BioTek has a 50 year history in being a world leader in the manufacturing of life science instrumentation - such as microplate readers, washers, dispensers, automated microscopes and imagers. The company plays a critical role in helping organisations accelerate and automate the processing of thousands of samples. As such, the ability for BioTek to share knowledge internally and deliver speedy support to its customers is imperative.
Priding itself on being at the forefront of innovation in its field, the company also realises that it needs to adapt to the changing habits of its employees and customers if it wants to continue to succeed. A key part of this is collaboration and the tools used to support communication internally and externally.
Attending a conference back in 2015, BioTek Instruments Service Director, Sean Jordan, attended a talk on how younger workers communicate using digital tools and are more social media savvy than their older peers. This got Jordan thinking about the generational divide at BioTek and how collaboration could be improved.
Coincidentally, at the same conference, Jordan came across Zinc, which is an enterprise collaboration platform for field service companies that is now owned by ServiceMax. Jordan explained:
It just dawned on me that, you know what, there are these different channels of communication going on and what Zinc brought to the table was an opportunity to have a secure enterprise solution.
Finding a use case
In the early days of considering Zinc as the tool to perhaps change the way information is shared internally and externally at BioTek, Jordan wasn't entirely sure of how it could be used or what the business imperative was. The decision to trial the platform was more driven by an instinct that the way people collaborate is changing and that there could be as yet unrecognised use cases.
Jordan said that he wanted to take an approach that put the tool in the hands of the users and let them establish if it was valuable or not. He said:
My approach to this was somewhat democratic - like let's play with it, let's give it to the masses. Users are really good at ‘thumbs up, thumbs down'. If I don't make a mandate, and they gravitate to it, it's gonna be successful. If they're like, ‘I don't need one more tool, forget about it, get rid of it', then we won't touch it - not a problem.
However, it didn't take long for the users at BioTek to recognise the potential of Zinc and a number of use cases started to arise. Jordan puts this down to the ease of the user interface and said that the application's ability to solve a business problem helped to drive adoption. He said:
And all of a sudden we started getting input and ideas - [users were saying] I think we've identified opportunities that will actually solve some of our business problems.
Last year I did a survey saying ‘what would happen if we got rid of Zinc?', because we have other channels of communication. And I was really interested in the spread. We got a significant amount of users that said - ‘Wow, if we didn't have Zinc, I probably wouldn't use these other channels, they don't work, and they're too cumbersome and it's going to impact our business."
Speed and knowledge
One of the ways that the use of Zinc has developed at BioTek is by using the platform to speed up technical support, by crowdsourcing knowledge. A customer channel was created called ‘Save my Bacon', where every single service employee across the organisation is in it. So when a customer is looking for support on a technical issue, every service employee sees that message and is able to respond. Jordan explained:
What ‘Save my Bacon' does is give you an option on the customer site to say you need help right now. Everyone's on it, an alert comes up, so you expect a response right away. The expectation is that if you don't see someone replying to that, you can walk out of your office, find the right person and say ‘hey, this person needs help right now'. It just makes everyone aware that we are dedicated to helping the customer get the answer as fast as possible. We're all going to pitch in.
So you also know that if you're out in the field and you need help, you've got the support of the entire organisation and we are going to rush to get you that answer as fast as possible.
In terms of business performance, Jordan said that this has increased the rate of BioTek's first time fix dramatically. Everyone across the organisation is able to crowdsource knowledge and solve problems for customers in real-time.
Another important benefit Zinc has brought to BioTek is by strengthening the company's collaboration culture. Jordan said:
It has strengthened the culture globally across my teams. So now, when someone in Switzerland has a problem and maybe we aren't awake in the US, someone else in the world is still awake and they're going to help out. I love it when I wake up in the morning and I see Korea and Switzerland talking to each other to help each other out. They would never have done that before, they wouldn't have done it through email. They're all collaborating with each other and the learning goes across. That's something that's brought everyone together and kind of accelerates the knowledge sharing.
COVID-19 and lessons learned
Much like other organisations across the world, BioTek has had to adapt operationally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Jordan said that the company was pretty aggressive in migrating as many people as possible out of the office to work from home, which only increased the organisation's reliance on Zinc. This has resulted in new channels being created and employees using the tool for video calls and communication, in ways it hadn't been used previously. Jordan said:
I also think our culture and service is pretty transparent. We communicate a lot. We're really engaged. So Zinc has helped us sustain that cadence of communication. I didn't want COVID-19 to reduce our engagement with each other and we've maintained that. It's helped people feel like there's a little bit of normalcy there.
The tool is also being used by the field service team to share information with the organisation on how remote support can be delivered. Jordan said:
One of the things that happened with COVID-19 was that as customers started cancelling or postponing field visits, my field service team is a little more idle than typical. They decided to use this time to do more knowledge sharing and also to figure out if we could do more remote support for customers. Then as we created installations and trainings, we started embedding links into Zinc so that you can go and find all this information. It helps share a lot of information about how you deal with remote access and remote support that we hadn't really done traditionally.
Reflecting on BioTek's use of Zinc over the past few years, Jordan also had some learnings for how the platform is being used and offered advice for other companies that are perhaps considering rolling out new collaboration solutions for employees and customers. He said that the key points to remember are to understand the role of a tool like Zinc, but to also be patient with users that take time to fully grasp the benefits. Jordan said:
One of the biggest things I learnt was that there should be a guideline on what you're using Zinc for. We all have our favourite tools, there's tonnes of technology out there. So we need to be really clear that this is not replacing your service management solution system. This isn't replacing ERP. This isn't our knowledge management system. This is what you use it for and being really clear about that. Otherwise, I could see it just going sideways. It's about saying what's okay and what are the accepted uses. You have to let people know what your intentions are.
Also, be patient. You are going to have people in the workplace, depending on their level of engagement with different types of technology, whether it's generational or whether it's just what their use is - you're going to have early adopters and you're going to have laggards. Be patient. The laggards will get there. Whether or not they see it as a demand, whether it's peer pressure, they will finally get used to it. I had a few laggards left, but because of COVID-19 they've jumped on the bandwagon. Be patient and have clear rules.