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

Post-Crisis Handbook – Managing the Backlog

We’ve been talking about disruption for quite a while, but many could not fathom out its consequences or that it would even hit us. Nations, organisations and individuals have discovered that their business continuity plans could not mitigate the impact.

Now we’re past the initial shock, what is business-as-usual going to look like? How do we pick-up and how do we process the backlog created by three months of lock-down?

In the previous chapter of our post-crisis handbook @Daniel Brabec provided four handles that are top of mind when navigating the service world in the New Normal. In this chapter we will focus on managing the backlog.

Perpetual Backlogs

Right now, all focus is on Covid-19 and its impacts. But if you look deeper, you will see that many COVID-related themes have pre-existed in varying degrees; its only now that we look at them through a magnifying glass.

  • Remote service procedures have been around for more than 30 years. Rethinking business continuity plans will likely expedite their adoption.
  • Digital tools allow you to remodel your business processes and simulate the amount and mode of touch points. Social distancing guidelines add an additional ingredient to that business process (re)engineering.
  • Balancing the availability of technician capacity and contracted workload is an ongoing exercise for each service-focused executive. Disruptions and imbalance exist at all times. Only Covid-19 is a major shock, illustrating that business-as-usual balancing mechanisms can’t cope.

Balancing Supply & Demand

For about three months many businesses have seen huge fluctuations in both the volume of work and the availability of resources.

The existing workforce has been confined to work from home, has been furloughed or has taken sick/ care leave. In addition, those that are available have to spend more time on a job for extra precautionary activities. In all, you have less capacity to execute work.

From a workload perspective we see that many jobs have been pushed out. We see some equipment being ‘sweated’ to maximum usage (e.g. medical diagnostic equipment) and others going into hibernation (e.g. aircraft engines). This will have a huge impact on the life cycle of the asset warranting a more asset centric approach.

The Impact of the Backlog

Just try to imagine all the impacts a work-related backlog might have on the business:

  • Compliance: For three months Preventive Maintenance (PM) and Inspection jobs have been pushed out. All time-based schedules and counters will see non-conformity. To what degree can you apply flexibility to compliance dates and how do you manage those shifts?
  • Service Level Agreement attainment: There are many relevant questions that need to be answered in the measurement of SLA performance. How does one measure uptime for e.g. medical diagnostic equipment that has been running 24/7? How do you measure uptime of equipment for furloughed organisations? And How do penalty clauses apply; or is the pandemic considered an act-of-god? And finally, how do you filter/ clean metrics that are impacted by Covid-19?
  • Contract renewal: This possible renewal scenario might play out between organizations and customers. Procurement at the customer may say “We’ve not had the benefit of contracted services for three months, so we will only renew in three months” or “We’ll only renew after completion of the pushed-out PM jobs”. Try to imagine and forecast the impact on your contract revenue streams.
  • Dispatching priorities: How does contract renewal drive the priorities for rescheduling the PM backlog? If you have more jobs than capacity, what jobs get priority and what will be the impact to the above three bullets?
  • Workforce capacity planning: Now we have more jobs than capacity, how long will it take us to process the backlog? Will we strike the backlog, or will we contract additional/ temporary capacity? What jobs will we assign to 3rd party technicians and what jobs will our own people do?

To reiterate, the above impacts are not only related to Covid-19, they are universal and timeless. You might recognise yourself in the synthesis of pre-Covid-19 quotes made by various companies: “At present we can only deliver on 85% of the contracted work due to unavailability of skilled resources. In the execution of work, we take calculated business risks balancing compliance, cost and revenue streams”.

Running Scenarios

Ultimately, the challenge for any organisation is the balancing of supply of resources and the demand of (contracted) work. And as we know by now, we have to be able to handle disruption in various degrees of intensity. This brings us to the requirement of being able to run scenarios.

Some examples:

  • What is the revenue & compliance risk of executing 85% of the jobs versus adding resources to get to 95% execution?
  • What happens to my contract renewals, SLA attainment and penalty clauses when I prioritise pushed-out jobs of gold-contracts over bronze-contracts?
  • Can I use knowledge on capacity availability in my service-sales process when making commitments on execution dates?

In its most generic form, running scenarios will help you making informed decisions on both capacity/ resource management and prioritising (contracted) workload.

The New Normal is Business-as-Usual

So, what is so new about this New Normal? Is it new? Or is it business-as-usual under a magnifying glass? I believe it is the latter. I believe backlog management in the past has focused a lot on the transactional aspects. Now the disruption is visible to all, I believe the time is right to make backlog management a strategic decision-making function.

This article is published in Field Technologies Online on June 22nd, 2020.

Why Asset Centricity Matters

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

Know thy Installed Base

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

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

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

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

<Insert link to Schneider customer reference>

Recognise the asset

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

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

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

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

Know the asset

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

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

Manage the asset

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

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

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

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

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