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August 15, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

What Can We Learn About Service from Wayne Gretzky?

August 15, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

What Can We Learn About Service from Wayne Gretzky?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I’m confident in saying my husband doesn’t regularly consume the content I create, but if any article I’ve written catches his eye, it will be this one. He played hockey in high school and college and is a die-hard Pittsburgh Penguins fan. Early in our relationship, he tried tirelessly to persuade me to fall in love with the sport – but once our sons were born, settled for watching a game here or there in silence. 

While my appreciation for hockey is via my husband’s passion for the sport, I’ve always loved a good quote. So, when Frank Mattes referenced a Wayne Gretzky quote during our recent podcast, I knew I needed to seize the opportunity to create an article from it. The quote he brought up is, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

I don’t know many service organizations today that would claim they are satisfied with “good” and don’t desire to be “great.” Quite frankly, customers won’t allow that kind of complacency. So, if our aim is to be great, we need to determine where the puck is going to be and work on getting there. These are three areas of service where I feel it is especially important for organizations to think about how to get ahead. 

All Outcomes, All the Time

Where the Puck Is: We recognize that customers desire more than just products and services and are really demanding more outcomes. They want overall solutions from companies that meet a particular need, solve a specific challenge, and compliment the areas of expertise they have by filling in gaps of expertise, execution, or insight. Essentially, they want you to be able to guarantee you’ll deliver value in whatever form that is you provide. Transactions have become less appealing, partnerships more. Companies today are at varying stages of sorting through how to meet these more advanced needs. This is complex, because it requires not only service transformation but business transformation – which brings about layers of change. 

Where the Puck is Going: With few exceptions, I believe we’re going in the direction of almost everything As-a-Service. Customers want to be able to pay you for the value you deliver, no more. They want transparency on exactly what that value is, and that means the value it brings them – not the value of the output. To determine where your puck is going, you need to think about what your service does for your customers – what does it enable, solve, or change? That’s the outcome they want to purchase from you – not a line item of product or service. There are some great examples of organizations making strides toward where the puck is going, like Kaer, Baxi, and Cubic Transportation. 

Technology-Powered, People-Focused Service Delivery

Where the Puck Is: To consider where the puck is, let’s think about where the puck has been. Historically, field service was a manual effort – you relied in many ways on your people to go out into the world and do what you needed them to do. There was little to no visibility into when, where, or how it was done, but you and your customers trusted your workforce to get the job done. Then came digital transformation, and our focus shifted entirely to how digital could change the game. What can we automate? How can we drive efficiency? How do we connect, assess, and deliver insights in real-time? To some degree, we took the focus off our people and became distracted by digital in the sense of considering the tools we could use to control our workers rather than enable them. Today we are reconciling the reality that service success is technology-powered, but people-focused. 

Where the Puck is Going: Organizations who deliver outcomes realize they cannot do so with manpower alone. Mike Gosling of Cubic Transportation said so himself in our interview, “Adding field engineers to meet the demands of outcomes is not reasonable – technology is critical in today’s service landscape.” We need the power of modern digital tools to create the future of all outcomes, all the time – but where the puck is using digital to arm our employees with knowledge that compliments their passion for helping customers. To automate basic tasks that they find daunting or frustrating, so they can spend more time on what matters. To capture their incredible insight in a way that it can be shared easily with others. As much as our customers want the seamlessness experiences and real-time reactions that digital allows, they also want relationships with someone they trust. The puck is going to where our frontline workforce is more of a knowledge worker, a relationship builder than just a hands-on repair technician. 

Elite EX 

Where the Puck Is: I haven’t spoken to a business leader in ages who isn’t struggling with the talent gap. We can brainstorm new ideas for where and how to recruit the next generation of employees, but the reality is that without really digging into your employee experience, you won’t win the talent war long term. Most organizations today realize that to meet their CX objectives, they need to take a harder look at the engagement and satisfaction of their employees. On a podcast with Eduardo Bonefont of BD, we talk about how the company dug into what its employees were frustrated with and took real action to improve the EX and what benefit that has brought. 

Where the Puck is Going: To win the talent war sustainably, we need to genuinely acknowledge the irreplaceable role our frontline workforce plays in not only our service success but our brand persona and customer experience. Where the puck is going is a frontline workforce that is acknowledged, respected, and rewarded commiserate to the value they provide, particularly as companies shift toward the trusted advisor nature of outcomes-based service. Where the puck is going is a collaborative relationship with these employees versus top-down management because they hold insights about your customers – and a perspective on your business – that no one else does.