Using trigger points to manage your service business

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

Define success

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

Triggering the outliers

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

Timely intervention

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

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

Value = Result minus Expectation

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

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

Contract profitability in action

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

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

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

Pro-active

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

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

Managing intelligent

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

Why Are Sales Leaders Taking Over Service?

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

You Now Report into Sales

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

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

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

Bridging Sales and Service

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

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

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

Building a Portfolio of Lifecycle Revenue Generators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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/

Are Service Metrics the New Economic Barometer?

For decades the OECD[1] has been reporting a global productivity decline, while at the same time we see a rise in GDP. This triggers the question: Should the productivity metric should be augmented with more contemporary metrics in policy making and business decisions? Today we see the disruption of anything-as-a-service business models. Its success is powered by underlying service metrics.

Where productivity predominantly focusses on the efficiency of producing a product, service metrics focus on how that product is being utilised. Understanding and optimising a product’s use creates new revenue streams boosting our economy.

Responding to Volatility

Service metrics have been around for decades, only to gain more traction as other metrics fail to paint a complete picture for decision makers. Decision makers face a volatile environment with rapidly changing customer behaviour and technology. Today we must explain to customers that apart from selling an excellent product, we provide services that enable the end user to drive value from that product. Instead of the product being the goal, the product is a means to an end. More and more we’re moving towards buying the outcome of a product over owning the product.

“Velocity and scale of adoption are coming faster, making service metrics (availability, uptime, reliability) strategic to growth & success1.”

After-Sales Has Always Known

Initial product purchase relative to total product lifecycle cost

Research from Accenture[2] shows that between 8 and 12% of the life cycle cost are related to the purchase of a product. The rest of the costs are incurred during the operational phase of a product. It is typically the after-sales department that provides services during this phase. In doing so, after sales has many touch points and has a pretty good idea how the customer is using the product. In performing the services throughout the product lifecycle, after-sales generates many service metrics. The big opportunity is to use these metrics beyond the operational aspects of delivering the services.

Maturing of Service Metrics

The effectiveness of service metrics depends on the maturity of your service organisation. If you only provide break-fix and spare part services in a reactive mode, the available metrics will have a lesser potential to influence your business strategy then when selling output/ outcome-based services. For the latter, having a thorough understanding of all cost and revenue drivers is essential. The common demeanour is that service metrics drive new insights and those insights can be turned into new revenue opportunities. Zeithami[3] et al illustrate in their continuum how your services portfolio will change when maturing and shifting the focus from product to its use.

Zeithami continuum

Installed Base Penetration

Let me illustrate the maturing of a service metric and its impact on your business model. Does your organisation know where products go after they have been sold? Do you keep track of reactive and preventive maintenance activities per installed product? Do you keep track of modifications and retrofits to installed products?

When you invest in installed base understanding and connect the dots with all activities that relate to the installed product, each iteration you generate more insights to do the job better, faster and cheaper. As a result, you build trust and satisfaction with your customer. In return, the customer will tell you more about his business and how you can create more value by means of offering more and upscale services. The more you are connected to the dynamics of your customer, the more reliable your economic barometer.

From Data Consumer to Data Supplier

What you see happening in the example of installed base penetration is that after-sales is transitioning from data consumer to data provider. To deliver basic services, after-sales builds on product related info such as the as-built and warranty clauses. In delivering services, after-sales collects data on the usage of the product creating a wealth of insights from the as-maintained. The insights created from service metrics can feed both product development and market development, resulting in better products and relevant propositions driving sustainable economic growth.

Outcome Economy

On sustainable economic growth, the World Economic Forum[4] describes the outcome economy as a phase where “companies will shift from competing through selling products and services, to competing on delivering measurable results important to the customer”. This requires “a deeper understanding of customer needs and contexts in which products and services will be used”. Service metrics cater to this deeper understanding of both product and customer behaviour. It is technology, digitisation and state-of-the-art field service management tooling that drives the maturing of service metrics in both scale and real-time. Having this data at your fingertips supports situational and holistic decision making. In other words, product related services for commodity buyers and outcome-based services for value buyers.

Service Metrics as an Economic Barometer

Whether it is the maturing of the after-sales domain or the customer shift from owning a product to generating value of its use, service metrics are at the heart of both. The dotcom revolution has shown us that productivity does not have the same relevance in the automated, servitised Industrial Internet business landscape. Today, we live in a data driven economy. He/she who masters data has a competitive advantage. Service Metrics play into that game.

“It’s about unlocking data to turn valuable insights into powerful business outcomes[5].”

After-Sales Paradigm Shift

After-sales traditionally has not been a business function with a voice in strategic decision making[6] – despite contributing significantly to the margin of the organisation. With the growing value of service metrics after-sales has the potential to become a provider of valuable and strategic insights. This is a paradigm shift for the entire organisation. Productivity has its place, but pay attention to the service metrics as an economic barometer.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on January 8th, 2020


[1] OECD Compendium of Productivity Indicators 2017, ISBN 9789264273252

[2] Accenture 2001, Equipment Today, Service Tomorrow – the total cost of ownership vision

[3] Zeithami, Brown, Bitner and Salas 2014

[4] World Economic Forum – Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services 2018 – Chapter 3: Convergence on the outcome economy

[5] GE Digital strategic focus 2018, Bill Ruth

[6] VansonBourne 2016, The challenges, benefits and future opportunities of field service management

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