30, 40 years! But, as they say, what’s easy usually isn’t what’s right. Mission did the hard job of identifying and defining its need, researching and evaluating tools to fit that need, and working hard to implement technology and change the right way. If you think your field service organization might be stuck, I’d challenge you to consider the following steps.
Take An Objective View Of Your Operations
Sometimes, when you’re in the throes of the day to day, it can be difficult to define where your operation is struggling or has room for improvement. Take a step back and try to view your processes and tools objectively. When is the last time you made any changes? What is the feedback your customers are providing? What changes might take your organization in a new, more modern direction? One piece of advice is to spend some time looking at what your peers are doing. Look for stories like the one in this issue on Mission Linen Supply, and think about whether or not some of the changes other companies are making could benefit your company too. This is particularly helpful if you can find examples of companies within your own industry, because it gives you perspective on the kind of service your competitors are providing to customers. Learn how today’s leading organizations are modernizing and evolving their operations, and think about how those efforts would apply to your operation. Try to be open-minded — don’t dismiss certain ideas at first glance without fully exploring the opportunity.
Get Some Help
Sometimes it is difficult to look at your business objectively, and then sometimes it is impossible. If you don’t trust yourself to be able to do so, hire some outside help. Find a consultant that specializes in your industry or in technology use, and have them evaluate your operations and define areas of opportunity. This exercise doesn’t mean you have to implement every suggestion they have, but it does give you the benefit of having an outside eye take a hard look at what you’re doing and give you input that you quite frankly may miss yourself.
Automation Isn’t Everything
Getting stuck in field service doesn’t just happen when you can’t evolve from pen and paper to leveraging technology to automate processes. It happens just as commonly for companies that get stuck from moving beyond automation. The efficiency and productivity gains you’ll experience from moving from paper to mobile are very beneficial, but your evolution should not stop there. Once you’ve mastered automation, it’s time to move on to really exploring how you can transform your business. Look for tools to help you gather data to make better decisions, ways to improve your customer experience, technologies to help train new employees, and so on. Don’t get stuck at automation — continue to evaluate your operations regularly to define new areas of opportunity and growth.