During the Future of Field Service Live Tour in Stockholm last October, I had a chance to sit down with the team from Electrolux for a deep dive into their ongoing service transformation as part of the company’s overall customer centricity initiative. The service transformation a significant global project to replace a 40-year-old service management platform – sound pretty daunting, eh?
As you can imagine, updating such an entrenched system required a lot more than just ripping and replacing software. The Electrolux service team did not want to miss an opportunity to take a top-to-bottom look at service processes so they could really reap all the benefits of using new technology. Good on them for recognizing the reality that layering new tech on old processes won’t do much to improve operations overall.
To make an already major undertaking even more daunting, the first phase of their initiative did not go well. In 2018, the company rolled out a pilot solution in Belgium and not only did the solution not really work, but the vendor also went through an acquisition during deployment, which would have led to another major upgrade not too far along in the future.
Fortunately, Electrolux had the foresight to change paths before getting in too deep. The company decided not only to implement a new tool, but also to take a different approach.
"[T]his 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. They should be part of even selecting the vendor, selecting the tool,’” said Kristoffer Brun, Services & Repair Transformation Manager.
Electrolux also met with each potential new vendor to find out what their product roadmap would look like. With input from customers and internal stakeholders, and a future vision from the tech vendors, they slowly built a set of business requirements based on what they wanted their service operation to look like in the near-term and in the future. They also visited vendor references in person to see how potential software solutions were working.
After selecting IFS Service Management and successfully rolling it out in Belgium, Electrolux next turned its attention to Denmark. There are a lot of lessons to take from their experience there regarding change management, because as they described it, their Danish organization was very stable – with the highest average age of technicians in Europe.
That can be a huge hurdle, because long-time technicians can be resistant to process and technology changes. Electrolux took an interesting approach – they brought in an outsider to help lead the transition and serve as a change ambassador. The Danish team also met with the Belgium team in person to see the solution in action.
“We got to talk with the technicians, with the resource planners, the parts planners, the back-office team, and ask any questions we wanted,” said Peter Sandkvist, Transformation Manager. “They presented to us. And this specifically built confidence in the Danish team.”
How Storytelling Aids Change Management
Anna Mezzanotte, Service Operations Product Domain Expert at Electrolux, brought up another key strategy that Electrolux emphasized – the role of storytelling in change management.
“Because we really need to make sure to explain to all our business users why we're doing this change, of course, but also the consequence of not embracing this change. What's the opportunity cost at stake?” she said.
Just as important was explaining to the technicians what they could gain from the new system. “Make sure that you explain to all these agents that will work with the solution what's in there for them,” Anna said. “[H]ow will these new tools make their life easier and better?”
The other benefit of really understanding the “Why?” of the project and explaining it to employees affected by it, is that it also helps the implementation team better understand the project scope and its limitations.
Peter said that careful, detailed planning was another key part of their success. Not just planning who would complete what task, but also planning out communication and training in advance, and planning to establish some resilience in the project and in the team for when things did not go well. In other words, have a Plan B (and maybe a Plan C), so everyone knows what to do if something fails.
The Electrolux team also mentioned something that other field service leaders have brought up in our discussions before – the importance of having some fun and celebrating successes throughout the project timeline, not just at the end. Without those celebrations, change simply becomes exhausting.
What Electrolux did (through research, having a future vision, careful planning, and good communication) also helped build some future capabilities into the workforce and the management team. When the next project comes along that might create changes (even small ones) in the organization or the technology set, the team is better prepared to manage that process and accept those changes because a foundation of trust has been built.
As Anna noted, “If I have to pick up one of the most important lessons learned, I would say that – and again, I'm referring a lot to my IT colleagues here – remember that, [in the] end, it's not an IT project. It's a people project.”
I had a great, wide-ranging discussion with the Electrolux team. You can listen to the whole thing here.