Last week was an action-packed week in Boston at IFS World Conference 2019. The event theme was “for the challengers,’ which I must say is a message I can really get behind. There’s a personal appeal, in the sense that I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat of a “challenger” — someone who asks a lot of questions, tries to think outside the box, and doesn’t back down in the face of resistance. But moreover, “challenger” is an identifier I think more companies need to take on if they want to find success in the increasingly complex and ever-evolving world we’re living in today.
The immense opportunity that service presents was front and center at WoCo. IFS announced plans to acquire field service management provider Astea. Interest in servitization from companies that haven’t traditionally focused on service was apparent. And the service organizations in attendance were all excited about the potential that exists for those that embrace the challenger mindset and fight complacency.
I had the honor of moderating a couple of customer panels, including participants such as Eickhoff, Anticimex, Spencer Technologies, and Reliance Home Comfort. These were great conversations that showcased not only the excitement around how service is evolving and expanding, but also some tactical advice for what it takes to seize this opportunity successfully. I thought it would be helpful for me to summarize some of the key points these challengers feel it will take to bring the service potential to fruition.
#1: Challengers Are Letting Go of The Past
Rule number one of a challenger is to break out of the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. This I know sounds so simple, but the reality is that many service organizations have a deep-rooted past that can make this simple-sounding feat nearly impossible. But those committed to winning know this is necessary and are working at all costs to embrace and evangelize the need to do things differently. Fighting the status quo looks a little different for each company depending on their own history, leadership, culture, and customer base – but there is an overarching need to look at the business with a fresh view. To think about how service delivery and even business models might be changed to better deliver on customer wants and needs. To look for inspiration beyond your own industry and recognize the fact that you aren’t limited by what has been the “norm.” Innovation was an important topic at WoCo and it’s incredibly relevant for those in service who understand that the time is now to push out of their comfort zones and focus on the possibilities instead of the barriers.
#2: Challengers Are Focused on Culture and People
If there was a resounding message I heard from the customers I spoke with, it was the acknowledgement that their people and their company culture is where their success lies. They know that investing time, energy, and resources on their people is absolutely critical and they are making this a priority. We discussed a variety of ways that failing to focus on your people will present barriers to accomplishing your goals. This included a discussion around the correlation between employee engagement and satisfaction and customer satisfaction – not being able to deliver on a superior customer experience if you haven’t taken the time to ensure your people are bought into your mission and happy themselves. We discussed the importance of communicating the “why” behind the company’s goals and initiatives as well as the need to articulate realistic, measurable expectations so that employees know both what is being asked of them as well as how they’re performing. We also discussed the fact that from a technology standpoint, focusing on the voice of your employees and centering tools around their needs is essential to adoption and proper use. It can be easy to speed through the day-to-day and not slow down enough to focus on the state of your culture and your employees’ morale, but it is evident that challengers are making this a priority.
#3: Challengers Are Building a Logical Technology Strategy
When Christian Pederson, Chief Product Officer at IFS delivered his keynote at WoCo in which he discussed the company’s technology roadmap, he commented that while IFS is working to incorporate all sorts of new features and functionality, customers shouldn’t be focused on the trends and acronyms but rather the business value they provide. In talking with customers at the event, it was clear that this is indeed the challenger approach. These companies aren’t caught up in the trends or buzzwords just for the sake of what’s “cool” – they are hyper-focused on what will provide their businesses, and more importantly their customers, value. They know that to succeed with digital transformation, you must first build a strong foundation of core functionality from which to build. They recognize that the technology strategy for the company needs to be cohesive, not siloed. They are intent on following value, not trends. And they are cognizant of the fact that there’s a greater need than ever for both technology and skills that will allow companies to fully utilize data both internally and in a customer-facing manner.
I truly enjoyed hearing how these companies are balancing their efforts around strategy, culture, and technology to take their businesses to new heights. If you have thoughts on how your company is embracing the challenger mentality, I’d love to hear your story!