These challenging times bring home to me the vital role that operations leaders play every day. Whilst many operations leaders have risen through the ranks due to their technical product knowledge, it is no longer enough to be a technical leader in a modern service organisation. Capabilities need developed. Teams need to be coached and supported. New technologies adopted and rolled out in a collaborative way. Transformation initiatives need to be delivered with understanding and tact, whilst cost savings managed and headcount secured.
Let's consider some of the priorities of today's operations leaders.
Field organisations are increasingly aware of the value of customer experience. They may have undertaken a customer experience focused transformation programme and been encouraged to map and role model their customer interactions. Measures may be in place to track things like CSAT or Net Promoter scores. Field teams may be supported with the tools and methods they need to deliver a consistent level of customer experience.
In reality, however, the depth of understanding of a field organisations impact on customer experience is ever evolving. Technology is being more joined up and allowing the field technician to get a richer picture of the customer contact where once they would have relied on the feedback from the customer whilst doing the job.
Customer conversations still tend to be reactive, usually as a result of dealing with complaints, poor performance or missed service level agreements and performance indicators. It is often hard enough to get in and do the job within the service window, let alone engage in a cross-sell or up-sell opportunity, or capture customer information that may be beneficial to other departments.
Times are changing, however. Service leaders are increasingly able to measure and monitor the various aspects of their performance in the field. Scheduling software can be relied on to help ensure an excellent work day. Management teams can turn their attention towards robust demand and capacity planning whilst pre-empting issues and setting customer expectations accordingly. Tools such as On My Way can be used to set expectations and give the customer an easy way to track the service visit and give feedback.
An excellent customer experience needs to be underpinned by an excellent employee experience. Employee experience isn’t simply something for the HR team to worry about. Neither is it something to survey once a year and then leave for another year. Creating a positive employee experience results in much more engaged employees which, in turn, contributes to a better work culture and customer service delivery. This benefits recruitment, employee retention and the bottom line.
In these challenging times operational leaders will need to go above and beyond to listen to employees and ensure that where possible barriers to work delivery are reduced. That said there is also the opportunity to lay the foundation of an ongoing positive employee experience for the field teams, ensuring they are supported, encouraged, trained and their concerns listened to and addressed.
Digital and technology
Digital solutions have evolved rapidly over the past few years and it sometimes feels ever more essential to embrace digital tools within field service delivery. Undoubtedly there is a role in the operations leader to understand, support, embrace and maximise the availability of digital tools and to support field staff through that change. Whether ERP, customer contact management, scheduling, mobile work delivery, asset management, performance management and many other solutions in between, they all represent areas of ongoing technology change that field staff need to be part of.
That said technology change isn't new. As we've written about elsewhere, digital isn't a means to an end but rather a set of enabling tools that can allow for greater efficiency, service delivery, productivity and field effectiveness. They might allow for smarter ways of working and collaboration between field teams. They might lead to better knowledge sharing and ability to respond to service level agreements. New technology and digital tools offer a way to accelerate these capabilities and processes, but operations leaders also need to deliver effective processes in the first place.
It's worth mentioning that many technologies that are just starting to be adopted by field organisations will lead to ongoing change that operational leaders will need to embrace. For example the Internet of Things is already shifting field delivery towards greater remote diagnosis and insight-driven maintenance. Artificial Intelligence is increasingly able to predict performance patterns of assets and use complex data sets to improve delivery.
The role of today's operations leaders includes the need to run a cost effective operation. Of course this is nothing new and has always been a balance of headcount, expenditure and service delivery. The organisations that make this work, however, shift the focus from operations being seen as a cost centre and an overhead on the business, towards being a value generating part of the organisation. The field teams become vital to customer experience, revenue generation and innovation in the pursuit of managing an effective portfolio of service and support.
Operating model transformation
It can be tempting to think that a restructure is going to fix things - reduce costs or force tighter ways of working out of necessity. We often see organisations going about a big operating model change around the time of implementing 'digital' programmes.
They look to structure themselves for success to maximise the opportunities promised by the new tools and to justify the efficiencies required from their investment. If your organisation is trying to become a more digital and agile we'd recommend that you don't lead with structure. Be open to the possibilities of better aligning your structures, teams and processes to make the most of your digital tools and vice versa.
Ensuring the right sized operating model for the field organisation is an important part of the ongoing role of an operations leader, however. Resources and capabilities need to be aligned. Working areas need to be defined to meet the demands of the work. Schedules and routes need to be built in an efficient way that maximises capacity. Productivity tools need to be in place to facilitate cross team working.
Speak to us
Leadent Digital helps organisations to achieve transformational change. We love developing apps that transform customer experience and help you deliver a more frictionless service experience across all of your contact points and channels. Why not get in touch to tell us more about your current CX priorities?