In field service operations, what does it mean to put customer service at the heart of our business decision making? Customers who receive the highest standards of service spend on average 140% more and in business-to-business, customer retention...
ARCHIVE FOR THE ‘customer-focus’ CATEGORY
In field service operations, what does it mean to put customer service at the heart of our business decision making? Customers who receive the highest standards of service spend on average 140% more and in business-to-business, customer retention will typically see profits increase by up to 95%. In the next article in this strategic series, Paul Smedley looks at our part in this transformation and where we can look for examples of best practice...
There is a delicate balance between leveraging the trusted advisor status of field service engineers to generate revenue and going too far so that the trust they rightfully earn with your customers eventually is broken. But that doesn’t have to...
There is a delicate balance between leveraging the trusted advisor status of field service engineers to generate revenue and going too far so that the trust they rightfully earn with your customers eventually is broken. But that doesn’t have to be the case writes Jim Baston...
Well-implemented ‘customer first’ strategies open the door for fresh thinking, but are our teams change-ready? Do we ourselves ‘walk the talk’ in building a professional network that connects us with the latest developments in other sectors or...
Well-implemented ‘customer first’ strategies open the door for fresh thinking, but are our teams change-ready? Do we ourselves ‘walk the talk’ in building a professional network that connects us with the latest developments in other sectors or markets? In a new strategic series, Paul Smedley looks at practical examples of successful change in all kinds of service operations.
Every service operation is challenged by digital servitisation. This includes the digital disruption of whole markets, with fierce competition and cost challenges. It requires rising to the challenges of changing customer expectations and the rapid pace of technology change. It means breaking down siloes within our organisations, between sales and operations for instance, as well as beyond, to our supply chain, distributors, outsourced services and other partnerships.
But are we too focussed on what we do and too little aware of trends or technologies that are not even on business radar? What should our priorities be in learning how to rise to these new challenges? Look at it this way: will your organisation ever be in the fast lane if you are re-inventing the wheel because your team is not connected and up-to-date?
In this new series on strategy for Field Service News, I will look at a number of practical examples of how ‘customer first’ approaches bring fresh thinking, giving a reason for everyone to look at business decision making from the outside in. We will see the importance of picking up ideas and approaches from other sectors and from an effective professional network, using these experiences to help engage our own people in making the necessary changes happen in a connected way.
The first step is putting service at the heart of our business decisions, in ways that get colleagues working together across the business. Award-wining work at British Engineering Services, for instance, has helped double sales and raise month-end service by 50 per cent.
Effective resource planning means they stand out from competitors on service reliability. What’s more, this information is used by sales and pricing; client-specific requirements can be incorporated with a clear view of costs and risks.
More broadly, many businesses now recognise the value that arises when service people become ‘trusted advisors’ and business joins together around a shared, overarching customer metric. As the Harvard Business Review reported, customers who receive the highest standards of service spend 140 per cent more than those with the poorest service. In business-to-business a 5 per cent uplift in customer retention will typically see profit increase of two to 95 per cent.
This illustrates why digital servitisation is transforming how manufacturers think and compete. An organisation that is truly focussed on service stands out from the crowd in any market. Yet, the digital dimension of service growth requires purposeful and co-ordinated effort. This starts when we invest time in understanding the winds of ‘unstoppable change’ and the factors that drive them.
What are the key trends and the latest ideas to watch out for? At a recent networking event for our members hosted by The Times in London, Chris Duncan, the media company's managing director explained that people came to visit them from every sector, because everyone is facing massive disruption and the media industry were early to experience this. In this 225-year-old newspaper, the first ‘paying customer’ came in 2010, with the ‘paywall’ for digital subscribers. How many other organisations have traditionally worked only through distributors or seen the ‘aftermarket’ as a cost function, not value adding.
Data visibility and automation
Joined-up data means we can literally see issues and change business decision-making processes. We can understand the costs of providing a certain type or level of service or ‘downstream consequences’. What if we don’t have the right skill or equipment because our data is out of date? Or if we don’t identify issues that could cause future problems?
More than that, good use of technology can now increasingly automate routine, high-volume tasks – including joining up legacy systems or tracking workflow. Award-wining work at ADT Fire & Security shows demonstrates how making data on engineers’ worktime easy to access gave instant visibility.
The busy summer period was seen to be due to supply (many people off at the same time) rather than demand. It revealed individual’s utilisation and effective performance management started to build a culture in which everyone rose to the productivity challenge. Another powerful example is the growing use of mobile video to allow specialist support for engineers on the ground at the ‘moment of truth’.
culture: this is about peopleThese examples show how much change impact people, especially a mobile workforce used to being ‘on their own’. How many approaches have failed, because we haven’t engaged ‘hearts & minds’? One factor that is common to every member’s successful service transformation is this capacity to see the human angle – to understand ‘where numbers meet people’.
People need to feel they can still make personal judgements, but equally to see when it is better to be consistent or co-ordinated and to value the support of others. Big productivity savings are common early in a transformation journey, but the real long-term win is engaging people. This translates into tangible benefits for colleagues, customers and the business: more time with customers (not on the road), turning up at a convenient time (when expected), fixing a bunch of issues (in a way that ensures the customer’s equipped stays fixed).
Invest in resource planning.
Crucially, field service companies will only stay in business if they deliver what the customer wants, when and how they want it. Well implemented mobile workforce management’ is a key step and we’ve seen that successful implementations at members like Anglian Water and OpenReach have been achieved by directly involving engineers in the change.
Surprisingly perhaps, effective planning often means fewer people allocating jobs, but better long-term planning. There are some key steps here: create a capacity plan, understand the impact on everybody. In future articles I will share some vital pointers in this area and highlight pitfalls to avoid.build a ‘playbook’ to manage the impact of changes.
A joined-up vision
This takes us back to where we started. If the customer is truly at the heart of everything you do, very soon no stone will be left unturned in the search for better solutions, technologies and operating models. More than that, our people will get it!
Twenty years ago, I founded professional networks and benchmarking for call centres, at a time of rapid transformation. Today, our members are looking at field service, branch operations and the back office, as well as the front office. They are taking learning from one area to apply in another. As people say: “there’s a whole technology or movement that is never flagged up in my business”, “we all face the same challenges” “there’s so much to learn”. I have found that success begins with the attitude we take ourselves. Do we ‘walk the talk’ and get connected personally to look from the outside in?
Paul Smedley leads a best practice network for professionals in service operations across Europe – the Professional Planning Forum, established in Mach 2000. More information about the network can be found here.
It’s been an eventful 12 months for ServiceMax. In April, Scott Berg relinquished his CEO position making way for IPC System’s Neil Barua. In December, parent company General Electric sold their majority stake (held since 2017) followed by SeviceMax’s own acquisition of real time communications outfit Zinc.
It all meant that the Maximize Bologna, an event consisting of a day of presentations from company figures and client case studies - and the first of four events in 2019 taking in London, Chicago and Tokyo - would represent something of a re-set for ServiceMax, an opportunity perhaps to usher in a new era.
With all this in mind, these are the five key threads I picked-up while in Italy:
1. Service Execution Management
Lubor Ptacek, the company’s SVP of Product and Solution Marketing, gave the first major presentation of the day, and following a brief run-through the firm’s 19-year history including their start-up origins to the role GE played in their development, he forecast where the sector is headed, aligning changes in the industry to ServiceMax’s new software category Service Execution Management, a new type of approach that includes field service and asset service management respectively.
2. Platform Is Now Managing 200 Million Assets
In the same presentation, Ptacek revealed a significant landmark in the firm’s growth, telling delegates that ServiceMax’s cloud-based platform is currently managing 200,000,000 assets. It’s an extraordinary statistic affirming the company’s core-service goals are statistically being met.
3. Real-Time Communication Will Play A Key Role
The firm’s integration of Zinc’s mobile-based app as a module into its own software platform signals their commitment to real-time communication in the service journey. Text, voice, video, handsfree, push-to-talk and broadcast features will all be possible on the mobile-first solution which encourages interaction across groups to share issues and offer knowledge. “The perfect combination of Zinc’s modern, real-time communication with ServiceMax’s cutting edge and comprehensive suite will be unparalleled in the market,” Zinc President, Stacey Epstein said at the time of the acquisition affirming the strategy.
4. Automation And Anxiety
“Competencies are by far the main obstacle according to companies undertaking a path to industry 4.0,” Nicola Saccani, Associate Professor at Brescia University told audience members during his presentation. Professor Saccani, a specialist in service and digital transformation, suggested that employers are struggling to keep up with the pace of which technology is progressing. This, along with the growing competency gap created from retiring engineers and new blood coming in, presents one of the biggest challenges to the sector.
5. An Excellent Keynote
Maximise events always draw a special keynote speaker and this year was no exception with Fausto Gressini, the world’s most successful MOTO GP and MOTO GP manager in superbike history sharing his thoughts on the evolution of his sport.
Superbikes, Gressini explained, have become data sponges.
They absorb reams of information from its tyres and engines, from its brakes and exhaust; an endless spout of data that needs to be interpreted to the team’s advantage. Furthermore, the rider, as well as navigating bends at a hair raising 140mph, is expected to understand the information coming through and relay any trends back to his mechanics.
It was an excellent keynote and entirely relevant. On the surface a field engineer and superbike rider may not have a huge amount in common but when it comes to data collecting and refining there is a definitive link. It was a fascinating session and one that delegates appreciated and could genuinely use in their own processes going forward.
A Final Thought
ServiceMax is in a transition period, albeit a positive one and the event nodded towards another interesting 12 months. We’ll be following their progress in these pages as well as fieldservicenews.com. Stay tuned!
The next ServiceMax Maximise event takes place 7 to 8 October in London. Click here for more information.
Many manufacturers experience pressure on growth, revenue and margins. Their products and services are being commoditised. Competition from lower cost alternatives are arising. On the other hand, there are huge opportunities with new technologies, value propositions and business models.
One of the important trends is that value propositions and offerings become more data-driven and more service-oriented, which go hand in hand.
Besides predictive maintenance, most of the value from data is related to how clients use the equipment or products and to their operations and processes. Helping clients improve on this by nature is a service.
However, many manufacturers are product-driven businesses which do not fully appreciate the value that (advanced) services have for their customers and their own business.
So, one of the central questions is: How to Monetise Services and Data to Grow in a Disruptive World? The capability to monetising service and data is mission critical for sustainable performance and existence of manufacturers.
In a series of articles, we cover four critical steps that make the difference between success and failure in monetising services and data:
• Solve bigger customer problems;
• Articulate the value;
• Build momentum with clients to adopt;
• Build internal momentum.
Developing new data-driven solutions and services is all about extending the existing business model, which leads to different challenges than many other initiatives and programs in a business. Recognising this in advance will help understand the challenges and best strategies.
In the previous articles of this series, I have described critical success factors for monetising service and data, such as Solve Bigger Problems,Better Articulate Value and Remove Obstacles for Clients to Adopt. In the end, this all has to be done by people and teams in your organization.
In this article I will describe common mistakes that many companies make, which holds them back in having fluid and energising change, and to move beyond business-as-usual in their endeavours to monetise service and data.
Many companies, including manufacturers, do not have a clear picture of where the industry is heading and where their business is heading. It is unclear for their employees what needs to be developed and why.
More specific, for many employees it is not clear why the new service and data-driven solutions are that valuable to clients, how it would fit in the overall core business and why it should be paid for by clients. Often, the indicated direction even suggests the opposite and may give room to the logic that value added services and datadriven solutions are (free) features to support the product sales.
Just imagine how a hypothetical mission statement “… being the world’s leading manufacturer of construction equipment and engines” would help develop and monetise advanced services and data-driven solutions.
People in manufacturing are often biased towards products, equipment and technology. They have a narrow view on:
• Customer problems beyond the requirements for the products and equipment;
• How other actors in the industry are developing with advanced data capabilities, which could become competition to the current position of a manufacturer;
• How new technology can be applied to develop new value propositions, solutions and operating models.
This will affect how product managers, marketing and innovation will develop new services and data-driven solutions. Too often, we see that the services and solutions do not always solve a customer problem and hardly differentiate from services and solutions competitors are offering as well.
It will also affect how their colleagues in the operations (sales and delivery) understand and engage, as there is no compelling context to understand the importance of the new services and solutions, let alone be engaged.
Top-down P&L thinking
Too often, we see that developing and launching innovations, such as new advanced services and data-driven solutions, stagnate because of the decision-making habits in an organisation. Typically, we see one or more of the following:
The strategic intent from senior leadership is unclear, hardly based on a well-developed shared concern, not giving a clear path on what services and solutions to develop, nor on what the strategic priorities and objectives are, to be successful. So, employees are not really enticed to take action and therefore no change.
The strategies and plans are more short-term which emphasise short term financial objectives, leading to two different scenarios:
Financial objectives are not articulating the need for services and data-driven solutions, nor specifying which portion of these objectives should come from services and data-driven solutions. Often, employees are actually motivated to stay away from developing and launching the new services and data-driven solutions.
Or, in case the financial objectives also assign financial objectives coming from services and data-driven solutions, there is a lack of description of qualitative objectives and strategic priorities on how to arrive at those financial goals. The result is often a lack of initiatives and progress, or lack of alignment and results.
Top-down strategies from senior leadership are so specific and instructive that these actually dismiss other employees taking ownership of the plans, and/or adjusting plans and local strategies where needed.
Paralysis by control
Top-down control mechanisms from the last few decades are a huge obstacle for fluid and energising change in an organisation and therefore hinder the initiatives like monetising services and data. More specifically, we often see the following patterns;
Internal conflict of interest in the product sales teams, because they are often incentivised on sales volume.
It does not make sense for them to sell complicated service contracts. It hardly affects their commission, consumes a lot of time and may even put their product sales deals at risk. Instead, it is more beneficial to please their clients by offering discounted services.
In case there is a separate service sales team, for the same reason, there are often internal arguments on who owns the client and what is the best plan forward with each client. In the worst case, this even leads to having different faces towards the clients, leaving them confused and with a bad customer experience.
Control mechanisms that are too strict create an unsafe environment in which employees show defensive and risk-avoiding behaviour. Instead of trying, learning and being successful in monetising new services and data-driven solutions, they instead become complacent and resistant.
Typical signs are pointing fingers to other teams to take action, declaring that the new services and solutions are not the core business, that customers don’t want to pay and referring to other companies who have tried and failed.
Many things come into play when increasing momentum for monetizing (new) services and data, and preventing existence of too many obstacles and resistance. In general, the more adaptive and fluid change in a business, the easier a specific innovation on service and data.
We have seen that leading manufacturers have adopted 4 winning habits which sets them apart. These winning habits define how both operation and innovation is lead. In the next paragraphs I will describe the 4 winning habits in relation to monetising services and data.
"People in manufacturing are often biased towards products, equipment and technology..."
Leading companies have a transformative vision and mission on where the business is heading, what needs to change and develop, and why this is important considering the changes in the industry. This is a quite a holistic picture in which all stakeholders and entities in the business can relate and get direction on how to develop themselves, their teams, their department and their business unit.
It provides an outside-in picture on how the business is and will be relevant to a certain industry and customers. It explicitly points out how the business will add value to clients and that this requires certain technology, (data-driven) solutions and services.
Now imagine how the following mission statement will drive the development and implementation of new services and data-driven solutions: “Our purpose is to enable healthcare providers to increase value by empowering them on their journey towards expanding precision medicine, transforming care delivery and improving patient experience, all enabled by digitalizing healthcare.”
Here I want to focus on two phases on innovating your services and datadriven solutions: the development phase (including ideation, selection and design) and the implementation phase
For design purpose
In general, the envisioned services and data-driven solutions differ significantly from current business logic, mindset and operations in your business. Even though anyone in the organisation could raise great ideas, it is crucial that the development of the new services and solutions are done by dedicated teams with the right expertise and focus.
They need to ensure they are open-minded and unbounded by current (and old) business logic and pathways. In terms of discovery, this means they should:
Talk with other stakeholders in client organisations (rather than the ones your organisation normally speaks with) - for example, the CFO, CEO, VP, Innovation, commercial leaders, etc. Build a new expert-network outside the organisation - which is outside the current network of partners, suppliers and clients - including the academic experts and consultants in areas you usually have no relationships with and talk about topics other than current technology, products and service, and more about major trends, visions of the future industry,key challenges and strategies of different actors in your and adjacent industries.
This will not only help to obtain more ideas for future success, it will also help to change perspectives and business logic within the innovation teams and the rest of the organisation, by sharing these insights.
For implementation purpose
Once the new solutions and services have been designed and developed to a scalable offering, it probably needs to be embedded in the existing organisation. Now, the risks of resistance or complacency may come into play.
The more developed the mindsets and habits are on “digital” and change, the more fluid the implementation and change will be. This can be promoted massively by strong Discovery habits: Involving key players in the operating organisation, well in advance of the implementation, into the initiatives for launching new services and datadriven solutions - for example, by having a frequent dialogue on shared concern and discussing the alternatives to solve these concerns. This can be done by frequent conversations or including them in the extended innovation team.
Having everyone involved in discovery activities that do not require too much expertise and dedication, for example, by having colleagues; Have broader conversations in their day-to-day conversations with clients, suppliers and partners. You can provide them with topics and questions to help open the conversations
Joining events with customers where you discuss trends, visions, needs and how they see your added value. Join conferences within your own industry and even other industries and sharing new insights and learning points from the expert teams, painting a picture of what is going on in the outside world, how this may impact your business and how this will/could be addressed.
In line with the mission, vision and direction leadership of leading manufacturers, have a clear strategic intent on:
Result objectives - for example, overall growth aspirations that new services and data-driven solutions are crucial and how much business is expected to come from these new services and solutions. Strategic objectives on which offerings and capabilities need to be developed.
Next, they have a clear (top-down) strategy which articulates crucial choices on how to achieve these objectives in a few phases. This should provide a common roadmap on which offerings to develop, how to sell them, to whom and by whom, how to organise marketing, sales and delivery, and which obstacles to overcome.
This strategy should address all stakeholders (including R&D, marketing, product-sales, service sales and service delivery) who have direct influence on implementation and success.
With this top-down strategy, still, a lot is left open on how to achieve the objectives. Local teams are empowered to develop their local roadmap and strategy, and to take full ownership of the local development, learning, capability development and execution. This will allow them to mitigate local strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and market circumstances.
With a constructive and forward dialogue between individuals, teams and departments, issues are solved in a fundamental and sustainable manner, hence building capabilities to perform.
For monetising service and data, this means that: Ideally, services and data-driven solutions are being sold at point of sale (when equipment is sold) - maybe not the full package, but the entry level offering which will be the first step to the next level mature offerings. Commission structure of sales people needs to be designed in such a way that it promotes the right focus and behaviour.
I have seen quite a few examples where equipment sales people were quite successful in selling service contracts once the commission they would receive was tied to the sale of a service contract.
Sales people who sell advanced services and data-driven solutions need to have specific skills and background, which are not necessarily the same as skills required for selling the products and maintenance services. Most stateof-the art sales techniques such as Solution Selling, Challenger Selling or Value Selling, assume a fluid and educated dialogue on related business domains.
Often, these conversations should happen with other stakeholders at the client organisation, maybe at higher seniority levels. The different teams need to have the confidence and safe environment to learn and develop these skills and knowledge, and become fluent in these conversations and sales approaches.
Different teams in your organisation need to be “in the same boat” without conflicts of interest. We currently see more and more companies aligning targets and incentive schemes, in which common and shared objectives prevail above individual targets.
Full transparency in key performance indicators on progress and results is required, to have all stakeholders have the necessary insights to be able to take ownership and accountability and intervene when/where needed.
The leading manufacturers, ahead of the game, have built momentum for continuous and easy change from the inside, moving beyond “business-asusual”. Their teams are passionate and eager to perform, learn and pursue opportunities. Instead of resisting new ways of thinking about customer challenges, customer value and their business, they focus on customers and pursue opportunities to increase value.
Monetising services and data has become a logical part of their overall vision and strategy. They are better in solving bigger customer problems, better at articulating the value for customers and in removing obstacles for their clients to adopt the new solutions. As a result, they better differentiate themselves – in the eyes of their customers - from their competitors. They perform better and have more resources to keep innovating their business and hence grow in our disruptive world.
Boost your monetisation If you want to accelerate the monetisation of your (new) services and datadriven solutions, I would like to recommend:
• Review your business alongside common mistakes and suggested solutions, and add the discrepancies to your strategy;
• Download the scorecard How to Monetise Services and Data here;
• Book a Discovery Call with Jan van Veen;
• Join our upcoming Impulse Sessions on How to Monetise Service and Data. These are full day interactive meetings with like-minded peers during which we will exchange experience, insights and challenges.
Essence It’s not about making money from new services and data-driven solutions; it’s about being highly relevant and valuable to clients in a sustainable manner and empowering your people to do the same.
It goes without saying that if you deliver value for money, you also get money for value.
Jan Van Veen is Managing Director at MoreMomentum.
A panel debate on the best digital tools for achieving top-end service, strayed from shortlisting technologies and focused more on the end-user impact. Field Service News’ Deputy Editor Mark Glover attended the session – part of Field Service...
A panel debate on the best digital tools for achieving top-end service, strayed from shortlisting technologies and focused more on the end-user impact. Field Service News’ Deputy Editor Mark Glover attended the session – part of Field Service Europe 2018 – and saw discussion range from strategy to data, but always swinging back to the customer.
Among the many highlights from Field Service Europe, held in Amsterdam before Christmas, was a debate attempting to shortlist digital tools that can contribute to a world-class service process.
Panellists included Miguel Angel Hernanz, VP Head of Global Service Delivery Transformation at Phillips Healthcare; Karen Mehal, VP Field Service Lightning at Salesforce and David Nedohin, President at Scope Augmented Reality.
Chairing the debate, Field Service News’ Editor-in-Chief Kris Oldland began by defining world-class service and more specifically what it means to customers used to high-end service delivery from the likes of Uber and Amazon. “Service is no longer how we compete with our direct competitors,” he told delegates. “We’re now constantly at competition with the best service experiences customers have ever had. We’re now moving into a world where customer satisfaction is perhaps no longer the right phrase anymore.
"It has to be about customer experience and understanding what the experience is to the customer and working back from there. Only then can we really start thinking about what world class service is,” he posed.
Oldland put it to the panel that technology and digitisation in service should be perceived as “one continuous eco-system that compliments and feeds off one-another" rather than separate tools. Hernanz, who recently oversaw a large B2B and B2C contact center service transformation at Phillips Healthcare, was keen to set the focus on strategy and away from the tools. “The different tools are enablers," he said. You should first of all take a look at your strategy and secondly re-define your processes end-to-end, then use the different solutions or tools that are available in the market to make it happen.”
He continued: “The problem with digitisation and the variety of tools in the market is that you get overloaded with information; you find opportunities all over the place and you want it all and you want it now and that is a big mistake. “You should start doing a proof of concept. You try it, you learn, you correct and you scale up; if it is scalable. Or you dismiss it and you try something else” he urged.
Servicecloud’s Karen Mehal agreed: “If you don’t understand what your objective is, how do you know you’re getting there? she asked, going on to question the use of the term digitisation. “We digitised field service technicians with laptops 20 years ago, did we not? We gave them a laptop. That was digitisation."
It's a good point. The industry can be guilty of getting swept up in buzzwords without fully understanding what they mean, and more importantly how they can impact on customer service. “What’s the objective?” Mehal continued, “Is it around your customer? Is digitisation serving your customer? If it isn’t, it really should be. Or are you just taking your ERP and digitising it?
If the customer service is the end goal, then digital tools should be used to empower that process. Putting this theory to David Nedohin, the co-founder and president of an Augmented Reality company, Oldland asked how such a new and innovative technology such as Augmented Reality can cut through the excitement and intrigue to become a genuine ROI. “It’s about identifying what the problems are but to also make sure there are measurements to it,” Nehan explained. “For example, if you are currently sending out your field service team to help support your customer on a certain percentage of problems, what is that costing you right now? And if you could implement a technology that could help reduce a certain percentage of those, then what is the actual cost savings?
“If they don’t have those numbers, we work with them to find out what those numbers are so there’s a business case that can be presented to management,” he says, before adding: “It’s a strategy they need to put together to understand exactly why they’re solving that problem. You have to start with the problem, you have to start with the use-case.”
Concurring, Oldland suggested that technology should underpin a wider business plan of evolution. “Digitisation is not a one-off process,” he said. “In a sense, we’re talking about a continuous improvement journey, it’s just that the tools behind that evolve too.”
“I see a lot of people get lost in that,” offered Mehan, who by her own admission is customer-facing, “They get lost in the shiny object, such as Augmented Reality. But if your strategy is around customer support, better customer service, wouldn’t it be better to use digitisation to look at someone’s asset now and fix it now, rather than scheduling someone to go out there and fix it?
“Our world is no longer traditional. We’re not in a traditional world, we’re not in a traditional software world, we’re not in a traditional field service world. We should not be bound by EAPs or by software. We should by bound by what serves out the customer,” she argued. “My questions are: are you doing that with your digitisation. Are you really taking care of the customer when you’re doing your strategy?” She said.
Philips’ Hernanz admitted working in large organisations ,where many different stakeholders have many ideas can be difficult. However, all these opinions come second to that of the most important stakeholder: the customer. “You need to put the customer at the centre and listen to them,” he said. “This is very important. You must find out what they need and then start building solutions which are suitable for today, but also for the future because the whole process is also an evolution.”
"We're not in a traditional software world, we're not in a traditional field service world..." (Mehal)
One digital tool that has made a significant impression on this process is data and, in particular, big data. Filtering the most useful information remains the challenge, given the reams of information that smart assets churn out. “There’s no point in having data if it’s not providing the right insight,” Oldland said to the panel, all of whom agreed and acknowledged all the customer cares about is fixing what needs fixing.
Referencing a client who made industrial cooking equipment for fast food restaurants including Burger King and Macdonald’s, Mehner told the audience that when their client's equipment – such as a bun toaster – produced a fault the restaurant would call out a contract worker ill-equipped to isolate and solve the issue. “This piece of equipment,” Nedohin explained, “now has 20 or 30 tickets associated with it because the technician doesn’t know how to diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. The message is clear: we need to find a better way of fixing the assets.”
The restaurant now uses remote support tools to directly contact the manufacturer, who can identify the model, the fault, diagnose the problem and send the right technician with the correct parts and asset knowledge “There is data with this such as preventative maintenance,” Nedohin said. “But the customer doesn’t care, all they care about is getting the equipment working. That data is important to somebody and that somebody is in the manufacturer's office. “The person at the end just needs to know what to do,” he concluded, summing up a key take away from the debate.
Enlightened delegates left the session without a list of digital tools but an idea of what to do before you choose them. Data collection, Augmented reality can all complement a process, but without a strategy that also encompasses your customer’s needs, those tools may as well be blunt.
Just because we tell our people we want them to be Trusted Advisors, does not mean they will succeed. We can give them mobile systems to escalate leads to sales, implement compensation systems and KPI’s to encourage behaviour, and provide training on service offers, but without embedding a Trusted Advisor mindset into our service teams, these efforts will be wasted.
The good news is that many of the traits of Trusted Advisors are already in the DNA of good service people. What they need is clarity on their role and an understanding of how to talk to customers so that they achieve a WIN, WIN, WIN:
• A Win for the customer so that every conversation they have moves them closer to their goal;
• A Win for the company to develop customer loyalty and profitability;
• A Win for themselves so they feel great about their job.
What makes a Trusted Advisor different? At the very minimum they are good customer problem solvers. What starts to differentiate them from others is their ability to have meaningful conversations with customers that always seem to move towards solutions. They are able to provide options together with the benefits for various decision the customer might make. They normally have a high level of personal maturity in that they do not try to tell customers what to THINK. Instead they influence them by what they SAY and DO, and because they consistently deliver, customers trust their advice.
As the notion of a Trusted Advisor is widely used across sales & service, the job context is extremely important. For example, in field service and technical support the Trusted Advisor role is more about providing options than closing deals. Whereas in sales it is more about how we build rapport and credibility within a consultative selling process. Clearly understanding the context in which the Trusted Advisor mindset is being developed is vitally important to successful adoption.
In all cases, importance of having a great conversation cannot be underestimated. Technical people can have a tendency to focus more on the narrow problem than the wider customer relationship. This can lead them to missing important data in the problem-solving process and so failing to find the route cause.
Or just as important, the company misses out on opportunities to add value to the customers business whether that be through helpful advice or the identification of commercial activities. Another challenge many technical people have is that without realising it, they can talk in a way which makes customers defensive or aggressive. For example the next time you are having a conversation, listen for the “…yes, but…”. You may notice that it is a way of saying NO, which probably pulls up really negative feelings for you the listener. The trick is to learn the language that turns these negative situations into positive outcomes.
"Technical people can focus more on the narrow problem than the wider customer relationship..."
Sales people also need good conversations, and in particular understanding the art of closing the deal without losing their rapport with the customer. This is a very different version of Trusted Advisor and it is important not to get the sales version mixed up with technical service.
Service leaders who want to improve how their teams communicate with customers, might consider having the following conversations with their own people:
Clarify what you mean by a Trusted Advisor and the role they play in your organisation. In particular the customer needs and what makes them successful, as well as your companies business goals. This is where distinguishing the difference between selling and advising will be absolutely critical to your success
Develop a Mindset where every conversation we have with customers moves them a step closer to their goal. It may not be the complete solution, but it is a step in the right direction no matter how bad and uncomfortable the situation is. This very basic philosophy is key to training your people to deal with conflict, as well encourage them to have dynamic and collaborative relationships through solution orientated language.
Provide Tools and methods that allow us to actively listen, to talk more effectively, to manage conflict and resolve difficult customer situations. These tools are critical to helping us to prepare ourselves to be a Trusted Advisor in what can be challenging and stressful situations.
Practice in real-life scenarios with your team to see how they react under stress. We are constantly amazed at how confident many service people are about talking to customers in a training environment, yet it all falls apart in a customer situation.
Refresh: Developing how your team interacts with customers is not a one-off event and needs to be constantly mentored and coached.
If you want to develop the Trusted Advisor in your teams, then in addition to processes and propositions, you will need to start to have conversations about their role in the business, the listening skills they must develop and the language to use in order to create dynamic solution orientated relationships.
If you would like to know more about developing Trusted Advisor programmes in your business, then you can contact nick at email@example.com or visit the si2 website here.
In my role as Managing Director EMEA with Astea I speak to a lot of field service professionals. As is the nature of our industry, these folks come from companies of all shapes and sizes and from many different industries – which can lead to many varying, often highly nuanced views as to what ‘service excellence’ is.
For some of our customers ‘speed of response times’ may be key, for others it’s ‘first-time-fix rates’, for others still it may be ‘effective time’.
However, looking back on the conversations I’ve had across the last twelve months, there is one constant challenge pervasive amongst field service organisations. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying that across the board, service leaders are facing a new reality that can be summed up in one word - change.
Ours is Not a Sector That Stays Still For Long
The field service industry is not and never has been, one for ever standing still too long. Remember, ours is the industry that was sending data back from the field long before the likes of Apple and Samsung had put the internet in everyone’s pocket and the best-in-class companies in our sector today are often those who innovated their way out of the global financial crisis in 2008 by placing their service offerings at the heart of their solutions.
So it is through a lens of confidence and anticipation that I look now at our industry once more going through widespread change.
We are witnessing significant change in many core areas of field service at the moment, including changes in our workforce structures to include more short-term labor. Even the very role of the field service engineers themselves is rapidly evolving as more emphasis is being placed on quality customer interactions that lead to higher customer satisfaction and hopefully, higher shareof-wallet.
The service engineer has historically been the relationship managers since they have the most one-on-one time with the customer. Now companies are putting formal training in place to ensure technicians have the right customer service skills and the right mind-set for being the brand ambassadors. And field service technology is helping companies make this shift by adding checklists that can guide technician behaviour through things like upselling and cross-selling initiatives.
"I look now at our industry once more going through widespread change..."
As I mentioned at the top, different companies will prioritise different KPIs according to their own internal goals and targets. Yet, one thing that we at Astea are seeing across all service related industries, is the ever-increasing importance of customer satisfaction. This is where field service organisations can find a real competitive advantage.
In a world of digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and automation, the field service call represents something that is becoming a rare and hugely valuable commodity – genuine face-to-face interaction with customers. In today’s service economy, this is an opportunity that cannot be overlooked.
One KPI To Rule Them All?
Customer Satisfaction is increasingly becoming the KPI for field service organisations, and it is not just for the more abstract concepts within business strategy such as brand perception either – there are very clear, tangible economic reasons why field service companies should realign their KPIs more towards CSAT as opposed to more traditional operational KPIs such as First-time-fix or mean-time-to-repair. For example, for those working in business to consumer verticals, I would point to research published in the Harvard Business Review that revealed that consumers who receive the highest standards of service spend 140% more than those who receive the poorest service, whilst data from
American Express revealed 86% of consumers will pay more for better service. The bottom line is that better service means better revenue opportunities. However, a focus on CSAT KPIs isn’t just for B2C companies, it is just as vital in B2B sectors also. For a start, the lines for service in both segments are continuously blurring as the bar for high quality service continues to be raised in all sectors. But once again, there is also a wealth of data to support the argument for focussing on CSAT for B2B organisations. For example, research by Bain and Company shows that just a 5% increase in customer retention will typically see profit increases of anywhere between 25% and 95%.
Besides guiding technician behaviour, there are other ways that field service management (FSM) platforms can help companies prioritise CSAT, including self-service web portals and mobile apps where customers have more visibility and control over their service relationship. Other ways FSM platforms can help is giving companies the ability to communicate with customers in modern ways that are more often seen in B2C relationships. For example, automated workflows can easily be set up to send text messages or email alerts letting customers know about a change in a service order status.
It’s clear that we are entering an era of new opportunities. Of course, in such times the challenges can be daunting and discussions of how to move forward are often complex. This is why I’m looking forward to hosting a series of round tables at this year’s Field Service Summit in Warwick, where I intend to dig deeper into the changes the field service sector is heading through and how we can embrace them.
John Hunt is Managing Director EMEA at Astea
According to research from IDC 30% of manufacturers will soon provide personalized dashboards for customers by 2023 which could lead to a new era of customer satisfaction: customer collaboration. Aly Pinder explores the potential of this...
According to research from IDC 30% of manufacturers will soon provide personalized dashboards for customers by 2023 which could lead to a new era of customer satisfaction: customer collaboration. Aly Pinder explores the potential of this evolution.
What role does the customer play in their own service experience? If we were to think back a few years or decades the answer would be minimal. Historically, the service organization or manufacturer held the keys to a customer’s happiness and satisfaction.
Show up, preferably on time, with the answer to resolve the issue was the main goal. If the issue were resolved the customer was happy and vice versa. But as most of the world is now accustomed to on-demand experiences and collaborative interactions with peers, manufacturers, and technology platforms this model is changing. IDC predicts that resulting from demand for hyper-customized customer experiences, 30% of manufacturers will provide personalized dashboards for customers to schedule service, learn about products, and collaborate by 2023. Customers now can create their own experiences and in turn their level of satisfaction with their expected outcomes.
This isn’t to say that the manufacturer is completely absolved of responsibility to have knowledgeable technicians, reliable products, and efficient processes to support a quality service experience, but a good service experience is evolving and has become inclusive of customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Customers can and will continue to play a bigger role in the experiences they create for themselves and the impact they will have on quality service. From their level of engagement to the access they allow manufacturers to use the data that is created customers will only become more relevant for the future of service excellence. Below are a few ways I see customers impacting the service experience in 2019 and beyond.
Customers are invested in your success but have options
Engaging customers in their own experiences with service is not only a way to balance risk and the cost of service, but ensuring customers have a reason to stay with you. Competition for service has never been higher, no longer is the manufacturer the sole provider of service for a customer. Third parties are nothing new, but they have become more viable in their ability to deliver quality, timely service on a variety of products and equipment types. Therefore, manufacturers must innovate the ways in which they build bonds with customers going beyond the suggestion that “you bought it from us, so you must sign a service contract”.
"Customers can and will continue to play a bigger role in the experiences they create for themselves..."
A personalized dashboard which integrates with suggested new services or products, creates a community of user-driven content, and boosts the customer’s performance in KPI that matter to them is one way to create longer lasting customer partnerships.
Expectations change and manufacturers need to evolve at faster pace
Not much is more frustrating than providing feedback in a survey and seemingly having that information go into a blackhole not used by the those who administered the survey. Customers are very willing to give manufacturers feedback as we have seen an influx of customer advisory forums, social interactions, and other channels of insight. But too often this is used as a marketing tool and not as a path to tailor future products, service, and experiences because of this intelligence.
As customers provide manufacturers with insight into what they value and how they want to be interacted with, it is imperative that this information leads to improvements as this is the customer taking the time to involve themselves in their own service experience.
Connected products must enable intelligence and customized experiences
The number of connected products and devices will only continue to grow, but unfortunately, we still lag well behind the promise of this future. Data from connected products too often is just stored in the cloud used by just a few when the ability for this insight to trigger new and valuable experiences is plentiful.
Customers through their usage and behaviour data have provided manufacturers and service organizations with a treasure trove of insights that must be leveraged to enhance on-going experiences.
Customers shouldn’t just be an open wallet or an email address. As much as customers of the future are a wealth of data points they also have a growing willingness to be a part of the experiences that are delivered to them. Not engaging them in a true partnership of shared experiences, shared benefits, and shared goals is a missed opportunity that won’t be sustainable in our shared futures.
Aly Pinder is Program Director at IDC.
Ten years is a long time in field service. Trends come thick and fast with some trends thicker than others, attaching like coral onto the industry and becoming an integral part of service progress. The worldwide web and mobile technology are probably the two best examples of this; both have been essential in pushing the industry forward. Would we cope without them today?
It’s fair to label these movements as revolutions; their impact has been immense but smaller changes while not as monumental are just as significant. Today though, focus is swinging from technology enablers and back to customer service.
“Mobile was many years ago, everyone expects to have it,” says Hilla Karni, VP of Product and Customer Marketing at Click Software. Karni has just finished hosting a roundtable at Field Service Europe and we’ve managed to find a quiet dining room post-lunch to talk. I settle my dictaphone among skewed butter knives and bread crumbs. Sipping coffee, Karli continues: “In recent years, the shift has moved from a service operation that is a cost-centre, to a service operation that is an opportunity to impact customer service.”
The roundtable titled: The Science Behind Service: Metrics that Matter, centred on KPIs affecting customer service. The fact such a round table was taking place affirms how the industry is focusing on the end-user. “Before you would never hear of this,” she says. “KPIs were always around productivity, travel cost, overtime; it was always cost.”
But what about those enablers such as AI, IoT or specifically Augmented Reality (AR)? What role does AR play in the new customer focus? “Everyone talks about AR. But why are they using it?” She asks, pausing slightly. “It’s for the remote diagnostics which enables a better first-time fix. A first-time fix rate is the metric that combines efficiency, productivity with customer experience.”
In order to achieve customer focus KPIs, Karni tells me, smaller trends such as employee wellbeing are taking on a greater significance. “There is a very clear correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction,” she
says. “When an employer is happy with his or her job then he or she will deliver excellent service. Now we are seeing different investments around making your employees happier. There is a very clear correlation between happy and engaged employees with customer satisfaction.”
This, refreshingly, ties in with a general shift in occupational wellbeing and a positive approach to mental health in general. From a business point of view, work-related stress affects staff absenteeism; in turn affecting productivity. One thread of wellbeing, prevalent in field service is the time an engineer might spend on the road. Tools around scheduling play an important part in employee engagement and buy-in. Some firms, Karni says are handing autonomy to their engineers to create their own timetable. “Some of our
customers like their technicians to make more decisions by themselves.” The increase in wellbeing can be loosely attributed to the flexible nature of the modern workforce.
“When an employer is happy with his or her job then he or she will deliver excellent service..."
Today, freelancers choose their workdays and hours to fit their lifestyle. The typical nine-to-five day still exists but the gig
economy – so-called as each piece of work being akin to a ‘gig’ - represents another shift in efficiency and cost. Karni suggests large contractors, with their large overheads, can fail to deliver the required standard of customer service, paving the way for freelancers. “This is where the workforce trend is to have more freelancers, the uber-like model, offering a better service but it must be connected, ultimately, to a better customer service.”
So, if customer focus is the new trends in field service what technology revolution does Karni see to compliment it? Firstly, she is keen to re-label the progress. “I think the next evolution – and it is an evolution, not a revolution – is more focused around prediction,” she affirms. “Having prediction within the service delivery life cycle changes a lot of things because it makes for more
accuracy and real-time decision making.
“Previously, we still made decisions, many decisions. Then we got mobile so were able to streamline the process. Then we had more optimisation and got artificial intelligence to improve productivity and efficiency. Now we are taking it to the next level and saying, ‘Okay, how can I predict better to ensure I make faster, smarter decisions on the day of service, on the minute of service?’”
Despite the influx of new disruptive technologies – such as AR – Karni is aware that the main beneficiary has to be the end-user, the customer. “Everyone talks about the current trend in field service, which is AR. But if you ask ‘why are we using this remote technology’, it is ultimately to create a better first-time fix. A first-time fix rate is the metric that combines efficiency and productivity with customer experience. “You’re not adopting something for the sake of the technology. You need to have a very strong business case with savings. This is what is unique about field service management applications is that it needs to find the balance between time and cost savings while creating better customer service. If it was only a one-way thing it would not be such a valuable asset,” she says.
I push Karni on the role of the asset: the wind turbine, the air conditioning unit, the washing machine. When does it become more important than the engineer? “There is no replacement for the human touch,” she pauses again. “There is, however, a replacement for the process.
“If you can fix something remotely and it’s not a problem and it will smoothly recover, then I don’t see why the customer wouldn’t be happy because the washing machine is fixed. Having said that, if you fix something sophisticated and there is a break-down, I believe there is no replacement for human experience.”
Finally, as waiters circle impatiently around us to prepare the table for the next coffee break, I ask Karni, who has been with Click Software over ten years, why she enjoys working in the field service sector. “As I said, everyone talks about machine learning and AR but,” she says. “But when it comes to field service it’s real. It’s actual technology that serves a use-case and a business value.”
She finishes her cappuccino. “We make a difference I think, and this is what I like about what I do.”