Whether trying to floss every day, or convincing service techs to more accurately log their drive-time, changing behavior is hard.
Ask any field service executive, and they’d likely agree that inspiring change takes great effort, and an even greater supply of coffee. In fact, McKinsey reports a full 70% of change management initiatives fail to meet their objectives altogether.
But as devices, software, social media channels, and apps like Uber continue to heighten customer expectations, the need for change is only going to get larger.
Surely, the reasons we need to evolve in field service are fairly obvious. The how is a bit more tricky.
Lucky for us, there’s a ready-baked, time tested formula for ensuring enterprise change takes hold in the real world.
Whether you’re adopting full software suite, or trying to get your dispatch managers to improve efficiency by a couple percentage points, the following principles apply.
In 1996, John P. Kotter—a New York Times best-selling author and Harvard Professor—released the first version of his best-selling book, Leading Change. In it he outlined eight comprehensive steps for achieving change in an organization.
Ever since, this has been the go-to book for the entire change management industry.
In the following paragraphs, we dive into each step, explore excerpts from Potter’s works, and discuss how they can be applied in field service.
Step #1: Create a Sense of Urgency
Old habits die hard. If professionals at your organization don’t feel the heat, they might not feel inspired to change. Without a sense of urgency and underlying purpose for change, the change you desire likely won’t take hold.
That being said, creating urgency through fear will likely backfire. With this urgency may come organizational failures, like low customer satisfaction levels, the impetus must be tied to a positive outcome if you wish for success.
“A sense of urgency is a powerful tool for anyone wanting to win in a turbulent world that will only continue to move faster.”
Tip for Creating Urgency: Make a Case With Numbers
Sometimes your dispatch managers, or field technicians are too wrapped up in the day-to-day operations to stop and think big picture. For example, are they aware that 76% of field service providers are struggling to achieve revenue growth? Create urgency by translating the most important industry trends, or organizational challenges into cold, hard numbers.
Step #2: Build a Guiding Coalition
While urgency is a key driver of change, your guiding coalition will be the brains that makes the change reality. The guiding coalition must be made up of professionals within your organization that have significant influence.
While team members from every level of the organization must be involved, the group should convey a commanding reputation that forces the entire organization to take this change seriously.
“A volunteer army needs a coalition of effective people—born of its own ranks—to guide it, coordinate it, and communicate its activities.”
Who Should Be a Part of Your Field Service Coalition?
- A top technician, or engineer that can best represent the field team
- Dispatch, or operations leader
- IT transformation, or IT leader
- Business development or line-of-business leader
The list above is by no means comprehensive. The point is pulling together a collaborative team from all walks of field service life.
Step #3: Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
Whether adopting new software, testing out social media as a means of communicating with customers, or training call center representatives, rolling out tactics before delivering a strategic vision is a big mistake. Putting “how” before “why” will simply frustrate everyone involved.
Instead, develop a vision and specific initiatives that can act as a North Star. This isn’t about why you care, it’s about why everyone else should care.
“This is about bringing senior teams together and challenging them to think and communicate differently about a ‘North Star’ for their organizations. What we call The Big Opportunity statement is a compelling, aspirational catalyst. It aligns your team around who they want to become together, and prompts others to raise their hands to help make it happen.”
Sample Field Service “North Star” Big Opportunity Statements
- Delivering greater human value to customers in an increasingly technological time
- Empathizing with customer frustration by increasing service resolution speed
- The path to profit starts by treating employees like customers
Step #4: Enlist a Volunteer Army
With your guiding coalition assembled, and your strategic vision built out, it’s time to recruit some ground troops. No matter your change, you’ll need to influence the inner workings of your culture in order to gain momentum.
“This group rarely includes all of the most senior people because some of them just won’t buy in, at least at first. But in the most successful cases, the coalition is always powerful—in terms of formal titles, information and expertise, reputations and relationships, and the capacity for leadership. Individuals alone, no matter how competent or charismatic, never have all the assets needed to overcome tradition and inertia.”
Tip for Getting Your People to Join Your Cause
People are the bedrock of change. No matter how many committees you pull together, or flyers, emails, or even videos you make to promote your new initiative, at some point you’ll have to recruit people one by one. That’s where the real work of change happens, and gains momentum.
Step #5: Enable Action by Removing Barriers
With any field service change initiative, you’ll inevitably run into roadblocks and barriers. Let’s say your software has bugs, or your new customer relationship training isn’t easily accessible, or your engineers don’t have everything they need in the field in order to be successful. Will they still adopt the change you’re asking for? Probably not.
Whether large, small, human, technical, or organizational in nature, removing barriers to change is a key component of ensuring your change takes hold.
“Removing barriers such as inefficient processes and hierarchies provides the freedom necessary to work across silos and generate real impact.”
Communication Is Key
Unlike many industries, mobility is a key component of field service, and teams are often scattered. With dispatch, field operations, call center professionals, and IT sometimes working in separate locations, communication can be challenging. You need direct lines of communication, and a method for logging and resolving barriers if your change is going to take hold.
Step #6: Generate Short-term Wins
When you have nothing to show for, it’s easy for detractors and naysayers to claim your program isn’t working. That’s why as early on in the process as possible, you must evangelize short-term wins. Demonstrate to the whole team that the long-term vision is paying off fast.
“Wins are the molecules of results. They must be recognized, collected and communicated—early and often—to track progress and energize volunteers to persist.”
Highlight the Customer to Demonstrate Wins in Service
Improving speed of service, customer retention, and satisfaction are all essential to field service success. But documenting these wins can be challenging. Ensure that your program documents the positive impact it has on the end customer. Greater customer satisfaction is ultimately something everyone from senior leadership to field engineer can rally around.
Step #7: Sustain Acceleration
The hardest part about change is often how long it takes. While you might have been assembling a coalition and working your tail off to get a new software or program off the ground, internal employees might not see the bottom half of that iceberg.
You must be dedicated to pushing through after you gain quick wins. Focus on long-term vision in order to sustain acceleration.
“Press harder after the first successes. Your increasing credibility can improve systems, structures and policies. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.”
Focus on Replicating Success in Field Service
Once you’ve demonstrated quick wins, don’t reinvent the wheel. Look for more examples of the same, and build a start to build a repository of best practices. Replicate your success and focus on really pushing the pace of change.
Step #8: Institute Change
Even after changing deep seated habits, they have a tendency of returning. Whether it's forgetting to put the cap on the toothpaste, or forgetting to log service miles, the old habits are rattling around in our brains somewhere.
“Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, making sure they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits. If you can’t communicate the vision to someone in 5 minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are not done.”
Solidifying Change in Service
Ensuring long-term adoption requires a continued celebration of success, and an ongoing show of leadership. Once a new process, software, or culture is in place, don’t stop meeting as a coalition. Meet quarterly, or even monthly to check in on adoption, and seek ways to improve your process. Secondly, be sure you have a lifeline to those closest to the change. If your field engineers are supposed to be communicating in a new fashion with customers, or dispatch is supposed to logging route details in a new software - how will you know it’s a success or failure?
There simply must be measurement.
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