In working on the 2019 and 2020 CSO Reports, the members of the GCT team found that the chapters focused on service leaders in the Asia-Pacific region brought out the greatest stories. This is because these different countries and cultures have vastly different approaches to the concepts of service and digital transformation.

For instance, leaders in Japan and ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) face similar constraints around the cost of labor and have a broader acceptance of technology. However, their cultural perceptions of service are extremely different. It is impossible to boil all of these nuances down to a single chapter, yet we have attempted our best.

Different Cultures, Different Challenges

Japan

Japan’s aging workforce challenge has been well documented. And Japanese organizations have always been extremely advanced when it comes to enterprise automation that touches the shop floor or manufacturing systems. Yet, this level of digital acceptance has never extended to the field of service execution primarily due to cultural constraints attached to service.

Even areas of back-office efficiency, typically low hanging fruit in a service-related business case, are protected from change based on cultural preferences and customers. In the case of a large medical device organization, we found that a substantial group of its large back-office staff was involved in the manual preparation, printing, and delivery of invoices. This is a time-honored tradition and one with a great deal of pride attached to it. The automation of this process, however efficient, will not take place until the cost of labor reaches a point that is unaffordable or until robots are invented that can continue the completion of this process.

For a CSO, it is vital to understand this dynamic and to find a fine balance between cultural traditions that need to be respected while driving measured change across other areas of the business.

Australia & New Zealand

The labor-related challenges in ANZ are similar to those felt in Japan. The cost of labor is significantly high, and the impetus is on service organizations to ensure the best utilization of labor. CSOs in ANZ are also faced with the challenge of there not being enough people to service customers in remote or underpopulated parts of the country.

To meet these coverage needs, CSOs are extremely receptive to digital tools or working models that extend workforce capacity and generate flexibility into the service workforce. It’s safe to say that a number of the digital tools and technologies being considered by CSOs in Europe or North America are already being tested in ANZ to determine their applicability. More so, organizations like Tandem are deep into their reliance on uberized workforce models to ensure Best-in-Class service delivery.

For CSOs in these countries, the impetus is to keep a firm eye on the customer experience and to ensure that the method of service delivery doesn’t result in the degradation of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Southeast Asia

In other parts of APAC, as in Southeast Asia, labor is relatively cheap and abundant. In these markets, the business case for an investment in service can’t be built around the optimization of labor.

As a customer in the Philippines points out: “We send two technicians to every job, one to complete the work and the other to drive the car to avoid parking-related problems.”

In a number of dense geographies, resource optimization for service typically means addressing the cost of parts collection and return, given it is not feasible for technicians to have large service vans.

These are all factors that need to be considered when ascertaining the true cost of service delivery. From a technology point of view, the adoption of tools is ubiquitous at the consumer level, yet very incomplete at the enterprise. Some of this comes from the easy availability of labor which allows organizations to overuse manual resources to ‘integrate’ systems and effectively swivel chair information from one system to another. Therefore, the true intent and benefit of automation is often muted, preventing the organizations from achieving a real transformation.

CSOs in these geographies must focus on improving the training and knowledge around workflow automation to initiate user-driven innovation and change. This will allow for a better repurposing of labor for improved throughput, increased regulatory adherence, and better service results.

The stories and realities that CSOs in APAC face are extremely diverse. Read our assessment of best practices for CSOs in the region as captured in the 2020 CSO report. We also encourage you to share your own stories so that we can continue to drive the discussion forward. You can connect with us on email at or chat with us on our weekly GCT-driven coffee conversations dedicated to the APAC region.

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ABOUT Sumair Dutta

Sumair DuttaSumair Dutta is the director of digital transformation at ServiceMax. In his role, he works closely with ServiceMax customers to maximize the results from their business and digital transformation journeys. He works closely with leaders of service businesses to define and shape their service vision while working hand in hand with implementation teams to execute on established service plans. Sumair is a thought leader in the field service and service management spaces and has conducted numerous research projects in the areas of field service, customer support and business strategy. He brings more than 15 years of experience in studying, analyzing and guiding field service organizations, first at the Aberdeen Group and most recently as the chief customer officer at The Service Council.