Karl Lowe, Head of Panasonic European Service at Panasonic Heating & Cooling Solutions Europe, joins to talk with Sarah about the company’s strategic objectives around service, incorporation of remote assistance, and customer focus.

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Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast, I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we’re going to be talking about how Panasonic has set its sights on service. I’m excited to welcome today to the podcast Karl Lowe, Head of Panasonic European Service at Panasonic Heating and Cooling Solutions Europe. Karl, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Karl Lowe: Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Some of you may have had seen we did an article with Panasonic on Future Field Service in 2020 and talked a bit about the then new role that Karl was taking on with the company and some of the things that, that he had planned. So today we’re going to dig into that a little bit further and talk about some of the lessons learned and evolution of that strategy and what Karl is working on. So Karl, before we dig in to the conversation, why don’t you tell our listeners a bit about yourself and your role with Panasonic?

Karl Lowe: Yeah. So as you said, my name is Karl Lowe I’m Head of Service for a Europeans Panasonic organization which is known as Pappy Heating and Cooling division. And I joined Panasonic actually a year ago in two weeks from now, so nearly a year. But my history within service is it goes back around 24 years. So I’ve been in the HPAC, the organization for that time started as an apprentice and had done various different roles as an engineer, project manager, service sales, and so on and so forth.

Karl Lowe: And now I’ve in the last 10 years, spent my time really developing service organizations for OEMs in Europe. So actually this is the first time I’ve worked for an organization outside of Europe and so it’s different. But fundamentally the core elements of what I do in service are the same no matter what the company.

Sarah Nicastro: Good. And you were brought on to Panasonic’s specifically to really evolving the company’s strategy and mission around service. So tell us a little bit about what Panasonic sees in terms of the service opportunity and kind of evolving the organization and in its service mindset, its service offerings, et cetera.

Karl Lowe: Yeah. So I think Panasonic is no different than many organizations I’ve worked for within the HPAC industry and that they’re very product centric, but that is changing. I think fundamentally companies are now starting to realize that the product is of course massively important, but actually more customers are focusing on the solution and satisfaction in general. And Panasonic has recognized that, hence why I’ve joined the company is to help try and provide first of all a better solution all round to the products that we provide.

Karl Lowe: That may be things such as including switching based contracts, obviously the consumer sort of monitorize our service offerings as well but also providing a better end-to-end customer experience. What we’re aiming to do within a service is to become a differentiator between our competitors and what we can offer within the service and that may be around, as I said, subscription based service contracts, maybe trying to offer generally better support around the products that we sell. But it’s moving away from simply being a solely product manufacturer to kind of a solution driven organization.

Sarah Nicastro: It makes sense. It’s so interesting to me to hear anyone that I interview summarize it so simply, but knowing the complexity that’s really underneath that evolution, right. I mean, you think of how in many manufacturing organizations service has just historically been a bolt-on and an afterthought, a cost center and that shift to thinking about how it can be a strategic differentiator.

Sarah Nicastro: How it can set you apart from your competition, how it can be a huge brand impact is a really big change. So, when you joined the company the first thing you did was conducted a maturity assessment to sort of get a lay of the land and really to understand where you needed to start from. So I think it’s interesting for you to share a bit about what you looked at and, and how you did that, because I think an important starting point for anyone new to a company or not to really begin this journey from. So tell us about how you did that.

Karl Lowe: Yeah, so that was quite actually an interesting project for when I joined the business is, was to really understand where the lay of the land was. So I think I said to you before Sarah, is that we tend to operate as a siloed approach within Panasonic. And that’s simply because what we call NSCs, National Sales Companies have been kind of independent sales organizations.

Karl Lowe: So, they’ve been reasonably autonomous but obviously within service, what we’re trying to offer is a sort of a little bit more of a top-down approach adding some governance and structures to what we do. Because what we’re aiming for is a consistent customer journey. So a little bit like going into a, sort of a Mercedes, BMW garage, something like that, it doesn’t really matter where you enter what country, you’ll probably get the similar kind of service and that’s really what we’re trying to aim for.

Karl Lowe: At the moment different just because every organization that we have in Europe within Panasonic Heating and Cooling is a fundamentally a standalone organization. So it was important for me to really understand the maturity of each organization so that we could effectively see where our strengths and weaknesses were. So we conducted a maturity survey we asked each of the countries including the country manager and the service manager and their associated teams to really ask these questions to provide an understanding of where they are now, from there we asked them to put in a target of where they would like to be in the future so a year from now and then what they would need for that to happen. So the emphasis is not purely just on them it’s also on me as the service tied on the organization to perhaps provide certain resources for them to mature their organization.

Karl Lowe: So we’ve done that now we’ve conducted that survey and we assess all of the targets. And the idea is that each NSC should create or should complete survey about 40% of those. And if they do, we will see the maturity of the business increase, but also there’s a correlation between the maturity and the I suppose the service sales [inaudible 00:07:08] a business. If we mature the business, we should see that their profit should also increase as well. We should also see things like customer satisfaction improve. So there’s a lot of benefits. It’s not just about effectively moving and shifting to the right, because it’s a number that we want to increase by. There’s a correlation between that benefit in other parts of the business and service in general so…

Sarah Nicastro: So when you conducted that assessment what were you asking on the survey? And by that, I don’t mean necessarily every individual question, but were you looking at… I’m curious what all categories you looked at. Are you looking at mindset? You’re obviously looking at status, like actual numbers and factual data. Are you looking at mindset? Are you looking at processes? Are you looking at technologies and use? Like, what was the gist of the view you were trying to gain by doing that research?

Karl Lowe: Yeah, so we broke it down into kind of three topics. And really what we were looking for is, I suppose the first part was the collaboration. Did we see strong collaboration between the traditional product sales teams and the service teams. In my experience, you don’t always get that. I think sometimes the product sales team will work completely autonomous from the service team and vice versa. And I’ve seen the good and the bad from that as well. I’ve seen it when you have very high collaboration, that actually it benefits the business and the customer as well.

Karl Lowe: So I was really keen to see actually, how was the collaboration, was it bad? Was it good? And actually generally that seemed to be pretty strong within Panasonic, which was good to see. But really what we were offering fundamentally is warranty support. So we were on the first run really of the service stylization model with generally around full product support. There was nothing more that was fundamentally added other than that.

Karl Lowe: A few countries offered service contracts, but not a great deal more. So I really wanted to see how the collaboration was. We also asked questions that were related to service sales. To did we proactively drive sales through spans, through upgrades, through service contracts. And we also asked a little bit about sort of the operational sides of the business. Did they have a CRM, did they track KPIs, that sort of thing. So we had a rounded kind of a survey. Only 18 questions, but it really kind of tried to target each point fairly quickly. So we could then kind of understand where we sat. We took that data we then we’re able to put that onto I suppose an overview, a bird’s eye view where all of the countries sat within the maturity organization.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. That makes sense. So, you said one of the overarching goals is to create more cohesiveness and improve the customer experience. Now, in a situation where you’re only directly providing that service that is challenging enough. But in a situation where you have these NSCs even more so, because as you said, they’re accustomed to operate in quite independently. So how are you handling that challenge? How are you navigating the need to take a little bit more control, provide more governance, but still allow them to feel as though they have some autonomy?

Karl Lowe: Well, I think what we found from doing the survey was that we had 10 points between the lowest maturing organization and the highest mature organization. Actually, in reality, that’s quite a big difference and that’s a difference between an organization making zero service sales, making around 3 million U.S service sales per year. It’s a difference between a team of three and a team of say 16.

Karl Lowe: So there’s a lot of complexity with the maturity, the higher you go up as well. And what we found was that the best thing for us as part of our service strategy was to really focus on the operational side of the business to begin with. So that was very clear to us because we had a lot of different systems and processes simply because each organization worked independently. And we wanted to create that, as I said, that sort of governance structure to be able to support the NSC with kind of best in practice.

Karl Lowe: So a single CRM, rather than many different versions of CRMs. The IFS solution, which is now the C rolled out and so on and so forth. Adding sort of structure around the P&L reporting. We have many different ways of effects would be called in labor. And that’s because it was reported within our ERP system with different codes. So it was impossible to see how many service contracts that we solved this year, because quite frankly each country just reported the code in a different way.

Karl Lowe: So they’re the sort of the things that we’ve tried to focus on first to really help the NSCs to first of all kind of work and report in the same way. It would be very easy of us to say, “Okay, we’re going to really focus on driving service sales and service salespeople into the organizations.” But frankly that just wouldn’t have worked because the support function, the operational function just wasn’t there to begin with.

Karl Lowe: So we’re on that kind of roadmap first of all, operations, then it’s kind of the monitorization of service sales of support that’s going to be coming in sort of the phase two parts of the strategy. And then it’s kind of phase three continuous improvement and taking that to the next step.

Sarah Nicastro: How has this mission been received? How are the NSCs reacting to the change and to what you’re looking to accomplish?

Karl Lowe: I think generally and actually it’s an interesting time for us because we’ve just gone through employee survey time. So generally I think it’s been positive. It would be wrong to say that everybody’s happy because I think that’s just impossible. But I think generally we need to do a better job of communicating a strategy at the lower level. That’s where we we’ve perhaps not been a particularly great at making sure that that message is filtering and cascading down. There’s a few reasons for that, we’re working on a service development program to train, not just from a physical training on products, but also development of our managers, our leaders, and that takes time to kind of implement and then cascade down to kind of the next level and so on and so forth.

Karl Lowe: So we are trying to create a little bit of a movement and I hope the next time round we’ll have a better connect between what we’re trying to do at strategic level and how that works as maybe an engineer in the field and how they link to that as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Karl Lowe: So I think also as well in the current time that we’re in, that’s been difficult because we’re not able to able to travel, we’re not able to go on meetings physically and that’s what I personally love to do is to go out and see organizations and ask the questions, get the kind of feel on the ground as it may be. It’s difficult doing that kind of in a Teams meeting, you don’t get that same kind of touch and feel that you perhaps would in person.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And even being able to pick up on… I just think it’s different being in a room with people you can kind of read people’s body language and engagement, and you can kind of tell if someone’s maybe has a concern and isn’t speaking up and it gives you an opportunity to dig in or speak with them one-on-one. It’s far easier to miss those things when you’re doing all of that communication virtually there is a big difference for sure.

Karl Lowe: Yeah, I agree. And I think that fundamentally sort of going back to your original question, I think that there is still work for us to do. Fundamentally we’re a technical organization at the moment. We’ve got a lot of technical people and me talking about service sales or attachment ratio, it’s very foreign at the moment for us. So, I think we have to be kind of careful in how we approach this. It’s not to go too fast, too quickly. It’s to be kind of in a steady and stable in our approach and making sure that, first of all, I think our organization feel supported. We’re here to help. We want to kind of give them the tools and resources to do a good job.

Karl Lowe: And I think the monitorization and the service sound’s elements of what we’re trying to do by adding a value to service will come in time. I don’t want to run that down their freight we must make money from service that’s the wrong approach to happen and I think we would fail if we took that approach. So it’s support first and then a slow gradual kind of movement towards servitization and selling services as a solution, rather than in almost a kind of freebie that we give for free just to support the product. So that helps the business as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I mean, it’s undoubtedly the right approach. We talk a lot about building a strong foundation and you can talk about that from a technology perspective, but you can also talk about that from a cultural and change management perspective and I always say, you don’t just… In this situation particularly when you’re talking about frontline workers you can’t just force compliance.

Sarah Nicastro: Compliance will not give you the customer experience you’re wanting to achieve, you really need buy-in, and it takes time in a company that has a legacy that has a history that has a certain way of doing things. It takes time to create that buy-in, but I wholeheartedly believe that doing that on the front end before you try and build on it will be far more successful than trying to rush through it.

Karl Lowe: I agree. I think fundamentally as well, I think it’s like trying to create some movement. It’s trying to create a culture. And as you said, that takes a little bit of time. We’re trying to kind of make sure that the, certainly the service managers are in a position where they can do less of the doing the more of the being. Take them out and have a helicopter view so they can see their organizations. At the moment we’re very much kind of reactive on a day-to-day basis. And that’s just purely because we are kind of a technical team and we deal when we act in that way. I think services is a bit of both. You have to be both proactive and reactive. It’s a dynamic organization for sure. And as a dynamic industry. Sorry. So I think we need to make sure that we can respond accordingly.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. There’s a lot of psychology in it really and it is really interesting but it’s multilayered and a lot of hard work. The other thing I was going to say, I don’t want to get us too off track, but this point has been coming up a lot in my recent conversations. So I wrote quite a bit last year, and even in my predictions article looking at 2021 about how there’s this greater openness to change as a result of COVID. Right. So we’ve seen companies that have just by force or just in terms of recognition have realized, “Okay, we need to do some things differently. We could use this new technology or we could change and do things this way.”

Sarah Nicastro: And there kind of been this increased acceptance of evolution and agility and the need to become creative, et cetera. And I do believe that, that’s true and I think that’s still true and I think it will continue to be true. But what I’ve been thinking a little bit more about this year is while that, that openness to change at the organizational level is true. There is a weariness when you really get into employees. Like there’s a personal weariness that I think exists this far into the situation we’re all in.

Sarah Nicastro: It’s been quite a while since we’ve all experienced “Normal life” and so I think that when you think about what people are going through, all of us as human beings personally, and then you think about coming to work and having it be change, change, change, change, it is lot. And so I think the other thing is while there’s this maybe increase in awareness at the organizational level for how we need to evolve we need to be very cognizant of the fact that the employees we have are humans and they’re going through a lot as human beings and we can’t lay too much on at once. We need to just be conscious of that weariness, I think at the individual level. Does that make sense?

Karl Lowe: Yeah. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: It’s just something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Anyway very typical for me to divert. So, let’s go back to…. I wanted to talk quickly about one of the first, I guess things that you did from, I don’t know that it was one of the first things, but one of the things that I’m aware of that you’ve done from the operational level is introduced remote assistance.

Karl Lowe: You’re right.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. And so talk a little bit about the role that remote assistance plays in really trying to drive that unification, and create more consistency. And then we’ll talk a little bit about how we see the use of that technology evolving.

Karl Lowe: So, I think I said before we implemented around the start of kind of COVID period, actually, so when it first started to become a quiet prevalence in around the world, it was actually coincidentally, but it just seemed to happen at that point. And we introduced this into two countries as child pilots so effectively UK and Germany. We’ve gone those consecutively for a period of a month and then we decided to roll it out across the rest of the organization. I think actually it was interesting to begin with because to me seeing the technology, it seems like a little bit of a no-brainer, but I think seeing the engineer’s feedback initially it was mixed, I would say to be fair. And I think sometimes we all have different filters in front of our faces.

Karl Lowe: And I think sometimes the message coming through is not always the same. So I think in some cases, engineers were like, “This is pretty cool. This is really going to help.” Could see kind of what we were looking to do. I think our engineers were, “This is going to change the way I work. And what this means is you don’t want me to travel anymore and you don’t want me to go out and see customers, and you don’t want me to do site visits.”

Karl Lowe: Actually, that wasn’t the case. What we always saw this as was effectively a tool in the toolbox. We also saw that there was a lot of inefficiencies around when we dispatch an engineer. We would sometimes maybe go to site and then realized it was not actually not a product issue, it was an installation error or something that was not related to warranty.

Karl Lowe: And that was quite common actually. And that’s nobody’s fault it was just the case that maybe there was a wire installed the wrong way rounds. And that was kind of for us, a good trigger points to say, “Okay, we can help the customer quicker. We can reduce inefficiencies and reduce costs by using the lights as technology.”

Karl Lowe: And that for us is where we’ve kind of now each month gone from strength to strength. So we saw very little uptake on the data for the first few months. The UK team too adopted it pretty quickly. And actually for many months they were kind of the highest usage across the whole of Europe. So what we decided to do then was to create a monthly kind of score report, not to kind of name and change, but effectively just to let everybody know the systems here. Actually the UK are ahead of everybody to kind of create a little bit of competition.

Karl Lowe: And we send that to everybody in the organization, including our MD actually, he gets a copy of that. And it was interesting to see afterwards that we started to see a little bit of kind of internal competition come in. The Germans started to kind of climb up and that’s, you’re able to tip the Brits. And actually now we see the Italians coming in and they’re overtaken. So it’s quite interesting to see now that each month the usage is going higher and higher and higher. So it’s been used as we wanted we’re starting to see teams network together which is great because it’s not a chairman because of the siloed approach before we may have a technical expert in Germany that has the answer that maybe the UK guy doesn’t, and now we can bring in that expert. So we’ve linked teams together, which is obviously a real benefit.

Karl Lowe: So we see it going from strength to strength actually. So it’s been nice to get to this point nearly a year on, and to have it integrated into all of the NSCs and to see a lot of the countries now using it as a daily tool.

Sarah Nicastro: So if you had to kind of summarize the you know, the wins or the value you’ve realized so far, and then sort of how you see the use of the technology evolving how would you summarize that?

Karl Lowe: I would see it not as a quick win. I think it’s something that you, I suppose, depending on your size of organization, we’ve got quite a large service organization here of maybe sort of around 60 to 70 people. So actually it takes time when you’re working at organizations of that size and bigger. We didn’t force it as something that this must happen. We sort of placed it there and then we just monitored and saw that because I think fundamentally engineers, and I can say this because I’ve been one myself, they’re an unusual breed sometimes. And I think that because they can be remote and they can be in the field and they’re disconnected from what’s happening within the office or that are more strategic level, they don’t always see kind of what the good intention is.

Karl Lowe: So it may be that they worry about something that is not the case. And that certainly was something we experienced in some of the NSCs that they were perhaps a little bit worried about what we’ve been trying to do with the technology. I think now that seems to have subsided and we’ve seen that as I said, that the uptake is increasing month by month, so we’re quite excited about it. So my advice, I think for anyone implemented would be to look at this as something that maybe will take a few months to get to kind of where you wanted to be. It wouldn’t be something that I think you could drive instantly.

Sarah Nicastro: Well, and again, that comes back to compliance versus buy-in. Maybe if you wanted to force it, you could, but you don’t want to do so where there’s more of a resistance. You want people to actually see the value in using it. Think it is a good idea, though, what you said about the visibility into use and kind of making it a little bit of a game or a competition and just getting people excited about competing with one another a little bit.

Karl Lowe: Yeah. That’s right and actually it was interesting as well, because we saw examples where we would have a guy on the phone for three hours trying to explain the technical issue and then actually just pointing, but why were you on the phone for three hours?

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Karl Lowe: We had a very similar scenario where we were able to show a free hour call versus a 10 minute remote assistance call. And the difference it was the same problem and the solution was the same, but actually it took two hours and 50 minutes quicker than the phone call in that way, a picture paints a thousand words. So there’s very good examples of that. And I think if you keep pushing that message, eventually it tends to kind of come into the play and say, “Okay, I get that message now. Yeah. Okay the tool.”

Sarah Nicastro: Well, and there’s kind of that certain element of, I think of it in relation to parenting right, where you can say something 300 times, but sometimes it takes them doing it themselves to learn the lesson. Right. So, you obviously have to keep saying it, you have to keep showing it, but sometimes it’s that first use of that technician being like, “Oh my gosh, that took 10 minutes and then it’s like, I’m sold now this is a great tool.” Right. So, you have to look at both sides of that.

Sarah Nicastro: So you’re using it for, I don’t want to speak for you, but let me just recap a couple of the points that I’m assuming. You’re using it to have remote resolution of things that really didn’t warrant an onsite visit and in certain instances, right. So like you said, if it was just something quick and easy where you would have had a trip onsite before, if you’re able to see it, then you may be able to just do remote resolution. Is that accurate?

Karl Lowe: Yeah. I mean, if fundamentally in the time that we’re in at the moment, health and safety is paramount to us to what we’ve asked for is effectively, if it’s not a hundred percent necessary. Don’t ever send an engineer use IFS to begin with anyway. Just purely from a health and safety point of view, obviously that’s really important to us. Beyond that normal times, we would be sort of looking for the use to be used where we’ve got, say a warranty claim and very often if it’s a warranty claim, no problem at all, it’s our responsibility we’ll sort that.

Karl Lowe: But we do see from time to time where it’s not a warranty claim, it’s an installation problem, or it’s something has happened that’s not actually a Panasonic issue. It’s very difficult for us as a manufacturer to be able to say, “Well, I’m sorry, we can’t fix this unless you pay us for this.” Just generally we’ll do it as a gesture of goodwill, but that’s a cost us.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Karl Lowe: We can still provide that service, but now we’re just doing it remotely and of course the costs are dramatically reduced in that way. And also it’s more efficient in addition to that as well, where you have customers that have maybe heating products in the winter periods. No, hot water and no heating is a really big deal so again, we’ve had cases where we’ve been able to provide rapid response in minutes where normally it may be a day or two days wait for a technician or at the very least several hours where we’ve been able to help the customer remotely have the heating operational again, in the matter of the few minutes so…

Sarah Nicastro: So, I want to kind of segue into an adjacent conversation, but it’s interesting because from an outsider’s perspective this technology it’s super powerful and it’s really exciting. And I understand some of the emotions that can be tied to it from the technician perspective. But when you really look at, like you said, how to just make it a tool in your toolbox it’s really pretty cool, right. Because you’re able to… Things that didn’t need to be handled on site can be handled remotely.

Sarah Nicastro: That improves customer experience, it saves Panasonic time and money makes everyone’s lives easier. In a situation where you do ultimately use the technology and realize you do need to go onsite oftentimes you have a better idea of what you’re going in for, right. So you kind of have a little bit of information going into the visit on what you might be tackling, right.

Sarah Nicastro: So that can improve your, your first time fix rate, resolution rates, et cetera. And the other thing is, like you said, that collaboration, that knowledge sharing, the connection of those remote teams to be able to draw on one another and leverage each other’s expertise is huge. And we also see companies doing quite a bit when it relates to knowledge management. So not just allowing that collaboration, but capturing some of that so that you can use that in future scenarios.

Sarah Nicastro: And then the other thing that I think is really cool, that’s possible with this is the idea of how you can use it for training. Right. Maybe you get in a situation where you have an older technician that doesn’t want to be out traveling all the time anymore, but he can be in the back office, he or she instructing folks that are out in the field.

Sarah Nicastro: So it’s really cool, but I want to go back to your point, which is like any new thing, you talked about how that communication from the top on what that strategy, what that vision is, can take some time to trickle down. And in the meantime, when you’re introducing things like this if there can be some question. So to your point you’ve had some folks that maybe were a little put off by this because they like traveling and they want to be out in the field and they feel like maybe this is something that’s going to take that away from them. Or in other situations I’ve heard stories of technicians thinking like, “Is this gonna replace my job? Is this taking my job?”

Karl Lowe: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: So, I guess there’s a couple of topics here. The one is what you spoke about earlier, which is how you communicate that strategy to folks so that they feel more at ease. But I think the other thing that’s important to talk about is the strategy itself. I think that a remote first strategy is really smart, but people need to understand it’s not remote only so that’s kind of the differentiation that is important for the workforce to understand that you’re not trying to take that away from them. So, what are your thoughts on this? How are you tackling it? What are some of the ways that you’re furthering those communications and trying to address some of those concerns?

Karl Lowe: I mean, it’s such that this technology I think, has evolved reasonably quickly with recent times almost of kind of pushing that as a necessity. So I think in some sense, it’s caught some industries off on the back foot a little bit, because we’re so used to doing a physical intervention rather than a remote intervention that’s happened for years and years and years. So it takes time to get used to that to say, “Okay, it’s remote first. And then physical seconds.”

Karl Lowe: As you said, it will never replace, there will always be a need to have to go out and do a physical intervention. But we are only now just getting sort of starting to really look at the data with regards to what is the ratio now I think is for me, it will be very interesting to see where we can really make those savings and efficiency.

Karl Lowe: I think for us, where it’s a steady as she goes kind of concept still for us. And as I said earlier, the main thing that we’re doing it’s almost a slight nudge each month. Here’s the report usage by country. These are the people not using it and these are the people using it these are the amount of calls.

Karl Lowe: It’s just creating a little bit of internal competition, friendly competition, of course. So for us, we found that’s the way that works for us is to provide that kind of gentle nudge in that direction, rather than the really hard push. Of course, we’ve emphasized the need for health and safety. And that goes without doubt. But I think we found because of, we can see the increases month, a month, a month that strategy is working for us. So, we’ll continue to do that and hopefully we’ll see these increases in continued to go in the right direction.

Karl Lowe: And I think as we grow and evolve our service organization as well, we’ll find new ways certainly to do that. And I think I said in another conversation with you, it’s sparked conversation around Panasonic, around training, for example. Do we have a physical training room? Or can we have a training room, but then it has cameras that we can do remote training in that way? Rather than trying to get everybody together from different organizations, different countries that’s a hard task, it’s expensive flights, so on and so forth, people’s time out. But actually, if we can do that training in a remote way, then again, that’s something that we can do. So it’s interesting how that topic is kind of sparked off other conversations.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, and it’s so interesting to me, that’s why I say this technology is exciting to me because I do feel like the companies that ultimately deploy it for our specific need or opportunity, then you start seeing the light bulbs go off like, “Oh, and we could also do this. We could also do this. We could also do this.” So, I liked the point about promoting, but not pushing the use of the technology.

Sarah Nicastro: You referenced earlier when you spoke about the employee survey that you just said, you’re also looking to improve communication to the frontline workforce on exactly what that strategy is, right. To also put them at ease of, “Look, no, one’s trying to tell you that you’ll never go onsite and all of those things.” Right. So that, that’s kind of the other part.

Sarah Nicastro: I have two more questions for you, Karl and the next is because you were a technician yourself, it makes me interested to ask you where you do see this going, because I think that no one is saying remote only, but I think it is inevitable that the field technicians role is changing and will change. Right. So, if you just look at Panasonic’s journey, you’re in the earlier phases of this Servitization life cycle, right.

Sarah Nicastro: You’re really kind of getting some strong foundations set to really begin that journey. But, ultimately the skillset that you need a technician to have in a servitized business model is different in some ways than in a more technical service operation. You need to think more about soft skills and customer relations and stuff like that. And so what are your thoughts on that evolution? Like what do you think a field technicians role will look like? And I’m not just saying at Panasonic’s, I’m not asking you to speak about plans I’m asking you more as a former technician. Like where do you kind of think this is heading?

Karl Lowe: I think it’s without doubt, I think it’s evolving and I think it’s evolving pace. I think remote assist is one part of that in whatever technology is used. I think we, again, we’ve talked about this in a previous conversation, but dispatching an engineer it’s an inefficient process. Most of the time is traveling to and from site very often that a good technician, whatever industry they are in will probably have a good idea of what’s needed and be able to fix the issue relatively quickly when they’re on site. So that inefficiency can be removed, but it will always be a need to physical intervention. But I think in combination of that is this technologies, for example, 3D printing. If you look at a technician, they will often go to site they’ll then say, I need this part. I don’t have that part.

Karl Lowe: We then have to set the quotation to the customer and so on and so forth, and then revisit the site again. So again, a lot of waste, a lot of inefficiency, but then what if you could say, “Okay, I can use remote assist. I know what the part is that’s needed. And I print the part now.” Say a fan blade or something by that, or even if he has to visit sites, he can print the part physically in his van using the 3D printing technology.

Karl Lowe: So I think that’s, again, will start to happen in the future as well, so that you make sure to supply chains, quicker resolution times and so on and so forth. So I think it’s a natural evolution of kind of the technician. And I think as we start to kind of… We’re only scratching the surface, I think at the moment. So I think it’s exciting to see what will happen in the next few years and how different technologies combined with the motor system will make the process even more efficient.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I agree. And I think we’ve talked about this quite a bit today, but it’s exciting when you’re setting the strategy. But you have to remember that the people whose roles are evolving it can be less exciting. Right.

Karl Lowe: Oh, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So, that’s kind of part of the theme of what we’re talking about is, it’s important to temper your excitement for the company and the future with some of that anxiety that that frontline workforce can feel. And another thing we haven’t even talked about today, and we certainly don’t have time to, but maybe another day is the next generation of what that workforce is going to look like. Right.

Sarah Nicastro: So, they’ll have yet different emotions about how all of this should be done and whatnot, then, some of the incumbent workforce. So it’s a really interesting topic and I’m excited to see where things go. I think there’s a really interesting handful of years ahead of us. But I think it’s a good reminder for service leaders to remember that there are real people on the front lines that have emotions and that needs to be considered.

Karl Lowe: Yeah, I agree. I think also as well, that the thing I think to remember in any implementation of things that are sort of more technologically advanced than the previous is that, that technology doesn’t necessarily kind of get taken up by the people at the same rates. Some people will just naturally get it and they will say, “Yeah, this is brilliant. This is the coolest thing ever.”

Karl Lowe: Other people may actually be a bit worried about that and that’s something that we’ve certainly learned is that some people may have been resistant, but only because they’re not comfortable sitting in front of a screen and talking to somebody like this, not everyone wants a camera shoved in their face. And I think for maybe a slightly older generations, that will be a very foreign thing for them. We’ve all gotten used to this, I think in this way of the last year, but I think for many people it’s still a little bit unusual.

Karl Lowe: So that takes time. I think it takes time and it takes a little bit more of a kind of a salesman’s approach to say, “This is not a bad thing. This is just a new way of doing things. And people will adapt over time for sure.” But it’s certainly at different rates.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. Last question, Karl you’ve had a hell of a year you came into this role and then everything changed, and this is a big journey that you’re spearheading and a lot going on. What would you say is the biggest lesson you, yourself, as a leader have learned over the last year?

Karl Lowe: Patience. That’s what I would say, patience.

Sarah Nicastro: That’s a good one. Not my strong suit, but I am also working on.

Karl Lowe: It’s not mine either but, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Well, for us then it takes… But we’ve gotten plenty of practice the last year. Right. And so that’s, I guess a good thing in some ways. But yes, and I think that’s evident in the conversation we’ve had today. Right. And I think that, as I said earlier, this type of transformation is just not something you can rush through not if you want to ultimately have success you really do have to be patient and be pragmatic and look at it the way you’re looking at it in terms of, okay, this is a long sell. We have a ways to go. Here’s, you know, we need to build this foundation and, and go from there. so, kudos to you for a year of really hard work and I’m excited to stay in touch and see how things go. Really appreciate you joining the podcast and sharing your insights today.

Karl Lowe: No problem at all. Happy to help.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn, as well as Twitter at the @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS Service Management Solutions by visiting www.ifs.com. As always thank you for listening.