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)

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.

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

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

Finding Revenue Leakage in your Service Business – part 1

Have you ever had to Credit or Discount an invoice? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you have leakage, if the answer is ‘no’ then you definitely have leakage.

How do you respond to the Aberdeen finding that best-in-class companies have a whopping 14% warranty & contract leakage? Denial, absurd, overstated, or … wait-a-minute, maybe I’m not looking at the right KPIs to detect leakage. Once you acknowledge leakage exists in your organisation, wouldn’t you go all the way to manage leakage out of your business, knowing it has a direct impact on your bottom line?

Defining leakage

What is service leakage? In the simplest terminology: you are losing money. And the bad news is that it often happens without you knowing or realising it.

We can distinguish two types of service leakage:

  1. Non-Contract leakage : the periods in the operational life cycle of an asset not covered by warranty and/or a service contract (sometimes this is also called T&M-leakage because service outside a contract classifies as T&M).
  2. Contract leakage: an asset is covered by warranty and/ or a service contract but in your service delivery you provide more and/or a higher level of service than the customer is entitled to. 

Contract leakage typically occurs when service organisations do not know and/or manage expiration dates of warranty and contracts. Non-contract leakage typically occurs when the entitlement process is fragmented and/ or when the information is not accessible to all involved service actors.

Let’s mention a couple of common scenarios:

  • A customer claims a defect within the warranty period. You correctly entitle the job as ‘warranty’. On site the technician detects ‘customer induced damage’. The technician performs the repair anyhow and there is no charge to the customer.
  • A customer is entitled to next day service but presses you to fix the machine today without paying an additional fee. Because your technicians are not busy today, you give in to the request.
  • A customer makes a service request assuming the current contract is still active. Upon entitlement check you detect it has expired three months ago. The customer agrees to renew the contract per current date. You incur 3 months loss in contract revenue.
  • A customer has multiple machines of the same model. Only one of them is covered by a contract. The single contract line is used to entitle work on all of them because the customer always uses the same serial number.

Service Leaks are not the problem; they are the symptom. They reveal a disconnect between process design and actual behaviour. Denial of leakage increases the disconnect.

Impact of leakage

One of the unfortunate things in business is that the cost always hits you – now, if you are so good at capturing cost why do you allow revenue to slip through your fingers? How do you think your shareholders would enjoy hearing that you worked on a customer’s asset and neglected to bill them? 

Another way to look at the impact of leakage is to establish how much extra revenue would need to found above and beyond what you are already billing for. Let me paint a picture for you, as we have established you capture all of your costs so any leakage (missed revenue) that you capture will have a 100% positive impact to your bottom line – every dollar billed will be a full dollar of equivalent gross margin. So, let’s say you were running at 20% margin as a service organisation and you allowed $100,000 to leak through your service organisation, now a service org would need to go and find $500,000 of brand spanking new business to offset this $100,000 leakage just to break even. How hard is it for a business to find $500,000 of extra revenue with the same resources? 

Actually, quite easy – set your system up to minimise the risk of leakage….

On top of the cost, revenue and margin contribution impacts, customer expectation is a big one. Leakage has a very large behavioural component. If a customer is used to getting service for free, it becomes very difficult to start charging for it. If a customer ‘discovers’ you can’t manage your entitlements correctly, this may lead to ‘unwanted’ service calls.

A similar behavioural impact can be expected on the technician’s end. A technician chose his job because he/she wants to fix things and be a hero on site. A technician did not select the job to do admin and become a contract-referee. Thus, if you do not empower your technicians with the right tools and information, do not expect any cost/revenue sensitivity, they will go for CSAT and please the customer.

Finding leakage

Do you find leakage or is it a matter of ‘capturing’ it? You are delivering all of the services that create the opportunity for leakage, so you already know where it is, you just need the correct tools to capture it, Oh and by the way,  they are never humans and excel… You need a robust process and a software solution to support that process and remove ‘chance’ from the equation. 

Detecting, quantifying and finding the origin of leakage in your organisation is a process like remedying a leaky roof. You’ll need adjacent ‘instruments’ to find the source.

Remedying leakage

The first step towards remedying leakage is accepting its existence. Once you have made leakage visible, you can start actioning it. And in general those actions fall into three categories:

  1. Stop delivering free service; this has a direct cost reduction benefit.
  2. Continue delivering ‘free’ service and start charging for it; this will increase both your revenue and your margin; the additional margin is 100% as we have shown you have already incurred the cost.
  3. Continue delivering ‘free’ service and use it as collateral for something else of value; this benefit is harder to manage, but we can argue it is good for CSAT and can be used during contract renewal to counter cost & rate reduction arguments from your customer.

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

The role of service in the Experience Economy

In the Experience Economy, customer service means more than fixing what’s broken. Coen Jeukens of ServiceMax explores what this means for service organizations.

In my native Dutch language, we have an expression “operatie geslaagd, patiënt overladen,” which translates to “surgery successful, patient deceased.” Just because a procedure or process was performed successfully does not necessarily mean it generated a successful outcome. That’s because experience matters.

The ‘Experience Economy’ is a phrase first coined in 1998 in a Harvard Business Review article and later in an eponymous book by consultants Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. It’s based on the premise that businesses must deliberately orchestrate and create memorable encounters for their customers, and that the memory itself becomes the product — or in other words, the ‘experience’. Airlines for example, are not just taking you from A to B on time and at the lowest price, but (hopefully) giving you their distinctive en-route experience.

Valuing the experience in service delivery

The ‘Experience Economy’ states that over time the value of the experience will outweigh the value of the product or service. The implications for service delivery — fixing the product alone — is not enough. You need to ‘fix’ the customer as well.

It’s particularly relevant in service-based industries, because more advanced experience businesses can charge for the value of the ‘transformation’ that an experience offers. But a lot has happened since 1998 and the lines have since blurred. Experience is now intertwined with customer management strategies and more recently the move to outcome-based business models and the rising emphasis on customer success.

To help us measure customer satisfaction, Fred Reichheld introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in 2003. Today you see NPS, CSATCES and CX everywhere. We care about the customer because the product/service itself is moving towards becoming a commodity. To differentiate and assure ourselves of sustainable revenue streams, we need to move upwards. We need to do what customers really care about. This drives many transformation journeys.

From break-fix to knowing what works

For service organizations, this means moving from fixing what breaks to knowing what works.

For example, a global technology solutions vendor had a persistent problem in finding sufficient qualified technicians. As an experiment they started hiring hospitality graduates. Their logic was that with modern tools, it’s easier to teach technical skills to people-oriented employees, than to teach people skills to technology-oriented employees. In other words, you hire for attitude and softer skills, then teach the technical competency. With increasingly vocal customers this experiment not only became a success for the company, it also became the norm.

As industries become increasingly automated we are rethinking the skills our workforce needs. The role of service technicians in delivering positive experiences, human touch, contextual understanding, communication and the slew of softer skills aside from the service or maintenance task, is becoming more important than ever.

As the economy begins to emerge from locked-down restrictions to finding a new level of ‘normal’, customer experience will be the bedrock of service delivery, customer retention and proactive customer management strategies.

Published in Diginomica on July 1st, 2020.

Why Asset Centricity Matters

When you communicate with your garage to service your car, what is the first question they ask? Do they ask your name, or do they ask your license plate number? This is at the core of asset centricity. The asset is tracked throughout its life cycle to drive cost efficiency, revenue generation and customer satisfaction.

Know thy Installed Base

One of the first questions we ask to any organisation is what level of visibility they have on their installed base. Do you track your products/ equipment assets beyond point-of-sale?

The rationale is simple. If you want to be efficient in service delivery, you need to know where the asset are and in what state. If you want to drive revenue and satisfaction, you need to know how your customers are using the assets and why those assets are important to them in their operations.

If you don’t know your installed base, your actions will be ad hoc and be at the mercy of tribal knowledge of the people serving that customer.

Schneider Electric transformed their business model from ‘sell and forget” to “sell and service” growing their installed base visibility from 10% to 35% driving service revenue by 11% YoY.

<Insert link to Schneider customer reference>

Recognise the asset

You may know the customer, but if you don’t know the asset you may make the wrong decision. This is illustrated in the entitlement process. Entitlement is the gateway to cost control, revenue increase and customer satisfaction.

  • Leakage: provide service on an asset without warranty and/or contract
  • SLA attainment & CX: over/ underdeliver on customer expectation
  • Attach rates & revenue: miss an opportunity to cross and upsell
The role of Entitlement in Service Execution

Often, we hear organisations say that their knowledge about their assets is not yet at a level to perform a reliable entitlement process, resulting in a lot of corrective actions post work order debrief. Have a look at the Schneider electric video, collecting and validating asset data is a journey.

Tip: if by improving technician productivity the ‘saved’ time does not constitute an extra job per day, you can use the time to take inventory of the installed assets, its state and its surroundings.   

Know the asset

You might know the technical details of the assets you produce. Your maintenance manuals may prescribe what to do under nominal operating parameters. But what do you about how your customers are using the assets? Some may be ‘sweated’ and run at 99% of capacity. Others may be used occasionally only.

Having knowledge about how your assets are being used by your customers is an essential piece of information to define the right action. It will put the service request in context, help in the entitlement decision and support the triage process. It will give your customer the feeling that you’re providing contextual solutions.

Manage the asset

In the car example of the opening paragraph, the dealer focusses on the asset. The asset has a life cycle. In each phase of the life cycle different service and maintenance activities need to be executed … in combination with the usage profile of the asset.

The car may be purchased/ leased by owner A. After a number of years, the asset may transfer to owner B. If the maintenance history would be tied to the customer record, the data would be lost under ownership B. Thus, the reason why more and more organisations adopt asset centricity for life cycle continuity.

This continuity is extremely important in regulated industries. If any time in the life cycle a quality or compliance defect is detected in a series of assets, then you would like to have the opportunity to search an asset centric installed based, instead of sending messages to the owner who did the initial purchase of the asset.

Asset centricity allow you to manage your field change orders effectively. Asset centricity allows you to manage mid-life upgrades. Asset centricity is an equally powerful paradigm as customer centricity. Try to merge them into your business operations.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on April 14th, 2020

Selling Preventive Maintenance as a Value Add

Selling preventive maintenance is not what it used to be. In the old days a manufacturer could use its expert position to prescribe a maintenance scheme. Today, a combination of emerging technologies and pressure from buyers to do it cheaper/ smarter warrant a revisiting of the value proposition of preventive maintenance.

PM = Periodical Maintenance

As acronym we use PM. When talking we utter the words preventive maintenance. But what do we really mean?

  • Planned Maintenance
  • Periodical Maintenance
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Prescriptive Maintenance

Analysing a lot of service contracts offered by OEMs we still see most of the maintenance is periodical or counter based. Just like the maintenance interval for your car; a PM each year or at 15,000 km.

All those periodical or counter based maintenance jobs are good service revenue for your service organisations But what happens when customers start challenging you? What if the customer has access to knowledge that amends or contradicts the engineering assumptions that led to the definition of your current maintenance intervals?

Buyers seek to reduce maintenance cost

In a world where people are more vocal, we see customers expecting things to work and buyers seeking to reduce maintenance cost. These expectations impact the way we sell service contracts. 

Selling is more straight forward when you can see a direct relationship between the pain and the gain. Such a link is obvious for installation and break-fix activities. But it is less apparent for preventive maintenance. Try to picture buyers asking these questions:

  • What does PM prevent and what is the risk that remains?
  • What is the rationale of the current maintenance interval?
  • Nothing happened last year. What will happen if we skip or delay a PM?
  • Can you dissect the PM job in activities (show me what you do) and is it really necessary to have all those activities done by an experienced/ expensive technician as yours?
  • Can we do pieces of the PM job ourselves?

You get the gist of the conversation and know where it is leading  less cost for your customer at the expense of less PM revenue for your service organisation.

Problem-Fix curve

What complicates the selling of service, is that in most scenarios the buyer and the customer/ user are not the same person. You may convince the user of a piece of equipment to do preventive maintenance, the buyer on the other hand has a different set of objectives. Most likely the buyer will push you on a path towards commoditising and cannibalising your PM services. All in order to reduce cost.

Rediscovering value

To stay ahead of the game let’s dissect PM along the lines of value creation for the customer. High level you can split a PM into three pieces:

  1. The execution of the maintenance activities
  2. The reporting on those activities
  3. The communication and interpretation of the results

Ask your customers to rate the value of each of those pieces. It’s probable that you will find that the business value of PM to a lesser extent is in the execution and more in the reporting and communication.

Maybe you pride yourself in your uniqueness of execution, whereas the customer might perceive it as a commodity. If also reporting and communication are on par, you may face price erosion.

If your customer needs the PM report for compliance or insurance purposes, the value of the report increases. When you consider that PM is often a play of risk and liability, you can price the value of your brand. Example: It does make a difference to an insurer if a yearly PM/ inspection is performed by a triple A company or a middle of the road company.

Communication value comes into play when your customer expects you to be a partner rather than a supplier. 

  • Supplier – “just send me the PM report, I’ll read and interpret it myself. When I need assistance, I’ll contact you.”
  • Partner – “help me interpret the findings and consequences of the PM. How does this impact my business?”.

In the latter situation you can monetise the communication beyond the effort of having a conversation for a couple of hours. PM can thus elevate from an obligatory periodical execution to an instrument of customer satisfaction and cross- and upselling.

Repackaging the preventive maintenance offering

In order to retain and expand your PM revenue stream in a context where the buyers move to reduce their spend, do go in discovery mode and (re)define preventive maintenance. PM is not a singular black box once defined by somebody in engineering with a product focus. Modern PM is a menu of choices (and consequences) for your buyer based on the usage profile of the product, budget and risk.

This article is published in Field Service News Jan/Feb 2020 issue.

Equipment as a Service

Do you want to own a car, or do you want to drive it? Do you want to buy and maintain a piece of equipment, or do you want to operate it?

In our business practise we often have these conversations when reminiscing on what really matters to end-users. We tend to believe it’s about outcomes and value, call it Servitisation. Still we see a lot of conventional decision making focussed on the product and associated Capex.

Voice of the Customer

According to a research by Accenture[i] around 10% of the life cycle cost is linked to designed and acquisition. The other 90% of cost is incurred during maintain, operate and disposal. Thus, it is not surprisingly that we witness an increase in customer awareness concerning the maintain and operate phase of a product.

The maintain and operate phase is as important to the customer as it is to the supplier. Witnessing dwindling margins on the product sale, suppliers are (re)focussing on the profitable margin contribution of maintain and operate services. At the same time customers are trying to reduce their operational expenditures. Focussing on the voice of the customer is often the path to finding a long-term partnership compared to short-term commercial “victories” of either party.

We want to reduce our operational expense but realise that we need the supplier in the long run.

 Why should I own the Product

The road to servitisation often starts with a simple question: “if I only want the value/ outcome of a product, why should I bear the risks of owning it while the supplier holds all the knowledge about the product”.

  • Rolls Royce “invented” Power-by-the-hour offering because the Royal Airforce demanded a fixed cost per hour in 1962.
  • Philips created Pay-per-Lux in 2015 as a result of an academic experiment with Schiphol Airport only requesting light.
  • Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte offers refrigeration-as-a-service to housing corporations reducing total cost of ownership while at the same time minimising ecological footprint.

The common thread in the above three examples is that these manufacturers transformed their business model from one based on Capex and Title Passage to one based on Pay-per-Use and partnership.

It’s a matter of looking at a bigger picture beyond the typical functional boundaries inside any organisation:

  • Apart from the one-time-sale, what is the “win” for a manufacturer in selling a piece of equipment the customer is not able to use?
  • Apart from a short-term saving, what is the “win” of a discount for a customer when it stiffens innovation?

The transformation towards outcome-based service contracts enables both manufacturer and customer to define mutual and sustainable value.

A Product is the carrier of its Outcome

Leap of Faith

To a certain extent buying/ selling a Service rather than a Product is a leap of faith. Both manufacturer and customer are in for a paradigm shift.

  • A manufacturer will have to recalibrate from the concept of infrequent revenue recognition to sustainable margin contribution.
  • A customer will have to disconnect the outcome of a product from owning it.

Thus, we see manufacturers and customers not completely abandoning the Capex & Title Passage business model, but we see them adding a business model based on outcome-based services once their mindset embraces the bilateral value promise.

Gartner[ii] expects that by 2023, 25% of commercial or industrial OEMs will offer IoT-connected product(s) via outcome-based service contracts

Seconding the transformation towards outcome-based services is the rise[iii] of the role of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). With a lesser margin contribution from the product sale organisations are looking at means to tie in the margin contribution of services. With a CRO organisations are putting all their eggs in one basket regarding to drive sustainable and profitable revenue growth. Companies with a CRO are leading with outcome- and subscription-based service offerings.

Digital and Connected

In an outcome-based model the focus shifts from Owning to Using. Digital technology and connected products are the key enablers in understanding and managing product usage.

It starts with creating full visibility of how a piece of equipment performs in the business context of your customer and how costs are incurred in doing so. Next, you’ll need to have a set of levers to be able to influence the both maintenance and operate activities. Lastly, you’ll need to understand how your customer will make money by using the outcome in order define a pricing model.

In a business model based on title passage and transfer of risk to customer there is a lesser motivation for the supplier to invest in digital and connectivity. The greater the motivation is in an outcome-based model where all maintain and operate risks remain with the supplier. Technology becomes a means and necessity to mitigate those risks.

  • Digital stream lines operations
  • Connectivity creates visibility and transparency

Customers expect things to work

A second reason to invest in digital and connectivity is an increasing customer expectation that products simply must work. This implies two things:

  • Prevent a product from breaking.
  • When it does break, minimise the impact on operations.

Using technology allows us to pre-empt a failure and to minimise the impact of downtime on operations.

In an outcome-based business model both customer and supplier have an aligned interest to ensure availability of the outcome “when needed”. The last two words are essential, because no matter how much you’ll invest in preventing downtime, ultimately any product will break or need maintenance. Thus, it’s the combination of technology and understanding the outcome requirements of your customer that defines the ability to monetise outcomes.

Mutual benefit

With new outcome-based variants in the offing, we often hear the doubt: “What happens when the outcome is made available by supplier, but it’s not utilised by customer”. 

For nearly two decades we are familiar with the copying machines example where you pay per copy. Over the years copier companies have perfected their outcome-based model with their customers to mutual benefit. The mechanisms they have created:

  • Provide consultancy and software solutions to make better and more usage of the deployed copying machines.
  • If utilisation goes up, the copying machine is replaced by a larger model and the former model is deployed at customers with a smaller demand.
  • Use price breaks and contract duration to cater to customer cost predictability expectation. 

Going back to our own examples. An airline buying power-by-the-hour has a genuine interest to fly the planes. A building owner buying pay-per-lux or refrigeration can only last when having tenants. If you can find the right driver to bill your outcome, outcome-based services are the way forward. In the end we want to use products. We need medical equipment because we value life. We require construction equipment because we need buildings to live and work. We need transportation means because we want to travel. Looking forward, the Gartner prediction may be conservative.


[i] Insight into Asset Lifecyle and Total Cost of Ownership – Accenture 2012

[ii] Critical Capabilities for Field Service Management, Gartner 2019 – G00436216

[iii] Anticipating the Information Needs of the Chief Revenue Officer in 2023, Gartner 2012, G00239551,