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April 25, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

Identifying the Root Cause of 5 Common Field Service Hurdles

April 25, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

Identifying the Root Cause of 5 Common Field Service Hurdles


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

You know the saying nothing worth having comes easy? It applies to our world of field service, too. There are hurdles you’ll face on the journey of service transformation that will test your commitment, tenacity, and resolve. Those who dig in to understand these hurdles and overcome them are far more likely to succeed than those who take the hurdle at face value and become deterred from their goal.

Not long ago, I welcomed onto the podcast James Mylett, SVP, U.S. Digital Buildings at Schneider Electric, for an in-depth conversation on meeting the demands of modern leadership. The two-part discussion was full of valuable insights, but one point that really stuck with me is in part two where he discusses his tendency toward root cause analysis. Here’s a synopsis of what he shares: “I want to make sure that our team is focused on root cause analysis for problem solving. Like most organizations, when you think about a problem, everybody wants to go to ideation, and we don’t spend enough time first identifying the root cause of the problem. And so, my bias is to start at the problem and work backwards from that and put a solution in place that’s supported with data.”

Sounds totally sensible, right? It is, but here’s why many overlook a fairly simple but critical and sometimes arduous process. “It takes hard work to really dig in and to get the root cause. And it takes courage to face into the data when it doesn’t support what you thought the root cause was, and that happens a lot. It happens to me – I’ve got my mind made up that we should be moving in this direction but when we dig in the data doesn’t support my assumption. As the leader, I want to follow what the data is saying. The challenge is to not get paralyzed by the data, but it has to have role in the conversation.”

The pace of change today’s leaders face I believe compounds the tendency to skip or rush root cause analysis, because there’s pressure to think quickly and move fast. But hurdles like those I often hear below really cannot be overcome without an accurate, genuine understanding of what’s causing the problem. So, while root cause analysis may take a little time, challenge your thinking, and send you on a path different than what you assumed – it’s well worth it to ensure the path you take is one that will deliver outcomes. 

Hurdle: Leadership doesn’t view our company as a service business. 

Potential root cause: This is one I hear often from service leaders within manufacturing organizations who see the potential to servitize the business but face some resistance or differing opinions among senior leadership. We often talk about the importance of alignment and breaking down siloes, but to do that you first must understand why it is leadership doesn’t share the view of service potential. 

As with all these hurdles, there can be many different root causes. One common scenario is that if senior leadership has been in place a long time they can be very emotionally tied to the legacy of the business. This is natural and must be handled delicately – showing how incorporating a service focus into the core business strategy can augment and strengthen the company’s value proposition, not take the place of manufacturing excellent products. Ask more questions than you do give input and see if you can better understand the emotions around senior leadership’s views to influence how you articulate the role of service in the business.

Also keep in mind, though, that overall, the directions that things are heading is that not only do customers not care so much about products, but they don’t care so much about service. They care about what either – or both – can do for them. Taking the outcomes-based view here may help you in highlighting how the overall customer relationship needs to evolve rather than staking a claim on service alone.

Hurdle: We can’t get the investment we need to evolve service. 

Potential root cause: We all know evolving service is important, but chances are you are not speaking about doing so in a language that resonates with top leadership. You need to understand the objection, which means digging into the root cause. A few ideas come to mind. First, have you (or prior service leaders) made investments in technology to evolve service that have failed? This can be a huge deterrent in further investment, and it’s a tough topic to unravel because while you must deal with the realities of that failure, you also must express the opportunity cost of not rectifying what’s already been done. Finally, you need to be prepared to have a detailed plan for how you’ll avoid failure a second time.

Another potential root cause is related to hurdle number one, which is that perhaps top leadership doesn’t see the value in evolving your service offerings. This happens not only in manufacturing organizations looking to servitize, but in service businesses where some are happy with the status quo and don’t see the need to move beyond “what’s working.” In either scenario, looking outside of your organization for examples of success – viable, measurable success – can help address these objections. But only after you’ve dug in to understand them. 

Hurdle: Our employees resist change. 

Potential root cause: Sure they do! It’s human nature. And in the spirt of a little tough love, the aren’t resisting change – you are doing a poor job managing it. What is the root of their emotions? Is this the first major change they’ve faced in a very long time and it’s just completely uncomfortable? Do they feel they haven’t had a voice in the change that is underway? Do they feel not valued overall? Do they fear for their jobs? Are they burnt out or frustrated because they aren’t adequately recognized or compensated?

Your initiatives, whether a new service offering or a new technology investment, will fail if you don’t prioritize change management. It’s your responsibility to do so. Invest the time to understand the emotions, listen to the feedback, and show – through actions – you hear your workers, and you care what they have to say. Recognize the value of your frontline and treat them accordingly. Finally, know that another critical aspect of change management is ensuring they are not only understood but properly equipped for the change. This means an investment in education, training, and whatever else they need to be fully capable of what it is you’re asking them to do differently. 

Hurdle: We can’t hire enough talent to support our growth goals.

Potential root cause: This is a challenge for nearly every company today, but the fact that it is a measurable reality doesn’t permit you to shirk responsibility to do what you can to offset it or to set aside your growth goals for this reason. Besides the labor market facts, what are the other potential root causes for your struggles around talent?

Could it be that you are still relying on hiring based on experience? News flash, that’s an outdated practice that is a surefire way to remain short-staffed. Are you offering a compelling employee value proposition? Today’s workforce desires different things than the technicians you hired 20 years ago, and you need to step up to understand and meet those needs. How strong are your onboarding, training, mentorship, and career development programs? 

How engaged and satisfied are your current employees, and what’s your retention rate? If these numbers aren’t good, you absolutely have to understand why in order to identify where and how to improve. What’s your company culture? Talent is an area where companies really need to step up their efforts, focus, and investments to ensure they are positioning themselves to do well with what today’s realities are. The best way to dig into root cause here, at least the version you can impact, is to ask your employees and prospective employees for feedback. And listen!

Hurdle: We’ve already “transformed” and we’re the best at what we do.

Potential root cause: This statement bums me out. Sometimes I have folks who say, oh yeah, we moved from reactive service to X% proactive service contracts, so we’ve transformed and are happy with where we are. Not to discredit progress, but the potential for service evolution is so very big! It’s really a journey of continuous learning and improvement, which is just an operational process that’s foreign to many organizations. 

There are several reasons for potential root cause here. Could be a very simple lack of awareness of the real opportunity around service. It could be that leaders are weary of the effort transformation takes and want to stay in a state of complacency for a while. It could be back to number one where the overall focus of the business is on something else. Most likely it’s a company culture and mentality issue, where leaders are living in a reality of 10+ years ago where the status quo could work for quite a while. That isn’t our reality anymore – disruption is real, change is continuous, and competitors will evolve even if you won’t. Looking at how your business operates and what the mindset is around continuous transformation and evolution is really important. 

What hurdles would you add to this list? And do you do a lot of root cause analysis? I’d love to hear! Send me an email with any insights you’re willing to share.