Four Real-World Lessons Learned in Global Service Transformation

Today on International Women’s Day we welcome back our guest blogger Sarah Nicastro, Creator & Field Service Evangelist Future of Field Service. Sarah brings us an interview with Emilie Giraudet, a leading light in the servitization of one of the world’s largest global technology suppliers for food processing.


I had the good fortune of sitting down recently to speak with Emilie Giraudet, Regional Digital Hub Lead at NS BlueScope and formerly the Head of Customer Service Business Support & Sales Steering at GEA Group for a Future of Field Service podcast and reflect on her experience leading GEA’s advanced services initiative. The lessons she learned over 10 years of spearheading service transformation are not only interesting but incredibly useful to those looking to make headway on their own journeys.

GEA Group is one of the largest global technology suppliers for food processing and Emilie spent 12 years with the organization and the last 10 developing the company’s service strategies, businesses and teams; driving business and cultural shift towards being more customer-centric and performance-driven; and leading a major digital transformation project to leverage customer install-base data order to steer service revenues and customer experience. In those 10 years, GEA made immense progress in realizing the opportunity that service provides – but that progress was not without challenges and hard-earned insights, and here Emilie shares her best advice based on those experiences.

Lesson #1: A Vision from the Top is Imperative to Setting Solid Strategy

Emilie speaks about how important it is to have leadership who can visualize the role service can play for the business. “About 10 years ago, everything started with visionary top managers at GEA who understood early enough that in order to increase sales and better support customers, especially in our mature markets, GEA should not only focus on new CapEx investments [which were limited in these mature countries] but also support existing clients with better services to help them optimize their performance and OPEX management,” she says.

With the cultural shift being driven from the top-down, quick actions were taken to make significant impact. This began with a team dedicated to the advancement of service within the company. “With this cultural shift coming from top management, we created a dedicated team to develop the strategy,” explains Emilie. “A head of aftersales business unit was appointed along with a consultant and myself, so a very small team at the beginning, working on a strategy that we quickly had approved by the board. Once the board approved it, we started to implement it in the organization.”

The strategy was set with customers at the foundation – led by gaining a better understanding of the installed base. “We truly need to know who are our customers, where are their plants located, and what type of installation do they have to be able to segment clients and be more successful in our proactive sales approach, in designing new solution services and developing services better fitting to client’s needs,” says Emilie. “It’s was creating a foundational understanding to become more proactive and more specific in what we do.”

Lesson #2: Understand What Builds Stakeholder Buy-In

Even with top-down support, a service transformation takes significant resources and massive alignment of resources. This means that it is essential to build stakeholder buy-in across all areas of the organization. According to Emilie, the first step is to map who the key stakeholders are and learn what’s most important to them. “Mapping key stakeholders and really understanding their needs, their objectives, and their working modes at the beginning of a project is a key dimension to succeed in driving such a broad cross-functional and cross-geographical transformation project,” she says. “If you miss one key stakeholder, it can ruin your project so it is really important to map all of the key stakeholders, talk to them, understand how they work and decide how you can best work together.”

With that understanding in place, Emilie suggests an approach that is both analytical and customer centric. “To attain budget and resources, I believe it is crucial to be able to prove what you achieve,” she explains. “I usually do my best to use a combination of analytics and customer centric approaches when I drive my teams and my projects. As a Six Sigma Black Belt, I systematically take time at the beginning of a project to define the scope clearly, to define objectives and KPIs that I want to measure and to achieve. During the project, I really take time to monitor my KPIs and it is also very important to communicate this information regularly to key stakeholders for them to see the progress and also for my team to be able to adjust approaches when needed.”

This approach only works if the analytics used are customer driven. “You really need to have a clear understanding of what customers really want and, as I mentioned, I like to leverage tools such as design thinking, for instance, to really make sure that I have a true understanding of the needs,” she says. “I believe that then it’s easier to show impact when you’re able to demonstrate and to measure the progress you’ve made on delivering customer results to prove your success and to be able to continue progress in your organization.”

#3: Be Ready to Evolve as Your Service Culture Grows

Over the 10 years that Emilie led this initiative at GEA, the level of maturity around service grew and forced the company to evolve its efforts. You must know that as you make progress, your approach needs to grow with your business. “Ten years ago, when we built that business unit and started to explain the concept of structuring an install base as a foundation for growing our service revenues, there was a lot of difficulty understanding the concept,” recalls Emilie. “There were two main reasons for this: first, service was mainly reactive in our organization so the concept was unfamiliar, and the second is that there wasn’t a well-structured record of install base information.”

As such, what the service structure looked like as GEA started out building its service culture and advanced services business was vastly different than what it looked like ten years later with far more maturity. “As I explained, we started small with a very small team and expanded a little bit but without having a real dedicated organization,” says Emilie. “To start, we built a core team with top service leaders that we picked from the best performing service entities around the world and after that, we worked on building a community around the world, training people, showing the vision, communicating about new service products and a new proactive approach that we could bring to the market and, at the same time, we started to implement new KPIs to track our performance and to be able really to integrate this culture in the organization and globally.”

As the service culture grew, GEA’s services business matured and its approach needed to evolve. “In 2015, GEA implemented a new global service organization with about 400 people out of about 4,000 service people globally in the organization. The global service organization was responsible for developing new products, business development, and technical support with experts from different domains. They were in charge also of improving processes and competence management, so really a central function in charge of steering and making service organization more professional,” describes Emilie. “At the same time, we had this local organization that we try to empower to give them responsibilities to steer sales and to serve clients as locally as possible, so really trying to get closer to customers.”

Then in 2020, the global service organization was removed at GEA and incorporated instead as a function into each division. “More recently in 2020, we removed this global service organization as such, and we implemented five different divisions with chief service officers appointed at the board of each division,” says Emilie. “Then we have service teams in a matrix organization, so reporting on one side to the chief service officer and on the other side to the more operational business units.”

This evolution shows how a service culture can infiltrate the business to really change how service is approached as its significance and impact is realized more holistically. “If I look at the progress over 10 years, GEA doubled its service revenue from 15% to about 30%,” says Emilie. “During these years, I saw top management focus on service continuously increasing and I believe it’s also been supported and encouraged by a profitable, sustainable growth. I believe GEA succeeded in defining an ambitious vision to start in appointing dedicated resources to implement the vision and they also managed to develop step by step service talents and mindset across the organization.”

Lesson #4: Know That Data is Key to Service Success

As stated earlier, GEA knew that much of its service potential resided within its install base. The reality, however, was that the company did not have good visibility into its install base or any consistent approach to data across regions. Emilie knew that for GEA to really recognize its service vision, the company must invest in a system to house accurate, cohesive, detailed customer insights. “Two years ago, the cloud CRM project was approved and we were able to clean and migrate data in CRM to build a global community of users and define a governance model to really drive progress,” she says. “It was really our critical foundation. I believe GEA now has quality data accessible in a CRM cloud for the entire organization and the company can leverage this information to develop sales steering analytics.”

In terms of analytics, GEA has two main KPIs that they are looking at. “One is the market potential. Market potential, we define on how much service business they can generate from each install base,” explains Emilie. “The second KPI we are looking at is what GEA calls the capture rates. It’s basically the ratio between what the legal entities are achieving in terms of sales versus their potential. These are the two main KPIs that GEA has been using for a while and the next step is to make these KPIs more operational.”

While GEA’s service vision has been strong since the beginning, seeing it through wasn’t going to be possible without this investment in technology to allow data integrity and accessibility to fuel business decisions. “The local teams accepted it’s not enough to say, this is your potential, here you go. They need to trust it and that’s where having data of better quality allows us to utilize more advanced concepts like machine learning and to engage people using design thinking concepts to develop more advanced and more detailed market potential calculations,” says Emilie. “At the same time, we also develop dashboards to allow people to visualize data and to be able to make better data-driven decisions based on the reality in their market.”


Emilie Giraudet is a global leader with 12 years’ experience in manufacturing industry. She holds a master’s degree in food process engineering and an executive MBA from INSEAD business school. Emilie is passionate about customer service. In her former role, she contributed service business transformation and growth, developing strategies and leading teams, at GEA Group, one of the largest global technology suppliers for food processing. With a focus on driving customer experience and business performance, Emilie now leads the digital transformation strategy and implementation at NS BlueScope based in Singapore.