Guest Column | February 26, 2020

Swing For The Fences

By Bruce Breeden, Field Service Resources

T&B lights AAA baseball stadium

Spring is near, and in baseball spring training is in full swing. Speaking of “swing”, I’m reminded of the old saying baseball saying “swing for the fences” which means to give it your all to hit a home run. I recall Warren Buffett using that quote after donating a large fortune to the Gates Foundation and wanting his charitable gift to go far. Buffett’s words were meant to encourage the Gates Foundation, but I also suspect he considered his donation to be a safe bet to go far and do great things.

As leaders, how often are we in a position to say yes to a new initiative that could be the next home run? We actually have a much better statistical chance of hitting a home run than baseball hitters. I say this from a position that innovation should occur in all aspects of the service business, and on a continuous basis.

There is something contagious about a service leader who exalts a passion for excellence and the creation of new value. And there is no shortage of subject areas to improve the customer experience, data capture and analysis, and capability building.

In my work with service organizations, the best opportunities for the home runs are in these three areas.

Technology. The leading choice to transform an operation and drive improved customer experiences. Digital transformation isn’t just for enterprise-sized organizations or major corporations. Digital transformation is a necessity today in businesses small and large. Transformative results occur when optimizing the customer journey with digital solutions that have clear and definitive ROI. It’s important to look at technology as an enabler to the mobile service teams. In other words, technologies that do something for me and not just to me. A common status today for organizations is operating with disparate systems that, while well intended, over the years have multiplied into an array of different systems and applications that simply add unnecessary complexity to one’s job.

Consider the macro-level challenges of today’s service business: customer expectations, aging of the workforce and skilled labor shortages, using Big Data for decision making and customer engagements, and safety compliance. The wonderful fact is technology is a huge solution to macro-level business challenges.

Workforce skills and engagement. People make the service business, and it is especially important to leverage the field service teams as customer trusted advisors. Their technical proficiency and soft skills combine as the service product the customer chooses to buy. How can valuable service contracts be renewed and system upgrades and new product leads be generated without excellent customer experience? We all know that customers buy from people and brands that they like and trust. A simple concept that needs a commitment to continuously update both technical and soft skills. A best practice I have learned from my customers is a companywide commitment to have engagement through communication and follow through. They leave nothing to chance in having a system for driving and tracking employee engagement to ensure career development and coaching are in place. Engagement is the first step to having workforce skills.

Service marketing. Going beyond the traditional service contract offering is critical for growing service organizations and margin performance. The ability to increase prices and operating margins are dependent on the innovation of customer value programs. IoT is now a well-established technology that powers new service marketing strategies. Customers are no longer willing to stay in the old box of pay for service via time and material or contracts; they want value in the form of outcomes related to their business model. Predictive failure, automated data capture and analysis, and AI are examples of new world service marketing to best add value and continued business growth.

These three focus areas are all integrated and that is why the probability of a home run is so great. Service organizations that are leading their industry and truly transforming are innovating in these three areas. Swing for the fences.

About The Author

Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book, The Intentional Field Service Engineer. Bruce works with FSO leaders to improve operational performance, lead digital transformation programs, and conduct FSE and manager training.