While for many the shift from traditional transactional product focussed business models to a more strategic service centric approach that focuses on longer term, outcome based contracts is a complex process to navigate. However, Jason Smith, General Manager, Aftersales, EMEA for Japanese food packaging and weighing manufacturer Ishida is a man that has not only been through the process, he has done it twice.
Kris Oldland, spoke exclusively with him about the importance of executive level buy-in to undertake such a move and why customer selection when rolling new service models out is vital….
KO: All too often I hear that despite the fact that service operations of a business brings in a significant proportion of revenue into a company, there is a general lack of support for the service team of many businesses at the top tier executive level.
This of course would be a fundamental barrier to moving to an advanced services model and is a challenge many senior service executives are confronted by even though they can see how both their business and their customers could benefit from a move away from the traditional break-fix maintenance to the type of proactive service operations that advanced services require.
So how can we get the voice of the service department heard at the executive level?
JS: I think the only way to do that is to have a fairly compelling argument and there is nothing like having a very compelling customer story to help give that leverage at board level. Traditionally, businesses are built upon delivering a product and they will have done that very successfully to have grown to a large size. It is the case really that they will have done so on tangible benefits.
I think within most manufacturing organisations there is still probably a lack of understanding about the value services can deliver to a customer combined with a product
Its still regarded as a separation – that’s why we have terms like aftersales – it’s after the sale, its not combined with the sale.
For your typical product salesman it’s hard to comprehend something as intangible as advanced services and how to explain it and describe the value when he hasn’t got any evidence or experience to back it up with.
KO: So does the adoption of servitization as a business model need to be driven from the top down?
JS: Absolutely, without that support from the top it is dead before it’s ever started.
KO: What about the customer point of view - it’s one thing pushing an advances services route and getting buy in internally, but what about externally?
Is it a case that some customers just don’t want to come down this route because they are so used to the transactional nature that they have always operated within?
JS: Very much, it is a cultural thing for a customer and customer selection is therefore very important.
A customer who is used to transactional relationships, that may have those pressures on them themselves from their own customer base, would be one who is very transactional and possibly looking to exploit the relationship.
I think customer selection is absolutely vital. The question is along the lines of technology push/customer pull – which is best?
Therefore, I think customer selection is absolutely vital. The question is along the lines of technology push/customer pull – which is best?
I think it depends very much on the pace at which you want to work. Customer pull you lose control of the pace and velocity at which you want to work at in terms of the delivering the service. But if you push it out to your customers you have the challenge of convincing them to get on board.
KO: Ultimately will there always be two-tier customers, will there be those companies that you take on the servitization journey with you and those that remain doing business in the traditional sense or is the long term aim to eventually bring everyone on board with advance services?
JS: I think there is really three types of customers and I would support the Caterpillar approach that there are those who want to do it themselves, those who want us to do it with them and those who want us to do it for them.
In terms of servitization probably you are always going to have an element in each of those three camps. The challenge that we face as service providers is moving them out of the ‘do it myself’ to ‘do it with me’ to ‘do it for me’.
Obviously moving them from a point where they are doing it themselves, to where you are doing everything for them is a big leap of faith. It’s not something you can do overnight, certainly not at a risk that you can sustain economically. So it’s a case of migrating that customer and building that trust over a period of time, to gain the confidence that you can deliver and that you can add value to their business.
KO: We touched on the fact that servitization needs to be driven from the top down, but do you need buy-in across the whole organisation as well?
For example with our field technicians - do we need their understanding of the concept and if so how do you achieve that?
JS: The easy answer to that is yes, you need buy in across the whole organisation because you are going to be relying on those inter-siloed relationships within the business to deliver within your promise. You’re going to have to rely on your supply chain and you’re going to have to rely on all your internal supporting departments to deliver that.
It is a fundamental change to the way you do business and the way you have done things traditionally, so yes the answer is yes you do need to have buy in from all levels and in particular your service engineers
There will be a lot of knowledge in those teams, which is experiential and built up over time together with product training and in some ways you’re starting to both capitalise on their experience but also put it in a bottle so that you can use it in your supporting systems and algorithms for example.
That represents a fairly big challenge and that’s also going to have it’s own implications for supporting systems such as knowledge management.
KO: Finally, technology is the key enabler to allow us to move to advanced services, but how far along the journey do you think we are in terms of the development of the technology such as IoT and Cloud? Are we there already or is there more to come?
JS: In terms of being enabled to do the job and to support the decision-making within servitization I think we are actually there with the Internet of Things. OK, there will be enhancements, maybe faster connection times, you can store more data etc., but I think it is essentially there.
We’ve got enough to be able to do it, maybe even too much.
The real challenge is what you are measuring, the volume of what you are measuring, how you analyse it and draw conclusions from it -to me that is the real challenge.
Also the prize is that the value of the analysis that you do is metamorphosed into the value that you can then create for your customer. How you do that, that methodology, is your future IP. That’s where your sales proposition will lie in the future.
So its not the fact that you can get the data, its what you measure, how you measure it and more importantly how you analyse it, what you do with it and being able to express that value in a manner which the customer can fully understand.