Using trigger points to manage your service business

Sometimes it feels like being a jack of all trades when managing a service business. On the one hand you act like a firefighter, on the other hand you know service is strategic to your business’s future earnings. That said, how do you elevate your job from the reactive to the proactive? Establishing trigger points may be the key ingredient to manage your business on an 80/20 basis. Thus, giving you the focus on interventions that matter.

Define success

When do you know you are doing a great job? In speaking to many service executives, it is not always clear what the norm is. “We want to increase service revenue by 20%”. Why 20%? Why not more? Why not less? In my blog Mind the Gap I tried to establish a norm for a maximum service revenue. In a blog by Shawn LaRocco he defined a norm for Cost to Serve. Both blogs have in common that success is put in a perspective of a norm.

Triggering the outliers

A facilities management customer of ours is processing 15,000 – 20,000 workorders per month. In the past they had a team of 30+ people in the back office validating and correcting all debriefed work orders. Based on gut feeling and experience there was a belief that 80% of the work orders did close within a bandwidth of ±5% of expectation. By formalising that bandwidth through trigger points, they now have a tool to filter the volume and start managing by exception.

Timely intervention

Apart from managing your workload on a 80/20 basis, trigger points serve as an early-warning system allowing for timely intervention. You don’t want to pay penalty cost for a missed SLA. Instead, you want a service job to be flagged if its progress jeopardises SLA attainment. E.g., a break-fix job needs to be completed within 4 hours. After 3 hours you could ping the technician to ask if completion is still on track. If not, you could provide the technician with support and/or contact the customer with a heads up.

A trigger point is thus a floor or ceiling boundary on a metric triggering an event. Using workflow, you can route the event to the mitigating personas in your organisation.

Value = Result minus Expectation

Many years ago, the value of trigger points was eloquently explained to me by university professor Meindert Flikkema. He stated that every event has both an expectation and a result. If somebody gets more than expected, then that person is happy … and vice versa.

In the context of running my own service organisation at Bosch I tweaked Meindert’s equation and added the concept of a bandwidth around expectation. Similar to the above example of ±5%, I strived to manage my operations inside the bandwidth. Inside the bandwidth I let the business run on automations. If I managed well, that would account for 80% of my workload. The outliers I routed to my attention queue. Over time trigger points would help me focus on what really matters for both my customers and my CFO. I’ll use the business driver contract profitability to illustrate the value equation and its impact.

Contract profitability in action

Suppose a customer wants to buy a full-service contract with a scope-of-work containing preventive maintenance, capped break-fix events, calibrations, software maintenance and an included set of spare parts and consumables. Using a CPQ-like tool the scope-of-work totals to a calculated cost of $75,000, a calculated revenue of $100,000 and an expected margin of 25%.

Throughout the lifecycle of the contract executed service activities will impact the cost you accrue. If those cost exceed the $75,000 you have either over-delivered or over-run on your calculated cost. Your CFO will see a less-than-expected margin contribution. If your margin is significantly more than the expected 25%, then either you are over-charging or under-delivering. Your customer may get a feeling he/she is not getting value for money. 

Tipping the trigger level should make you curious. Challenge both expectation and result. Do you have a clear understanding of cost-to-serve? Are you taking the life cycle of the product into account? Did the product owner accept your mid-life-upgrade proposal?

Pro-active

As service leader you don’t want to be told about under or over-situations by your CFO when it is too late for corrective intervention. Similarly, you don’t want you customers to churn. Trigger levels act as an early-warning system before you accrue irreversible cost or impact customer expectation negatively.

  • It’s November. Show me all contracts at 80% of calculated cost. Let’s see what service activities we can push out to ‘save’ this years’ margin contribution.
  • It’s July. We anticipated six break-fix events for a full year. We’ve already had four. We want to flag future break-fix service requests to inform the customer service agent and technician to be stricter.
  • It’s September. The year-to-date contract margin spikes at 35%. Upon investigation you find that a contracted and scheduled calibration activity has been cancelled by the customer. Instead of treating this as easy money, you engage with your customer to pre-empt contract renewal conversations.

Managing intelligent

As long as we have unplanned downtime, firefighting will remain an element of a service leaders’ job. Service execution tools are a great help to facilitate the transaction and collect service data. The true value manifests itself when you use transactional data in combination with trigger levels. Trigger levels give you that early-warning to become pro-active instead of reactive. Trigger levels add direction to your decision making. And better decision making makes you more intelligent and more strategic. Not only inside the service domain, but across your organisation.

Why Are Sales Leaders Taking Over Service?

For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing about the convergence of Sales and Service. Service, with all its touchpoints during the operational life cycle of a product, has a tremendous capacity for value creation. To reap that value, Service needs a little more Sales DNA. Likewise, Sales needs a little more heart for Service. With a shift from revenue contribution to margin contribution, we see Sales ‘taking over’ the Service Revenue agenda.

You Now Report into Sales

A true story. I’ve had extensive experience running service departments. In all those years my main objectives were focused on service delivery and operational excellence. Over time, I saw an increased interest in service margin and service revenue. When my former organization updated my business objectives with a service revenue target, that goal came as part of a package deal: “you now report into Sales.”

Initially, I did not understand how reporting into Service or Sales when having a service revenue target would make a difference. At that time, the prevailing current was that revenue generation was the prerogative of Sales. Service was seen as a delivery engine focussed on operational gain.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a dynamic between Sales and Service when it comes to the ‘claiming’ of business case benefits. Lately, a CEO put the reasoning into works while we presented the business benefits of a digital and service transformation project to his executive team. The CEO attributed productivity and cost savings to operations and service. He associated revenue targets with sales. When our business case showed significant revenue benefits through improving installed base visibility and attach rates, sales were the first to claim credits and ownership. For sales, these two improvements translate into touchpoints and conversion. This duo is the bread-and-butter of the sales process.

Bridging Sales and Service

Though sales leaders may be taking over the revenue growth agenda, we all know there is a huge difference between selling products and selling services. The engagement model is different. The buyer role is different. The appraisal of Capex versus Opex has a different impact on decision-making, etc. Most of all, it’s a simple numbers game. Sales revenue is big numbers, service revenue is smaller numbers: Guess who will be seen as the hero?

Any CFO can tell you that services, despite carrying a lower revenue amount, often have a significantly higher margin contribution. What if we were to start incentivizing salespeople with a margin contribution target rather than a revenue target? Great idea? Too radical? Maybe such a move could swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. If all your salespeople were selling services, you would forget you need an initial product sale to make the model work.

So we are back to an earlier blog post I wrote about the importance of Sales and Service Working in Collaboration. The initial product sale is like an ‘entry ticket’ to selling adjacent services. Using the analogy of a theme park, say Universal Studios or Legoland, once you are inside and start spending money, that’s where the EBIT is made. It is the achievement of ticket sales to get you inside. It is the effort of the entertainers to keep you inside as long as possible…and spend money. Are both roles different? Yes. Is one role more important than the other? No.

Building a Portfolio of Lifecycle Revenue Generators

We can transpose the analogy of a theme park to the world products and services by illustrating two common situations:

  • Product sales over-promises: Making it hard(er) for service to sell attached services. In effect, you’re trading high-margin contribution activities for a lower margin contribution.
  • Services portfolio not appealing enough: Making it hard(er) to generate service revenue and providing customers with reasons to churn.

Both examples should compel any product/services company to rethink their revenue generation and margin contribution ‘building blocks.

More and more sales leaders are understanding that revenue generation spans the entire lifecycle of the sold product. The realization that the post-sales value proposition has a symbiotic relationship with the pre-sales value proposition, triggers sales leaders to claim control of the services portfolio and the lifecycle go-to-market strategy.

Now you are thinking: is this the job description of a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)? Yes, you are close. When a buyer applies a concept like total cost of ownership (TCO) in weighing a purchase, then the response on the sales side converges in the responsibilities of a CRO.

Is it bad for Service when Sales leaders are taking over? I believe not. I think Sales and Service have different but complementary skills to drive the revenue growth agenda. Sales DNA finds Service Heart!

This article is published in Diginomica on June 9th, 2021 and ServiceMax Field Service Digital on June 17th, 2021

Frontline Revenue: Take Your Field Service Lead Program to the Next Level

In our first article, we discussed tactics for getting technicians onboard with the idea of selling. While technician lead generation programs don’t involve a big investment in technology, they do require change management and training. Once technicians are ready to extend their role as trusted advisors into recommending and quoting new products and services, how do you ensure they do a great job and stick with it?

Follow these five tips to accelerate your technician lead generation program.

1. Don’t Make Your Technicians Chase Their Leads

As noted in the first article, the black hole of lead follow-up can be a major failure point in lead generation programs. If a technician submits a lead, they shouldn’t have to chase the responsible parties on follow-up status. This is particularly true if the lead is tied to an actual conversation with or recommendation made to the customer thereby implying that the technician’s reputation is at stake. Technicians don’t need to see every lead be successful, they just need to know that their effort is being followed up on and this can be done effectively via improved communication or opportunity tracking tools.

2. Push for Sales Accountability

The monetary value of a service lead might not compare with that of a regular sales opportunity. This might be enough to detract salespeople from following up on service-generated leads. Therefore, it’s essential that sales leadership is bought into driving accountability for a service lead program. An easy way to do this is to show the impact that top-performing regions or districts are having when it comes to top-line revenue. If sales isn’t motivated by that performance, business leadership will be.

3. Compensation – Make it Timely

Most organizations develop a financial reward system for field service technicians based on leads closed. Some offer incentives for the volume of leads generated. The issue is that most programs stop here. While the field technician cares about the amount of recognition received, they care more about getting recognized quickly and painlessly. They shouldn’t have to fight for the recognition or have to wait for it for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, it’s essential that the reward system developed, monetary or otherwise, is efficient enough to deliver the reward to the field technician in an expedited manner.

4. Keep an Eye on Activity-Based Metrics

Activity drives results and it is essential to track activity-based metrics as leading indicators of program success. These metrics could include participation rates, referrals per technician, and average cycle or follow-up time for leads. Organizations might also want to consider a technician confidence index or survey to measure the health of their lead program. Such a survey would measure how confident the technicians are in their ability to get paid on leads. The higher the confidence, the greater the activity.

5. Leverage Your Top Performers to Drive Increased Interest

Some organizations consider lead scoreboards to gamify lead generation. In most instances, top-performing technicians or branches are identified in terms of activity and business impact. The true impact of these scoreboards is uncertain as this is tied to your organization’s culture and the mindset of the technicians. That said, it is effective to have your top performers share their success stories and best practices with other technicians. Not only is the content useful and valuable for the other technicians but it also comes from a party that they trust.

Our Global Customer Transformation team is happy to learn more about your program and offer insight and knowledge on where it can be strengthened.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on June 10th, 2021

Frontline Revenue: Starting a Field Service Lead Program

Field service organizations are under pressure to complement operational and customer-facing improvements with commercial results. As a result, many organizations are looking at their front-line field service personnel to identify new business opportunities or sell when in front of the customer. It’s safe to say that most organizations currently have some form of a field service lead program in place and more are beginning to equip their technicians with the tools necessary to recognize leads or to sell.

The debate on whether technicians should or shouldn’t be selling can evoke a great deal of passion from the CSO and technician community. What is true is that field service customers are more accepting of a sales approach (advice, lead, quote) from a field service technician if they have a relationship with that technician or if that technician has resolved their current challenge and is working to provide them with additional value.

Interestingly, research from the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class service organizations were twice as likely as peers to incentivize technicians to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. These same best-in-class firms realized a 7 percent year-over-year increase in service revenue, compared to 3 percent for average and 1 percent for laggards.

This increase in service revenue could be explained by the positive feedback loop that happens between technicians who are empowered to sell and salespeople who actively pursue service-driven sales opportunities.

Even if technicians aren’t directly selling, it is beneficial to have your field service teams capture and share installed base information as well as opportunities that can drive additional value for customers. These opportunities can come in the form of follow-up work attached to a preventive maintenance or inspection visit, or a competitive replacement opportunity when that asset is nearing its end of useful life.

In building a field service lead generation program, there are several best practices to consider:

1. Have a Dedicated Lead Management Process and Support it With Technology

Lead generation must be easy and effective if the field service team is going to bother with the added responsibility. Field service technicians will abandon the process immediately if it doesn’t work. Typically, the two major failure points occur around lead follow-up by sales and lead-affiliated compensation for field service technicians. A lot of the core areas of lead management can be automated with the aid of mobile and CRM solutions. That said, there must be well thought out process for how leads are managed throughout the entire sales cycle, all the way from identification to closure.

Be mindful of the fact that sales and service people have a different definition of a lead. A salesperson is used to selling big things with big intervals, whereas a service person identifies multiple smaller opportunities. A typical response from a salesperson is to disqualify a service lead as being too small (for the effort). Consider establishing a function that bundles multiple service leads into a larger package and then hand over that package to sales.

2. Establish the ‘Why’ and Enable it With Training

Change management is essential in the rollout of any new program. Poor attention to this often leads to unsuccessful adoption of the program and poor attainment of desired goals. Field service technicians will likely resist when asked to participate in lead generation as they will see this as a proxy to selling. Therefore, organizations need to prepare these technicians for the program and then reinforce the impact of the program to all stakeholders, including the customer.

Once the purpose has been established, the ‘how’ of lead generation needs to be reinforced with training sessions and materials. Preferably training content and scripts are available on-demand for technicians to refresh their knowledge as needed. Its also essential that relevant instructional content is developed for multiple parties in the field service chain, starting with the technicians and moving up to supervisors and regional leaders.

In addition to the ‘corporate why’ and training, it is worthwhile to tap into a deep-rooted want from technicians to be a hero on site. If a technician sees a lead, passes it on to sales and sales takes action, then the technician’s advisory role is reinforced. If sales does not act, the customer will bug the technician with follow-up questions that they cannot answer, making the technician lose face.

3. Don’t Forget to Communicate Customer Impact

In this day and age of mobile content and self-service portals, it might seem silly to develop flyers and brochures to reinforce the message of a field service lead program, but these methods do work. The message is simple, the more a program is discussed and reinforced, the more it is adopted. In addition to reinforcing steps, best practices, and procedures, it’s also beneficial to reinforce the value of the program in the form of technician success stories or customer results. What’s even more impactful is an actual testimonial from a customer of how the extra time spent by a front-line technician directly impacted the customer’s results and outcome.

4. Make it Easy

This applies to all levels of the field service lead lifecycle – from the creation of leads to follow-up to closure and associated reward. When it comes to lead creation, the capture process must be simple and not require a whole host of clicks. A simple field in debrief that allows the technician to capture notes and images is usually sufficient to get started. Additional information can be sought once the field service lead program gets off the ground.

Many ServiceMax customers have developed and grown lead generation programs into significant revenue contributors. These programs don’t require a great deal of investment from a technology point of view, but they do require leadership, a rigorous process, and a focus on change.

In the next frontline revenue article, we’ll provide some ways to take your field service lead program to the next level.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on June 3rd, 2021

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)

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on May 11th, 2021 and Field Technologies.

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.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on May 4th, 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

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 and Field Service News on Jun1 1st, 2021

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