Developing Engineering Change Strategies for CX and Customer Engagement

Each time when you launch an engineering change (EC) campaign you’ll have to balance brand image, quality and cost. In my previous blog 3 Steps to Make Engineering Change Management Easier (FSD, March 2nd, 2021), I added two additional business drivers: customer engagement and upsell revenue. I promised to elaborate on EC strategies, on how to use the EC touch points to further your business objectives.

But first I want to say thanks to a reader who helped me frame the two different emotions associated with an engineering change: the ‘positive’ and the ‘negative’ engineering change.

  • Negative: the EC is triggered by a quality issue or a complaint.
  • Positive: the EC improves the specifications/ capabilities of the original product.

Does the emotion matter? Yes, it does and maybe it shouldn’t matter that much. Let me explain.

When the negative emotion is associated with cost and a perceived reduction of CX & brand value, its mitigation is deemed operational. Getting your act together. When using the EC as an instrument to exceed expectations, the positive emotion will trigger growth driven stakeholders to jump on the bandwagon. With a comprehensive EC strategy, you can nudge the negative to the positive side too.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity” – P.T. Barnum (1810 – 1891) 

Creating a plan

Creating an engineering change strategy is a subset of product life cycle management. During the operational life cycle of a product many things can happen. Some of these occurrences are pre-conceived and/or planned. Some will happen ‘as you go’. Simply because it is nearly impossible to predict how a product will behave in each and individual use context.

Creating a plan is like preparing for the unknown. The good news is that the unknown can be moulded into a limited number of buckets:

  • The product does not deliver on its as-sold and nominal attributes
  • The product is used in a context beyond its nominal attributes
  • New product capabilities enhance the nominal specifications

For each of the three buckets you can create a communication channel with your installed base and define a follow-up workflow. As a potential response to each of the three buckets:

  • Document and investigate the gap, provide a product fix … or change the expectation.
  • Investigate the use context of the product and re-evaluate the product specifications. Advise on product replacement or product upgrade possibilities.
  • Filter the installed base on those customers that will perceive the enhanced specifications as a value add.

Each of these workflows impacts cost, revenue and CSAT. Most of all, you build a communication relationship with your installed base, managing customer experience over the life cycle … and beyond. Just imagine your EC strategy becoming the proactive/ predictive instrument to avoid unplanned downtime.

What does your customer buy and expect?

Words like strategy and lifecycle imply a longer timeframe. This requires us to revisit the original value promise made at point of sale. Is that promise a one-off or a longer-term commitment? The answer will impact your EC strategy.

If the sales value promise is a one-off, the customer buys the product as-is with an optional limited warranty. Because warranty is an integral part of the product sale, we need to define both coverage and period. Also, we must be mindful of expectations and regulations.

  • In Japan the phrase “Quality is included” drives EC and lifecycle services to high expectations with ample opportunities to monetise them.
  • In Germany the warranty construct is decomposed in two definitions “Gewährleistung” and “Garantie”. The former relates to a defect and/or violation of regulations, the latter is a voluntary value promise.
  • When you buy a product from a AAA-brand you’ll likely have a different lifecycle support expectation over a B-brand.

With the above components it becomes clear that you’ll need a product lifecycle vision with an EC strategy spinoff.

A steady flow of engineering changes waiting for a framework

Now, let’s expand the horizon beyond the warranty period. Your customer may have bought a product. What your customer needs is the output and outcome of that product, preferably over a longer period of time. Over that time entropy and technology advancement are the biggest drivers for engineering changes. 

Knowing you’ll have a steady flow of ECs you’ll need a framework to manage them. Even more so when we’ve learnt in the previous blog that ECs often occur in an environment of constraints. You’ll need to make choices of who gets scarcity first, knowing this will impact cost, revenue and CSAT. 

Scarcity is a multi-facetted ‘beast’. It can work both for and against you. Thus, one more reason to put a lot of thought into defining an EC strategy.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

Every touch point is an opportunity

In the world of sales and engagement the mantra is: every touch point is an opportunity. Throughout the operational life cycle of a product there are many touch points. When you can explain entropy and technology advancement in its use context, when you have a compelling engineering change strategy and when you can embed that EC strategy in your service portfolio, then you’ll get the level of engagement and life cycle partnership you seek. Driving cost, revenue and CSAT to both party’s satisfaction.

This article is published in ServiceMax Field Service Digital on May 4th, 2021

How to Maintain and Protect Your Brand as an OEM

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

Trending in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Support Your Product Throughout Its Life Cycle

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

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

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

Two to Tango

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

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

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

Battery Gate

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

AppleNews

Sales and After-Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing the right thing

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

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

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

Loyalty

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

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”.