Field Service Circle Recap: Accelerating Your Digital Transformation

Digital service transformation does not start and end with implementing innovative technologies. It starts with a vision. Service Leaders rethink how to generate new service revenue streams and ensure long-term success. And at the end, when companies find the right path, customers benefit from the new services tailored to their needs.

During our EMEA Virtual Field Service Circles in 2020, we offered inspiration, expert knowledge and practical experience to those striving for improvement and progress on their digital journey. And it seems that with the change from on-site to virtual sessions we could translate this imperative into its very own form and take the huge number of attendees, who are looking to make a difference, along for the ride.

Inspired by the findings in the Forrester research report we commissioned in 2019, we created our 2020 season of Field Service Circle events. During these sessions, we looked at the three key pillars that are accelerating the pace of digital service transformation as well as future field service strategies. This article will recap each of our four sessions.

Future-Proofing Your Workforce

Recent changes as a result of the global pandemic have drastically changed the way some technicians conduct their work; however, the role of the field technician has been evolving at an increasing pace for a number of years now. What does a happy, versatile, future-proofed workforce look like? Together with Kris Oldland, Chief Editor of Field Service News, Coen Jeukens and Sumair Dutta from our GCT team not only talked about these questions but also discussed the value of field service tools for technicians, the importance of human intelligence, and the move towards a “remote first” model for service. Watch the on-demand recording here.

Keeping Customers at the Forefront

While technology has raised customer expectations, it can also help field service providers meet those expectations. But how well do we understand the expectations of our customer base and how is the customer’s voice a driving force in the service transformation? How will customers see value in new service offerings and how can we future-proof the supply of the same? All of these questions, and more, formed the focus of this session with Rob Merkus, EMEA Service Director at Hitachi Medical Systems, and Jan van Veen, Founder & General Manager at moreMomentum, as we examined the service delivery chain from the customer perspective, the best ways to adapt to evolving customer expectations, and the business opportunities therein. Watch the on-demand recording here.

strategy & vision

Using Asset Data as a Transformation Consultant

Customers expect their assets to work, and service providers want to know where the assets are, in what condition they are, and how they are being used. The focus on digital transformation has placed companies’ attention on harnessing equipment data for insights, exploring new business models, and implementing digital technologies. Sven Gehrmann, Senior Manager of BearingPoint, Thomas Heckmann, Solution Consultant of ServiceMax and Co-Founder of the German Chapter of the Institute of Asset Management, and Coen Jeukens particularly emphasized the message that equipment will become the transformation consultant of the future driving future business value. Watch the on-demand recording here.

3 pillars of digital transformation are your workforce, your customers, and you assets

Field Service Strategies for the Future

Field service management is evolving and adapting to the “new normal” that we must all embrace as a result of the pandemic. According to an IDC survey spotlight by analyst Aly Pinder, Jr., “The service experience can be THE differentiator for manufacturers in a time shrinking margins and heightened customer expectations.”1

Additionally, Susan Tonkin, who leads Analyst Relations at ServiceMax, presented some of the predictions recently published by Gartner, such as “By 2025, proactive (outbound) customer engagement interactions will outnumber reactive (inbound) customer engagement interactions.”2

Together with Professor Shaun West of the University Lucerne, Susan Tonkin and Coen Jeukens discussed Forrester’s three pillars of digital transformation and ServiceMax’s predictions for 2021 based on our CSO Summit series. Among various points, Shaun highlighted that the so-called “smart services” that are data-driven and geared to individual customer needs are gaining importance. Watch the on-demand recording here.

What’s Next?

Digital Service Transformation is no longer a choice but an imperative. Having visibility and control on Assets, Workforce and Customers allows service providers to drive excellence and growth. Technology plays a decisive role in this journey. It has profoundly changed the business landscape and its impact will continue growing as long as more businesses continue adopting technologies that add value to customers’ lives.

The EMEA Field Service Circles presented a fantastic opportunity to stay connected with ServiceMax and industry peers remotely as we all work to keep the world running and understand how to respond to field service changes.

Take the next opportunity to accelerate your digital transformation with Maximize!Click here to register for Maximize 2021, ServiceMax’s Global Field Service Conference on March 16-18, to learn what you can do today to support your business goals and how you can prepare your service team for the challenges of the future.

1. Source: IDC, COVID-19 IMPACT ON IT SPENDING, 09/2020)
2. Source: Gartner, Predicts 2021: CRM Customer Service and Support, 1 December 2020

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on February 16th, 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

5 Ways to Improve New Technician Time to Value

Over the last few years, the topic of technician/talent shortage has been getting more and more traction at service industry events. Analyst firms Forrester, IDC, TSIA, Aberdeen and The Service Council are too in unison about the technician gap. And not only are service organizations struggling to find enough candidates, but they are also struggling to find ones with the right skills—especially as the nature of service jobs evolves beyond simply fixing a piece of equipment. Candidates must also be able to:

  • Adapt to and learn about new technology tools attached to service work
  • Learn about new service procedures tied to more complex service assets
  • Work in a group or team environment
  • Be able to work and engage with the customer

Once you overcome these obstacles and hire new technicians, how can you quickly get them onboarded and delivering value? In a 2017 survey from the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, the average time for a technician to become fully profitable lies between 9 and 24 months. This represents an onboarding investment of between $132,750 and $354,000. Per industry, the values may differ, but the onboarding time is pretty much consistent across organizations. As you can see, being able to improve new technician time to value can make a big difference on the bottom line.

The changing demographics of the workforce adds another layer of complexity. For Millennials, on the job learning is done a bit differently than previous generations. Rather than relying on cumbersome textbooks, they can search the web for the exact info they need or ask their peers. This has implications on the tools you provide to millennials. Having digital business tools with a consumer look and feel and ease of use can go a long way in training, as well as attracting younger talent. Modern service execution tools and millennial learning habits may be your ticket to faster time to value.

Five Ways to Improve New Technician Time to Value

1. Make jobs simpler

Different service jobs have different characteristics and skill requirements. Through slicing and dicing of the jobs and smart dispatching, you can assign simpler tasks to junior resources. Based on their track record and development they can move up the ladder.

2. Facilitate access to information

As much information you want to provide to a technician when dispatching the job, the reality onsite may be different. Proving access to relevant and adjacent information in an on-demand mode will allow your technician to become self-sufficient.

3. Deploy contingent workflows

An installation, break-fix, inspection and preventive maintenance job probably will have different workflows. A workflow may even differ per customer. Instead of requiring your technicians to learn and remember all variants, use a field service management tool to assist and even prescribe workflows.

4. Assist humans with machine learning

Throughout the lifecycle of a product, the product itself and all human interactions generate a lot of data. Mining that data and creating insights allows humans to make better decisions. Simple tasks can be automated creating more meaningful work for technicians.

5. Interweave social interaction into the job

Even when automating many aspects of service, it is the people-component that cements it all together. Call it assisted service with a human touch. Using voice-calls or messaging is an integral part of the job. Interweaving those social interactions into the job creates context and makes the communication more efficient. Try to facilitate connected conversations and conversational workflow for your employees, and make sure it is on an enterprise-grade platform to protect your intellectual property.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on February 11th, 2020

Technicians wanted: how to attract, retain and deploy the right man for the right job

Getting all the work done is more and more becoming a juggle in finding both quantity and quality of skilled resources. Forrester, IDC, TSIA, Aberdeen and The Service Council are all in unison about the technician gap. And the gap is growing.

The existing technician workforce is getting older. At the same time, the influx of new resources is not keeping up with retirement pace. A new generation prefers STEM-education and expects digital in their work-life. Though new assets are likely to have a digital twin, a lot of equipment out there pre-dates the digital age and requires legacy knowledge to keep it running for one or two more decades.

<Quote>1 in 2 UK engineering and tech firms are concerned that a shortage of engineers is a business threat – PoliticsHome – Nov 18th, 2019 </Quote>

More vocal customers and focus on customer experience is changing the characteristics of a service job. It’s not enough to only fix the product, you need to “fix” the customer too. Customers want transparency and they want you to be proactive. Above all, they want you to transform from “fixing what breaks to knowing what works”.

In solutioning the technician gap digital technology is both an enabler and driver. The availability of new capabilities is allowing us to rethink how we deliver services and even augment our business model. Having seen a lot of different technologies emerge, the big question is when to jump on the bandwagon. And when you do, don’t try to boil the ocean. As with any product, tool or software, it’s not about buying or owning it, it’s about adoption and using it.

Before you spring into action, do consider the following four questions:

  1. What is the work of the future?
  2. Who will do the work? Own resources, (sub) contractors or the customer?
  3. How do you prepare people for the work they need to do?
  4. With what tools will you equip those resources?

This paper will provide you with insights and handles to attract, retain and deploy resources in a smart and cost-effective way. Imagine what you can do today to boost your brand value.

7 Tips for HVAC – Service Execution Excellence

Through sweltering heat and fierce blizzards, HVAC technicians are there to keep equipment running at peak performance. But how do you make sure you get peak performance out of your HVAC service organization year-round, year-after-year?

Here is a list of 7 tips to help you achieve excellence in your HVAC service organization.

  1. Manage resources through all seasons
  2. Maximize uptime of HVAC equipment
  3. Improve margin of service operations
  4. Drive cross & upsell
  5. Deploying (sub)contractors
  6. Dealing with increased HSE requirements
  7. Sustainability, dealing with HazMat

Manage resources through all seasons

A customer requirement for heating and cooling is seasonal, resulting in an equally seasonal pattern in technician demand. Typically, a service organisation will try to balance resource capacity by doing installations, retro-fit and preventive maintenance during low season and dedicate capacity in peak season to break-fix. 

Over the years HVAC organizations have acquired a lot of tribal knowledge to mitigate the daily resource juggle. Modern service execution systems will facilitate you to formalize this tribal knowledge and to upgrade your capacity planning process applying dynamic scheduling. As a result your customers will get the service they expect and your technicians will feel in control instead of being dragged from job to job.

Maximize uptime of HVAC equipment

The majority of today’s service level agreements are still stated in terms of Effort. “We will commence the fix of the malfunction in x hours”. Some contracts up the value promise to a Result. “We will deliver a fix within y hours”. To offset the risk of penalties, the latter contracts often have a section of fine print watering down the Result. What owners of HVAC equipment want is Uptime. 

Combining IoT connectivity and Service Execution Management allows a service organisation to both deliver the Uptime a customer expects and to deliver that service in a cost-effective way.

Improve margin of service operations

Competition in the HVAC industry is fierce. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), Third Party Maintainers (TPM) and Facility Management Companies (FCM) all operate in the same space to make a margin. A quick search on the internet tells us that a typical HVAC nett profit margin ranges from 1.4% for TPM/ FCM to 12% for OEMs. These numbers indicate that cost control is a constant driver in decision making.

To control cost you need visibility. To create visibility you need tools and processes. Though HVAC equipment may comprise of generic components, both the infinite number of configurations and wide range of commercial conditions agreed with customers define your requirements for agile service execution tools. Tools minimizing the dependency on IT support and maximizing flexibility for your markets & channels.

Link: https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/betterbuildings/neighborhoods/pdfs/hvac_contractor_business_model.pdf

Drive cross & upsell

Although we see cost control having the primary focus in HVAC, we see maturing organizations driving for revenue increase. The service agreements with low margins won via a tender process, often only contain the basics. The basics being periodical maintenance, a response promise topped with contracted rates and material discounts. To make a customer account (more) profitable, service organisations depend on their ability to cross and upsell beyond the basic contract.

Technicians being trusted advisors to your customers can act as eyes and ears to detect revenue enhancing opportunities. Capturing leads, enabling technicians to quote on-site and ultimately being able to convert a quote into a work order will attribute to your revenue growth targets. In parallel you will see that both customer experience and technician empowerment will get a boost.

Deploying (sub)contractors

According to The Service Council approximately 32% all field service work is completed by partners/ subcontractors. Though this percentage may vary per market and product segment, subcontractors play an important role in getting all the work done. Subcontractors come in all shapes. Sometimes they will compete with you, in other markets they may complement your route-to-market.

Prioritizing and assigning jobs are most probably the two most important aspects of dispatching affecting both cost and service level attainment. Make sure your dispatching console supports you in decision making while simultaneously maintaining visibility of the job progress once handed off to a subcontractor. Modern tools can alleviate the need for complex subcontractor integrations by means of allowing the subcontractor using your processes on a device of their own choosing.

Link: TSCReport-F-2016 -FSOutsourcing-04.pdf

Dealing with increased HSE requirements

“Heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, HLA Services, has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and fined for safety failings after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall whilst repairing an extraction unit in Newcastle.”

A headline like this is the dread for any company. Of course, you will tell your technicians how to adhere to all regulations at hiring, during onboarding and probably you will have periodical health & safety briefings throughout their tenures. Ultimately you want to create a safety culture in your organisation.

Life gets complicated when the regulations change, when procedures are different per customer location. Somehow you need to embed health and safety handles into daily operations. What if you could make those part of the work order and track compliance through a configurable set of check lists.

Link: http://www.heatingandventilating.net/hvac-company-fined-by-hse-for-safety-failings

Sustainability and dealing with HazMat

Beyond safety for technicians governed by measures of HSE and OSHA we see that HVAC organisations also have a responsibility to take proper care of hazardous material like refrigerants. The increasing attention for the sustainability theme is raising the bar to reduce the use of materials in general and reclaim reuse.

To achieve these goals, you need a service execution system that embeds a supply chain function. To be able to track the use of material and to instruct technicians what to do with defect, used and waste materials.

Links: https://www.refrigerationschool.com/blog/hvacr/osha-affect-hvac-industry/

The Value of doing a Ride Along

How are your service operations doing and where do you see the improvement potential?

In facilitating many transformation journeys, we are privy to conversations with excutives and people in the field alike. In bridging everything in between we discover a wealth of ideas and point of views. The instrument we use: the ride along.

Going in the field

In many organisations it is common for a manager/ executive to “go into the field” as part of the onboarding process; to get to know the business. The ride along builds and expands on similar learning objectives.

“Staple” yourself to a service request, follow each step in the process and observe

Merging different views on the business

Because executives, managers and people in the field have different experiences and scope of responsibility each has a different appraisal of the state op operations. The ride along taps into the diversity of views to create a more holistic and shared business objective. In parallel the discussion facilitates understanding and buy in.

A ride along has the potential to transcend priorities and experiences across functional silos and hierarchies. A ride along creates mutual understanding and paves the way for adoption and value delivery.

Understanding the As-Is

Doing a ride along is literally observing a process end-to-end and asking tonnes of “why” questions. We find that people are often able to explain “what” they do and “how” they do it. Getting to the “why” is important as it gives insight into people’s understanding of what they do and how that links to their perception of the overall business objectives.

As a very important adjacent benefit we see that the ride along instrument creates understanding and appreciation between all functions and roles involved in your service operation:

  • Horizontal: a process is typically a relay of activities spun across multiple functions. By sharing ride along findings across those functions any sub optimisation behaviour can be tabled.
  • Vertical: on the one hand we see executives/ managers operate at a greater distance from day-to-day service operations while on the other hand people in the field may feel detached from the office. Exchange of ride along findings brings your people closer to each other.

We see that people are genuinely inclined to change for the benefit of another person once they understand the issues & objectives of the other.

Small things having a big impact

When asking why people work as they do today with an open mindset, we tend to hear loads of smaller improvement opportunities that typically don’t make it to executive level. In the field people talk and care about the small things. Considering that most operational people in the service domain are customer facing, ideas from those people often have a proportionally large impact on customer satisfaction and thus customer value perception. Thus, those ideas are a valuable addition to the big things priming the agenda of executives.

“My management has a different perception on how we do our work. We use all kind of work arounds to get work done. Small things could make us so much more effective”

Technician during a ride along (2019)

Repeat and Improve

Transforming your business is a journey requiring frequent check points to see if everybody is still on board and if the original value promise materialises. The ride along proves to be a valuable instrument.

Thus, at ServiceMax we encourage and assist customers to perform ride along ‘s on a repetitive basis. In the first ride along we establish a baseline and project a trajectory of benefit potential. In all subsequent ride along’s we observe how the customer is using and adopting ServiceMax.

The repetition allows you to see progress and make it visible to all stakeholders. The repetition also allows you to spot obstacles and mitigate them in a timely fashion. Finally, the ride along facilitates the dialogue to push the needle for continuous improvement.

“Our people now better understand how each plays a role in the bigger picture. As a result, they feel part of a team and have inspired each other to improve. We will do a ride along next year.”

Customer medical industry (2019)

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on July 24th, 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

CIO take – Field Service Engineer of the Future

What is your digital roadmap? What technology advancements is your organization utilizing? There’s a great chance these questions are crossing your path. In the Argyle CIO Webinar on the Field Service Engineer of the Future five executives shared their take on technology both as driver and enabler for generating business value. 

At center stage we position the Field Service Engineer. His/ her propensity to work with and embrace technology is a critical success factor in value creation. Though field service may have suffered from under investment or derision, new technology is turning everything on its head. Service is increasingly seen as critical business function.

PerfectStorm

In a way, we see a convergence of many insights molding into a perfect storm. In addressing each aspect, we see a pivotal role for Field Service. This leads us to a Vision for Digital Worker: “The Digital Worker suite of applications enables, empowers, and elevates industrial workers to drive the customer outcomes of productivity, reliability, safety, security, and profitability”.

AugmentedReality

The toolkit of the Digital worker comprises of:

  • Internet of Things
  • Augmented Reality
  • Big Data
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Drones and robots/cobots
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Wearable & mobile devices
  • Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

The good news is that these are not technologies of the future, they are available today and providing solutions to the most pressing business issues. Also, the cost of technology is coming at a point where the business case turns positive.

The CIO panel stressed the human component; the interaction between people and technology. Technology can be a very powerful instrument in attracting and retaining talent. At the same time addressing the aging workforce and productivity issue. Tech savy field service engineers tend to recognize the value of technology and thus adoption rates are high.

By2020

When it comes to investment priorities the panel was unanimous on connectivity of assets and how that data collaborates with operations and the field service engineer. Customers value the output and outcome of assets. The new play is about Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Both cost of downtime and increased earnings capacity of the asset are the main drivers for the investment priority. 

With the value promise of field service and digital technology the final question to the panel was on getting from knowing to doing. Who do we need to convince and/or pull into the discussion in moving forward? The first answer was “everybody”. We’re in a paradigm shift. We have to see it. As CIO’s we have a leading role in driving the transition. As CIO’s we understand tech and digital, we understand the importance and reach. We have to reach out to the business and lead. Through innovation teams. Through a Chief Digital Officer. By being agile. Glad to know Field Service both loves technology and more and more is recognized as a critical business function.

A closing remark from a Field Service Engineer: “Do give me the right tools to be a hero on site. As a result I’ll deliver value”.

What service managers should know about sales

Service is probably the single largest contributor to an organisations profit margin. Service has the most lasting and trustworthy relationships with customers. Still, in the board it is a sales game. If service wants to lead, it has to understand sales.

In the boardroom

Corporate Challenge
Corporate Challenge

Let us be witness of a business plan review meeting:

  • Exhibit A: our targets are more ambitious than our current performance.
  • Exhibit B: we face increased competition, increased customer volatility and shorter product life cycles leading to declining market share and diminishing attach rates.

Now suppose the CEO invites you, the field service manager, to pitch a solution to this non-sustainable situation. Are you prepared? Will your message and vocabulary resonate with the board members?

For as long as I can remember, field service managers bring a message of reality. About healthy and sustainable profit margins. About attach rates and trusted relationships.

What do you think the sales manager brought forward as solution? A message of hope: “if we introduce a new model, add a new feature or drop the price, we will regain market share”.

“When it comes to choice, a message of hope prevails over one of reality.”

What makes the clock tick?

The ugly truth of corporate economics: it’s all about sales and success is measured in revenue figures. Add to that the sales perception that after-sales does not exist without an initial sale and you know the picking order is set. To complete the picture, factor in mind that most CEO’s have a sales background.

“Sales first, then after-sales.”

Sales targets

Sales is a big numbers game. Product hero’s playing with capital expenditures. Going for the win is putting in a peak performance in a short period of time, balancing effort and reward. Asking sales to include Opex related propositions in the sale does sound altruistic considering that doing so complicates, lengthens and may jeopardise the sale.

What about profitability? In the sales mind-set profitability is not a driver or performance indicator. Not because they don’t care, far from that. Because in most customer organisations the decision making unit for both Capex and Opex are different entities optimising their own silo.

“Profitability, who cares? Certainly not sales.”

Funnelling leads

Sales vocabulary uses words like suspect, prospect, lead and qualification. Elias Lewis has put these words in context in 1898 when he conceived the sales funnel. This funnel is engrained in every sales process. It is in the DNA of sales people to convert leads into a sale.

“What we need? Leads, more leads and qualified leads.”

Qualification

One of the most important steps in the sales process is the qualification of a lead. Here sales balances effort with reward. When service starts feeding the funnel, it is crucial to know the difference between a lead in the eyes of a field service engineer and a lead according to sales.

In the eyes of sales service-leads are a big bag of small peanuts. Converting those requires a lot of effort with small reward. For sales to follow-up on service-leads, those leads need enrichment and qualification.

Window of opportunity

Though the clock ticks sales, typical sales solutions to the corporate challenge fail to reverse declining market share or do so at the expense of profitability. In both cases the course is not sustainable.

This is good news as it provides the opening for the field service manager to come forward with his ideas.

“Growing sales is an operational process. Growing your business is changing your business model.”

Find the right tune

Although ideas have been voiced for many years at field service conferences, they will be new for sales once rephrased in sales vocabulary. It will become a customer touch points game with roles for hero’s and ambassadors. It is the perseverance of sales to get to a customer on board. It is the caring mindset of service to keep a customer happy. It is their joint effort to come up with new business.

“Find the right mix between sales DNA and a service heart to develop new business.”

How will sales react? As long as the field service manager doesn’t gloat over his profit contribution and trustworthy customer relationships … and sales can stay in the lead, then sales will go along.

“Field service managers can lead by following.”

Published in Handy Little Book for service Managers (edition 2017) and website

Demand generation: A Groundhog day experience

The profit contribution of services compared to product profits has been the subject of many workshops over the past decade. Still, achieving a true shift in sales focus is a “Groundhog day” experience writes Coen Jeukens, Service Contract Manager, Bosch Security Systems

At the Copperberg April 2016 UK Field Service Summit service industry experts had their own groundhog day experience when discussing the “Demand generation” topic: what can the service manager do to go beyond the daily break-fix mode towards cross and upselling.

In five consecutive rounds the same discussion was reiterated varying the contributing industry experts. The individual rounds revolved around common convictions like:

  • Should we dilute customer trust created by service engineers with potential alienation when stepping into a commercial role;
  • Service is about helping customers, not selling to customers;
  • Service and sales have different counter parts and decision making units;
  • What is a meaningful incentive for service people to spot sales revenue and vice versa;
  • Service and sales people have different DNA.

When looking at the discussions at an aggregate level, demand generation is possible when taking the following recommendations to heart:

  • Use service engineer more as a brand ambassador than sales-lite;
  • Empower service engineer to become a hero on site;
  • Incentivise customer feedback instead of monetizing prospects/ leads;
  • Feed customer feedback into marketing function;
  • Creation of a “product” development function for services;
  • As service manager, do not boast yourself as being a profit centre, but emphasise your contributing role in co-creation with sales.

The service engineer as brand ambassador

Comparing the amount of customer touch points and level of client trust, service engineers do have an edge over sales representatives. Though it sounds tempting to dual use service engineers as sales-lite, don’t do it.

Engineers gain their stature through technical competence and stamina to prolong the operational performance of a piece of equipment. As such the engineer is the perfect ambassador for brand loyalty.

Engineers gain their stature through technical competence and stamina to prolong the operational performance of a piece of equipment. As such the engineer is the perfect ambassador for brand loyalty.

In analogy with politics, the ambassador is an important player in a multi-faceted sales game: the ambassador provides intelligence, sales translates intel into leads and deals, while fencing the ambassador’s neutrality.

When contemplating to add a sales role to service engineers, do balance the risk and reward. Bear in mind that from a decision-making unit (DMU) perspective the service engineers’ counterpart is the end user and not the asset owner/ buyer. At best the end user will decide on OPEX matters.

When it comes to CAPEX the end users’ role diminishes to that of influencer.

Hero on site

Other reasons not to mingle sales and service objectives are the differences in DNA and aspirations. A sales representative strives to become trusted business advisor in order to generate long-term revenues.

A service engineer by default has a long-term relationship, a high level of trust and an advisory role. The service engineer wants to be the hero on site, he wants to be able to help.

As a hero on site and brand ambassador, the service engineer can use his stature to open doors and generate leads on two levels:

  • OPEX leads: consumables and wear & tear components
  • CAPEX leads: generate demand for new offerings

Empowerment is the key on both levels:

  • OPEX leads: It is easy for a service engineer to convince an end- user to buy small maintenance related components. It makes him a hero if he can supply and install them right away. Any “delay” in conversion of lead into sales not only deteriorates the sales momentum, it also affects the hero status of the engineer.
  • CAPEX leads: In his default mode, the service engineer will try to fix the existing equipment compared to suggesting a replacement or new buy. When hinting towards the latter, the service engineer puts his hero status at risk because the conversion of the lead into a sale falls outside his control. Nothing is more deadly for a hero than raising an expectation he can’t deliver.

Incentivise customer feedback

Frequent customer touch points and a high level of trust put your service engineer in a unique position to be the eyes and ears of your organisation. Capitalising on that position requires a multi-tired approach.

In analogy with the concepts of “big data”, capturing the sensory output of the service engineer is step one. The interpretation of that data into a lead is step two. The conversion into a sale is step three.

When the collection of data is driven by an intended use for sales, you may not only miss out on many subtleties of customer feedback, but also bias the observation with short-term gains.

Apart from asking your service engineer to collect specific data that is not in his DNA, you may also risk the neutrality of your ambassador/ hero.Ideally you may incentivise your service engineers to collect customer intelligence and feedback regardless of its conversion into sales.

Feed marketing

Information collected by service engineers is a valuable addition to the data input of your marketing function. Once in your marketing process it augments existing data and will result in better quality leads.

Better leads are more prone to be picked up by sales. Follow up by sales will make the service engineer feel taken seriously.

Not only will this boast his hero on site stature, he will also use his trust with the customer to make him decide positively on the sale.

Knowing service engineers have access to high quality and individual customer intelligence, using that information may also inspire you to rethink the workings of marketing.

Markets are less homogeneous than a decade ago. New technologies and the growing importance of customer experience will even further individualise customer behaviour.

Services development function

Acknowledging declining profit margins and fierce competition on products, transitioning to a more customer/ services centric earnings model is the logical way to go. The customer intelligence and feedback from your ambassadors and heroes will become vital in understanding his needs.

Where your products development department can tell you everything about your products and their roadmap, any service engineer can tell you how your customers use those products and how customers experience their use.

The combination of product and its use open up new sales opportunities. As use is the dominant factor, the appearance of the offering is customer specific.

Setting up and embedding a services development function in your organisation will enable you to add service revenue streams in an efficient manner.

Your service engineers will be the prime suppliers of input to your service development function. Similarly to proving input to your marketing function, the engineer and customer will feel appreciated when they receive feedback that their information is taken seriously.

Service as contributing centre

In achieving demand generation, adding sales roles and goals to the service department may sound as a logical thing to do. The profit contribution promise may even tempt you further.

Apart from the considerations in the previous paragraphs, beware that the creation of a secondary sales channel does invoke competition between the sales and service department. A competition that more likely will emphasise differences and prejudice than seeking the common ground.

Success lies in positioning your service department as a contributing centre. Let sales be in the lead. Use the traction of the sales department to get organisational and CEO buy in.

Make sales the internal hero by feeding them with high quality service engineer data. Empower your service engineer and make him the external hero.

As finishing touch, invest in a service marketing and services development function. Sales and service seek the commonality and acknowledge each other’s strength.

Published in Field Service News issue #13 (July/August 2016 and website