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April 24, 2024 | 22 Mins Read

Service Transformation: Lessons Learned and Opportunities Ahead

April 24, 2024 | 22 Mins Read

Service Transformation: Lessons Learned and Opportunities Ahead


Episode 262

In this episode of the Unscripted podcast, host Sarah Nicastro is joined by Ralf Bootz, Services and Solution Delivery Lead for International Markets at Philips, to discuss what he has learned over his 24+ year career with the company about how organizations and leaders must constantly reinvent themselves to remain relevant.

Ralf is a Change and Transformation Manager, a certified Six Sigma Program Manager, and a Lean Master who has effectively led major performance and change initiatives, enhancing customer satisfaction, revenue, and profit margins. His experience includes managing large teams through strategic leadership, strong interpersonal communication, and relationship-building skills.

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Ralf: And you need to build that trust there because that's a different relationship you are engaging yourself with a customer. So it's not transactional, you know, we do the service or the break, fix, and see you next time into more relationship building and, you know, a different partnership. And there needs to be trust if you go that direction that you together can do something because it's never, you know, something that we can do on our own. Maybe we need stakeholder A or stakeholder B to work with us. We change something in there, and, yeah, it's a different type of service that we need to offer and also a different way of engaging with the customer.

Sarah: Hello, welcome to the UNSCRIPTED Podcast, where you'll find discussions on what matters most in service, leadership, and business transformation. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Let's jump in. Welcome to the UNSCRIPTED Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're joined by a service leader who has been in the business for 24 years, and we're going to talk about some of the things that he's seen in that time, what that means in terms of what today's landscape looks like, and also what the future might hold. So welcome to the podcast, Ralf Bootz, who is Philips Services and Solution Delivery Lead for International Markets. Ralf welcome, and thanks for joining.

Ralf: Yeah, welcome. Thanks for having me, Sarah.

Sarah: Absolutely. It's great to have you here. So before we get into the conversation, just tell everyone a little bit more about yourself, your background, anything you want to share.

Ralf: Yeah, my name is Ralf Bootz I'm Dutch, living in the Netherlands, working for Philips. 24 years. Before that, I worked in supply chain and smaller companies. And I have a master's in supply chain. Now, the world is service delivery and solution delivery in the international region. So those are all the markets besides China and North America. And we are mainly in the healthcare sector. So servicing hospital and hospital equipment and do as service. So there's a selling part and there's a delivery part. So that's a little bit about myself.

Sarah: Yeah, excellent. So I always say when I have folks join that have been with a company for, you know, 15, 20, 25 years, it's interesting because today you don't always see that, right? And I think it's always indicative of usually a good company culture and a place where, you know, you've felt you can thrive. Otherwise, you may not have been there for 24 years. And also usually it's, if you look through people's progressions, you know, they've had an opportunity to continue to learn and develop and grow within that business, right? Otherwise, again, people might not stay put for that amount of time. So that being said, 24 years at Philips, is a major accomplishment. I have to imagine you've learned a lot and the service landscape has changed tremendously in that amount of time. So can you share some observations of just, you know, the evolution of service over your career at Philips and, you know, anything that you take note of that stands out to you over that timeframe?

Ralf: Yeah, I never thought about that in that way. But in that sense, it was never a boring place. It's always something new to innovate or procure. Hands-on and make things better. 24-year-old Philips was always in the healthcare industry. And if you see the healthcare industry changed over that period, and of course we changed with that. Now in the past, we were kind of pioneers with a few other companies and medical devices to put them out there. And these were high-tech, complex machines in a healthcare environment. So service was sort of a given that people needed to do service. And at the time, it was easier, if you will. And I remember the days when I started, we did three big things a year. So these are the top priorities, these three. And we nailed them and we improved. And we did that year after year. Now, 24 years forward, it seems like we have so many priorities and the healthcare industry. It's much more professional than it was at that time. Moved around, including new competition, more demanding customers, more pressure on the whole healthcare system. So that pressure comes also into our company, where we need to deliver and step up to the plate. So from break-fix 24 years ago to still break-fix, but then with more digitalization and more professional services, it's a fast track, putting things forward. Still, we have all the time better improvements, and we still have a way to go. But there are still opportunities to increase the business and increase even our profits to reinvest in better healthcare.

Sarah: Yeah. You know, you said that I've never thought of it that way looking back. And I think sometimes that's a factor of a type of person who spends less time retrospective and more time just what's next, what's next, right? Which is something I can identify with. So what you were saying about, you know, the three priorities each year and how that shifted to today's landscape, you know, it's an illustration of and maybe interesting to reflect in that way of just how complex things have gotten, right? So, it's, you know, the amount of information, the amount of demands, the amount of possibilities, you know, a lot of those things are great, but it's just the pace of information, the pace of change, you know, it's just very complex today. And so, obviously, organizations like Philips have to figure out how to contend with that and how to simplify as much of that complexity as you can for your customers, right? Because often that's what they're looking for you to do.

Ralf: Maybe one additional thing is that in the past, service was these guys from service, you know, somehow in a corner. And I'm saying guys, because at the time it was male-oriented, you know, these guys in the corner. You know, well, now service is kind of, you know, hot and it's a differentiator. So that gives also the pressure of, you know, more stakeholders to manage in a way and more pressure because service is a differentiator. And in the past, it was kind of a more hygiene factor. So that makes also a huge difference in the positioning where you are in the organization.

Sarah: Yeah, no, that's a really good point. Yeah. You know, slowly, but surely we're working on it. Yeah. So, you know, that's a good point as service has become a differentiator. You know, it does put more pressure on the frontline talent, on the business, on delivery, execution, all of those things, right? It's not this, as you said, it was sort of a given, but it was a given in a way where it was just there in the background. It happened when it needed to, but there wasn't a lot of emphasis put on it. And that has changed, which is really exciting, but also to your point, brings a lot of pressure with it. So when you think about where we are today and what today's landscape looks like, can you comment on sort of two things, they may be different sides of the same coin, or they might be some different points, but what do you see as the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities?

Ralf: Things that stay the same, and that's still the biggest challenge, is our people and services and people business. So how do we keep the people, keep the people motivated, and keep the people customer-centric? I think that is still the biggest challenge that we need to manage. Now, besides managing customer demand, that is much more challenging. So I would say customers, people, and then internally too, you know, based on what I said earlier, is to align all these stakeholders and manage them too, and still get the right attention in the company to do things like remote investment, you know, like training capacity, etc. To make sure we keep, you know, running the business as such. So I would describe them in these three buckets as the biggest areas or the biggest things, we were working on.

Sarah: Now, what about the other side of that? So like, what do you see as the biggest opportunities?

Ralf: Yes, in our case, it's still driving productivity with remote and working with customers on more data-driven insights and services to enhance their operation. So basically get closer to the customer by just doing a service. You can buy our service, here you are, in more output-driven services. So we get closer to our customers to understand their pain points and see how we could develop services to help with that. And then internally, it's more this switch to the more proactive remote, where we learn to trust these signals and act upon that and get better at that.

Sarah: Yeah. I like that you bring up the people part. That's kind of what I've in many ways built a career talking about because it's almost always the answer to what's the hardest piece or what's the most challenging piece. You know, it's, there's a lot of headlines that get given to the technology, but that's never really the sticking point. You know, the sticking point with it is how it's put in place and how people feel about it. And, you know, that sort of piece, not necessarily those pieces themselves. And I think there's a lot to what you're saying with the people part that has come into play. You know, it's, you know, you mentioned, how do you keep your people customer-centric? How do you keep them engaged? But also as service has become more of a differentiator, the expectations we have of the people and what we need to look for in the people has also shifted a bit, right? So it's, you know, there's a lot of layers to that piece of the conversation. Also, you know, getting closer to the customer, understanding their business in a way that you can develop new service offerings that are appealing to them. Sounds very simple, right? To just say in a conversation, but I mean, you know, that actually doing that, building the skills to do that, building the relationships to do that, taking that insight and taking it back in the business and innovating with it. I mean, there's a whole lot that goes into that. So.

Ralf: Yeah, no, and especially, you know, that's what does the engineer or the field service engineer of the future look like? And technology plays a big part of that. And you can dream about the glasses and all these features that come in, or artificial intelligence and AI. But at the essence, it's still people's business. People do business with people. So how do we train our engineers today? And are all these people like that? I mean, some people like, give me a complex issue, fix it, and I'm moving out. Now, with the digitalization, the information that we have, so, yeah, we see also a generation split in sort of engineers, the new generation coming in and the older generation, and how to deal with that. Yeah, we have a lot of engineers still in our company. And that is basically part of our product that we sell as a service.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Can you talk a little bit more about the transition to, you know, more data-driven outcomes, the digitalization of service? What are, you know, the things that you're doing today to look for how to create those new value streams, to look for ways to use service to contribute, you know, new revenue streams, et cetera?

Ralf: Yeah, and there's not a one-size-fits-all. If you think about our customer base, they have different needs. Think about a university hospital versus a private government hospital. There are different ways of working and different needs. The trick is more to connect to what are they looking for. What is their improvement? So where are their pain points or where are their opportunities? And connect our services to that. So if you have a university hospital, maybe they just want very good-quality pictures and not looking for throughput. And another hospital, they're having a waiting list and they're looking for throughput. So then the throughput KPI is something that we can work on. How can we help you to scan more patients with the same quality, with less dose, or something like that, as an example? So it's basically around cost, speed, and quality, where we try to develop services and link them to customer needs. That is the transition we are making. But not every hospital is open for our customers. I'm open to that. But there we see kind of a trend moving into output-driven KPIs and services. And put some skin in the game for ourselves to say, hey, we can help you with that. Let's take that risk or that opportunity together. But that's a new area in which we need to define the rules of the games. In terms of how we do things, how we make those agreements and measure the success. You need to build that trust there because that's a different relationship you are engaging yourself with, with a customer. So it's not transactional, you know, we do the service or the break, fix, and see you next time into more relationship building and, you know, a different partnership. And there needs to be trust if you go in that direction that you together can do something because it's never something that we can do on our own. Maybe we need stakeholder A or stakeholder B to work with us. We change something in there. And yeah, it's a different type of service that we need to offer and also a different way of engaging with the customer.

Sarah: Now, it's interesting you bring up trust. Incredibly important. I think also, though, what I wanted to talk about next, and it's a good segue into that, is the role of trust among your teams and as a leader, right? So this whole evolution of service and where the business is headed requires, not only engaged, but empowered, you know, team members and strong change leadership, change management, right? It's this, you know, we talked earlier about the complexity, that complexity means that we're almost always today in a state of change. You know, we're continually improving, we're continually evolving. And while that's good in many ways, and also just is what it is, you know, there's no escaping it. If you don't have that good cultural foundation, you don't have strong leadership, it can really fall apart internally, right? So can you talk a little bit about company culture, empowerment, leadership, and how that comes into play with keeping everyone on board with where things are going?

Ralf: Yeah, and culture is important, and we take that very seriously because we are in a healthcare environment. So we want to drive patient safety and quality and all of that. And we're proud that we can contribute to that healthcare industry. But then on the flip side, yeah, how do you – and we have many thousand engineers. So how do we make sure that we drive that culture down to them because these are the people that are most of the time with the customer? It's not the account manager. It's the service person who is all the time in front of the customer, representing the company. So how do we engage with them to convey that culture and that trust? And, yeah, we have different programs in going to that culture and these culture elements and these behaviors and what we want to do. So, yeah, we're pretty strong on that. And, of course, we've got a great history as a 130-year-old company. But you need to reinvent yourself all the time in that one and, yeah, drive that culture through. So it's also... Dealing with the world is different cultures. So you get your Philips culture that we have, you know, company culture, but then you need to mingle that with the local culture. Now, that's an interesting mix that we need to stitch together, and then the local people need to drive that, you know, towards engineers. But, yeah, are we listening to them? Are we taking their concerns seriously? Are we equipping them with the right things? And, you know, how do we also, in a way, drive that whole Philips skill for what do we want to be and how do we, you know, kind of work together to solve issues, teaming up, etc. So we got a whole booklet and training and all of that. But at the end comes also down in how the local managers in the different markets are, you know, kind of conveying that and work with their teams. And also show what we say that that is true. Because, yeah, if the first occasion comes and, you know, we throw all these things out of the window and just go to the old ways of working or whatever we can do to stress out people.

Sarah: Yeah, if your booklet is just a booklet that somebody reads and then their experience is completely different from that, you know, it means nothing, right? And it's, yeah, the execution of that and how the managers show up day after day. And that's how, you know, going back to the point of trust, that's how that trust gets built. It's important to have those philosophies as a company, but then the trust comes into how are they displayed day in and day out.

Ralf: And we have these metrics that we measure and the engagement survey, and a lot of them are also linked to that culture. Now, to measure that and to react to that. And, of course, the field people are the biggest population. So we take that seriously and see, okay, what are those people telling us and what do we need to do different? Although I still have great ideas and things that we didn't implement we still need to do. And it's also our duty to make sure that these people, the field people, the service people are being seen in the company. Because typically the sales guy gets the big buffet and the biggest guy. But the people in front of the customer, that helping the customer, those are also the heroes in there. And I say it wrong. It should not be hero. It should be consistent. Really bad. People that do a good job informing the customer time after time.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. I think that recognition is very, very important. So you mentioned something you said, when it comes to company culture, we continually have to be reinventing ourselves, right? Do you feel like that's also true as an individual leader?

Ralf: For sure. I mean, we need to see what's the situation, you know, what our customers asking for us, what is the company asking for us and what are our employees asking for us and fit into that picture. So what worked, you know, many years ago doesn't work. And, you know, think only about hierarchy. I mean, in the past, it was much more, you know, there was a hierarchy and now it's much more flat. People want to go much faster, you know, don't recognize that hierarchy anymore, are more inspired by vision and, you know, kind of want to change things instead of making a ladder, career ladder. So, yeah, you need to reinvent yourself and your leadership team also. So diversity is an important topic. How do we bring in, you know, not only male, female, different cultures, like I mentioned, you know, how do we bring that together? But also different opinions. So if you get a team of only people that think the same or are the same, then you kind of get the same outcome.

Sarah: Yeah.

Ralf: So create that diversity, you know, in your team setting. So to answer your question, 100%, you need to stay open and stay close and what's happening around you and adjust to that.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. So Ralf when you think about, you know, the future, I know no one can predict the future, but what do you think are the biggest shifts we'll see in the next one to three years?

Ralf: I think it's more continuation of what we see now or the world they do. You know, with whatever circumstances that happen. So, for now, I see that we are more outcome-driven, that we connect ourselves more to customer outcomes, and that we drive more digitalization in whatever we do. So that is, you know, portals, getting customers, you know, digitally connected. More remote in that way, more software, you know, upgrades, updates via that remote. So less field work, but more remote and more the outcomes as a service so that we switch on some business models and drive more services. So I see things going to services and software, if you will, as a pivot point going forward. I think that's the change we're seeing going forward, which we need to adjust to. Now, then the engagement with the customer. So that's a customer engagement that we more, yeah, help the customers, especially in the healthcare industry, to also transition to their needs. Because the customers have, you know, the healthcare industry is struggling with the aging population, their staff. You know, higher cost. So how do we connect ourselves to these issues and develop services around that, if that makes sense.

Sarah: Yeah, that makes sense. After 24 years with Philips, what makes you still excited to come to work? I won't say every day because we're all human and some days we just, you know, maybe won't be, but most days.

Ralf: Yeah, first of all, the industry. I think the healthcare industry is a nice industry to work in. And this evolution that is still every day, every year, it's not that, okay, we're bored. There's always something new that you can put your... Your hands are gone to make that happen. And in my place, it's also the diversity, you know, with the different cultures that we work with, the different regions, you know, the different opportunities. So that basically always made me, you know, come to work and never think, okay, I'm bored with what we were doing. There's always something to improve. Still, I thought that would, when I started Philips, I thought, okay, now maybe at a certain moment you plateau, but it doesn't seem like that. So that makes me every time stay. And of course, the opportunity you get to do all these things and to change that and to put your own, thinking in there and the freedom that you can execute that. So it's not a given that comes from the top and say, okay, you need to go here and here, but it's also we can develop that ourselves in a way. So that's also a nice opportunity for me to be very creative and think ahead about what we need to do and where we should focus. Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah. I think that it sounds really good. I mean, you have, you know, you mentioned being in the healthcare space and I think that, you know, we talk often about how younger talent, especially wants to feel that sense of purpose. And so in the industry, you're in, it's really easy to connect what you're doing every day to things that really, truly matter and make a really big difference. And, you know, then you're in a, it just sounds like you have such a good mindset about enjoying the process of learning, taking things in, you know, encountering different opinions, different situations, and then to your point, sort of creating from that, you know, and I think that sounds really good.

Ralf: One thing on the future, maybe going back now that we talk, how do we get talent, you know, kind of in this whole game with us? So I can be excited, but you know what?

Sarah: How do you get them excited? Right. Yeah.

Ralf: But how do we get the talent following us in that way and get them on that journey also? And I think developing talent, that talent stay, you know, and let them also think about and give them that freedom in which I was talking about. Because they got different needs. Maybe they get being different ways to have different expectations. And I think that's why we also need to be open and work with. So what's the next generation of leaders we need to get in service?

Sarah: Yeah. It seems like you have a really good mindset and approach to that though. Even earlier when you were explaining, you know, that in today's landscape, there's far less of a hierarchy. You know, I think there's this sense of ego that makes that really hard for certain leaders to accept because the mentality would be, no, I've been here for 24 years. I know this, I've had this experience. So you listen to me, right? I mean, I'm generalizing, but, as you stated, that is truly not the way we work today. And it's not just about what the next generation wants in their roles. It's also about the complexity of problems we're trying to solve and the fact that it isn't realistic anymore for someone or someone to be the knower of all, right? We really have to bring together those different, skills, experiences, and opinions in order to solve the challenges at hand today. So it seems like you have a really good mindset of being open to that and, you know, not feeling stuck in exercising authority or, you know, trying to fit people into certain levels or roles, but rather looking at... What can we all do together? And I think that is a key to being able to develop those next leaders because you're not forcing them into a structure that they're not going to be comfortable in. You're sort of open to how do we create together? How do we learn from each other? You know, how do we solve these problems together? And I think that that's, it's just a really positive way of looking at it.

Ralf: It's not easy.

Sarah: No, not at all.

Ralf: I can say it very nicely, but it's still a challenge to get that working and to listen to these people. Because you see that bridge between the older generation and the newer generation. How do you keep those two together?

Sarah: Yeah. And I think, you know, it's a good point that it's not easy. I remember an interview I did a while back with a woman in Copenhagen who leads a logistics company, Trina. And, you know, she said, it's very humbling. Its leadership today is very humbling because it's not the way it used to be. And you really have to reconcile that, like, you know, it just requires a different mindset and a different level of acceptance. So it's not easy, but I think as long as you're open to it, right, and you're not closed off to, you know, that's where so many people get stuck. I think today is they're really yearning for the way it always was rather than being open to, you know, okay, so what are today's criteria and how do I reconcile that? It doesn't have to be easy. You don't have to like all of it, right? But when you can just keep your mind open, instead of closing yourself off, I think it just, you know, really helps not only maintain relevance, but, you know. Give yourself the opportunity to build that. Future talent pool and to, you know, set things up well. So last question, Ralf you know, is just, I can imagine you have so many and it's probably going to be hard to narrow it down, but if you just sort of think about, you know, your career journey so far, what would you say is the biggest lesson or lessons that you've learned as a leader?

Ralf: Yeah, that's a difficult question. I would say teamwork is dream work if you will. So you cannot do it alone. So you need to work with a team but also have a vision and a shared direction for where you want to go. I think maybe I came with this illusion in the company, you know, from school that you say, okay, now I'm, you know, highly educated. I can I know the stuff, you know, I can do stuff and, you know, I can bring that. Yeah, but at the end, it's people working. You know, that's somehow that you need to work together. And I think that's the most rewarding if you achieve something with a team, set out what you want to do, and achieve that. And I think that gives also a great feeling of recognition and, you know, colorful in people's minds. If you talk to people, you know, over the years, what was a good thing or, you know, what we achieved there, what we did there. I think that's the biggest learning in making. And of course, you go into this habit of, you know, give me this and I will run with it and I will fix it. But, you know, to step back, to inspire, to take people along the journey. I think, yeah, for me, that's the biggest learning that pops into my mind right now. Maybe there are many others, but I would say that's the biggest learning.

Sarah: Yeah, I love it. Ralf thank you so much for coming and talking with me and sharing your insights and experiences. I really appreciate it.

Ralf: Thanks, Sarah.

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