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

Managing your Quality and Engineering Changes

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

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

Engineering changes extend into the operational life cycle of a product

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

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

Where is my Installed Base?

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

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

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

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

Spread the Wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Maintain and Protect Your Brand as an OEM

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

Trending in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Support Your Product Throughout Its Life Cycle

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

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

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

Two to Tango

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

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

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

Mit Servicevertragspartnern ein konsistentes Kundenerlebnis sichern

Beim Aufbau und der Umgestaltung einer Serviceorganisation wird unweigerlich das Thema des Umgangs mit externen Dienstleistern und Partnern (Contractors) zur Sprache kommen. Ob es nun darum geht, zu skalieren, flexibler zu werden oder die Kosten zu senken – die meisten Diskussionen drehen sich um das „Wie“. Wie können wir eine Vielzahl potenzieller Partner verwalten und gleichzeitig die Kontrolle über Kunden und deren Erfahrungen behalten? Und was können wir tun, um die Chancen einer Zusammenarbeit zu maximieren und die Risiken zu minimieren?

Konfigurierbares Ökosystem

Um das richtige Gleichgewicht zu finden, definieren wir in der Regel zunächst Begriffe wie Outsourcing / Insourcing und (Sub-) Auftragnehmer / Partner. Je nachdem, ob Sie ein OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), ein Third Party Maintainer (TPM), ein Anlagenbetreiber oder ein Facility Manager (FM) sind, ergeben sich unterschiedliche Auswirkungen.

Wenn Sie also Vertragspartner zu Ihrem Ökosystem hinzufügen möchten, müssen Sie die Regeln für die Einbeziehung klar festlegen und diese mit unterstützenden Tools und Prozessen festigen. Diese Regeln können an Bedingungen geknüpft sein, die je nach Region, Produktgruppe, Art des Auftrags usw. variieren.

Partner einstufen

Ähnlich wie bei der Beziehung zu Ihren Lieferanten werden Sie wahrscheinlich ein unterschiedliches Maß an „Nähe“ zu Service-Vertragspartnern haben. Diese Beziehung ist definiert durch die Verfügbarkeit von Partnern und deren Wettbewerbsposition gegenüber Ihrem Endkunden.

Zudem bieten Servicepartner heute die Flexibilität, verschiedene Servicemodelle umzusetzen: 
Partner

  • verwenden Werkzeuge und Prozesse von einem OEM
  • bringen ihre eigenen Geräte in die Prozesse des OEM ein
  • verwenden ihre eigenen Tools und Prozesse – Arbeitsaufträge werden als Blackbox eingeplant
  • verwenden ihre eigenen Tools und Prozesse – Aufträge werden mit vollständiger Transparenz eingeplant

Diese Flexibilität erlaubt Ihnen, Ihre Partner gezielt so einzusetzen, dass Sie mehr Kunden besser bedienen können.

Kundenerlebnis messen

Sie haben nun mehr Flexibilität, Servicepartner zu nutzen, wie können Sie dennoch das Kundenerlebnis steuern? Einige unserer Kunden wünschen eine konsistente Servicebereitstellung, ohne dass der Endkunde weiß, ob der Service von ihrer Organisation oder von einem Partner erbracht wird. Andere Kunden möchten die Unterschiede zwischen den Serviceleistern hervorheben und dies als Wettbewerbsvorteil nutzen.

Um erfolgreich das Kundenerlebnis zu messen, müssen eine höhere Sichtbarkeit geschaffen, die Performance der Serviceleistungen gemessen und einheitliche KPIs für alle Serviceerbringungen definiert werden. Wenn Sie Daten gemeinsam nutzen, ohne über deren Interpretation „verhandeln“ zu müssen, können Sie Ihre Geschäftsziele an den Geschäftszielen Ihrer Servicepartner ausrichten. Infolgedessen gewinnen Sie, Ihr Contractor gewinnt und Ihr Endkunde gewinnt.

Partner messen

Abgesehen von strategischen, kaufmännischen und technischen Aspekten ist die Steuerung eines Servicepartners wie die Steuerung der Serviceerbringung. Bis zu einem gewissen Grad sollten Sie die Arbeit externer Ressourcen auf ähnliche Weise messen wie die Arbeit Ihrer internen Mitarbeiter. Ihr Endkunde soll das erhalten, worauf er Anspruch hat, gleichzeitig möchten Sie eine angemessene Marge erzielen.

Da Servicevertragspartner zu marktüblichen Konditionen arbeiten, sollten Sie sich auf die folgenden drei Messgrößen konzentrieren, da diese die Kundenerfahrung, die Serviceerbringung und die Leistung der Auftragnehmer am unmittelbarsten beeinflussen:

  • First-Time Fix: Ist die Servicequalität gut, wurde das Problem sofort behoben?
  • Mittlere Reparaturzeit: Wie lange dauert es, bis das System wieder verfügbar ist? 
  • Net Promoter Score: Ist der Endkunde mit dem Service zufrieden?

Why Service Leaders can’t overlook Contractor Management

When building and transforming a service delivery organization, inevitably the topic of dealing with contractors and partners will come up. Whether the goal is to scale, to be more flexible or to reduce cost, we find most discussions revolve around the how. How do we manage a plethora of potential partners while maintaining control of customers and their experiences?

Our customers often say that in today’s competitive environment it is not a matter if they should work with partners, but how to go about it. Dealing with partners is a commercial reality whereby those partners can represent both an opportunity as well as a threat. What do we do to maximize the opportunity and to minimize the threat?

Configurable Ecosystem

In order to strike the right balance, we typically start by defining terms like outsourcing/insourcing, and (sub)contractor/partners. There are different implications depending on whether you are an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), a third-party maintainer (TPM), an asset operator or a facility manager (FM).

So, if you want to add contracted partners to your ecosystem you have to clearly set the engagement rules and solidify them with supporting tools and processes. Above all, our customers tell us these rules are conditional. They may differ per geography, per product group, per job type, etc.

Tier your Partners

Similar to the relationship you have with your suppliers, you will likely maintain diverse levels of “closeness” with third-party partners. This is defined by the availability of partners and their competitive position in relation to your end customer.

 In the past we’ve seen that once you’ve found a partner that also might work for other organizations, you’ve entered into the “battle” of whose tools and processes to use. Today, we see that our customers are asking for tools and processes flexible enough to cater to various models:

  • Contractors use tools and processes from an OEM
  • Contractors bring their own devices and hooks into the OEM’s processes
  • Contractors use their own tools and processes, and jobs are dispatched as black box
  • Contractors use their own tools and processes, and jobs are dispatched with full visibility

Having this flexibility at your fingertips allows you to tier your partners and leverage your ability to serve more customers better.

Controlling the customer experience

With the increased capability to leverage contractors in various configurations, how do you manage the customer experience? Some of our customers want a consistent service delivery where the end-customer is oblivious to whom the delivering entity is: your internal organization, or a contractor or subcontractor. Other customers want to emphasize the differences between delivery entities, using it as a competitive advantage.

 One key to managing the customer experience is creating visibility, measuring performance and managing KPIs across all delivery entities. Sharing data points without having to “negotiate” on their interpretation will allow you to align your business objectives with your contractors’ business objectives. As a result, you win, your contractor wins and your end-customer wins.

Controlling contractors

Apart from strategic, commercial and technical aspects, controlling a contractor is like controlling service delivery. To a certain degree, you should measure work performed by external resources in a similar fashion as jobs done by your own internal employees. You want to ensure your end-customer gets what he or she is entitled to while you make a decent margin.

As contractors operate at arm’s length, consider focussing on the following three metrics as they have the most direct impact on customer experience, service delivery and contractor performance:

  • First-Time Fix: Is the quality of service good, has the problem been solved right away?
  • Mean Time to Repair: Is the delivery done in a cost efficient way?
  • Net Promoter Score: Is the end-customer happy with the service delivery?

Living apart together

Working with contractors is a bit like living apart, together. You have both overlapping and differing interests. By bringing the conversation to the “how to” level you can remove a lot of threats and weaknesses and focus on the strengths and opportunities. In the end, we all want to serve more customers, better.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on September 4th, 2020

Hybrid Workforce in Field Service

In its latest report[1] Gartner predicts that “by 2020, more than 40% of field service work will be performed by technicians who are not employees of the organization that has direct contact with the customer.” Whether this development is one of choice or industry dynamics, the ultimate questions are: 

What impact does this have on my ability to deliver consistent service?

How to maintain a unified face to the customer?

Insourcing/ outsourcing issues are not new, though the drivers to do so have varied wildly over the last three decades:

  • Cost and head count targets
  • Business process outsourcing
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability

Acceleration

As of late we see an acceleration in the shift driven by three trends:

  1. Customers are more aware and have multiple service providers to choose from.
  2. Increased ICT and Field Service Management (FSM) capabilities create a greater number of more capable service providers.
  3. Healthy profit margins on services attract existing and new entrepreneurs to get a piece of the cake.

The consequence of this shift is that a legacy 1:1 relationship between customer and supplier turns into a many-to-many relationship. Customers have a greater selection of suppliers, and suppliers can reach out into new markets.

Scaling your service delivery capabilities

The threat of existing customers going to the competition and the opportunity to win customers in competitors’ markets drives the scaling of your service delivery capabilities. You’ll not only need to be able to vary the volume of your workforce, you’ll also need to be able to modify your business processes and workflow on the fly, based on real-time metrics. In this regard Gartner’s prediction is multi-angled and serves as a good compelling reason to act.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on April 25th, 2018


[1] Gartner “Critical Capabilities for Field Service Management”, March 27, 2018, G00348436

Battery Gate

The dust is settling over Battery Gate. I’ve heard many woes and seen people in disbelief. Is this really happening? Is a mobile phone the only product affected? Social media exploded with conspiracy theories and various law firms have started class actions. What can we learn from Battery Gate?

AppleNews

Sales and After-Sales

A relationship between Supplier and Customer starts with an initial sale. With array of tools Suppliers bid for repeat purchases:

  • Dazzle them: Brand/ customer loyalty
  • Force them: Technology/ customer lock-in
  • Convince them: Maintenance & Value-added Services
  • Help them: Operate & Ease-of-use Services

In the case of the phone we can see multiple types of product related repeat purchases:

 RevenueWhen
New phone$999.00In x years
Extended warranty$199.00Point of sale
Battery replacement$79.00Approx. after 2 years

In this example the supplier drives its revenue figures through product sales and has little incentive to lengthen the life cycle of the product. After-sales revenues even jeopardize future product sales. 

Many OEM’s/ Manufacturers will find themselves in exactly the same position: after-sales revenues are a welcome addition to sales revenues as long as they don’t compete.

Doing the right thing

So, what is “doing the right thing”? In case of Battery Gate consumers got the impression that the supplier was purposefully reducing the product life cycle, thus forcing earlier product repurchases. We’ll probably never know all supplier considerations in their course of action, we do know Battery Gate back fired … to a certain degree. Analysts predict that the supplier may see “mild headwinds” (see inset).

When considering “doing the right thing” from the customers perspective, the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) could come into play: the optimum of both the initial/ capital sale and the operational expenditures throughout the life cycle.

Does this mean we would rather buy a phone with a longer life span and user replaceable parts? I guess here we must make the distinction between “needing” and product and “wanting” a product. If you want the new functions and features you’ll probably forgive the supplier. Your repeat purchase will be the next product. If you need the product to generate output and outcome for your organization, you’ll drive your supplier, or third-party maintainer, to deliver after-sales services.

Loyalty

Would a Battery Gate in your industry impact your NPS and revenue stream? Would the headwinds be negligent, mild or violent? I believe being honest and transparent is your route to loyalty and repeat revenue.