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May 13, 2024 | 4 Mins Read

Field Service Palm Springs 2024: Event Highlights

May 13, 2024 | 4 Mins Read

Field Service Palm Springs 2024: Event Highlights


Last week I landed in sunny Palm Springs for my umpteenth WBR Field Service event (truly, I’ve lost count). This event is a pleasure each year – there are so many friendly faces that it’s wonderful to see, and new faces join in each year as the industry grows and evolves.

This writeup isn’t meant to be a formal review or a complete synopsis of the event, rather a summary of what stood out to me as someone who covers the space weekly and has attended the event over more than a decade. There was a much wider variety of topics covered than what I’ll touch on here, and some points on which I plan to expand in upcoming articles.

Now going into the event, I fully expected ample AI coverage – more like aggressive if I’m being honest. And I wasn’t wrong; AI was one of the cornerstone topics of the event. As it should be, given the exciting advancements in technology and the real-world applications driving value for service organizations. What pleasantly surprised me, however, was how well-balanced the AI discussions were with points about the criticality of employee engagement, empowerment, and effective leadership.

AI Everywhere

While some of the sessions seemed to force the AI narrative, there were plenty of actionable discussions and practical advice. One of my favorite statements around the topic was, “there’s no killer app, only a killer use case.” When it comes to AI and all of its buzz, this is important to remember – the reason to invest in the technology isn’t because it’s all the rage but because it solves a challenge within your business.

Moreover, investing in AI doesn’t demand a revolutionary approach – it can be an evolution of how you further derive value from systems in place. In a panel on Best (and Worst) Use Cases for AI, examples of this were shared such as improving chat bot functionality in customer service or adding ease and automation to a technician’s knowledge resources while on site with a customer. During this panel the speakers, Haroon Abbu of Bell & Howell and Jessica Murillo of IBM, also worked to dispel myths about AI. These included easing concerns that AI is meant to replace people, remembering that AI isn’t always right and false trust is risky, and pointing out that AI isn’t only for large companies; it’s accessible to all.

Practical advice was shared across that panel discussion and others: understanding there’s real work around data readiness underneath all the hype and ignoring this keeps initiatives from fruition. Focus early efforts on identifying where techs are being bogged down or spending a lot of time and looking for ways to – in bite size chunks – apply AI to create ease. Words of caution reminding attendees that, if you aren’t pushing the envelope – you’ll fail. And emphasizing the absolute criticality of diversity – in data and in talent – when looking to make use of today’s AI capabilities.

People at the Center

As I stated, I was expecting major AI buzz. But what I wasn’t expecting was just how many sessions were leaders speaking about how important our focus on people is (and I couldn’t agree more). In the opening keynote, Alban Cambournac of Schneider Electric set the stage by discussing how employee engagement drives customer satisfaction. His message was echoed and reinforced over the next three days.

This included acknowledgement of cultural differences and discussion around how best to navigate this. Joe Lang of Comfort Systems spoke about the difference between technology adoption (implementation of a good idea) versus utilization (following orders) and why that difference matters so much.

Adam Gloss of McKinstry delivered a wonderful keynote on day two of the event, showcasing the differences between a people-first culture and one that isn’t. He spoke about how trust, teamwork, and inclusion increase a workforce’s capacity for change, and how that capacity for change spurs companies ahead of the competition.

There was a panel of young talent speaking about what the industry needs to consider as it develops future leaders, which the moderator summarized by saying that building the next generation of leaders “doesn’t require new tricks but requires a mindful approach that’s curated to the individual. That’s always been the right thing, but it hasn’t always been crucial to do.”

Corrie Prunuske and Roy Dockery gave a keynote double-header on diversity and inclusion, in which Corrie shared a lot of her personal journey and lessons learned and Roy shed light on some of the shortcomings in how companies recruit today that are holding them back from true diversity among their teams.

I was thrilled that the focus on humanity was just as strong as the focus on AI. The question was raised after one session that, “The systems are transforming – becoming more sophisticated. Are we?” I think this is an important question for both companies and leaders to be asking themselves, in relation to not only the customer value proposition and technology use, but also in what surrounds our people – engagement and empowerment, leadership, true diversity, and inclusive culture. Those that can’t strike the balance between both worlds, like the event did between these topics, will struggle.