How Will Service Priorities Stack Up in the New Year?

In our most recent team meeting, the Global Customer Transformation team debated and discussed the key themes that were going to resonate with Chief Service Officers (CSOs) in 2021. Given that none of us could have successfully predicted the themes for 2020, there was some trepidation to undertake this exercise. That said, there was no shortage of opinions.

We organized our prognostications regarding service leadership focus in 2021 into 4 primary buckets:

  • Areas where we expect a lot more focus
  • Areas where we expect a lot less focus
  • Areas where we expect continued focus and incremental improvement
  • Areas that should see a greater focus

What Will CSOs Focus on More in 2021?

Flexibility of the Service Workforce

In past years, the discussion about service resource flexibility has focused on quantity and the ability to scale (with the aid of third parties) up and down for surges or dips in demand. This continues to be important but there is an increased desire to really tap into the capacity and skillsets of the existing service workforce. Can the idle time of highly skilled workers be used to train or remotely support less-skilled service agents? And can these less-skilled service agents be trained on the most commonly required service processes and then be upskilled with on-demand learning and collaboration tools as and when the need arises?

Remote Support and Other Engagement Models

The technology to deliver expertise remotely has matured quite significantly and service organizations have been happy to experiment with these tools to support their internal employees and customers. Now, the opportunity arises to truly inject remote into the organization’s DNA. From a customer-facing perspective, organizations will focus on monetizing remote services and developing contracts and entitlements focused specifically on remote support. The remote mode of connection with customers will also spur new engagement ideas and offerings while raising interesting concerns around liability and compliance. From the workforce enablement perspective, there will be a greater emphasis on the organization and management of the remote expert workforce to drive improved reach and scale.

What Will Service Leaders Focus on Less in 2021?

In-Person Learning

Even though travel restrictions might ease in the new year, we expect there to be a decreased focus on in-person customer and employee training in 2021. The increased familiarity with virtual and remote tools has made organizations more comfortable in taking their instruction, content, and knowledge into a virtual setting. Those receiving training are also more comfortable with consuming content in a virtual manner and are less interested in committing the time, expense, and work disruption to engage in in-person training. We still see in-person and hands-on training as being vital in certain areas of proficiency, and we see organizations increase their focus on a blended learning and consumption format that accounts for need, performance, and availability.

Where Will CSOs Continue to Make Small Steps Forward?

Data Cleansing and Preparation for Future Artificial Intelligence (AI) Investments

The number of use cases for AI continues to grow, and so does the overall interest in these point-to-point solutions to solve specific problems. That said, service organizations recognize that the strategic value of AI is tied to the quality of data that is currently available in their organizations. To drive better AI-supported projections and recommendations, organizations will continue to improve their data capture and organization particularly around information on the asset – failure causes, service actions required, part history, and more. These organizations are interested in the development of a common service language that makes it easier to record and analyze data for improved efficiency and better performance.

Acceptable Outcome-Based Offerings

Conceptually, outcome-based services make a lot of sense. That said, it is very difficult for organizations to pivot to the provision of the services particularly if it involves the cannibalization of existing (and seemingly safe) revenue streams or the greater buy-in from functions outside of service. This isn’t holding back forward-thinking CSOs from navigating routes to an outcome-based future. They are looking at either offering an increased portfolio of managed services that are outcome-focused or experimenting with outcome-based contracts with a handful of customers or assets.

What Do CSOs Need to Start Focusing On?

Getting a True Understanding of Contract/Account Profitability

Most service organizations have limited knowledge of the actual cost that can be attached to their time and materials or service contract businesses. Those who have made some inroads in this area typically have incomplete models that do not reflect the true cost of service and the associated margin. This is primarily due to the fact that organizations have incomplete data on all of the service activities and resources expended on a particular asset or customer. A better understanding of profitability is essential to get a true measure of performance, to determine which customers and contracts to pursue, and to uncover organization-wide steps that can be taken to reduce the overall cost of quality.

These are just a few of the trends and ideas that the GCT team finds relevant for 2021. As mentioned earlier, we have no shortage of opinions. For a broader list, we invite you to join us over the coming weeks:

  • Listen to us on a special prediction-focused ServiceMax Live
  • Check back in on this blog for forthcoming write-ups tied to specific industries
  • Keep an eye out for our 2021 CSO Report expected at the beginner of the new year


ABOUT Kieran Notter

Avatar photoKieran Notter was the former director of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. He was acknowledged as a service industry domain expert with 30 years’ experience. He specialized in field service revenue and working capital improvements, with a particular passion for supply chain operations. He was highly effective at partnering with customers to deliver tangible, practical results across their service operations. Having previously worked for companies including Kodak, Bell & Howell and, most recently, Pitney Bowes he understood the importance of a logical approach that is supported by real-time analytics. His considerable experience in implementing and using systems such as SAP, Servigistics (PTC), Oracle (Siebel), Salesforce and ServiceMax enabled him to recognize a client’s challenges and facilitate solutions that lead to sustainable growth.

ABOUT Sumair Dutta

sumair duttaSumair Dutta is the VP of product marketing at ServiceMax. In this role, he helps shape ServiceMax messaging and positioning to support customers and prospects. Previously, Sumair worked 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.