What does the introduction of remote-first mean for service operations?

In the previous feature in this series we put forward the argument that for any move to remote service to be successful, it must be viewed as a business-wide initiative rather than one that is limited solely to the field service operation.


While this is true, we also should not overlook the fact that the field service business unit will be impacted by such a change the most, and it is the field service business unit that needs to be prepared to be the engine room in driving this change.


So from a practical level, what does the introduction of remote working mean for the field service team, both in management based in head office and for our field service engineers and technicians currently working in the field?


Crucially as we have already touched on in this paper, the thinking and vision that will propel a move to adopting remote service-as-a-default has to be embedded into a long-term view of organisational change.


“You’ve got to think about the long-term future,” comments Ged Cranny, Senior Consultant, Konica Minolta, BEU. 


“With any new project you will always get a boost around ten or fifteen percent initially, but after a while things will normalise and that initial boost will disappear and you will be back to normal.”


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"We knew that if we started a policy to make sure that we could remotely access all products, this policy would have to start in the factory..."

For those looking to replicate the Konica Minolta model that places remote service as the default approach to service delivery, while the most direct impact relates specifically to the service operations team and the processes they follow, that shift has to be undertaken at a company-wide level. Ultimately this means the first layer of focus needs to be with the product development team within the organisation.


“So one of the things that we began with was looking at the products, “explains Cranny.


“For us, we typically have a three to five-year churn on products. Therefore, we knew that if we started a policy to make sure that we could remotely access all products, this policy would have to start in the factory and would take about five years to be fully bedded in across the company and across all of our customers’ assets.


“Then you can build your change management project within clearly defined parameters and ensure you set goals that understand how your products will impact your service business. We were able to look at this and identify that even our biggest customers would totally refresh their machines within a five-year period and with assets that had much improved connectivity and serviceability, we could see that our need for field service engineers would be greatly reduced.”


However, while the beginning of a journey to remote service becoming the default go-to option for the service delivery team is dependent on the cycle of product churn and the development of assets capable of operating within such a context, this does not mean that the service operation must wait until this cycle is completed. The change that Konica Minolta both saw on the horizon and initiated themselves meant that they could proactively rethink their service operations.


Most importantly, they were able to identify how such a drastic sea-change in the way service is delivered would impact the existing workforce and prepare both their workforce and their processes accordingly, well ahead of time.

"Why bring in people from outside the business to fill these new roles, why not retrain and repurpose that knowledge and skill set that already existed within our company

“We knew with the way the product development was moving, and with the drive to move towards becoming a services organisation that we would have a pool of engineers that wouldn’t be required for as many direct service calls but we would also have new needs and requirements for these technical people elsewhere within the organisation,” Cranny states.


“We looked at the situation, where we were going and we understood we had to use those engineers elsewhere in the organisation. Our view was why bring in people from outside the business to fill these new roles, why not retrain and repurpose that knowledge and skill set that already existed within our company?


“We have our own training schools across Europe so we started retraining our own people, creating the time for our engineers to be retrained, so our people and our organisation could adjust to the new world we were walking into.”


Of course, the other critical aspect of arriving in this new world that Cranny describes is convincing the customer that the move to remote service-as-a-default is in their interest as much as it is in our interests as service providers. Win-win conversations are often touted as the pinnacle of good business innovation, yet the truth is that often something may be dressed up in this way but falls short on one side or the other. The result is that there is often a reluctance to accept win-win arguments at face value.


Indeed, much as we outlined in the previous section of this report, when looking at the internal change management discussion, we must approach the sometimes complex discussions with our customers as part of an external change management process. In framing these conversations in such a way, we can return to the fundamental tenet of change management – to win the hearts and minds of those we are looking to bring through the change process.


Again, these conversations will invariably sit within the field service business unit, as this is where the changes to process will be most visible to the customer.


However, once again, Cranny points out that while the service operation leaders will be those at the vanguard of delivering and executing these significant shifts and advising the customer as part of that journey, the wider business must understand and support the service operations team in this venture.


“We want to be able to supply the customers that we have worked alongside for the last twenty, thirty years in print, with their cloud services, their print services and their software services,” Cranny continues.


“All these technologies, we can train our technical people to support. However, the strategy has to be built all the way from the factory, all the way through the senior management but also across all departments – everyone has to understand what the service business unit is setting out to achieve, what we are trying to create. This is essential so the customer feels comfortable with what Konica Minolta were doing.”

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