In case you’re new to the game, we’re here at Field Service USA 2017, and we’re live blogging some of the keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions throughout the event.

Field Service USA is a gathering of like-minded field service professionals, after-sales innovators, and solution vendors looking to advance modern service together, and with more than a day’s worth of networking, technology, and strategy, we’re sure to walk away with some of the best tools in field service support and customer experience.

First up on our agenda? We’re spending the morning with Sarah O’Brien, Senior Director of Business Transformation at Sears Holding Corporation and a veteran field service and process improvement expert. O’Brien will address best practices in leading & sustaining change in a distributed field services organization through tales from the front line of business transformation.

So, you’ve decided your business needs to change? Whether it’s a new software, a newly signed client, or a new product added to your portfolio, you must assess the people-side of the change and be sure your team is just as ready as your systems, methods, policies and processes before launching the next big thing.

When it comes to the people-side of any organization, the end goal should always be to embody a customer-centric company. But, to become a customer-first organization, O’Brien suggests you follow these strategies within your own team:

1. Know your people. Get feedback, ask questions, and practice active listening: it’s time to let them talk. Whether they need to vent about an experience or they just want to talk about what’s going on in their day — listen. After you’ve heard their feedback, repeat it back to prove that you are invested in their success and are here to help.

2. Get context. When your technician says something isn’t working — know what they mean. This is where active listening — clarification and confirmation – come back into play. Understand the context around anxiety and enthusiasm, and by clarifying what information you’re looking for and then confirming the technician’s answer, you will ensure that you’re both on the same path.

3. Understand influence. Know exactly what is motivating your workers and the people that you want to bring along on your journey. Share your influence with your people while you’re leading the change and understand what motivates them along the way.

4. Respect your people. Be flexible and act – by listening to your people, adapting your plans, and then presenting those plans back to your people, you’re going to gain their trust through respect. Figure out how to adjust in a respectful way and recognize that change is an evolution: you can’t turn it on and off. People to learn to crawl first, then walk, then run. Respect the timeline that people need to embrace change, especially when it’s a transformational activity.  Even if it feels minor, give people the opportunity digest on their own timeline.

Celebrate Change and “Fail Forward”

As we learn more about transforming your field service business, it’s clear that the same can be said for the aftermarket part of your business. The adoption of a new after-sales strategy isn’t changed overnight — you have to start by influencing from within to, in turn, better your customers. This transformation is all about leveraging your own people to drive a better experience for the customer.

One thing O’Brien has learned over time is that if you make a mistake that you can learn from — regardless of what change you’re drivingcelebrate the failure. Good for you for taking a risk and trying something new! Just make sure you understand why it didn’t work, and feed that back into your next change.

Change can be harder than rolling out a brand new process, so it’s important to recognize milestones in the process. Support is the most important part of leading people through the change, and sustainable change starts by connecting people with process.