Think Tank Debriefs: Knowledge as a Service Differentiator

Aug 13, 2020 • FeaturesThink TankLeadership and Strategy

In this excerpt from the inaugral Think Tank Debrief Session, Kieran Notter, VP Global Customer Service, ServiceMax reflects on the conversations around whether knowledge is the key differentiator for OEMs when it comes to service delivery... 

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Is knowledge the key weapon in the OEM's arsenal?

During this conversation everyone around the table was an OEM, which allowed us to dig deeper into what the group thought were the key differentiators between OEMs and third party service providers when it comes to differentiating service.

While brand reputation does of course play its on part in the discussion, it was clear amongst the group that it was knowledge and experience that really allows an OEM to shine through.

Jason Smith, Director of Field Service, EMEA, 3D Systems Corporation commented: 

“In previous companies I’ve worked at, when we have tried to push advanced services out to the market, one of the major challenges we faced was that there was little value in trying to convince customers, who didn’t see the value in connected services as a solution. In fact, this is reflected in the approach we’ve adopted at 3D Systems. If a customer is on a maintenance contract and under warranty, then we will connect the machines for free.

As far as we are concerned, in terms of the connectivity, the hardware aspect of the equation, which is where people typically perceive as the value, actually has very little value.

What I discovered, certainly in my previous role, is that the value is in the data which is provided and the insight that provides - particularly when your offering is part of a system. Companies really have to separate the hardware from the knowledge because the value proposition is at opposite ends of the scale.

Hardware is worth a couple of thousand dollars, but the knowledge is where the real improvements are. One project we did in my last company based around such a premise yielded savings to the customer of €2.5M a year. It is in the data and the insight within that data - that is where the true value sits. However, it is only by having case studies and actual data that you can quantify and describe this value.”

Peter Deeming, Service Tools Manager, Varian commented: 

“Reflecting on the three models Jan outlined of ‘do it with us’, ‘do it for us’ or ‘we’ll do it ourselves’, I would add a fourth model into this in that a third-party service contractor could also do the service work as well.

“In terms of service we see third party service companies as competitors and one of the edges the data gives us is that we as an OEM can get data from our entire install base and a contractor cannot do that. This gives us a far greater depth of knowledge and insight that we can bring to the customer - something that gives us a distinct competitive advantage.

“This demonstrates that the value isn’t in the hardware, or even getting the data from one machine. But when you can get the data from all of your machines and exploring the trending and apply some AI and get all of the analysis, then you get some phenomenal insights, and that is where the true value lies.”

It was interesting to note as the conversation evolved during the Think Tank, how we started to see the groups thinking crystallise as agreement emerged that the true value an OEM service organisation can bring to the table is based on deep product knowledge and operational best practice.

This was a theme that occurred across a number of conversations during the Think Tank's held in this period but this definitely came to the fore in this session.

Reflecting on this point during the Debrief session Kieran Notter, VP Global Customer Transformation, commented:

"With knowledge, you can start to offer more things.Then with knowledge, you can also manage those things and set the expectations for your customers and yourself."

"We can talk about entitlements and SLA (service level agreements) but if you don't have the knowledge on how to manage them, then that's an empty promise, and therefore you're going to upset your customer," Notter adds.


"How many people beyond service realize that, that service data is really useful to them?"

- Kieran Notter, ServiceMax


"So to get to that movement of how you do your contract entitlements and SLAs, or even moving further into the outcome based world, you have to have the knowledge to understand fundamentally how you price it, how you make it into a business, but also how you can make your customer successful - because you need to create that partnership to be successful," Notter reflects. 

"Then there's also the secondary element as well, which is understanding of how to use that knowledge outside of service. Most people taking part in this Debrief session will have an idea of how they would like to use their data if they can harvest it and mining. Yet, how many people beyond service realize that that service data is really useful to them?"

"If you think about the supply chain and how service data can be used there to actually work hand in hand, to create a supply chain, rather than a demand chain. Also, if marketing have the data that's coming from these products, they can do targeted marketing - marketing, that is very specific to the customer and the products and the services that you're providing currently, which gives you the knowledge and ability to make up-sells and cross sells."

"Another aspect here is that there always seems to be a little bit of a push and pull between sales and service," Notter continues.

"Service was once called aftersales but we all understand nowadays that it's moving more into the forefront because you may sell the machine once, but then you maintain it for the next 10 to 20 years. When that maintenance is getting to a point that you need to upsell, then you have the data already. For example, you may know when the machine is being overused creating an opportunity to maybe sell another unit, or indeed it needs to be serviced.

All of this data works in so many different areas to drive different areas of growth and you can see that in Jason's statement of €2.5M savings a year. You can see where that value is actually coming from."


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