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.

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

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, 

Driving Revenue Growth

Today most service executives have a revenue growth target. After having delivered cost reductions for decades, the switch to delivering revenue growth is easier said than done. Where cost control stays within the current paradigm, growing revenue requires an entrepreneurial mindset. 

When sales people need to grow revenue, their first response will be “Give me a new product, with more features at a better price point. And yes, we need a marketing budget too.” Let’s transpose this mindset to the service domain.

Give Me a New Product

Take a look at your current services portfolio. When is the last time you reviewed this portfolio? How did the services in your portfolio come to be? Was it an internal push or did you create a dialogue with your customer to develop these services?

Whether we use the word disruption or not, there are several changes to take into consideration. 

  • Customer behaviour 
  • Technology
  • Business objectives 

There are two significant trends we see at play today.

  1. From Product to Output to Outcome based services
  2. From Reactive and Preventive to Condition-based and Predictive services

 

Give Me More Features

At home you may have a lot of products laden with features you do not use. Those features have been added by the supplier to cater to a multitude of use-cases. You may have a comparable situation with the “features” on your services portfolio.

In growing revenue, the most important thing is to have a dialogue with your customer to change the feature push into a feature pull.

A preventive maintenance example:

You can split the preventive maintenance job into three pieces:

  1. The execution of preventive maintenance
  2. Creating a report on the findings and activities done
  3. Communicating about the job

Many customers see the execution of preventive maintenance becoming a commodity. They expect to get a report free of charge but will acknowledge its value increasing from a compliance point of view. The eye opener may be communication. When offering choices like email, telephone, video conference or communication on site, a growing group of customers will choose the latter. With equipment becoming so complex, customers want an expect to say something sensible about it. Often this visit turns out to be the largest cross and upselling opportunity.

We see two growth levers: 

  1. Suppliers adding communication “features” enter in a dialogue of value and drive new revenue streams
  2. Suppliers adding features enabled by service and digital transformation are more connected to their customers leading to more sustainable revenue

At a Better Price Point

We’ve heard various asset operators say: “Less service is more”. Meaning, the lesser a piece of equipment requires servicing, the more the operator can drive value from its use.

We also hear that OEMs providing basis break-fix and preventive maintenance services saying that these services are becoming commoditised and are under severe price pressure.

Of course, you should continue your efforts in improving your internal efficiency and curbing your cost, but the move forward is to develop services higher up in the value chain.

We see a shift:

  • From Price to Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to Value based proposals

 

We Need a Marketing Budget

In Sales, growing revenue is driven by touch points, leads and conversion of those leads into a sale. In Service we have plenty of touch points and we are driven by customer satisfaction. 

  • We drive incremental sales while performing a maintenance job
  • We use customer satisfaction to the benefit of higher renewal rates attach rates post point-of-sales

Though these two actions do increase revenue, they build on existing customers in the service domain. To grow revenue further, you need to tap into a base beyond your existing service customers.

  • Sell services at time of product/ equipment sales
  • Sell services to adjacent and competitor equipment

To convince these “new” customers you need to be able to articulate how good and valuable your services are. Call it marketing.

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

After:Market 2017 – Unleasing Service 4.0

Last week 250 service leaders attended the 11th edition of After:Market in Hamburg, Germany. For a number of years, I’ve chaired this event and presented keynotes. Over the years I’ve seen a change in dynamics both in attendants and topics covered. Not only is aftermarket reiterating its value contribution, aftermarket is also positioning itself at the core of business transformation.

To my great pleasure a growing number of attendees is having job titles like business development and sales & marketing. This year even procurement was present. The sheer observation that other functions are having an interest in service is the equivalent of “likes” on social media. The buzz is out. Service people knew that they mattered, now other functions are recognizing it.

Amongst the participants I detect a drive to unleash service on two levels:

  1. Doing things right – Daily many service people keep our assets afloat and take a pride in helping customers. To keep up with the pace of technology advancement and customer expectations, many service executives are shopping for state-of-the-art tooling.
  2. Doing the right things – Having all the data and touch points in grip, there is a realization that service is sitting on top of a gold mine to adapt/ change the business model. These service executives are shopping for how-to-get-buy-in handles. 

In my presentation “what service manager should know about sales” I mentioned a window of opportunity to initiate business transformation. If your it is the goal of your organization to grow your business rather than increasing sales, then service can lead the discussion by role playing a product-focus-scenario versus an outcome-based-scenario.

During the networking breaks and social activities, you can feel a common sense of direction. Service is working hard to get its act together on the basics. At the same time service is preparing for that opportunity to contribute to and drive the new business model.

At After:Market many speakers have shared their take on servitization, service design, product-as-a-service, digital, IoE and event procurement-psychology. Great and inspiring stuff. Especially when you tie it all together to create momentum to start your own transformation journey.

I’m looking forward to next year’s edition … and to hear from you how you have applied the insights in your organization.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on November 1st, 2017