How to Prevent Ongoing Performance Issues

Our Guest Blogger this week is Jan van Veen. He helps technology and manufacturing companies increase momentum for a continuous and quicker adaption to change. Adaptability is a key success factor for sustainable success in an increasingly complex world with rapid changes.  Download his research report “Adapt or Die – How to increase momentum for sustainable success”

Is your company experiencing continuous performance issues? Are your co-workers fixing these problems, adequately and rapidly? Many manufacturing companies often suffer with ongoing performance issues.  Their most common intervention is to do more of the same, in the hope that this will do the trick. In a complex world that is rapidly evolving, it is essential to continuously adapt and drive performance. But is this easier said than done?

Take a regional leadership team for example, that once struggled with reaching their expected growth. As the pressure for them increased, their main intervention was to create a list of potential sales opportunities within their respective countries; in order to meet their objectives, they would only have needed to gain a small portion of these leads. Unsurprisingly however, this  didn’t work out.

Why get Stuck?

As opposed to just a ‘quick-fix’, many performance issues require a more thought-out intervention. This should begin with a thorough root cause analysis, involving different stakeholders bringing in their individual perspectives. Several teams or departments will often need to collaborate, to implement the adequate solution.

In practice, this appears to be difficult for individuals and teams whilst they are in the so-called ‘defensive survival mode’ or in the fixed mindset (as opposed to Carol Dweck’s famous ‘Growth Mindset’). The common “planning & control” management approach is what pushes co-workers into this defensive survival mode. They focus on short-term targets and punish set-backs. They fail to give themselves time to sit back, discover the root cause, and seek alternatives.

Consequently, people in the defensive survival mode will focus on their survival by reducing risk, justifying issues, identifying external circumstances, blaming others for causing problems, and so on. This impacts performance and creates performance issues throughout the company.

The Alternative

Let’s go back to the leadership team from our last example. How different would it have been if they had taken the time to find out why their business was failing to grow? What if they had involved other stakeholders and experts, or interviewed a couple of (potential) clients? The team could have discovered that their company did not have the right brand or proposition for this specific region. They could have solved the performance issue from first principle, at the root cause. This would have resulted in quicker, and more sustainable solutions.

The Solution for ongoing performance issues

To resolve the matter, employees at every level should be confident and eager to adapt, collaborate, try, rethink, question, and most importantly: act! With modern “sense & respond” management practices you can increase the momentum to continuously adapt and drive change. There are a few practical things you could do, to increase momentum in your team:

  • Let them take the time to analyze the root causes.
  • Schedule meetings with team members to discuss these root causes.
  • Engage in strategic dialogue across all levels, to discuss and adjust priorities.
  • When objectives are not met, initiate a forward-looking approach; with a constructive review and discussion, that will lunge your team forward.
  • Introduce shared objectives as a basis for the review, as well as rewards for your team members; this will get them all in the ‘same boat’, and drive collaboration.

Hold them individually accountable, by agreeing on separate objectives that can all contribute towards the overall goal.

Would you like to submit a Guest Post?

What’s on Service Director’s Minds

Nick Frank is a Co-Founder of Si2 Partners and this article is based on one first posted in Field Service Matters.

With customer expectations on the rise, field service organizations are constantly fighting to keep up. The service industry has shifted from a cost-centric and reactive approach to a value-centric and proactive approach. But aside from more demand from the customer, the transformation has also opened up new opportunities for service technicians, process, and technology.

Recently, I met with service and operations directors from the United Kingdom’s biggest organizations gathered at Field Service Summit. Field service leaders from manufacturing, telecommunications, and utilities met to exchange ideas and discuss opportunities and trends. Here are the most important topics they addressed.

On dealing with near-impossible expectations

Thanks to on-demand services such as Uber, customer expectations are higher than ever. Your customers want faster resolutions, more visibility into their service, and real-time communication with their technicians. But disruptions happen, and sometimes the customer wants more than you can give them at that moment. Here’s how the experts are managing customer expectations:

Set realistic expectations & don’t over promise

What do you do when the customer wants more than you can handle? Start by setting expectations. Before the service visit, know exactly what the customer wants accomplished and when. You always want to strive for a quick, first-time fix. But don’t over promise if you can’t deliver.

Let’s say a customer wants a tech to fix their washing machine the same day they call, but your techs are already booked for the day. Since it’s not an emergency situation, let the customer know they’ll have to wait, and schedule them for a different time slot. They might be upset that you can’t help them as soon as they’d like, but they’ll be more upset if you’re unable to deliver on a promise.

Let the customer set their own (controlled) expectations

Better yet, give your customer a range of options so they can set their own expectations. Most field service directors at the summit found that their customers want to be partners during the service process. Involve customers by allowing them to set their own expectations for the service visit. Just make sure to do so within in a controlled environment.

For instance, give them open time slots to choose from before they decide on their own. And if they want a higher level of service that will take more time and labor, let them pay more for it. This way you’re giving the customer more control throughout the process, but maintain manageable expectations.

On developing service technicians

Most of the experts at Field Service Summit agreed that the people side of the service delivery is crucial. In other words, your techs, along with their attitudes and capabilities, determine the successful delivery of solutions for your customers. Think about it. Your techs make up most of your company’s interactions with your customers. As the face of your organization, it’s important that the tech makes a good impression. Here’s what the experts advised for developing technicians:

Help your techs become brand ambassadors

It’s crucial for technicians to have the right technical skills, but attitude and image are just as important. Coach your techs on how to represent the brand and company values during their service visit. They should be courteous, engaged, and dressed appropriately. Your customers should feel confident in their tech’s ability to solve their problems and think of them as trusted advisors.

Make customer feedback part of the service process

The best way to learn how your techs are performing is by asking the customers. Consider making customer feedback part of the field service process. Send your customers a survey immediately after the service visit so they can respond with the visit fresh in mind.

If the feedback is positive, send it directly back to the tech. In addition to learning what he or she did right, the tech will also feel good to know they had a positive impact on their customers. If the tech gets a negative review, have a manager deliver feedback. Set a meeting to discuss their performance and talk about ways they can improve for next time.

On the importance of service value over price

As products are commoditized, quality service and positive customer experiences become main competitive differentiators. Field service directors at the summit noticed that customers today are less competent technically, and care more about the outcome. Being said, it’s important to constantly communicate the value of your service, especially if you have not been as visible to the customer. Make sure they know what’s been happening in the background, and throughout the service process.  Here’s what the experts advised:

Demonstrate value with proof

As your company grows, be sure to document a service portfolio. Get your customer support team on board with your company’s value propositions and demonstrate them. Work with your customers to build case studies (with numbers) to use as proof points for potential customers.

Be a business partner

Just as customers should see techs as trusted advisors, they should see your company as a partner invested in their success. Customers are looking for more than just a fix — they want solutions. And they want advice on their assets in case the problem arises again. Let them know you’re always there for them, even when they’re not due for a service visit.

Would you like to submit a Guest Post?

Excellent Advice About Leadership

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In this week’s blog I am sharing an article written by Suzen Leen. She is Head of Marketing at Kap Computer Solutions Pvt. Ltd.,AP, a pioneer in BULK SMS Solutions.If you are interested in writing a guest post for my blog, please check out my Guest Posting Guidelines

Following your instincts when it comes to leadership is a good thing to do, but you also must continue to learn and know what a good leader does. It goes both ways, and this article will help you figure out what it takes for you to be the leader that is required. Not only will you improve as a leader, but you will help other people.

Make sure to engage people as a leader. You must learn how to motivate, involve, and excite others. Inspire them to engage their passions, strengths, skills, and creativity in the tasks at hand. Do what you can to acknowledge and appreciate each person’s contributions and efforts. You should make them all feel like they did something to move the project forward.

Effective leaders are inspiring. You need to develop the ability to inspire those who work under you, motivating them to work toward a common goal. You can use public speaking to achieve this, but there are also videos, blogs, articles and other methods to convey your uplifting message to your audience.

Good leaders know how to nurture growth in other people. Take the time to support other people. You can do this by learning their strengths, work styles, and passions. Try encouraging them to seek new possibilities and challenges. Remember that every person has the ability to expand the potential of the company.

As a leader, you must have confidence. This will, in turn, instill confidence in your team. If your team sees you doubt yourself, they will begin to doubt you too. Always act deliberately and do not waver, but do not be afraid to change your mind. A good leader is flexible.

One of the most important aspects of any leader is the ability to create a sense of trust among their employees. Employees who trust their supervisor are willing to do more to help the company succeed than those who do not trust their supervisors. Always be truthful when dealing with employees.

Be sure to finish everything you start or you risk losing the respect of the people that work under you. Even if something seems particularly difficult, you should give it your all and see it through to the end. No one will look at you the same if you turn into a quitter.

Be a communicator. Communication is a major aspect of what makes great leadership. If you can’t communicate your goals and vision, then what is there for your employees to follow at all? If you have a tendency to “loan wolf” at work, break out of that habit and begin communicating with your teams.

You should also use Bulk SMS Marketing for instant results, so that you can communicate with thousands of people with a single click https://kapsystem.com can provide you the best Bulk SMS Marketing, even you can also use our API to use it anywhere in any software.

Are you interested in growing your service business? Check out my online training course where you will learn strategies, tactics, and insights for Successful Service Marketing ™. As a starter, I’ve put together a brief video that describes the course content. You can access it here.

I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have.

5 Ideas to Successfully on-board Millennials

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This week’s blog post is from Dave Palmer. Dave is president of Incyte Strategies LLC, a consulting firm specializing in marketing strategy, brand awareness, sales growth and market expansion for technology, manufacturing, software, and professional services organizations. To learn more visit Dave at www.incytestrategies.com

As your youngest workers begin with your company, have you given thought as to how best to integrate them into your organization? Millennials, on the whole, do have a different way of perceiving themselves and their place in the world, Capitalizing, not complaining, about those differences will help you avoid costly turnover in the ranks of your youngest employees.

Below are 5 solid approaches to consider as you connect with and channel these new workers into your corporate culture and workflow. You’ll see an emphasis on inclusion, impact, communication, growth, and fulfillment. All things that matter to Millennials.

1. Think through and deliver a thoughtful, multi-day onboarding process. Invest up to the first two weeks, not just a few hours, introducing the new hire to the workings of the company (all departments), the processes and theories that go into efficient workflow and team collaboration, and the culture of your facility.

2. Consider providing the new hire with a mentor. Someone who will take a special interest in the person’s success and serve as a resource and “translator” for what’s happening at your organization.

NOTE: If you do this, you should also build a “How to Be an Effective Mentor” program. People with good intentions still need good training to mentor well.

3. Have programs in place that will combat the communication differences between the 25-year-olds and the 55-year-olds. The two groups will frustrate one another, though never meaning to. Here are a few of the perception challenges they’ll have of one another –

a. “Youngers” don’t want to “pay their dues”
b. “Olders” feel disrespected by a perceived lack of work ethic or attention to detail
c. “Youngers” want to “make a difference” right away
d. “Olders” prefer face-to-face communication, not texts

NOTE: You may want to hire an outside expert to help your team understand these communications differences and to help you build your program. You may even consider hiring this person to run the program quarterly. Ongoing training & progress monitoring is critical to ensuring these advances will take hold over the long run.

4. Once your new hires have been around, you’ll want to keep them engaged and not jumping ship in 9 months. Consider investing in job cross-training, production theory seminars, and going to school for various certifications. This generation is “self-centered” – they want to be happy, fulfilled, and do what they want. To keep them engaged, offer opportunities to grow.

5. Keep them informed of company plans, vision, milestones, quarterly progress, new initiatives, ideas being pondered – they want to know what’s happening or they feel cut off. Remember, this is the generation that believes they should be involved in EVERYTHING!

Whether you agree with their perspectives or not, it makes sense to acknowledge and deal with how Millennials think and what their perceptions are. That’s how you’ll best understand how to make them involved and productive members of your team.

Innovate or Die

3 Strategies that will Transform your Service Business

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Recently someone asked me if service businesses face any fear when it comes to implementing new technologies or are they open to innovation. I had the think about this for minute and my answer is yes, they do face fear. Sure, a lot of business executives appreciate how important innovation is to the success of their company. However, few really step up and make change. Many more just talk about it or are forever planning to do it. This is fear rearing its ugly head.

Ridiculous you might say. Businesses are supposed to think rationally. How could a competent business let emotions get in the way? The answer is simple…businesses are run by people, people are only human, and fear is part of being human. In fact, business people have an uncanny way of expressing their fears as though they are rational objections. Here are just a few examples of typical objections that I have heard leaders give over then last twenty years for not adopting new technologies and the emotional sub-text (i.e., fear) about what they are really thinking:

Objection: Technology will not be able to do as good a job as me or my people
Fear: I will be replaced by a machine

Objection: Our Company is not ready for this new technology
Fear: People will resist my suggestion and I don’t want to risk my job over it

Objection: We tried something like this before and it didn’t work
Fear: I’ll be ridiculed for suggesting this idea. The last guy that tried to do this failed at it and lost his job.

Objection: This new technology is just hype. I can’t see it working for us.
Fear: I am really uncertain if we’ll be able to implement this effectively and don’t want to be the guy that failed, and lost his job because of it.

Objection: We can’t afford it. It’s not in the budget.
Fear: This could personally hurt me (us) financially this year (i.e. no bonus).

So what can leaders do to overcome their own fears? Tony Robbins, the great motivational speaker and self-help author offers three strategies:

1. Find something you are more scared of: Sure the fear of making a mistake about adopting new technology can be paralyzing but lost customers, increased operating costs, service inefficiencies and quality issues can be even more devastating.

2. Visualize what the future will be like: Imagine yourself and your company 3 or 5 years in the future. What will your future look like if you don’t make the change today? What impact will it have on market share, customer experience, or profits? If your answer is that things will be worse, much worse, then you will probably make the investment in the new technology.

3. Get Passionate about it: You can do this by defining all the reasons why you want to make a change and then make the change an absolute must.

Each one of these strategies has something in common. They require a leader to analyze their current situation and understand the implications of doing nothing versus the benefits of doing something. It also requires the leader have a well-defined plan for the future, and that he/she works diligently to carry out that plan. Remember that fear is acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Therefore the more supporting evidence you have that your plans are attainable, the more certain you will be at achieving it.

Let me know what you think of this post by sharing your comments below. If you believe you need more supporting evidence to pursue innovation in your service business then let’s schedule a FREE strategy session today. Last but not least, check out my new e-book titled “Unlocking value you within your service supply chain” for more suggestions on how to innovate and grow your service business.

Meeting Market Needs: An interview with Marne Martin, CEO of Service Power

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Last week, I conducted an interview with Marne Martin, CEO of Service Power, a leading provider of workforce management solutions. I was intrigued by recent developments in her company, most notably their release of Nexus FS, a new cloud-based software.   My interview with Marne provides some interesting insight on her company and her perspectives on the market for Field Service Automaton.

Michael R. Blumberg (MRB): Congratulations on Service Power’s progress. It looks like you are continuing to gain momentum in the market. Interim results for H12015 are very encouraging.

Marne Martin (MM): Thank you. Service Power is going through a revitalization campaign. We’ve concentrated on strengthening sales execution, managing our expenditures, making investments in new technology, and migrating to the Amazon web services platform. Our efforts are producing positive results that are the building blocks for the future.

Marne Martin 

MRB: Service Power is obviously gaining traction in the market with its core mobile workforce management software, including the patented ServiceScheduling route optimization software. Why release NexusFS™ (“Nexus”)?

MM: ServicePower’s feature rich ServiceScheduling and ServiceMobility solutions are great for the enterprise market where an enterprise might already have CRM, ERP, etc. already. Nexus FS ™ provides an easy to use, easy to implement solution for SMBs and enterprise customers who require field service management functionality separate from their existing CRM/ERP solution or simply a new all in one solution.

MRB: What perceptions existed in the market about ServicePower prior to launching NexusFS™?

MM: A criticism that we heard was that even though we had a well proven and robust scheduling, dispatch and claims products in terms of their features and functionalities, we were not prioritizing the user experience to be able to tailor UI views and information for the different types of users in an organization, as well as simplify integration challenges for customers. NexusFS™ gives customers a one size fits all solution through which we also have ready-made integrations to our other applications through our Restful API integration layer. It provides a full front-end solution that can be deployed all in one, or on a modular basis to fill gaps in a technology portfolio.

MRB: Obviously you’ve done your homework. How did you validate your assumptions regarding market wants and needs for the NexusFS™ application?

MM: Like many vendors, we relied on competitive market research to better understand our market position and opportunity. I also brought in people with alternative perspectives to validate our assumptions and test our conclusions. It is always my belief that teams of high performing individuals are the ones that create great companies and technologies.

MRB: What resistance did you get from the shareholders in your company when you told them of your plans to release NexusFS™?

MM: I presented shareholders in fall 2013 with a three year plan. It required that we focus on people, process, product first – and then profits, although we of course did commit to managing tightly expenses. This has required us to prioritize and make choices, to focus on efficiency and output internally, and we have been able to drive clear progress in all four areas as you can see from the interim results recently released. Shareholders weren’t certain back in 2013, and even in 2014, we would be able to bring out new products using internal talent and funding, but we have been able to accelerate our output migrating to a fully agile process and using small internal dev teams like “skunkworks” teams. Certainly there are some shareholders that desire us to focus only on profits and not invest in technology, but what creates a new trajectory for the company is the investment in products and marketing first, and then of course sales execution on an increasingly larger scale thereafter. 

MRB: What makes you think the is sustainable?

MM: Investors want to invest in sensible things and are happy to put cash into companies that are prepared to grow steadily and deliver a return on investment.   We have proven our ability to make the investments in our products, generate new cutting edge technology, so the next step is to add scale through our direct efforts, as well as do more in partner enablement related to indirect channels. This is all related to being able to deliver investors consistent topline growth linked to bottom line profitability, which is what they want. We must therefore show investors not just strategic results but also share tactical execution feedback with them metrics and progress, which we are doing. Examples of these touchpoints include getting NexusFS™ to market, managing the internal cost of development, migrating to the cloud and therefore more efficient IT and support structures, increasing the penetration and footprint of our existing applications, building out our professional services capabilities, and of course implementing new logos.

MRB: Thank you Marne, we look forward to learning about ServicePower’s continued success in the market.

Guest Post Guidelines

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In the past, I have been asked to contribute articles to other people’s blog posts.   While I have always been open to offering my readers the similar opportunity to read guest posts from other authors, I have never fully communicated my policy to the public. After reading a blog post from Michael Hyatt about his Guest Post Guidelines, I was inspired to write my own.

Effective immediately, I will accept guest posts. Currently, I do not plan to publish more than one post per week. These will likely appear on Tuesday each week.

Content

Your post must be on one of five topics:

  1. Strategy
  2. Technology
  3. Leadership
  4. Sales & Marketing
  5. Operational Excellence

Your post cannot be an advertisement for your product or the equivalent of a sponsored post.

Guidelines

If you would like to submit a guest post to this blog, follow the instructions below for consideration. Only guest posts that meet these criteria will be considered for publishing.

  1. The post must be useful to the readers of this blog and deal with issues that are relevant to Hardware Maintenance, Service Lifecycle Management, Reverse Logistics, and Field Service professionals.
  2. The post must not criticize or condemn software vendors, hardware manufacturers, or service providers.
  3. The post must be grammatically correct and well-written.
  4. The post must not include marketing-related links and must not be self-promotional or sales oriented.
  5. The post may include up to three byline links: one for your blog or Web site, one for your bio or “About” page, and one for your Twitter username (optional).
  6. Guest posts must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online.
  7. You agree not to publish it anywhere else, including your own blog or Web site. You may, however, post a brief “tease” or summary on your site that links to the post.
  8. Guest posts should be at least 500 words long and no more than 800 words.

 

Editing

  • I will likely copyedit your post for grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. If I make substantive changes (unlikely), I will email the post back to you for your approval before posting.

 

  • I may provide a short introduction or conclusion to your post to provide context or the rationale as to why I think the post is important. I will make sure that my comments are set off from yours stylistically, so that my readers are clear that these are mine and not yours.

 

Disclaimer

The fact that you have written a post and submitted it to me does not in any way obligate me to publish it. I will only publish guest posts that in my sole judgment add value to my readers.

Furthermore, if I do not approve your guest post, I will not explain why I did not approve it or provide any detail.

Submissions

If your post meets the above guidelines:

  1. Please email it to me for consideration. It may take me 2–3 weeks to respond.
  2. Please include a one to two-sentence byline that includes what you do, along with your blog address and your Twitter and/or Facebook address.
  3. Please confirm that you are willing to engage with my readers in the comments about your post. This is hugely important and a non-negotiable. My readers have come to expect this.
  4. Please include the post in the body of the e-mail. DO NOT include it as an attachment. Also, please do not include HTML coding.

 

If I reject your post, you are obviously free to do whatever you want with it, including publishing it elsewhere.

A framework for a creating a Performance Driven Company

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune of attending a Service Industry Association Roundtable. These roundtables are held every couple of months and they are typically hosted by a member firm. This particular roundtable was held in Grand Rapids, MI and hosted by Service Express, Inc. (SEI). One of the highlights of the event was a presentation delivered by Ron Alvesteffer, SEI’s CEO.

SEI provides Data Center Hardware Maintenance and has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past ten (10) years. The company has recently been acquired by the Pamlico Capital, a Private Equity firm focused on the Lower Middle Market. Ron’s presentation offered insight into the tremendous growth the company has experienced and will continue to experience under his leadership.

It is not just their financial performance that makes them a great company. It’s the culture and values of the company that make it a great place to work. Indeed, SEI is a proud winner of the “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” in West Michigan, Chicago, and Metropolitan Detroit each year since 2005. The company was also named on of the  “101 Best and Brightest companies to Work For in the Nation” in 2011 and 2012. Inc. magazine  named them to their “Inc. 5,000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies”, an honor they have held since 2007

A great deal of the company’s success is due to Ron and his management team’s ability to build a performance driven organization. This strategy has enabled the company to grow through a combination of geographic expansion and new product/service development. The management team diligently follows a process centered business model that Ron developed. The model involves managing each business function, department, and line of business like a franchise. More specifically, the model is comprised of these four (4) building blocks:

  1. Vision: Ron refers to this as his “why”. Indeed, having a strong “why” is the basis for all successful endeavors. In essence, you need to have a compelling reason why you want to achieve any goal if you are ever going to achieve it. The reason why SEI exists is to “work with employees to help them achieve their personnel, professional, and financial goals”.
  2. Core Objectives: SEI has four core objectives these are 1) employee engagement, 2) excellent customer service, 3) margin retention and growth, and 4) revenue growth. These core objectives answer the question “how”, how does SEI achieve its vision.
  3. SR5 Performance Measurement: This is a performance measurement system that SEI utilizes to track results. Although, “SR5” sounds a little complicated, it’s really quite simple. It stands for Scorecards, ROIs, and 5/15s. In case you are wondering, scorecards are used to track goal achievement at a company, department and regional level. ROI stands for responsibilities, objectives and indicators. The 5/15 is a personal development plan created by each employee. (It originally got its name from the fact that it takes five minutes to read and 15 to prepare.) The SR5 system helps SEI personnel see trends and avoid emotional reactions to movements in company performance. As a result, management and employees view their performance objectively rather than emotionally.
  4. Business Focus: As mentioned above, SEI’s business focus is on Data Center Hardware Maintenance for mission critical servers. Ron’s perspective is the business focus answers the question “what”, what is it that we do here at SEI? Ron also believes that while this question is important, it is less important than the other three building blocks mentioned above. This makes a lot of sense, don’t you think? It often doesn’t matter what a company does as long as they have clear vision, core objectives, and an effective measurement system in place.

These building blocks serve as a great framework for how to build a thriving, performance driven company with high levels of employee engagement and morale. In addition to the awards and accolades that SEI has received for being a great place to work, the company has experienced an average revenue growth rate of 20% over for the last 10 years.   Ron refers to this framework as the “SEI Way”. You can download a copy of the free e-book that explains the concepts in more detail by visiting Ron’s blog site. http://ronalvesteffer.com/theseiway/