Mind the Gap

At Maximize we discussed the topic of Enhancing the commercial maturity of your services business. In that conversation we spoke about ‘the Gap’. The Gap between your current service revenue and the maximum revenue you could achieve when every unit sold would have an associated ‘gold’ contract. This Gap is rather simple to calculate, and it won’t surprise me if the size of the Gap becomes a compelling reason to act.

The Gap

Why is it so important to acknowledge and quantify the Gap? If we don’t want to be like Alice in Wonderland, we need to know both our point of departure and the desired future state. 

We see more and more service executives having a revenue growth target. In the grand scheme of both service transformation and margin contribution, this makes perfect sense. As much as it makes sense, a growth ambition of eg. 20% is ‘only’ directional and not linked to a potential. To make your service revenue growth ambition actionable you need handles; metrics to monitor, levers to pull. The benefit of defining the Gap is, it is SMARTspecific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound).

Let me illustrate this with the analogy of market share. Suppose you say you want to grow your market share by 20%, it makes a huge difference if your current share is 10% or 70%.

Where sales use market share, in the service domain we can use a blend of installed base visibility and attach rate. If you know where 50% of the units sold are installed, and of those units 60% have an associated service contract, you’re addressing 30% of the ‘market’. If those service contracts are a blend of warranty, bronze, silver and gold, your actual reach might be 15-20% of total addressable service market (TAM).

The above example is providing you with two things:

  • A compelling reason to act
  • Three mitigating handles

Compelling reason to Act

Let’s do some role play.

Suppose you are a service executive. You have a steady service revenue stream growing at the same rate of product sales. Your new management tasks you to grow faster than product sales, you need to grow your service revenue by 20%. What is your first response? How? Why 20%? The Gap will help you evaluate the feasibility of your new business objective. The Gap can also help you include other stakeholders in reaching your objectives. Think about sales leadership and portfolio development.

Suppose you are the sales leader. You work hard to maintain and grow market share. Growing market share by 20% is, to put it mildly, challenging. That challenge will only get bigger when your CFO changes the paradigm to margin contribution. To understand the dependency between sales and service I’ll flip to point-of-view towards the buyer of your product & services. From an asset owner’s perspective between 8-12%[1] of the life cycle cost are related to the purchase of the asset. The remainder is associated with maintenance and operational cost. This insight should trigger you and your CEO/CFO to rethink where you want to create your margin. It’s less about the one-time sale & margin of a product, and more about being able to create customer lock in throughout the life cycle of that product. Long-term contracts will deliver recurring revenue and margin contribution. The Gap is the quantification of what you are missing out on compared to a life cycle approach.

Suppose you are responsible for the product & services portfolio. Today you have a mix of warranty, bronze silver and gold. Each of those offerings has a different revenue/ margin contribution. Of course, you’d like all asset owners to buy your gold contract. The size of the Gap may be an indication to what extent your current portfolio aligns with the needs of the asset owners. Once you understand that an asset owner is more interested in using a product than owning it, your current service portfolio may need an upgrade.

Three mitigating handles

To mitigate the Gap, we’ve identified three handles:

  • Installed Base Visibility
  • Attach Rate
  • Service offering

The first one, installed base visibility, builds on a variant of Peter Drucker’s quote “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. You need to know where your assets are, and in what condition to be able to sell associated services. The bigger the Gap, the bigger your motivation should be to invest in an asset life cycle database. Documenting the As-Built, As-Sold and As-Maintained. And yes, this may be more work when your organisation sells products through an indirect sales channel. The Gap may justify the investment.

The second and third handle go hand-in-hand. Once you have visibility of the installed units, you can start targeting those with your services portfolio. Important to realise, not the product specifications and characteristics are leading in the service offering, but the use-profile of that product. For the same product, wear and tear can be completely different, based on how the product is being used. This realisation emphasises the need to collect data throughout the operational life cycle of an asset. If sales says, ‘each touch point is an opportunity’, service can extend that paradigm with ‘each data point is an opportunity’.

Is it doable?

Absolutely! A target of 20% service revenue increase may sound abstract when you get it. In this blog we tried to break that task into manageable pieces. Standard service metrics will allow you to monitor installed base and attach rates. Introducing the Gap helps you to quantify your revenue growth potential. The Gap will create both the compelling reason to act and the arguments to convince other stakeholders to jointly work on this revenue growth target.

Please share your victories with us.


[1] Source: Insight… Accenture and total cost of ownership (2012)

Maximize Virtual Round Tables – Recap

On the Maximize agenda we offered set of 12 round tables spanning a range from covid implications to asset centric business models. From technician skill profiles to commercial maturity. These topics fuelled a wide range of conversations. In this blog we’ll try to give you a taste. Want more? Have a look at the Maximize recordings here: https://www.servicemax.com/maximize/

From short trial to longer-term innovation: lessons/ practices from COVID that will persist

A little over a year ago we learnt about Covid-19. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We’ve been through it all. Covid-19 drove a number of changes in the way service was delivered and consumed. Organisations quickly deployed new solutions and digital technologies to enable their workers to continue to deliver service to their customers. 

In this round table the participants shared what changes are merely short-term adjustments or disruptions to the normal and which ones are longer-term innovations that are here to stay.

No surprise employee safety, compliance and remote service are high on the list of the more permanent changes. The underlying business issues were there all along, only Covid-19 amplified and accelerated the change.

What Covid-19 has also shown us, disruption has many forms. So better prepare to be agile and resilient. As a final thought: how is your organisation going to handle the backlog of push-out work orders? How are you going to prioritise while meeting your contractual obligations?

Recommended Maximize sessions:

  • Keynote: Making your Service Business Resilient with ServiceMax
  • Business Transformation: Listen to Your Assets: The Benefits of Using Asset Data for Business Outcomes

Recommended readings:

  • Transforming Field Service When the “Field” Has Changed (March 11th, 2021)
  • The Year Ahead for Energy: 3 Paths to Success Post-Covid-19 (March 9th, 2021)
  • 8 Considerations for Your Remote Support Program (February 4th, 2021)
  • How Will AR & VR Impact the Future of Field Service Management? (December 22nd, 2021)

The technician profile: changing role, changing skillsets – where do we find them?

Assets are changing. Service work is changing. The nature of customer relationships is changing. Has the technician skillset changed to match the evolution of service taking place? 

We ask a lot of our technicians. We ask them to be our brand ambassador. They want to be a hero on site. Maybe then best ‘gift’ we can give technicians is empowerment. To give them tools allowing them to engage with the right information at their fingertips. With a right balance between autonomy for the technician and control for the manager.

Is that possible? Sure. The discussion showed plenty of examples of how the combination of state-of-the-art service execution tools and empowerment drives adoption … and thus the projected business results. Once people see transformation in action, the mindset will follow leading to an intrinsic motivation.

Recommended Maximize sessions:

  • Keynote: Building Resilient Relationships. Being a Technician during the Pandemic
  • MaxTalk: Save my Bacon – Remote Assistant in the Field

Recommended readings:

  • 2021 Predictions for Chief Service Officers (December 15th, 2020)
  • Technician Advice to CSOs: 3 Interesting Takeaways from Our Inaugural Tech Talk Event (August 25th, 2020)

Enhancing the commercial maturity of your services business

Now most service organisations have a revenue target, we found it interesting to have a conversation on commercial maturity. You seemed to agree. We had a great turn out at our round table and engaging conversations.

Why is commercial maturity so important? Because margin contribution stemming from operational excellence is not enough. Organisations feel the pressure of margin erosion and commoditisation. In parallel there is a constant drive for growth. And with more vocal customers it is adamant to constantly ride the waves commerce.

We asked the participants to self-assess their current maturity using a poll. Defining a low maturity as a predominantly product focussed organisation selling services as an afterthought. On the other end of the scale, we positioned companies where both sales and service revenue generating activities are managed in unison over the life cycle of the product/ equipment/ asset.

To make the maturity assessment tangible and actionable we’d given the participants a simple calculation exercise. Suppose you have an installed base visibility of 100% and an attach rate of 100% ‘gold’ contracts. Meaning all installed products have an associated all-inclusive service tier. How much revenue would that amount to? Do we have your attention? 

Now compare this figure with your current services revenue. The goal of this exercise is to define the ‘gap’ and to use the gap as an instrument to drive your commercial maturity journey. 

Of course, we know that not all asset owners will buy the gold tier. More likely we have a mix of warranty, part sales, installations, break-fix, field change requests, inspections/ calibrations, preventive maintenance and availability services. Each of these services has a different revenue and margin contribution. If you want to maximize your revenue, you’ll have to revisit your current services portfolio and how you present these offerings.

Recommended Maximize sessions:

  • Asset360: How to Unlock New Revenue Streams with Warranty and Contract management
  • Business Transformation: How to Protect and Increase Your Service Revenue Stream with an Eye on Servitization
  • Business Transformation: How to Revitalize Your Service Portfolio for CEx and Growth

Recommended readings:

  • The key to Sales and Service working in collaboration (January 26th, 2021)
  • 5 Ways to identify new revenue streams in Service (November 24th, 2020)
  • Upsell leakage: Everything you need to know (November 19th, 2020)
  • How to sell Customers on the value of preventive maintenance (July 9th, 2020)

The installed base’s role in lifecycle management

Peter Drucker said: “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. We could say the same thing about the installed base. If you don’t know where your product is, in what condition and how it is being used, how can you excel in service? How can you serve asset owners over the lifecycle of the product?

A survey by Accenture stipulated that over the lifecycle of industrial assets approximately 8-12% of the cost is related to the purchase of the equipment. The rest is maintenance and operating cost. These numbers should convince any OEM to step up to the plate and offer life cycle services.

What do you do when you sell a significant number of units via the indirect sales channel, via dealers and resellers? Value chain actors that may shield their installed base data. The engineering change request may come to rescue. As OEM you have a legitimate reason to reach out to the asset owners, whether it is quality related or if the change enhances the capabilities of your product.

Recommended Maximize sessions:

  • Asset360: How to Unlock New Revenue Streams with Warranty and Contract management
  • Business Transformation: How to Revitalize Your Service Portfolio for CEx and Growth

Recommended readings:

  • 3 Steps to make engineering change management easier (March 2nd, 2021)
  • How to maintain and protect your brand as an OEM (December 17th, 2020)
  • Looking for Design-for-Service? Start here (December 10th, 2020)
  • How to sell Customers on the value of preventive maintenance (July 9th, 2020)

Maximize Virtual Round Tables – behind the scenes

For more than a year now we’ve been having these virtual meetings. We don’t know about you, but virtual triggers mixed feelings within us. On the one hand it is convenient and efficient. On the other hand, we really miss the live interaction and the ability to continue the conversation beyond the scope of a session. So, the biggest ‘reward’ you’ve given us at this year’s Maximize is your level of participation and engagement both during and post sessions. Thank you!

Get up early, stay up late

On the Maximize agenda we offered set of 12 round tables spanning a range from covid implications to asset centric business models. From technician skill profiles to commercial maturity. Yes, we were aware that some of these sessions may have occurred at an early or late time. We noticed that the value of the topic has not held you back to set your alarm clock or delay a meal or two.

In the ‘old days’ we may have continued the conversation over a drink or en-route to a next session. This year you found us on LinkedIn, via your account manager or direct message. The conversation will continue! For those that want to browse topics beyond the 12 round table sessions, do have a look at our blog repository: Field Service Digital.

The reward of preparation

In the days leading up to the round tables we look at the registrations. There’s always an element of hope and surprise. We’ve put a lot of thought in the 12 topics and of course we hope to receive confirmation about our choice. We saw counters going up, quickly, and way beyond numbers we would have during live events. This encourages us and confirms our service ‘compass’.

T minus 15 minutes. We launch our session applications and do a last check. Slides, poll, camera, microphone. Putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door to inform house mates.

Fun fact: I had my son (11 years) colour a sign for me. On the one side it says, ‘knock on the other ‘do not disturb’. Because he created the sign, he felt involved in the new house rules. Few are the occasions when he barges in when I’m in call.

We’re live. Automatically my eye goes to the number of participants. How many people are showing up? Over the course of Covid we’ve seen the percentages varying. Today is a good day. I feel good.

Touching base

In preparation of the roundtable, we’ve created content. More than we can cover in the allotted time. We’ve prepared a dialogue structure. But no matter how much we prepare, we don’t know where participants will direct the conversation. We do anticipate though.

It’s our intention to provide both value and engagement. We do have an expectation, so the first thing we do is touching base. Who is in the call? Knowing that is important, because we understand that value is defined in the eyes of the beholder.

In a world of physical gatherings, I would have done a round of introductions to get a bearing of the group. In a virtual world I resort to a poll, knowing it is harder to put each participant on the spot. Comfort level and technical setup do play a role. The poll is easy and safe.

Engagement

When we chose the topic for the round table, we believe it is an important topic. Registrations and actual participation confirm (or shatter) that belief. The real litmus test is getting engagement.

W ask the first question: “why is commercial maturity important for your organisation and what is its impact?” Those first seconds are ‘killing’. What if nobody responds? What if everybody wants to speak at the same time? How do we give every participant a fair share of attention when we can only see a subset of participants? We wish we could see you all in person. We wish we could see your body language.

We feel a big relief when the flow of the conversation starts going. The discussion becomes a show of examples. We’ve prepared a few to ‘fuel’ the conversation. Ultimately your own examples are the best. Those examples add to the value and practicality. 

Value

In the conversation we elevate to 30,000 feet for a broader perspective, only to descend rapidly. We’d like to give you handles you can use tomorrow. The best praise we can get is when you say you have learnt something new and/or you are able to put those handles to use.

Let me give you one example from the Commercial Maturity roundtable. In the poll we asked the participants to assess their current commercial maturity on a scale from low to high. Later we provided a practical handle to compare current service revenue against the maximum obtainable service revenue. The gap between the two may inspire you to re-assess your maturity … or even more powerful, to use the gap to define your compelling reason to act (more about the gap in my next blog ‘Mind the Gap’).

Call to action

Why do we host roundtables? Why do you participate in roundtables? We do hope we can mutually agree that it is because we want to action business issues and challenges. The roundtable is an instrument. 

We can imagine that we’ve given you food for thought. We recognise you need to digest. We understand you want to get more information, to compare and involve additional stakeholders. Feel free to reach out and make use of our resources and expertise.

Developing Engineering Change Strategies for CX and Customer Engagement

Each time when you launch an engineering change (EC) campaign you’ll have to balance brand image, quality and cost. In my previous blog 3 Steps to Make Engineering Change Management Easier (FSD, March 2nd, 2021), I added two additional business drivers: customer engagement and upsell revenue. I promised to elaborate on EC strategies, on how to use the EC touch points to further your business objectives.

But first I want to say thanks to a reader who helped me frame the two different emotions associated with an engineering change: the ‘positive’ and the ‘negative’ engineering change.

  • Negative: the EC is triggered by a quality issue or a complaint.
  • Positive: the EC improves the specifications/ capabilities of the original product.

Does the emotion matter? Yes, it does and maybe it shouldn’t matter that much. Let me explain.

When the negative emotion is associated with cost and a perceived reduction of CX & brand value, its mitigation is deemed operational. Getting your act together. When using the EC as an instrument to exceed expectations, the positive emotion will trigger growth driven stakeholders to jump on the bandwagon. With a comprehensive EC strategy, you can nudge the negative to the positive side too.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity” – P.T. Barnum (1810 – 1891) 

Creating a plan

Creating an engineering change strategy is a subset of product life cycle management. During the operational life cycle of a product many things can happen. Some of these occurrences are pre-conceived and/or planned. Some will happen ‘as you go’. Simply because it is nearly impossible to predict how a product will behave in each and individual use context.

Creating a plan is like preparing for the unknown. The good news is that the unknown can be moulded into a limited number of buckets:

  • The product does not deliver on its as-sold and nominal attributes
  • The product is used in a context beyond its nominal attributes
  • New product capabilities enhance the nominal specifications

For each of the three buckets you can create a communication channel with your installed base and define a follow-up workflow. As a potential response to each of the three buckets:

  • Document and investigate the gap, provide a product fix … or change the expectation.
  • Investigate the use context of the product and re-evaluate the product specifications. Advise on product replacement or product upgrade possibilities.
  • Filter the installed base on those customers that will perceive the enhanced specifications as a value add.

Each of these workflows impacts cost, revenue and CSAT. Most of all, you build a communication relationship with your installed base, managing customer experience over the life cycle … and beyond. Just imagine your EC strategy becoming the proactive/ predictive instrument to avoid unplanned downtime.

What does your customer buy and expect?

Words like strategy and lifecycle imply a longer timeframe. This requires us to revisit the original value promise made at point of sale. Is that promise a one-off or a longer-term commitment? The answer will impact your EC strategy.

If the sales value promise is a one-off, the customer buys the product as-is with an optional limited warranty. Because warranty is an integral part of the product sale, we need to define both coverage and period. Also, we must be mindful of expectations and regulations.

  • In Japan the phrase “Quality is included” drives EC and lifecycle services to high expectations with ample opportunities to monetise them.
  • In Germany the warranty construct is decomposed in two definitions “Gewährleistung” and “Garantie”. The former relates to a defect and/or violation of regulations, the latter is a voluntary value promise.
  • When you buy a product from a AAA-brand you’ll likely have a different lifecycle support expectation over a B-brand.

With the above components it becomes clear that you’ll need a product lifecycle vision with an EC strategy spinoff.

A steady flow of engineering changes waiting for a framework

Now, let’s expand the horizon beyond the warranty period. Your customer may have bought a product. What your customer needs is the output and outcome of that product, preferably over a longer period of time. Over that time entropy and technology advancement are the biggest drivers for engineering changes. 

Knowing you’ll have a steady flow of ECs you’ll need a framework to manage them. Even more so when we’ve learnt in the previous blog that ECs often occur in an environment of constraints. You’ll need to make choices of who gets scarcity first, knowing this will impact cost, revenue and CSAT. 

Scarcity is a multi-facetted ‘beast’. It can work both for and against you. Thus, one more reason to put a lot of thought into defining an EC strategy.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

Every touch point is an opportunity

In the world of sales and engagement the mantra is: every touch point is an opportunity. Throughout the operational life cycle of a product there are many touch points. When you can explain entropy and technology advancement in its use context, when you have a compelling engineering change strategy and when you can embed that EC strategy in your service portfolio, then you’ll get the level of engagement and life cycle partnership you seek. Driving cost, revenue and CSAT to both party’s satisfaction.

Managing your Quality and Engineering Changes

February 2021, breaking news, your engineering team issues a mandatory engineering change to all product models ABC built between 2011 – 2013. “The gearbox needs a retrofit to avoid potential injury and claims”.

Change the verbatim, the dates or the technical details. I guess you’ll recognise the scenario. Whether the origin of the change is quality, compliance, engineering maturity or commercially driven, managing engineering changes is a big deal. A big deal because you don’t want claims. You don’t want your brand image tarnished. You don’t want cost overruns. It’s a big deal because you want to convert a negative into a positive.

Engineering changes extend into the operational life cycle of a product

I once believed every product was 100% engineered before it found its way onto the markets. Having run service organisations for more than 25 years I’ve reduced my confidence in this percentage year over year. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that is a bad thing, but I do want to emphasise that acknowledging that anything less than 100% puts a burden on the service organisation to build mitigating processes.

I’ve seen organisations introduce 80% engineered products by business model design, as they need the usage feedback to finalise the engineering. Other organisations aim at a near 100% engineered product, only to discover their products are used in unforeseen contexts leading to post-GA modifications. And in the digital age I see more and more organisations enhancing product capabilities of physical products by ‘selling’ software upgrade options.

Where is my Installed Base?

All variants share a common premise: you need to have installed base visibility as well as an accurate as-maintained BoM to be able to manage your engineering changes effectively.

To illustrate this, I’ll give an example on the other end of the spectrum. If you don’t know where the affected products are, and you have a compliance obligation to reach out to the product/ asset owners, you can only go public … and that is not good for your brand image … as many car manufacturers and food companies will confirm.

In our Global Customer Transformation (GCT) practice we often see a hybrid. Some units sold have an associated warranty and/ or service contract, other units are not visible because they are sold via an indirect channel and/or the owner does not want to be visible. What engineering change managers need is a ‘workbench’ to create a near-complete installed base from multiple data sources.

Now we have a near-complete installed base, we can filter on model ABC with a commissioning date between 2011 – 2013. 

Spread the Wealth

A common characteristic of engineering changes is that they tend to come at an inconvenient time, on top of the existing workload. What potentially complicates things is the combination of a) the availability of replacement parts and b) the customer expectation to be first in line.

Let me give you an illustration that reveals my age. In 1989 Intel launched the 80486 processor. High-end customers upped the specs of their PC’s with the 80487 co-processor. Then a researcher detected a mathematical flaw in the co-processor. Immediately people wanted a replacement. The supply chain was stocked with the flawed 80487 revision 1, whilst Intel had to ramp the production and shipments of revision 2. In analogy to Covid-19 vaccinations you can imagine this became a puzzle of priorities and constant shifting plans.

In our GCT practice we talk to Engineering Change Managers. They receive so called product bulletins on a regular basis. And each time they need to make decisions on when to launch an engineering change campaign while weighing brand image, quality and cost. And once they have launched a campaign, they want to know the progress. But the most asked ‘feature’ by Engineering Change Managers is the ability to adapt the priorities in a campaign based on progress, the amount of ‘wealth’, the voice of the customer and the impact on existing SLA & Contract commitments. Regarding the latter, I’ll dedicate my next blog on Engineering Change prioritisation strategies. 

Digital EC’s and Retrofit Kits as Upsell and Lock-in instrument

I’d like to change the ‘energy level’ of the conversation. Engineering changes are not always negative from a quality, financial or brand image perspective.

There is a limit to the number of mechanical and electrical changes you can make to a product post commissioning using Retrofit Kits, but more modern products have an ever-growing digital component. Digital engineering maturity continues post commissioning.Do you own a Sonos sound system, a Tesla, a digital press? The physical product you bought remains the same, while over-the-air digital EC’s deliver a steady stream of new features and enhancements. Whether your organisation uses this EC-stream for lock-in purposes or upsell revenue, at the core you need an asset centric infrastructure with comprehensive engineering change capabilities.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on March 2nd, 2021

Sales and Service working in Collaboration

“Which function in your organisation has the most touch points and the highest customer trust?”. Here I go again, preaching to the choir. You know where this line of thought is going. Today I want to voice a different tune. I don’t want to highlight what sets Sales and Service apart, but I want to find the common ground. Because we need each other for the sake of organisational survival and growth.

The Ugly Truth

A couple of years back I chaired the Copperberg After:Market event. In my closing remarks I provoked the audience with the word “after” in “after-sales”. Is service an afterthought? A big NO came from the delegates. Though the word “after” triggers quite some emotions and hits some nerves, let me share an ugly truth with you: after-sales does not exist without an initial sale! Service will not replace sales. Service should not compete with sales over margin contribution. Both sales and service have a role to play in customer value creation throughout the life cycle of a product. The product becomes the carrier of value creation.

Contributing Centre

So, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands by asking if your service organisation is either a cost-centre or a profit-centre. We now agree that you are a contributing centre! Agreeing on this nomenclature is key to collaboration with sales for two reasons:

  1. In a head-to-head battle with sales, sales will claim ownership of the revenue play. You don’t want this. You want a joint role and responsibility in revenue generation and margin contribution.
  2. More conceptual, if Service were a true profit centre, Service would have had the organisational and budgetary mandate to sustain and grow service revenue. Practically all CSO’s I’ve met have a budgetary mandate up to 2,500 dollar, pound or euro. That’s not enough to drive your own margin and revenue destiny. So, maybe it is better to have Sales co-funding your new Service tools. In return you share your customer trust and high quality touch points with Sales.

Handshake

This handshake, this collaboration between Service and Sales can be explained using the technique of Causal Loop Diagrams[1](CLD).

At last year’s Maximize we did a Technician survey and asked what motivates them. In short, most technicians want to be a hero on site. With that status they create customer trust. As a result, they get high quality and contextual feedback.

What happens when technicians can’t share that information, or get a feeling that their insights are not actioned? No, this is not a rhetorical question. Ah, your organisation has an incentive scheme to encourage technicians to create leads. Does it work? Do salespeople take leads from the service domain seriously? Do service people know how to deliver leads on a silver platter?

Yes, technician insights have the potential to create more and better leads. The service domain is also a repository of information to develop new services. Services that include the voice of the customer. Services aligned with your customers use cases.

As a salesperson you would make a great impression on your customer when you display your ability to listen. That you proactively use the feedback shared with the technician. Not only will your propositions be better, also your customer will feel genuine interest and attention.

The killer feature in this Causal Loop Diagram is the reinforcement towards the technician. A reinforcement that outweighs any financial incentive scheme you can devise. Imagine how the technician feels when he/ she gets feedback that his/her discovery and insights have made a difference. A feedback coming from two directions. Firstly, the salesperson who confirms the use of the feedback. Secondly, the customer confirming that their previous conversation was actioned.

Closing the loop adds to the technician’s empowerment and his/ her increase in hero status. Guess what, next cycle this technician and salesperson will even contribute more to your bottom line.

A Groundhog Day experience

Does it really work this way? In 2016 we trialled this causal loop with more than 60 chief service officers. The results were published in Field Service News in a piece called Demand generation: A Groundhog day experience. Do share with us what your experiences are. Happy & collaborative hunting.


[1] Business Dynamics, systems thinking and modeling for a complex world, John D. Sterman, McGraw Hill 2000

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on January 26th, 2021

How to Maintain and Protect Your Brand as an OEM

You make great products. You have a strong brand. But how do you maintain those products and protect your brand beyond the point of sale? What do you do when customers demand more through CX or regulators demand more through compliance or channels partners struggle to deliver consistent service? The good news is modern field service management systems provide you with the tools to manage and overcome these challenges.

Trending in 2021

At the close of each year, a lot of people ask me to make some predictions for the new year. Honestly, with some extreme disruptions in 2020, it is hard to single out a theme for 2021. Though I do see a consistent trend over the last decade. A trend that will very much drive the OEM transformation agenda: how do we extend our value proposition beyond the revenue of the product sales? Margin contribution on product sales is dwindling. Thus, it is logical that your CFO is eying service margins and tasking you with service revenue growth. So, let’s focus on two 2021 topics to achieve those goals.

  1. Improve your installed base visibility across all your sales channels
  2. Support your product throughout its life cycle

And by focussing on these two, you’ll get a lot of adjacent benefits too.

Step 1: Invest in Installed Base Visibility and Effective Channel Partners

To exert a maximum level of control over the value an OEM can provide to its customers, an OEM may have the ambition to own each step of the value chain. The commercial reality is that a network of partners and competitors is involved in the value creation. This may result in a battle over the ownership of the customer relationship. Especially when we consider the underlying paradigm: the one who owns the relationship owns the levers to CX and sustainable revenue.

The key enabler to value creation is your Installed Base Visibility. It is pretty straight forward. If you want to create value from the products you sell, you need to know where they are and how they are being used. Without visibility, your service delivery will be in the blind. Without a relationship, your revenue streams will be unpredictable.

We see more and more OEMs investing in installed base visibility. This starts with shifting from margin contribution through product sales to margin contribution through using the product.  The increased margin contribution pays for the investment and buy-in from the channel partners.

Are you curious about what installed base visibility brings to the bottom line? See what Schneider Electric was able to achieve here.

Step 2: Support Your Product Throughout Its Life Cycle

Who knows your product best? You, the OEM. You designed it and built it, so it seems you are best qualified to support its use during its life cycle. Hence the previous paragraph, you need to know where your installed base is and in what condition.

For each product, we know that the true test comes when it is used by real customers. No matter how well designed and built it is, actual customers seem to use products in more different ways than you have anticipated. Whether the feedback is coming to you via the quality department, service interactions, or through an autonomous engineering department, your products do get revisions and engineering changes.

Some of these changes are for liability and compliance. Others may enhance the function of the product, potentially driving more value. Thus, you have multiple reasons to reach out to your installed base. And when you do so, you want to track what portion of that base you have reached.

Two to Tango

The combination of installed base visibility and product life cycle support form an ideal tango to strengthen your brand. Though the commercial reality of your channel strategy may impact your ability to reach out to your installed base, asset-centric field service management tools make it much easier to visualize and manage your assets. Extending those tools to your channel partners will make it easier to share and grow the value creation for your customers.

Whether you decide to take tango lessons in 2021 or not, at least put some thought into the beauty and joy of the dance. I promise you; your customers will like it.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on December 17th, 2020

Back to the Future with Design-for-Service

Yes, it’s really happening!”. That was my feeling when a customer of ServiceMax contacted me to enlighten them on the Design-for-Service concept. Six years ago, they started their service transformation journey to get Visibility and Control. Now they are moving the needle towards Excellence and Growth. What makes this ask even more ‘special’, is that it is the engineering department that wants to know what service needs to deliver value.

Black swan

Most of us will have plenty of examples where engineering asks technicians to record all kind of diagnostics, reason and fault codes during the service execution. What happens with that data? Will the technician feel taken seriously when servicing yet another piece of equipment that is engineered for manufacturing?

Thus, you can imagine my positive surprise when engineering wants to ‘learn’ what service needs and what modern service execution tools are capable of. It is a true win-win when both service and engineering are seeking the joint benefit of their siloed effort. 

  1. Technicians will get a return on their administrative effort when they see that it results in easier-to-maintain products.
  2. Engineering will get the justification to fund their design-for-service effort when they see that service can improve the margin and drive new revenue streams.

Attach Rates

The concept of design-for-service is not new. Still many organisations only apply design-for-manufacturing. The latter concept drives for cost optimisation in the manufacturing process of a product at the expense of a potential higher maintenance cost over the life cycle of the product. Design-for-service optimises both the manufacturing and the maintenance aspects of a product. Yes, I hear you. What about TCO, total cost of ownership? TCO is great, but TCO only works when capital expenditures (Capex) and operating expenses (Opex) are evaluated by a single entity.

Cutting a few corners and dialling it down into a single metric, have a look at your Attach Rates. You can imagine that when engineering puts more effort/ cost into the design of the product, the selling price of the product goes up. Balancing the effort equation, you have the maintenance cost going down due to better quality and more efficient maintenance delivery. On top of that, the engineering effort may also result in the creation of new types of service offerings like availability services and data-monetisation. To reap the benefits post point of sales, you need to have or get your customer ‘attached’.

Attach Rate: the percentage of your installed base that has an associated service contract with your organisation

Getting ‘attached’ customers might be easier when you sell your product via your own direct sales channel versus units sold via your indirect channel, read dealers and resellers. That all changes when engineering starts including concepts like ‘digital activation’ of the product.

Serviceability

When engineering defines the Product, the result is captured in a BOM (Bill of Material). So far, nothing new, this is design-for-manufacturing 101. When we start designing-for-service, we need to make a number of explicit decisions. Amongst those I’m highlighting two of them:

  1. What components from the BOM are serviceable?
  2. What service delivery model is applicable for that component?

First, is the product serviceable at all? If it remains a single unit, you have made the implicit choice to exchange the whole unit with the option to have the defect unit repaired or scrapped at a depot. This model may be a fit for some products but the larger, expensive and critical the product, the more you’ll need to ‘open the box’.

Second, in the BOM you’ll have to identify those components that are serviceable. For each component in the Service-BOM or SPL (Spare Parts List) you’ll have to classify the part.

  1. FRU: Field Replaceable Unit – the repair/ replace of the component requires specialised skills of a technician
  2. CRU: Customer Replaceable Unit – the repair/ replace of the component can be done by any customer (no explicit skills required)
  3. DRU: Depot Repairable Unit – the repair cannot be done in the field, but requires the asset to come to a depot where dedicated skills, tooling and components are available

Old-school textbook?

I’ve come to learn the above two service design considerations when I stumbled into my first service job at IBM in 1993. Though I did not grasp the full impact at first, the more I talk to today’s customers, the more I am convinced we need to re-establish the handshake with engineering to deliver above and beyond the service value promise. 

Handshake

In my session with this customer, I had conversation with a very adept, eager and forward-looking engineer. He understood the consequences of engineering choices for the service delivery … and ultimately the impact to cost, revenue and customer expectation.

Next, he wanted to know how service delivery constraints and possibilities would impact his engineering process. It was clear to him that state-of-the-art service execution tooling, with a high degree of asset centricity would enable him to create a positive ROI for his design-for-service efforts.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on December 10th, 2020

Identifying new revenue streams in Service

It is no big secret that service revenue streams are profitable. Thus, it is to be expected that many CFO’s are the driving force behind your organisations’ service revenue growth ambitions. Especially when margins on product sales are dwindling. And indeed, we see the majority of today’s CSO’s having a revenue target. This is where the real transformation starts.

Having a cost-centre heritage practically all CSO’s know how to drive cost reductions in the service delivery process. Ask those same CSO’s if they know how to grow revenue, and the answers are less clear. Read on for the missing insights.

A small personal anecdote. In 2012 I was responsible for selling service contracts for a division of a € 60 billion family-run German company. Because my targets were revenue based, my role was moved from the service domain to the sales domain. The CRO asked me how I would achieve my goals and what marketing budget I needed. I said I would first build the delivery capability and then go for the marketing budget. How naive I was.

Voice of the Customer

How could I know what capabilities to build without understanding what customers really value? Without ever having put a lot of thought to my current services portfolio my service revenue stream was more a bookkeeping metric than a conscious business driver. Looking at my website under the services heading I saw the usual suspects; installation services, periodic maintenance, spare part sales and a helpdesk for break-fix scenarios. Remembering the words of the CRO; how did I market these offerings? Well, beyond the website, I didn’t. It made me aware that I needed the voice of the customer.

Customers expect assets to work

And when I asked, the answer was really simple; customers expect their assets to work. They want to maximise uptime while at the same time minimising operating cost.

The Preventive Maintenance story

May I make a guess? Preventive maintenance is a significant portion of your service revenue stream. But what if your customer starts questioning your rationale of ‘preventing’ and how those activities link to the achieved uptime? What if the procurement department of your customer pressures you to reduce the maintenance cost?

In our previous blog on how to sell customers on the value of preventive maintenance we have shown that value recognition of service delivery is moving from the actual execution to the insights you can provide. Sure, the service work needs to be done, but beyond fixing the asset, you have to ‘fix’ the customer. So, if you perform a periodic maintenance, try to shift your focus to the reporting and the interpretation/ communication of what the outcome means to the customer.

A customer may respond with:

  • Did you find any anomalies during PM and what impact do those have?
  • Do I need to reserve any additional budget to keep the asset going?
  • How can I improve the performance of the asset?

From fixing what breaks to knowing what works

Beyond reactive services

Considering revenue streams based on reactive type services are in jeopardy, the way forward is offering services that focus on the output and outcome of the asset. This implies that you have to change your paradigm from a product focus to a customer focus. At the core of your service delivery is not the product, but how your customer is using it. It makes a big difference if the same product is used intermittently at a 25% utilisation versus a 24/7 usage at 99.x%.

The key to selling uptime and performance-based services, is your understanding of the ‘cost of downtime’ of your product in the context of its use. Thus, we’re back at the voice of the customer.

I love penalty clauses

A ‘great’ way to engage in a value conversation with your customer is the topic of penalty clauses. I love them! Not because I, and my CFO, like to include the penalty liabilities into a service contract, but because penalties are a surrogate for something that is important to your customer. Try to discover the ‘why’ behind a penalty clause and focus on the mitigation of that reason. You may discover new types of services you can sell. 

My guess, it’s all about availability of the machine. Apply more curiosity and your customer will tell you when that availability matters … and when not. Even a 99.x% utilisation will have ‘black out’ windows allowing you to perform the necessary service activities without the stress over-dimensioning your service delivery organisation.

Sell first, then build delivery capability

Going back to my CRO. On a continuum of potential services, I could offer a full range from reactive to pro-active, from product to usage-based services. In the end, the determining factor is not me, the seller of the services. It’s all about the buyer of services. My CRO ‘cured’ my naivety. I first listen to my customer and sell what he/ she wants. Then, if I have a state-of-the-art and flexible service execution platform then I do not need to worry about the service delivery capability being able to catch up.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on November 24th, 2020

Finding Revenue Leakage in your Service Business – part 2

Do you know what your maximum service revenue potential could be based on the product units your organisation sells? Is your current service revenue less than this maximum? And, do you have a process to upsell service contracts into your existing installed base? One or more puzzled looks, chances are big you are suffering from Upsell-leakage. 

In the previous episode we have defined two types of leakage; Contract and Non-Contract leakage. In this episode we’ll define Upsell-leakage. Most likely upsell leakage will be twice as big as the other two combined.

Upsell leakage

As service organisation you’d like all your customers to buy your premium service. Some customers will buy ‘gold’ service level for their installed base, others will be happy with ‘basic’ service. It all depends on the use case of your customer and their propensity to value the services you offer. As use cases tend to change over time, you may want to consider setting up an upselling program using the touch points from your service delivery. 

If you don’t ask, you don’t give them the opportunity to say yes

Not having such a programme deprives you of revenue potential; being the delta between your current service revenue and ’gold’ service level.

Defining the upsell service revenue potential

To quantify upsell leakage we can use a mechanism known to Sales as TAM (Total Addressable Market). Suppose you sold 1,000 units at $10,000 each. Suppose a ‘gold’ service contract has an annual selling price of 12% of the unit selling price. This would put your service-TAM at $1,200,000 per annum.

Imagine your service department has 600 of those 1,000 units on their radar screen. The rest is sold via an indirect sales channel and/ or lost-out-of-sight. This gives an installed base visibility of 60%. Let’s assume those 600 units generate a service revenue of $400,000, split across:

  • 10% of units are in (OEM) warranty and don’t generate revenue (yet)
  • 50% of units have a bronze, silver or gold contract generating $240,000
  • 40% of units don’t have a contract and generate $160,000 in Time & Material (T&M)

With the above figures you currently reap 33% of your service-TAM and you have an upsell potential of $800,000. Monitoring this upsell leakage metric should give you the incentive to put a revenue generation program in place.

Metrics driving upsell leakage

In the numeric example we’ve touched on three metrics that impact and drive upsell leakage.

  • Installed base visibility: it all begins with installed base visibility. Units not on your radar screen will not contribute to your service revenue! This is easier to manage for units sold via your organisation’s direct sales channel, though it does require an effort to manage the life cycle from as-sold to as-maintained. For units sold via the indirect sales channel you’ll have to exert extra effort to get access point-of-sale data, maybe even ‘buying’ the data.
  • Attach rates: both warranty and contracts are attached to the unit, thus driving attach rates. Attach rates are ‘boolean’, they say something about having an attached contract, not about the amount of revenue you get through that contract. Attach rates start at the installation/ commissioning date of a unit. Either Sales makes the attached-sale at point-of-sale of the unit or the Service department drives the attaching post-point-of-sale. Driving metric for Service is to maintain a continuum of attachment throughout the life cycle of the unit. 
  • Service revenue contribution: Within the subset of attached contracts you’d like to have as much revenue contribution as possible, ‘gold’ service being the holy grail. Per service contract you could have any of the following revenue contributions:
    • OEM Warranty: 0% of Service-TAM
    • Enhanced Warranty: 33% of Service-TAM (only the on-top-of OEM warranty piece)
    • Extended Warranty or Basic service: 67% of Service-TAM
    • Gold: 100% of Service-TAM

In terms of merchandise, you can’t force anyone to buy something

Remedying upsell leakage

The overarching paradigm to growing service revenue is twofold: increasing your installed base visibility and making sure you have attached offerings to those units. 

Getting visibility on units sold via the indirect channel is slightly more complicated, but once you quantify the associated service-TAM with those units, you may have the ‘funding’ to ‘buy’ the data. This may even lead to revenue sharing models with your channel partners.

The last piece of the puzzle is using the visibility of the upsell leakage gap whenever you have a touch point with your customer. Note that the original (service) contract has been drafted many months ago by people whom are further away from the business, who could not 100% envision the service reality of today. You thus may end up in an entitlement conversation where the customer has an urgent requirement whereas the contract ‘only’ covers for the ‘basics’. The delta is an upsell opportunity. Either resulting in an upgrade of the service contract or maybe only upgrading an incidental work order. In case the latter happens more often, you have the data points to convince the customer for the former.

Now, understanding that upsell leakage is potentially twice as big as contract and non-contract leakage together, you may have found your compelling reason to start another revenue growth project.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on November 19th, 2020