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December 6, 2023 | 24 Mins Read

A Service Transformation Deep Dive with Electrolux

December 6, 2023 | 24 Mins Read

A Service Transformation Deep Dive with Electrolux


In a session from the Future of Field Service Live Tour event in Stockholm, Sarah talks with Kristoffer Brun, Services & Repair Transformation Manager; Anna Mezzanotte, Service Operations Product Domain Expert; and Peter Sandkvist, Transformation Manager, Electrolux for an inside look at lessons learned and wins celebrated from its current global service transformation.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, so next up is our service transformation deep dive with the Electrolux team. So, I'm going to let each of you introduce yourself, if you don't mind. Anna, let's start with you. Ladies first.

Anna Mezzanotte: Thanks for having me, first of all. Thanks, Sarah, for inviting. My name is Anna. I work for Electrolux for over two years now and I serve as a product domain expert in service operation. But during the project that we're going to tell soon about you, I was the glue or the translator, as I like to call myself, between the IT and business specifically for service operation domain. So, yeah, hope to tell you more today about some lesson learned, some valuable insights about the project in Denmark.

Peter Sandqvist: Yes. Hello, my name is Peter Sandqvist. I'm a transformation manager at Electrolux. So, I have a small project team that is working with digitalization, transformation, change management projects for our contact center and field service operation teams in the Nordics. And in the project we'll talk about today, I was the project manager from business side. Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, great.

Kristoffer Brun: All right. And Kristoffer. My background is actually in sales initially, so from an end user perspective using a CRM, but I moved to the other side of the CRM. Before joining this role five years ago, was working with rollouts of field service management tools. Thank you very much. And me and my team, we were sitting in an ivory tower in the global headquarters guessing how our software should be used and creating visions around it, and I will come back to that one.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm sure no one here can identify. Okay. All right. So, in this session we're going to hear each perspective on Electrolux's ongoing service transformation. So, Kristoffer, start by just giving a bit of history, context, background and we'll go from there.

Kristoffer Brun: All right. A long time ago, 2018, in a country far, far away, Belgium, we went live with a pilot CRM and FSM tool combined. And just after a few weeks, it turned out actually we saw more and more signs actually that the FSM solution didn't work properly. Fit for purpose. And honestly, if we are to look inwards as well, I don't think we created the business requirements well enough from our side. So, one part was the vendor. One part was definitely our side as well. And just a few weeks before go-live, the vendor announced that they acquired another FSM company, which they said that they would go for long-term. So, it was anyway just a few weeks before go-live. We would anyway have to switch one day. So, the Belgium business suffered quite dramatically at the time and it was decided to replace the FSM side of it.

But this time we thought, "Let's do something different. Let's involve the actual end users and all the countries that would ever use this tool should be part of even selecting the vendor, selecting the tool." So, we took a completely new approach to all of that. And before we even sat down to write down the first business requirement, we actually had the first step was to invite all the potential vendors, six of them at the time, for a day each to present the future of the field service, as we called it. So, what could field service look like in Electrolux or in general in the future? Because what we wanted to avoid was to basically just write down how we are working today, leave that over to a vendor, and just have a new interface of the current processes. That was the end game. They all came. They all presented and we basically flew everyone in all countries into Stockholm.

We locked ourselves in a room for weeks, more or less. And we wrote the business requirements word by word on a big screen like this together. And was it time efficient? Definitely not. But was it a glue to have all the stakeholders aligned to do this together, even to fight over simple words or simple sentences of how we should write things? Definitely. I would say that it paid off multiple times in that sense. And we had very tough discussions also with the local stakeholders. One big discussion I remember was, for example, can we even trust an optimization engine? Can we even trust a route system doing routes for us? We manually planned our routes for forever. We cannot trust the system. Or mobile. The technicians will never go mobile. They have their laptops. Discussions like that in front of every business stakeholder. It was tough there and then, but I think we came out of there stronger, basically.

Peter Sandqvist: It tells a little bit of where we came from also.

Kristoffer Brun: Definitely, definitely. We created the requirements together. It could also serve as a vision, more or less. Because we combined also a little bit with the to-be. So, we also grouped it in ways that you can actually see where we will go in short-term, but also a little bit where we aim to go in the future with the predicted spare parts, as an example. We gave it to the vendors. We discussed back and forth, of course. And then we actually went for a couple of reference visits to go and meet the actual customers already using the software a little bit via Gemba Walk. We could interview them. We can actually see the system in place. I don't know, Peter, do you have anything to add on that one?

Peter Sandqvist: No, but first I can add on the requirement parts. I think we made it clear to us that yes, we wanted to see what the different vendors were offering and how their roadmap looked like and we draw a lot of inspiration from that, which was then included in our requirements. But we also knew that we wanted to have a vendor that we could work with, where they could inspire us continuously as well. And now coming to the customer reference meetings, I think it was very important, and we will touch upon this later in another segment, but to me, remembering that time, it's been a couple of years, but remembering that time, I think it was very important for us to see the solution live and to also talk with the people using them, asking them what is working, et cetera. Also without having the vendors standing behind their shoulder. Now, Marcus said he was standing behind there. But yeah, no, it was really great. Yes, yes, I remember it well. It was also a hectic period.

Kristoffer Brun: Yes. So, what we did in the end was basically to, actually together, also with the business, to create the evaluation criteria. So, not us centrally guessing evaluation criteria. We did them together, and every country had the same weight and we calculated the averages from there. Of course, we also involved architects or IT, even vendor management or the contractual side of it, but it was all transparent and every voice was equally heard, so to say. And we took our decision and we also focused already then, before even having started to build something, for what's in it for me. What's in it for me as an end user? What's in it for me as a technician? What's in it for me as a resource planner? So, we also try to, a little bit, to group our vision or our business requirements into already then to say, what's in it for our technicians, as an example.

Sarah Nicastro: So, essentially starting the change management project from the very beginning.

Kristoffer Brun: That's right.

Sarah Nicastro: Because you're thinking about how to personalize the value of the project to each individual function.

Kristoffer Brun: Exactly. So, what we did, we replaced the system in Belgium then finally, and then we basically moved on to Denmark, which we are here to deep dive a little bit into.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. So, Peter, get us up to speed on Denmark and then we're going to talk about some of the biggest lessons learned.

Peter Sandqvist: First I will just shortly introduce then. So, what me and Anna will talk about now and present and share some details on is a project that we basically came out from this summer, and we will try to follow the timeline also of the project. So, the goal was this summer and the project was roughly one year. And yes, to set the stage also, I think it's important to a little bit present what our Danish service organization was. So, we had a very stable service organization. We have the highest average age of technicians in Europe as well. A lot of people that has been working for a long time in the company. Everyone is experts.

It's almost like a small family company where we visited. And they're working on a 40-year-old tool, field service management tool, they have been using for 40 years. So, the IT landscape is also an old one. So, this is just to set the stage of the challenge that was ahead of us, which you can imagine, a lot of it was related to change management. And one of the first things that we did was the mobilization. So, we had to set up a team of people there in Denmark that will support to roll out the project in our Danish sales company. And this is even before the project really starts. And one thing that we decided to do there was to take someone from outside of the service organization.

So, you already know that I have people that has a lot of process knowledge. They've been working for a long time. They know everything. Yet we decided to put a person from outside of the service organization in a very important leading role. And the idea behind this is, he was a change driver, a change ambassador. To a certain degree having all that old process knowledge, that's like having heavy luggage on your back. And he did not have that. So, he could work with a free mindset and it allowed him to also move very fast. And today, this is fun, today he has an important role in our service organization, both supporting Denmark but also on a Nordic level.

Sarah Nicastro: It's good to know he survived.

Peter Sandqvist: He survived. He did. He did.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I'm glad he is still around. Yeah, he made it through. He's still around.

Peter Sandqvist: And now he has an important role, yes, to continue to support our service organization. Yes. Also, this could be inspiration or something to think about if anyone here is in a project where you are about to set up a team. Who do you put in that project team to lead this change? Especially now when I mentioned the background of Denmark and all the change management that was needed. And so this was before the project started. Then we decided one thing. And before we even had the kickoff, we decided that we wanted to go all of us together, so me, Anna, the Danish team, also the central business team, to go down to Belgium to see each other face-to-face. Now today, post-COVID, we know that we can do these type of projects over Teams and we can do it online. And I have done another project like this completely online because it happened to be during the COVID period.

But I would like to stress the importance of actually being able to see each other face-to-face. It's something that we should not underestimate this. And let's see here. Yes. So, we went there and one very important thing here is this was the opportunity for my team then, the Danish team, to be able also to see the solution working and to talk with the people who are using it today. So, we got to talk with the technicians, with the resource planners, the parts planners, the back office team, and ask any questions we wanted. They presented to us. And this specifically built confidence in the Danish team that lasted a full year. They knew that the solution was working for them, so then it should work for us. And that I saw hands-on. That actually built confidence for the full year.

Here I have another funny story. We had a team building activity also in Belgium. And I asked my counterpart in Belgium, because the service operation manager in Denmark, he really wanted to have Belgium fries. He had heard about the Belgium fries. So, we talked to her and she said, "Okay, you have to go to this place." We went there in the afternoon. It was closed. Okay, ah, we go somewhere else. And then the next day we told her it was closed. "Okay, but go to this place." We went there in the afternoon. It was also closed. So, I called her up. I said, "What can we do?" Because now we have really hyped up the Belgium fries. So, the next day we actually had a chef that came there and we together got to do the Belgium fries. And already there, as a team building activity, we split it up in different groups. So, one person got to cut the fries, someone else... You got to fry them. We had to go out in the parking lot to fry them.

Anna Mezzanotte: 32 degrees.

Peter Sandqvist: 32 degrees in the parking lot, frying it. And another guy from the team salted them. And I had the most important role. That was to taste him.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, of course.

Peter Sandqvist: So, that again, I think I want to stress that importance now, especially in the post-COVID period, to actually see each other face-to-face. And do not underestimate that. Anna, how was this experience for you?

Anna Mezzanotte: I absolutely agree with you, Peter. I think that visiting Belgium was useful not only for a meeting face-to-face and for boosting confidence, but also from an IT perspective because it was really the first time for our business stakeholders to get acquainted with the new solution. And also here it's, as Peter already mentioned, it was the time in which our Belgium colleagues proved to be very good ambassador for this new technology. And we all know that a positive review from a satisfied customer is definitely more convincing than just me talking about how cool these new functionalities are. And in this context of the visiting Belgium, it was time for officially kicking off the project. And I think you said it, Sarah and Caroline, you repeated once again, and I will say it one more time just to reiterate the message, I really want to emphasize the importance of storytelling.

Because we really need to make sure to explain all our business user why we're doing this change, of course, but also the consequence of not embracing this change. So, basically what's the opportunity cost at stake? And also maybe another important thing would be, for example, to explain our business colleagues not only the value of these all new software implementation that we will be doing in terms of generic company gains, like cutting costs for instance, but also take some time to explain the values of this new service transformation project in terms of tangible benefits. So, make sure that you explain to all these agents that will work with the solution what's in there for them. So, how will these new tools make their life easier and better? I don't know, for example, you can say how these new tools will reduce really the amount of time they have been doing just repetitive and boring tasks.

So, once we have finalized the kickoff and we really got the buy-in from all the people involved in the project, it was time for move forward for the next phase of the project, which is the discovery phase. And here again, we're trying to follow the timeline of the project so that we can really make you feel, hear our story. But the discovery phase, what's there? What's the meaning? So, the objective is really to understand all the users need and design of the project requirements accordingly. And of course, the outcome of this analysis is to make sure that we understand the project scope and also its limitation. So, both from the business side, so Peter's side, also from my side, the, let's say, more IT side.

And before asking Peter more about his experience on the discovery phase or if you want, Sarah, to kick in some question, I just would like to reiterate what we have been doing in Denmark the past year. What we have been doing is a kickoff, I want to say a rollout project. And with that rollout project, we mean that we have a standard blueprint solution and then we simply transitioned this solution to many different countries. And this was the case of Denmark of course, but at the same time we really need to make sure that we are in line with all the business processes, but also we are compliant with local regulation. Easy, right?

Well, it was obviously challenging and I would like to remind once again what Peter very quickly was setting up the stage and talking about the context, users in Denmark have been working with the same system for over 40 years. So, they really were able to work with it blindly. And I really want to picture it for you. So, imagine you have this back office guy sitting in Frederica in the office in Denmark, and they were able to plan the technician route for the entire week while simultaneously picking up the phones, answering some emails, and also drinking a cup of coffee. Yeah. So, now what's next? Well, we kick in and of course it was quite a service transformation project. And I'll try to speed up, but what I want to say is just to bring up one practical example of what could happen during discovery phase. So, users and our local counterparts in Denmark have been used to navigate the screen with simple keyboards commands. So, they basically didn't even know what a mouse is.

Peter Sandqvist: They knew what a mouse was but-

Anna Mezzanotte: The animal.

Peter Sandqvist: They knew what a mouse was. But you are right, it was-

Anna Mezzanotte: What I want to say is that instead, our solution was then definitely point-and-click. So, it was really mouse-based. And this shift from keyboard to mouse, that was a detail that was absolutely overlooked by our IT teams. Actually, it became a source of concern for our business. So, here I really want to give you this example to make you think that what could be some red flags that could arose from legacy system and legacy thinking. So, yeah, I think that was it from the discovery phase.

But before handing over, I would like to mention one success factor that I can really recommend. We implement what we call the plug-and-play session, which is basically some session in which we grant to all the users the access to the system so they could play with it. And these happen well before our technical team even initiated the system configuration. So, it was really a good occasion for stimulating early feedback between IT and the business counterparts. And also, yeah, so for the business to get the first hands-on experience.

Sarah Nicastro: Very good.

Peter Sandqvist: Yes. And to build on that, I think it was something great that we did because you get to see a lot of PowerPoints and you have process discussions and you might see some demo or some video, but to already start to be able to play around, it makes the training much easier later on when you have to. So, I think that was a good addition to how we did this project. You mentioned discovery where we learned about each other. So, you learned about the Danish team and we learned about the new processes. After this, IT was starting with the build and the configurations for everything that was captured in Denmark. And while that happened, we had a period called change impact assessment period in the project for the business.

What do we do there? Well, we were planning. Doing a lot of planning both on who should do what and when, but also on how we should do communication. Who should we communicate to? How should we communicate? Also in training. So, how should we do the training? Is it face-to-face? Is it one of our training tools? We tried to look at all different areas within our service organization and see what needs were needed there. It can also be that roles can change now. So, someone who was sitting there tapping and using the F buttons, now there might be something else that needs to be added or removed in that kind of role. So, this is what we did. And here that leads me to preparation and planning.

So, you need to have a Plan A and you need to have a Plan B when you do these things, and you need to plan carefully. But while doing all this planning, you also need to make sure that you are prepared for the unknown. And how do you do that? Well, you have to make sure that you are resilient and that you can also build resilience within your team. So, planning is key, yes, but there will happen things that you did not plan for and then you don't want to freak out. Then you want to have a team around you that can, you fall down, okay, we pick ourselves up again fast and we just tackle it. And one example of this, it'll make Anna start sweating. You'd probably try to forget it.

But two days before the go-live, one of our processes, we realized, or my colleagues in It realized, it will not work. So, what we have trained people in in that process, it will simply not work. We have to figure out another way to do that. And then by having everything planned accordingly and everything else running, we had space to actually deal with that. So, make sure that while doing all the planning, also spread resilience within your team so that when the unknown happens, you can deal with it. So, we did this planning, planning, planning. IT was doing the build. Do you have anything to share from the build phase?

Anna Mezzanotte: I do. I'll be quicker this time, promise. I think from one of the most challenges that we have faced during the build phase is how to strike the balance between standardization and customization. So, here it's really important to remember that we have been doing rollout projects. So, what does it mean? Again, we want to achieve the maximum amount of standardization while allowing for just some process deviation. But of course, during the course of the project, we came to a realization that our template solution could not fully address all the business requirements.

So, it was obviously a challenge. So, here my suggestion and lesson learned is striving to find the middle ground. So, of course, and here I would like to talk especially to my IT colleagues sitting in the room here, is don't just focus on the one-size-fits-all approach because it will not work, but also don't over-promise crazy customization that we all know that we are going to regret it because then we have to maintain it. So, find the middle ground and do some compromise. Up to you.

Peter Sandqvist: Up to me. Now we're getting closer to the go-live and it is time now for Anna and the IT team and the central business team to actually train my team. So, the project team to train them so that they later on can train our end users, contact center agents and technicians. And it's also time for us to do the testing. So, functionality built specifically for Denmark also needs to be tested. And we choose to call this period Train and Test. And yeah, it's really about making sure that my team has the knowledge to be able to create the material and train all the agents, back office and everything so that we can be ready. Here we have a learning to share something that we ran into, which I think you can talk a little bit more about.

Anna Mezzanotte: I do. It's what I refer to as Lost in Translation. So, we all know that the IT and business, we don't speak the same language. Not at all. And here I'm not referring to that teacher talk Swedish, our local counterpart speaks Danish and our developers talk Python or Java. No, what I mean is that we really need to make sure, do not leave any space for annoying misunderstanding. So, make sure that all the communication is crystal clear. So, for example, if your company is following the Agile methodologies, make sure that you spend some time with this business and you really explain what is a sprint planning, what is a Scrum Master, and what's actually the process of reporting back in Jira. So, yeah, don't give for granted that we can understand each other.

Peter Sandqvist: Oh, good. After that we went live and it worked. Not everything as well as we would've wanted, but we managed to repair our consumer's broken appliances at the time that we had promised them. We were lifting all of the jobs from the old tools, all the promises into the new tools, and we managed to do that. So, in that sense it was a success. When you're in these projects, and I've been in a few ones, I lost count, but you need to take some time to stop and reflect. What could we have done better?

You need to reflect on, what could I have done better? What learnings do I take with me? And when you're on this journey and you're in a small team and you work together, it can be tough sometimes. And you're working towards deadlines all the time and you have that goal in front of you. I think it is important to remember to yourself to stop once in a while, also with the team and everyone involved, and work a little bit on the storytelling to remind each other and yourself, why are we doing this? This is the greatest transformation project that Electrolux probably is doing, that we are in here. And as I said, we're replacing a 40-year-old field service management tool. That is not easy.

And in that sense, we're writing a bit of history here while doing this. So, what I'm trying to say is that you also in this need to then stop and also make sure that you have a bit of fun. And this also comes from experience, but a laugh here and there along the way, it can really be the difference between you taking a step forward or staying where you are. So, remember to have fun if you're in one of these projects. That is important. And that wraps up. We managed to talk about the full project timeline here and share some learnings.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think the last point is a really good one in the sense of, I spoke this morning about change leadership versus change management and the idea that we're today in a constant state of change, continual improvement, continual innovation. And I think without pausing to celebrate the wins and have some fun and allow that to energize you for the next phase, that's where that change fatigue comes in. You need to make sure that you acknowledge the hard work that's happened, you celebrate the successes you've had, and then regroup and push forward.

Peter Sandqvist: And also, if you don't do that, if you don't do that, then you can also end up feeling that you haven't done anything or accomplished anything, while you actually have. So, yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. All right. Excellent. Well, I say job well done to you both. And Kristoffer, what happens next? What does the future hold?

Kristoffer Brun: A lot of things. No, I don't have one answer on that one. There are so many things to look at and to investigate and to analyze that I don't really know where to start. But one could. I heard a word called AI somewhere, and apparently that's going to be a big thing. And just imagine how that would change our entire business model, actually, I think. So, we have a chatbot today. You wouldn't really need that because you would go to your AI assistant, so to say. So, we're actually taking that contact away from Electrolux, moving into the AI assistant. Whether that is in the phone or sitting on our shoulders, I don't know.

And the same thing really with contact center. Why even call a contact center agent when you can ask your AI assistant to book directly or troubleshoot and, if necessary, book a technician. And what does that mean? And also as a next step for our service technicians, likely I would say that they go out to less jobs since the consumer would solve more by their own, because it's cheaper, either by solving it without spares or even sending them a spare that the AI assistants also can explain how they would even mount it.

But I also expect our service technicians to do more than just repairing white goods, actually. If you think about it, the app is an extension now of our refrigerator. So, they need to be able to also repair the app if needed. And also, of course, if the WiFi at home is not working properly, he will also get a question around that. It's usually he, by the way, as of now at least.

Why not have the flexibility in our routes and in our schedules and in also our technician's knowledge, of course with the help of their AI assistant, so to say, to repair other things, and just today the refrigerator, while you're anyway in someone else's home. So, I can also see us broadening that in the future. When this will come. I have no idea. Though I think we will redefine what an Electrolux refrigerator technician will be doing in just five years with all of this. I'm quite sure.

Peter Sandqvist: And what is the tool of tomorrow? Are you maybe having it right now? So, the main tool today, it's the app. What is it tomorrow?

Kristoffer Brun: Exactly. And we're moving away. And who would even answer a question? So, say that the AI assistant is advising wrongly about our appliances. We don't even own that conversation and the technician will likely, once he arrives, likely get questions around that as well, right?

Anna Mezzanotte: Mm-hmm.

Kristoffer Brun: So, I think we're expanding the scope of a technician dramatically going forward.

Sarah Nicastro: I think going back to what I said this morning about the chat I had over lunch at the event a few weeks ago, the questions you're asking yourself about what does the future hold are the same questions a lot of companies are asking themselves right now, which is, "Okay, what does this mean to our business? Yes, what does the future hold, but what are the next steps as well?"

And I think one of the points here is that whatever those steps look like, it would've been impossible to accomplish on a 40-year-old service management system. So, I think that the phase you all are in is the phase a lot of folks are in, which is modernizing your foundational technologies in a way that allows you to be ready to continually innovate from that point forward and figure that out as you go along and as things become clear. Go ahead.

Peter Sandqvist: That's on the technology side, but now we also have... Now the people is also more ready for it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes.

Peter Sandqvist: So, now the people is more ready for the changes and fast changes. So, we have the foundation now, for sure.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. And you've built trust, going through that process. You mentioned, Kristoffer, at the beginning, the failed pilot and the learning you had, taking that as an opportunity to do things completely differently, to involve the right people from the beginning, to build that trust with them. You mentioned Denmark, the region with the highest average age of technician, the most experienced, with a 40-year-old system. That's daunting. And they have made it through and they're adjusting, and that means that you did a great job of helping them through that transition. But going through all of that together builds trust for the next layer of change. So, yeah, very good.

Peter Sandqvist: Do you have something more I think-

Anna Mezzanotte: Do I?

Peter Sandqvist: ... to... can share? No, but when we talk about technology and people.

Anna Mezzanotte: If I have to pick up one of the most important lesson learned, I would say that, and again, I'm referring a lot to my IT colleagues here, remember that it's, at the end, it's not an IT project. It's a people project. So, whenever, especially just before go-live, when everybody turns crazy and tense, we all rushes to make sure that we are setting up the landscape to make sure that it's ready for production. But of course, most of the time technology is rushing ahead of people-

Peter Sandqvist: Really.

Anna Mezzanotte: ... and we don't really realize that our user community is lagging behind. So, yeah, always just pause for a little.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely.