Going For The “Gold” Is An Olympic Event — Especially for Services Organizations!

In light of the current proceedings of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, I thought this piece would be relevant to all those Services Organizations striving to be “World Class” (i.e., “going for the Gold”)

Even Gold May Have a Silver Lining

For Field Services Organizations, “going for the gold” may mean very different things. For some, it may mean nothing more than struggling to generate increased service revenue (i.e. “gold”). For others, it may mean attempting to upsell existing service level agreement (SLA) accounts from “bronze” to “silver” to “gold” levels (is anyone out there still offering “platinum”-level services?). However, another good way to define “gold” levels of service performance is to compare your organization to the athletes striving for their own version of “gold” — an Olympic gold medal!

The Olympic and the services communities share many things in common, ranging from striving to attain perfection to generating a profit after the scheduled event is over. However, they also share another very important attribute in that both communities typically go into an event (e.g. a 200-meter freestyle or an on-site service call, etc.) with some pre-event expectations.

For example, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecki are, arguably, the world’s best male and female swimmers and, as such, went into the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with extremely high expectations. However, it was never a certainty that each would win Gold medals in all of the competitions for which they were qualified to compete. Nonetheless, the expectations were high for each swimmer — even before they arrived in Rio.

While Michael Phelps ultimately ended up winning five Gold and one Silver medal; and Katie Ledecki won four Gold and one Silver medal, each are still acknowledged as the best of the best in their respective fields.

The same situation also exists for services organizations. If your organization is one of the larger ones in the field or has won numerous performance awards in the past, the community will expect it to perform like a world-class provider (i.e. one that is able to meet its customers’ total service needs while delivering world-class levels of performance). By performing reasonably well in the past, the marketplace will also expect you to also perform well — and even better — in the future. The bar is constantly being raised.

For Michael Phelps, the defending champion in the previous two Summer Olympiads, the prospect of not winning several gold medals was unthinkable – although he did not seem to be all that phased that he had to share his Silver medal with two other swimmers. He has won both Gold and Silver medals before, and performed about the same in his most current Olympics.

For Katie Ledecki, for whom this was her first (and, possibly, last) Olympics competition, the bar has been raised again for all female swimmers who will ultimately enter the Olympics in her wake. World class does not necessarily mean “perfect”! There can still be a Silver lining wrapped around your Gold standard.

By the time this Blog post is published, it is also certain that other gymnasts — from the U.S., and around the world — will excel in their competitions as well. However, merely having the goods does not assure Gold in the Olympics — and it is exactly the same for services organizations. You still need to execute — and strive to be as close to perfect as you can.

The Role Of Social Media In Service

Finally, in this year’s Olympics, social media will be expected to take on an even more prominent role than in the past. Virtually all of the Olympic events will be accessible to viewers all around the globe through various forms of Cable and Broadcast TV, Social Media and other types of digital transmissions. As a result, Twitter, FaceBook, and independent blogs will, once again, take up the slack on presenting (and editorializing) all of these Olympics-related events — all in real time! Again, the similarities between the Olympics and the services community abound.

Just as many Olympians are encouraged by their trainers to communicate often — in real time — with their supporters and fans, so must the services community adapt to the practical uses and applications of the available social media. It is truly time to recognize that social media is not merely an acquired taste, but a way of life — especially when it comes to communicating about service.

The 2016 Summer Olympics are nearly over, but already, athletes from all over the world are preparing for the next summer games just four years away. All of the medalists for these upcoming games will ultimately win their respective races by first choosing a field, then acquiring the necessary resources and skills, preparing for the race, and aggressively moving forward.

This is also how most services organizations have historically approached service, especially with respect to meeting — and exceeding — customer requirements. However, you won’t necessarily need to have a medal draped around your neck to be recognized for good service — you simply need to perform at a level of performance that is higher than an ever-raising bar, and let your customers place their perceptual medals around your neck.

Knowing How and When to Cross-Sell Your Company’s Products and Services

It is important to understand the difference between cross-selling and up-selling. Cross-selling is basically the art of selling additional items to existing customers on a “horizontal” basis. For example, if any of your company’s salespersons were to sell additional parts, consumables, software, or peripherals/attachments to an existing customer, that would be considered as “cross-selling”. Similarly, selling additional units or devices to the same customer would also be considered as “cross-selling”.

Other examples of services cross-selling may include:

  • Selling a preventive maintenance contract to an existing T&M or service agreement customer
  • Selling training or consulting services to an existing services customer
  • Selling software updates to an existing product customer
  • Selling telephone hotline support to a customer who has historically only been using on-site field support (or vice versa)
  • Adding other customer facilities (on other floors, or other buildings) to an existing service level agreement
  • Selling service agreements for additional installed equipment at the customer site as a “package” with the existing covered equipment

Of course, there are numerous other examples of services cross-selling that would also apply; but it will ultimately be up to the onsite services technician (i.e., in many cases) to identify these opportunities on the basis of his or her direct experience in supporting both the customer and its installed base of equipment.

Cross-selling does not only apply within the product-only and services-only segments; in fact, some of the strongest cross-selling actually occurs between these two segments – going both ways. For example, if the service technician’s observations and experience suggest that a customer may have outgrown the capacity and capabilities of one of its units, then they may suggest that the customer considers acquiring a second, or third, unit. If this is the case, then it would be considered as cross-selling; however, if the most effective solution is to upgrade to a new machine, then that would be considered as “up-selling” (more on this later).

Examples of cross-selling between product and service may include:

  • Selling any existing customer a service level agreement of any kind
  • Selling any existing customer a preventive maintenance agreement
  • Selling any existing customer advanced or remedial training, consulting, or engineering services
  • Selling any existing customer any other types of services or support of any kind

Examples of cross-selling between service and product may include:

  • Selling any existing services customer a product of any kind
  • Selling any existing services customer parts, consumables, or other physical items
  • Selling any existing services customer product and service “bundles”, or packages, of any kind

In addition to these various types of cross-selling, there are also many opportunities for simple, direct product-to-product and service-to service sales as well.

There is never really a bad time to cross-sell your customers. Chances are, if they’ve already got one of your company’s products, they are already using some of its services. If they are not using all of them, however, it may be either because (1) they don’t feel they need anything else from you in support of the equipment; (2) they are already acquiring these services from another vendor, or performing them themselves; or (3) they were unaware that your company offers them at all.

In the first two cases, it is simply a matter of your providing them with the relevant information for the first time; finding out whether or not they are interested in acquiring these services from your company; and, if not, simply making a note of your conversation for use at a later time. As situations change, the service technician may want to bring up the matter with them again in the future.

However, in the third case, it will be up to the technician to let them know that the company does, in fact, offer additional services; find out in which areas they may require additional support; and then match the company’s services offerings to the customer’s specific needs in the most effective manner. This methodology works well in both product-to-product and service-to-service sales, as well as across each of the two segments.

Some of the more opportune times to consider cross-selling the company’s products or services would be at the following:

  • Leading up to, and within 90 days of, a service level agreement expiration
  • When an existing unit’s warranty coverage is about to expire
  • After one or more occurrences of equipment failure due to significantly increased volume, throughput, or overuse
  • When a customer’s business is about to merge, or has just acquired, another business
  • When a customer is about to relocate, consolidate, or expand its existing department or facility

Other times when cross-selling opportunities may abound include at the beginning of the customer’s annual business planning cycle (i.e., this is different for individual companies, but typically in the fourth quarter, or just after Labor Day), or at the end of a financial quarter or the company’s fiscal year. However, the service technician will need to check with each individual customer on a case-by-case basis to see what their respective financial planning cycles are before they can get a good feel for the proper timing for these potential opportunities.

Cross-selling is an integral component of any business’s sales and marketing program. It is generally embraced by most businesses, as the relative cost for doing so is typically quite low.

The benefit to the service technicians, however, regardless of whether the company currently has a cross-selling incentive program in place, is that they can assist in consolidating the installed base of the equipment that they will be servicing and supporting in the future by playing a part in the “clustering” of the respective installed bases of some of their customers, and this will probably result in less travel time required to support the same customer installed base. In any case, both the customer and the technician, and your company, win in any “cross-selling” scenario.

Companion Piece to Field Technologies Online’s August, 2016 Technology Update on the Impact of Introducing Millennials into the Retiring Service Technician Workforce

[This companion piece to Field Technologies Online‘s August, 2016 Technology Update focuses on the impact of introducing “new” Millennials into the existing service technician workforce. It contains the full text of Bill Pollock’s submitted responses to the seven questions originally posed by Brian Albright, contributing editor, Field Technologies magazine. As is the case in the magazine’s multi-analysts interviews, most of these responses are not included in the published article. As such, please consider this Blog as a more detailed companion piece that provides additional “between the lines” thoughts and opinions.]

BA:  What are some of the key staffing issues field service companies face when it comes to replacing retiring technicians?

BP: Historically, the replacement of a retiring field technician was nothing more than the “changing of the guard”, that is, hiring a new, typically younger, individual to serve in his place (i.e., given that, historically, most field technicians were male). This would require the presence of a sound and professional Human Resources (HR) operation and, once the new hire was selected, a full round of training, certification and company orientation classes to ensure that the replacement technician could move into his predecessor’s slot without any major disruption either to the quality and consistency of service delivery, or to the customers’ ongoing business operations.

In general, the only area where the replacement technician would not be up-to-speed from the get-go would be with respect to the retiring individual’s accumulated knowledge and familiarity with the installed base of equipment, company policies and procedures, and – most importantly – with the experiential knowledge of the individual customer interactions that had taken place in the past. The retiring technician would have undoubtedly learned all the “tricks of the trade” and “secret sauces” for managing his customer, obtaining parts, making quick fixes and otherwise taking care of the installed base of equipment.

However, he would also have an accumulated knowledge of the customers themselves, in terms of their names and nicknames, their requirements and expectations for service, their position and roles within the company, how involved their supervisors would normally get with respect to service calls, etc. They probably also knew the names of their family members, their favorite sports teams and, generally, what it would take to make them happy.

It is typically in these “softer” areas of customer service where the new hires would find themselves to be most disadvantaged. This would not necessarily be the end of the world for them and, for those individuals who are basically user-friendly to begin with, would not represent a particularly long-term problem. Of course, this may not apply to all of the millennials just now entering the services workforce.

In the past, the accumulated knowledge of each individual technician was generally quite extensive (i.e., both from a technical aspect, as well as from a customer relationship vantage point); also, the technician training and certifications undertaken were typically routine (if not boilerplate) and easy enough to apply to the next generation of hires.

However, in today’s world, instead of sending new hires to the same types of training classes and certification exams as their predecessors, there is a much more fragmented set of alternative training scenarios available (e.g., on-site, distance learning, self-administered PC training, etc.). Further, with the growing use of Augmented Reality (AR) in support of field technicians, some organizations are likely to cut back even further on training, since the Internet and/or AR could be used as impromptu “on the job” instant training, whenever the case warrants.

Still, there will always be numerous geographic, skill set, personal interest and training considerations that will need to be addressed whenever new hires are brought into the mix. This will not likely change over time. However, a proficiency for utilizing new technology will separate the “good” new hires from the “bad”; but there will always remain the question of chemistry – both with respect to dealing with their peers, as well as with their customers.

BA: How are incoming techs (who are often much younger) different from the technicians they are replacing? How can field service organizations prepare for this new generation of millennials?

BP: It’s not so much how the services organizations will be able to deal with the new generation of millennials; but, rather how the new generation of millennials will be able to deal with the services organizations – many of which are likely to be firmly entrenched in somewhat old and archaic, not yet fully automated (if at all) service delivery processes; and outdated policies, procedures and guidelines for assisting them in doing their respective jobs.

Most millennials will already be proficient with today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology and will be poised to fully utilize AR, Virtual Reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to assist them in doing their job. However, if the organization they work for does not utilize a commensurate level of technology as an integral part of their service delivery model, the millennial technicians may find themselves effectively disengaged. Even a simple matter of millennial technicians favoring an Apple platform for personal use, but finding themselves saddled with a company-deployed PC-based or Android device may serve as a potential disconnect. In other words, they may end up loving their technology more than they love their new jobs – and this, too, could lead to a potential disconnect.

As the technology of AR progresses and is more deeply integrated into the normal course of performing field service, those millennials who had previously believed they were merely “slacking off” when playing their favorite VR and/or AR-based games, may now, instead, revel in the idea that are going to be paid to use the same technologies in their new jobs – how good is that!

The older generation of field technicians may also be different than the newer generation that will be replacing them in a number of other areas as well. For example, the older generation may be more amenable to taking orders or directives from their supervisors, even when they believe they are wrong in their guidance or decisions. However, millennials will probably be less likely to follow orders without raising a fuss every once and a while.

The older technicians will also likely to be more politically correct than their millennial replacements. To what degree this will impact their relationships with customers will ultimately depend on the specific individuals that are hired as replacements, and will not likely constitute a major problem. What this does suggest, however, is that the screening process for hiring new field technicians will need to be particularly on point!

Longer-tenured technicians may also have more annually accrued vacation days, and may need to utilize more sick days than new hires; but the new hires will likely require more time off for maternity/paternity leave, etc. They will also not have the same mentality with respect to considering this job as the one they will hope to keep for their entire working days. However, this is nothing more than reflective of the changing characteristics of a changing society, and should easily be handled as a matter of course by HR – and not necessarily by you!

BA: How can companies attract and retain these new technicians?

BP: The best way to attract and retain these new technicians is the same way that has always been used by services organizations – give them what they want! Historically, technicians wanted job security, a steady paycheck, a sound pension, ample vacation time, some respect within the organization, and a fair degree of freedom as to how they can relate to their customers. They also wanted support from the organization in terms of tools, training, documentation, product schematics, repair guidelines, call histories and the ability to control their own destiny with respect to ordering parts, checking in on the status of a work order, and an open input/feedback channel with management.

The new generation of technicians want the same things – but with a few omissions, and a bit of reordering. For example, most millennials probably do not believe there is such a thing as job security anymore – maybe not even a steady paycheck or a financially sound pension. Since most of them will have already been fairly immersed in various new technologies, they will likely want to be able to use the same technologies that they have been familiar with to be a part of their new job. This is where BYOD (i.e., Bring Your Own Device) may be somewhat more important today than it was years ago. Through these devices, the newer generation of field technicians will be able to more easily access all of the traditional tools for training, documentation, product schematics, etc. and, as a result, these resources will most likely be made available to them on a more flexible and less formal basis than in the past.

The best prospects for retaining new hires will be for the organization to keep pace with respect to assuring that the technology used at work is at a commensurate level with the technology used at home (i.e., for personal use, shopping, gaming, etc.). In the past, many of the “older” technicians were technology-averse; however, at present (and in the future), technology will be an added incentive for keeping the millennial generation happy.

BA: What knowledge transfer challenges do these companies face during this transition?

BP: Knowledge transfer between the retiring generation and the new generation of field technicians is likely to be somewhat problematic in that the older generation is more likely to be categorized as “analog” with respect to their accumulated knowledge, experiential interactions (i.e., both with products and people), work-related notes, diaries, etc., while the newer generation is more likely to be defined as “digital”.

The retiring technicians may each have years of experiential knowledge that it would take years (or, at least, months) for their replacements to match in terms of breadth, depth and content. They may also have scores of notes taken on yellow pads, post-it notes and scraps of paper, as well as numerous documents constructed and printed out in a Word or Notes file. However, the millennials are more likely to use electronic means for capturing notes through a variety of iPad, iPhone and/or Android devices.

In the former cases, the transfer of information may be difficult due to the analog nature of the recording means used. However, in the latter cases, it may simply be a matter of transferring digital files from one technician’s devices to another’s.

The outgoing technicians may also have more of a propensity for collecting – and using – personal notes on each of their customer accounts than the incoming crew. Historically, most field technicians have had a full appreciation of how to “manage” their customers – even before the advent of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). To many, it made good sense to work just as hard to “fix the customer” while they were “fixing their equipment”. However, this may not be as prevalent among the new crew of incoming field technicians. It’s not that kind of world anymore!

BA: How can technology help make this transfer and transition easier?

BP: Technology will be the key to an easier transference of knowledge between the retiring technicians and their replacements – but the process should be started well in advance of the technicians’ retirement dates. For example, it will most likely serve the organization well to move to an environment where their field technicians are gradually (or, in some cases, more quickly) brought up-to-speed with respect to the new technologies and mobile tools that are generally available to them.

Providing them with the mobile tools (e.g., iPads, Tablets, etc.) that will make it easier for them to record their activities, check on the status of work orders, post notes and reminders, etc. will serve to migrate them from an analog to a more digital world. This, in turn, will allow for an easier transfer of data and information from one technician to another – not necessarily an easier transfer of knowledge, but at least enabling the transfer of the data and information that will ultimately become knowledge once in the hands of the newer technicians.

Another way that some organizations have been able to transition through the “changing of the guard” with respect to field technicians has been by retaining some of their top technicians beyond their retirement from the field, and appointing them as trainers, mentors and/or advisors to the incoming crew of millennials. In the absence of more formal training programs (e.g., off-site classes, distance learning, self-study programs, and the like), these more personal, one-on-one, resources have been used by many organizations to fill a void that may otherwise surface during a period of transition.

Having a veteran (or two, or three, or more) accessible to mentor new hires is not new to the world of business – or sports! For example, it is quite likely that a professional sports team will have one or more veterans on their roster who can still play the game, while also serving as role models and mentors in the team clubhouse in support of the incoming batch of “rookies”. In fact, using this model will likely lead to an ongoing process where today’s rookies will become tomorrow’s mentors as they move through their careers, and accumulating their own experiential knowledge over time.

BA: How can the presence of younger workers affect mobile and other technology deployments?

BP: Simply by their nature, younger workers are typically more mobile than the existing service force – both physically and with respect to their use of technology. In the past, many of the traditional field technicians have been somewhat resistant to change with “Technology” representing the “T” word. However, millennials, by and large, are technology-friendly and well-prepared to utilize the state-of-the-art technology that is made available to them – both at work, as well as in their personal lives.

The use of mobile tools such as Augmented Reality (AR) in performing their service calls will be more natural to the incoming crew of technicians than it ever was for the technicians they are about to replace. However, there is more to the introduction of younger workers into the organization’s technician force than just technology – there is also the matter of chemistry!

In most cases, where a mentoring approach is utilized, the mix of younger and older technicians is not likely to present a problem; however, in some cases, the mix may look more like a dysfunctional Father-Son or Mother-Daughter family situation where there is often an underlying tension leading to periodic explosions of emotions! It will ultimately be up to the Services Manager and HR to work together to monitor and/or supervise such situations where the chemistry looks more like a dysfunctional family than a “band of brothers (or sisters)” all working together toward the same goals.

Overall, the presence of younger workers will almost certainly help in the deployment of new tools and technologies – but it will also require the presence of some of the older, more seasoned technicians to assure that the incoming crew has the same level of respect for the way things were done in the past with regard to customer interactions and other customer-facing situations. It’s not all just about the technology!

BA: What other comments about this topic do you have that our readers should be aware of?

BP: The transitioning from a more mature, traditional (and fairly analog) service force to one that is more technologically-advanced is nothing new. We’ve all been through it before when, for example, we migrated from handwritten notes to Word Processing; from pen and ink spreadsheets to Excel spreadsheets; from telephone reminders to e-mails and texts; from printouts to electronic files; and so on.

Not only will we be able to get through this transition process again – but, it will be even easier than ever before as, for the most part, data, information and knowledge collected via yesterday’s technologies can fairly easily be leveraged into today’s (and tomorrow’s) technological world – simply via the clicks of a mouse and the use of memory sticks (or the Cloud). However, once again, the transition from analog to digital must be started sooner, rather than later, in order for the transition to be as seamless and smooth as possible. It no longer takes a generation for an existing team of field technicians to find themselves behind the technology curve – in fact, it may only take a few years, or less!

As a result, services organizations will continue to find themselves in situations where they are faced with the need to transition data, information and knowledge from a retiring team to the next generation’s millennials – on a virtually continuous basis! It is for this reason that services organizations must put into place a sound process for enabling these transitions over time, including an increased focus on the automation of all service processes; the introduction of new mobile tools and technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR); the introduction of an internal mentoring program that encourages interaction between the outgoing and the incoming technicians; and the recognition that this will be an ongoing process over time.

[To access the published Technology Update Article, please visit the Field Technologies Online website at www.fieldtechnologiesonline.com.]

General Thoughts on the Likely Impact of Replacing Retiring Service Technicians with a “New” Millennial Workforce

[Bill Pollock’s response to the seventh of seven questions posed by Brian Albright, contributing editor, Field Technologies magazine. An edited version of Bill’s responses will appear as part of a Technology Update Article in the August, 2016 issue of the magazine. This excerpt, in particular, addresses some general thoughts on the likely impact of replacing retiring service technicians with a “new” Millennial Workforce.]

BA (edited): What other comments on the topic of replacing retiring service technicians with Millennials do you have that our readers should be aware of?

BP: The transitioning from a more mature, traditional (and fairly analog) service force to one that is more technologically-advanced is nothing new. We’ve all been through it before when, for example, we migrated from handwritten notes to Word Processing; from pen and ink spreadsheets to Excel spreadsheets; from telephone reminders to e-mails and texts; from printouts to electronic files; and so on.

Not only will we be able to get through this transition process again – but, it will be even easier than ever before as, for the most part, data, information and knowledge collected via yesterday’s technologies can fairly easily be leveraged into today’s (and tomorrow’s) technological world – simply via the clicks of a mouse and the use of memory sticks (or the Cloud). However, once again, the transition from analog to digital must be started sooner, rather than later, in order for the transition to be as seamless and smooth as possible. It no longer takes a generation for an existing team of field technicians to find themselves behind the technology curve – in fact, it may only take a few years, or less!

As a result, services organizations will continue to find themselves in situations where they are faced with the need to transition data, information and knowledge from a retiring team to the next generation’s millennials – on a virtually continuous basis! It is for this reason that services organizations must put into place a sound process for enabling these transitions over time, including an increased focus on the automation of all service processes; the introduction of new mobile tools and technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR); the introduction of an internal mentoring program that encourages interaction between the outgoing and the incoming technicians; and the recognition that this will be an ongoing process over time.

[Watch for the publication of the Field Technologies Technology Update Article, including interviews with four services industry analysts (including Bill Pollock) in the upcoming August, 2016 issue. A direct link to the article will be provided at that time.]

How Can the Presence of Younger Service Technicians (i.e., Millennials) Affect Mobile and Other Technology Deployments?

[Bill Pollock’s response to the sixth of seven questions posed by Brian Albright, contributing editor, Field Technologies magazine. An edited version of Bill’s responses will appear as part of a Technology Update Article in the August, 2016 issue of the magazine. This excerpt, in particular, addresses how the presence of younger service technicians (i.e., Millennials) is likely to affect mobile and other technology deployments.]

BA: How can the presence of younger workers affect mobile and other technology deployments?

BP: Simply by their nature, younger workers are typically more mobile than the existing service force – both physically and with respect to their use of technology. In the past, many of the traditional field technicians have been somewhat resistant to change with “Technology” representing the “T” word. However, millennials, by and large, are technology-friendly and well-prepared to utilize the state-of-the-art technology that is made available to them – both at work, as well as in their personal lives.

The use of mobile tools such as Augmented Reality (AR) in performing their service calls will be more natural to the incoming crew of technicians than it ever was for the technicians they are about to replace. However, there is more to the introduction of younger workers into the organization’s technician force than just technology – there is also the matter of chemistry!

In most cases, where a mentoring approach is utilized, the mix of younger and older technicians is not likely to present a problem; however, in some cases, the mix may look more like a dysfunctional Father-Son or Mother-Daughter family situation where there is often an underlying tension leading to periodic explosions of emotions! It will ultimately be up to the Services Manager and HR to work together to monitor and/or supervise such situations where the chemistry looks more like a dysfunctional family than a “band of brothers (or sisters)” all working together toward the same goals.

Overall, the presence of younger workers will almost certainly help in the deployment of new tools and technologies – but it will also require the presence of some of the older, more seasoned technicians to assure that the incoming crew has the same level of respect for the way things were done in the past with regard to customer interactions and other customer-facing situations. It’s not all just about the technology!

[Watch for more of Bill’s responses to the Field Technologies questions over the next couple of weeks. The publication date for the Technology Update Article is August, 2016. A direct link to the article will be provided at that time.]

How Can Technology Help Make the Transition Easier When Replacing Retiring Technicians with “New” Millennial Hires?

[Bill Pollock’s response to the fifth of seven questions posed by Brian Albright, contributing editor, Field Technologies magazine. An edited version of Bill’s responses will appear as part of a Technology Update Article in the August, 2016 issue of the magazine. This excerpt, in particular, addresses how technology can help make the transition easier when replacing retiring service technicians with “new” millennials.]

BA (edited): How can technology help ease the transition from an historical service technician workforce to one where retiring technicians are being replaced by millennials?

BP: Technology will be the key to an easier transference of knowledge between the retiring technicians and their replacements – but the process should be started well in advance of the technicians’ retirement dates. For example, it will most likely serve the organization well to move to an environment where their field technicians are gradually (or, in some cases, more quickly) brought up-to-speed with respect to the new technologies and mobile tools that are generally available to them.

Providing them with the mobile tools (e.g., iPads, Tablets, etc.) that will make it easier for them to record their activities, check on the status of work orders, post notes and reminders, etc. will serve to migrate them from an analog to a more digital world. This, in turn, will allow for an easier transfer of data and information from one technician to another – not necessarily an easier transfer of knowledge, but at least enabling the transfer of the data and information that will ultimately become knowledge once in the hands of the newer technicians.

Another way that some organizations have been able to transition through the “changing of the guard” with respect to field technicians has been by retaining some of their top technicians beyond their retirement from the field, and appointing them as trainers, mentors and/or advisors to the incoming crew of millennials. In the absence of more formal training programs (e.g., off-site classes, distance learning, self-study programs, and the like), these more personal, one-on-one, resources have been used by many organizations to fill a void that may otherwise surface during a period of transition.

Having a veteran (or two, or three, or more) accessible to mentor new hires is not new to the world of business – or sports! For example, it is quite likely that a professional sports team will have one or more veterans on their roster who can still play the game, while also serving as role models and mentors in the team clubhouse in support of the incoming batch of “rookies”. In fact, using this model will likely lead to an ongoing process where today’s rookies will become tomorrow’s mentors as they move through their careers, and accumulating their own experiential knowledge over time.

[Watch for more of Bill’s responses to the Field Technologies questions over the next couple of weeks. The publication date for the Technology Update Article is August, 2016. A direct link to the article will be provided at that time.]

What Knowledge Transfer Challenges Are Services Organizations Likely to Face When Hiring Millennials to Replace Retiring Technicians?

[Bill Pollock’s response to the fourth of seven questions posed by Brian Albright, contributing editor, Field Technologies magazine. An edited version of Bill’s responses will appear as part of a Technology Update Article in the August, 2016 issue of the magazine. This excerpt, in particular, addresses the challenges that services organizations are likely to face when hiring “new” millennials to replace retiring service technicians.]

BA (edited): What knowledge transfer challenges are services organizations likely to face when hiring millennials to replace retiring technicians?

BP: Knowledge transfer between the retiring generation and the new generation of field technicians is likely to be somewhat problematic in that the older generation is more likely to be categorized as “analog” with respect to their accumulated knowledge, experiential interactions (i.e., both with products and people), work-related notes, diaries, etc., while the newer generation is more likely to be defined as “digital”.

The retiring technicians may each have years of experiential knowledge that it would take years (or, at least, months) for their replacements to match in terms of breadth, depth and content. They may also have scores of notes taken on yellow pads, post-it notes and scraps of paper, as well as numerous documents constructed and printed out in a Word or Notes file. However, the millennials are more likely to use electronic means for capturing notes through a variety of iPad, iPhone and/or Android devices.

In the former cases, the transfer of information may be difficult due to the analog nature of the recording means used. However, in the latter cases, it may simply be a matter of transferring digital files from one technician’s devices to another’s.

The outgoing technicians may also have more of a propensity for collecting – and using – personal notes on each of their customer accounts than the incoming crew. Historically, most field technicians have had a full appreciation of how to “manage” their customers – even before the advent of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). To many, it made good sense to work just as hard to “fix the customer” while they were “fixing their equipment”. However, this may not be as prevalent among the new crew of incoming field technicians. It’s not that kind of world anymore!

[Watch for more of Bill’s responses to the Field Technologies questions over the next few weeks. The publication date for the Technology Update Article is August, 2016. A direct link to the article will be provided at that time.]