Service Contract Sales Secrets: Q&A With Michael Blumberg

This article was originally posted on Field Service Digital as in interview between Derek Korte and Michael Blumberg.  Michael will be hosting a FREE Webinar on February 28: Key Strategies for Increasing Extended Warranty Revenue. Click here to register for this event. 

Most service organizations know that long-term service contracts are one of the holy-grails of service revenue and profitability. Yet, despite their importance, many organization don’t know how to effectively market and sell them. Michael Blumberg, president of Blumberg Advisory Group, recently released new industry research with some key insights for service executives on this important topic. We sat down with Michael to ask a few questions about his findings.

What surprises you most from the survey?

The top take away is that the configuration of extended warranty and extended service programs has a tremendous influence on the sale of these programs. In other words, the length of coverage, level of customization, processes engaged and resources employed in delivering the warranty and entitlement levels offered play a key role in driving sales. This is an “eye-opener” because many companies have the view that a warranty is a warranty. However, our findings suggest that the more distinctions that can be made about the program, as defined through the configuration, the more effective the company will be at selling it.

Is there anything more important to service profitability than contract attachment and renewal rates?

Some field service executives may argue that KPIs associated with service costs and productivity such a first-time fix, cost per service event, mean time to repair, etc. are more important to service profitability. However, without service revenue there can be no profits at all. Contract attachment and renewal rates are the KPIs which measure how well a company is doing with respect to securing this revenue. The truth is that service contracts can be very profitable in and of themselves. One reason is because they provide an annuity for the service provider in the form of a recurring revenue stream. The second reason is because a sizable percentage customers who purchase a service contract require very little service or no service at all. This means the service provider doesn’t incur significant costs in servicing that customer.

How do companies successfully market and sell service contracts to customers? After all, they do little good if customers don’t buy them.

Most companies rely on sales aids (e.g. brochures) and direct sales. Usually, these activities occur at the product point of purchase. However, companies who continue to sell service contracts after the product sale are likely to generate additional service revenue. Other sales and marketing tactics which have proven to be effective include customer testimonials, reputation management, telemarketing (i.e., outbound sales), public relations (e.g., press releases, article placement, etc.) and analyst reviews.

You identify 50 percent attachment rate and 75 percent renewal rates as best in class. Why are so few service organizations able to achieve those levels?

First, service organizations need to adopt the right mind set about extended warranty and extended service programs. They must understand that service is separate, distinct, and unique from products. This means that service leaders must place as much time and effort into configuring, marketing, and selling service contracts as their counterparts in the product organization place on designing, marketing and selling products. After all, service won’t sell itself. Just because the customer owns the product doesn’t guarantee they’ll buy the service. Second, the service organization must have the right systems and processes in place to market and sell service contracts. For example, processes and systems that facilitate a company’s ability to configure, price, and quote customized service contracts. It is astonishing to learn that approximately, one-third of the survey respondents utilize spreadsheets to perform these functions.

How do you envision new technologies (e.g. IoT) impacting traditional service contracts — and how will smaller firms keep pace?

These technologies will either make selling service contracts a dream or a nightmare for service providers. While recent technologies like IoT, AI, and big data will make it possible for companies to deliver outcomes, it is the service contract that defines what exactly the outcome will be. It provides the terms and conditions, the hours of coverage, the level of availability, the resources provided, and the processes engaged in delivering the agreed upon outcome to the customer. In many ways, selling an outcome based contact is no different than a traditional service contract. That’s why companies of all sizes need to become proficient at configuring, marketing, selling, and managing service contracts. Gaining mastery over this function is how smaller firms can keep pace.

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Sales and The Field Service Engineer

Questions from Kris Oldland, Publisher of Field Service News

The following is a compilation of a 4 part series from Field Service News called ‘The Big Discussion’ All four questions with the answers from Michael Blumberg appear here to give you a clear picture on his views of the role of Field Service Engineers in sales to existing customers.

“In the Big Discussion we will take one topic, bring together three leading experts on that topic and put four key questions to them to help us better understand its potential impact on the field service sector…”

It is often said service technicians are the greatest salesmen – what are your views on this?

Service technicians bring a perspective and outlook that makes them great at sales in certain situations. For example, where the sale solves a critical problem for the customer.

Basically, customers appreciate the fact that service technicians are problem solvers and place the customer’s need first. As a result, the service technician has trust and credibility with the customer.

In turn, the customer is highly likely to act on the service technician’s recommendations. Sometimes, the only way a technician can solve the customer’s problem is by having them buy something new like a spare part, new piece of equipment, or value-added service offering.

In these situations, the sale is not viewed as a sale at all by the customer but merely as an attempt by the technician to solve the customer’s problem

Is there a difference between selling service and selling products?

Yes, there is an enormous difference.

Selling products requires the salesperson to focus on the form, fit, and function of the product and how it meets the customer’s needs. Selling products is about selling the tangible.

Selling services requires the salesperson to focus on how the service can help the customer solve a problem, improve their situation, or achieve a better outcome.

More importantly, it is about selling the intangible.

Is incentivising service technicians to “sell” opening up new revenue streams or putting their “trusted advisor” status at risk?

Technicians represent a ready and available channel for generating incremental service revenues.

After all, they are at the customer site almost every day.

However, service technicians may become over-zealous or pushy about selling, and jeopardize their “trusted advice” status, if they lack proper sales training or if their performance measurement system and company culture are too focused on sales.

What impact does the rising uptake in outcome based services have on the relationship between service and sales?

Selling outcome based services requires greater collaboration and communication between service and sales than ever before. Service needs to understand and support the solution that the sales force crafts for the customer.

The sales force needs to have a clear understanding of the capabilities of the service team to craft the right solution.

Basically, service and sales must work as a team. In addition, the service organization must be proficient at sales so they can add-on additional services to better meet outcomes as these opportunities present themselves.

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Protecting Your Brand in the Secondary Channel

A True Case Study

This week’s blog is a guest post by Fizah Jadhavji, CEO of Vivitech Solutions, Inc. — a major player in Reverse Logistics, closeout, excess and obsolete products marketplace.

Every major OEM brand selling to big box retailers such as Walmart, Target and Costco must accept customer returns- this is a challenge that all companies in today’s marketplace face. Poor return management practices can easily eat up your bottom line as well as damage a brand’s reputation. Many OEM’s are apprehensive about liquidating returned products due to fear of channel conflict, interference with sales of new products and dilution to the brand’s reputation.  In fact, top-tier branded products that are sold within online channels deeply discounted as “new open-box” often are the result of ineffective return procedures.

When these “at-risk” and returned inventory stocks that are liquidated for 10 cents on a dollar show up on Amazon and eBay, it opens the door for the end-user to claim warranty for a product that you already liquidated! Consequently, many OEMs are left in a position where they may issue return credit on the same item twice!

How do you efficiently manage the product return cycle if you are a major brand selling thousands of products and multiple categories across the USA? How can you best handle returns without having to spend more capital just trying to control your exposure in the market?

This was the million-dollar question an OEM client of Vivitech Solutions was facing in managing their returns. At issue, the OEM was offering advance return allowance to retailers, which in-turn allows the retailer to charge back a certain percentage to the OEM on every invoice to cover returns. This initially seemed like an economically feasible solution because the OEM was able to cut costs. Retailers constantly need space and by receiving advance return allowance, they have the right to dispose of unwanted returns anywhere they choose. However, the OEM soon realized their product kept popping up everywhere at extremely low prices. They were constantly competing against themselves, and they were being double-dipped on the warranty side as well.

The OEM also noticed that some products being returned that had already come through their return center once, meaning that the OEM issued a refund or exchange twice for the same unit. Their legal team did some research and found that returned products were starting to show up online as “new open box” products with prices below market value. Thus, the OEM’s warranty center started receiving phone calls from customers who were misled into buying a used product as new. The OEM’s’s first reaction was to immediately stop the bleeding – so they stop offering advance allowance and asked all their customers to start shipping the product back to the OEM’s distribution center. The OEM would audit the RMA’s to ensure accuracy, and then destroy the units – allocating additional time, labor and financial resources to ensure that returned products were being properly reported and disposed of.  The OEM quickly realized that this process was not financially feasible, and was directly cutting into their profit margin. As pressure started building for our OEM client, top management realized they needed to find a creative solution.

Vivitech Solutions solved the OEM’s problem by creating an end to end solution for managing returns. Vivitech was appointed the exclusive National Return Center and authorized repair center for the OEM.  All shipments from the retailers where sent directly to this location where they were audited.   In addition, Vivitech provided  a data-driven approach which allowed for  a triage analysis of the product, costs, and market prices to achieve the highest return by refurbishment and servicing. Vivitech also remarketed  these refurbished goods in secondary channels and smaller retailers. This helped to prevent channel conflict and protected the OEM’s primary product line.

This solution has been in place for  three years and the OEM is very pleased with the program’s performance. The OEM was once spending six figures annually just to handle the logistics of the return process, only to end up destroying these products in landfills afterwards. They have now off-loaded the headaches of handling returns themselves and  significantly reduced overhead costs in exchange for benefiting annually from a seven-figure secondary source of revenue.

Basically, Vivitech created a secondary market and constant revenue stream for their OEM partner. In fact, the OEM’s sales team & outside reps now offer and sell Vivitechs’ “factory-serviced” products to customers as second-chance discounted products.  This case study shows how by outsourcing the reverse logistic function, a process that was once depleting profit margins,can result in a higher profit margin, recurring  revenue, and higher ROI.  Truly a win-win for all parties involved.

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The 8 Solutions & Benefits Driving the B2B Extended-Services Marketplace

This week’s post were are pleased to share an article by Ron Giuntini, Principal and Remanufacturing/PBL/Outcome-Based Product Support Subject Matter Expert. Blumberg Advisory Group and Giuntini & Company recently performed an in-depth global survey of the configuration and marketing of Extended-Services agreements, with a primary focus upon the B2B marketplace. 

Ron Giuntini

As defined in this post, an Extended-Service is a:
  • B2B standard or customized agreement bundled as a
  • portfolio of services engaged in the
  • maintenance management of
  • specified-machines for a
  • defined-period at a
  • fixed-fee with
  • entitlement-assurances
A brief example of an Extended-Service agreement:
  • commercial buyer will be committed to a 3-year agreement at
  • $1,000/month fixed-fee in which the
  • seller will manage a portfolio of services engaged in the
  • maintenance management of
  • 3 specified-machine units located in San Diego
  • Two of the services within the portfolio are:
    • Supplying all technicians, parts and tools employed in the correct-failure (e.g. break/fix) unplanned maintenance process, but the buyer will be overseeing the process. There is an entitlement-assurance that the resources will be on-site within 2-hours of a buyer’s request, within any 24/7 period.
    • Supplying technicians and tools employed in the annual inspection planned maintenance process, as well as overseeing the process. There is an entitlement-assurance that the resources will be on-site within a 2-week window of the planned event and that the process will be completed within 4 hours during a period other than 0700-1600 from Monday to Friday.

Extended-Services are not only applied to the top level of a Bill Of Material [BOM], a machine model, but as well as for lower levels (e.g. subsystems, components). Note that the parts suppliers of an Original Equipment Manufacturer [OEM] often have developed their own Extended-Services solutions independent of the OEM or the OEM’s distribution channels. For this post, all Extended-Services will be referred as applying to the top BOM level of machines, though they will as well often be applicable to lower level BOMs.

The 8 Solutions Driving the B2B Extended-Services Marketplace:
  1. Attachment 
    The sale of the Extended-Service is “attached” to the transaction supplying a specified-machine to the buyer (e.g. machine sale, lease, & sharing). The limited manufacturer’s warranty is bundled into the Extended-Service.
  2. Warranty-In-Effect Conversion 
    An Extended-Service is offered to an enterprise without an Extended-Service agreement attached, but with specified-machines under a limited warranty that has yet to expire. The remaining life of the limited warranty is bundled with the Extended-Service.
  3. Warranty-Expiring Conversion 
    An Extended-Service is offered to an enterprise for specified-machines without an Extended-Service agreement attached; machines are under a limited warranty that is expiring.
  4. Warranty-Expired Conversion 
    An Extended-Service is offered to an enterprise for specified-machines without an Extended-Service agreement attached; machines are under a limited warranty that has expired.
  5. Up-Selling 
    Extended-Service revision in which deliverables have been expanded.
  6. Down-Selling 
    Extended-Service revision in which deliverables have been reduced.
  7. Cross-Selling 
    Extended-Service revision in which an expansion of specified-machines has occurred.
  8. Renewal 
    Extended-Service agreement expiring in which a new agreement is developed for the specified-machines covered by the previous contract; up/down-selling and or cross-selling may occur as part of the renewal solution.

Recently, Blumberg Advisory Group and Giuntini & Company performed an in-depth global survey of the configuration and marketing of Extended-Services agreements, with a primary focus upon the B2B marketplace.

Below is the survey’s key findings related to B2B Extended-Services solutions:
  • 36.5% of the machines supplied by an enterprise are attached with an Extended-Service agreement.
  • 19.9% of Extended-Services sales occurred after the attachment period; when a limited warranty was either still in effect, expiring or expired.
  • 56.5% of machines supplied were covered by an Extended-Service sometime during their lifetime.
  • 72.4% of expiring Extended-Service agreements were renewed
  • 59.6% of existing Extended-Service agreements were revised as a result of an up-sell, down-sell or cross-sell.
  • Majority of the sellers of Extended-Services anticipate higher sales over the next two years as a result of intensely targeting renewal rates and configuring more customized solutions.
  • Note that some of the statistics above would need to be modified if the Extended-Services seller also engaged in cross-selling specified-machines that they did not supply to the buyer.

It is my belief that an enterprise should strive for at least a 75% of the specified-machines they have supplied being engaged in an Extended-Service agreement throughout the lifetime of the machine; the caveat is that to reach such levels there are many strategic and tactical issues that the seller of Expended-Services must address.

The Seller’s Benefits of Extended-Services are the following:
  1. Recurring Revenues 
    Provides a significant repeatable source of cash flow; a hallmark for investors to favorable assess the financial stability and in turn market value of an enterprise.
  2. Profits 
    Provides a level of profit margins that are higher than that of the transaction supplying the machine; again attractive to investors.
  3. Relationships 
    Creates a long-term relationship between the seller and buyer. Increases the “stickiness” of the relationship that enables greater opportunities to sell a stream of Extended-Services throughout a machine’s lifetime.
  4. Production Learning Curve Mitigation 
    Provides the recurring revenue positive cash flow to support the production losses of machines in their early production life cycle stage due to the “production learning curve.”
  5. Data Collection 
    Provides a stream of valuable detailed information acquired from the seller’s service operations; design flaws employed by design, poor parts quality from suppliers for purchasing, poor quality of assembly for production and more.
 The Buyer’s Benefits of Extended-Services are the following:
  1. Operating Expense [OpEx] assurance 
    Expenditures incurred in machine maintenance processes defined in the agreement are fixed. Note that “supplemental” charges, incurred as a result of activities performed that are outside of the activities defined in the agreement, can often become a point of contention between the buyer and seller.
  2. Investment reduction
    Direct investment in parts, and indirect investment in facilities, tooling, test equipment and more involved in managing maintenance processes are often materially reduced.
  3. Machine employability increase
    Incentive of seller, through entitlements related to machine uptime/availability, to achieve high levels of employability through robust management of maintenance processes.
  4. Regulatory compliance assurance 
    Seller’s Body Of Knowledge [BOK] regarding federal, state and local regulations is often more comprehensive than that of the buyer; avoids potential fines for buyer.
  5. Adjusted machine asset value increase 
    Seller’s records management of work performed and entitlements to manage adjusted machine values can decrease depreciation, and resulting in a favorable impact upon the income statement.  
In conclusion Extended-Services has evolved from a “minor” factor in the capital goods machine marketplace to one that is obtaining greater visibility within the financial community, in turn resulting in a greater focus by the C-Suite, and in turn resulting in a greater tactical focus of an organization.

Rethinking the Value of Warranties

I have had a problem with the media for a long time.   My issue is not their coverage of politics but the attention the media give to service and support.  I am talking about the mainstream business media like Forbes, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal, not industry specific publications like Field Service Digital, Field Service News, and Field Technologies.  I think these latter publications do a great job.

My problem with the mainstream business media is that while they like to make it appear as if they understand the service economy, they really don’t.  It’s all lip service.  They blow any and every chance they get to promote the value of service and support to their readers.   It seems that in their minds the service economy is not important, or worse yet, doesn’t matter.  Come on now! This is how many of us earn a living.

A good example of how the mainstream business media miss the point is a recent blog and video post in Forbes titled, Warranties Are Not Part Of The Modern Customer Experience.  The article was by Blake Morgan, a writer, speaker, and adviser on Customer Experience.  The premise of Ms. Morgan’s blog is that warranties are no longer relevant in today’s business environment. After all, she claims, people can use their social media accounts as insurance. If they have a bad experience with a product, they can complain about it through social media. The brand owner of the product will of course see it and send a replacement product free of charge to satisfy the person with the complaint.

Given this business practice, Ms. Morgan questions whether warranties and extended warranties are good for business.  She postulates that it is better to be nice than right.  By enforcing warranty terms, the warranty provider is taking the we’d-rather-be-right approach.  The nice thing to do is to take care of the customer and replace the product.  Wouldn’t it create more long-term value to just take care of the customer, rather than rely on the money that could be made or saved from the warranty? After all, companies like Zappos and Nordstrom provide a replacement product if a customer is unhappy.

In my opinion, warranties and extended warranties are more important than ever. While I agree that you should always take care of your customer, you must also understand who your customer really is and what they bought.   For example, a large secondary market exists within consumer electronics markets like smart phones.  This means consumers can purchase a smart phone from someone other than the retailer, carrier, or manufacturer, such as through a company that re-markets or liquidates distressed inventory.   Does this mean the original equipment manufacturer must replace the phone if it is broken?  They may go out of business if they did!

Another issue is that both economists and our court system agree that service is a separate and distinct market from product.  Just because someone purchases a product it doesn’t guarantee service is part of the sale.  Lastly, the provision of extended warranties can generate significant amounts of profits for manufacturers and retailers. These profits may in fact subsidize the business and enable it to continue serving customers. Without this income stream, the company may no longer exist.  Where would the customer turn for support if that were to happen?

While I disagree with the basic premise that warranties are no longer relevant, the trend toward “servitization” may in fact support the argument for taking care of the customer regardless of the costs.  Under the servitization model, the customer pays for the output or outcome created by the product.  In other words, they pay for the right to use the product but not to own it.  This means the product must work properly.  If it doesn’t, the customer doesn’t pay.    In such cases, it may be in the manufacturer’s best interest to replace the product.  However, this is a different scenario than what Ms. Morgan seems to have in mind.

The real question manufacturers should be asking is not whether warranties are relevant but whether customers understand the value of a warranty.   It really comes down to a marketing issue.  Customers are more likely to purchase warranties once they understand the features and benefits of the specific warranty program and how it will help them if they have a problem.  Sure, there will always be complainers who use their social media accounts as a form of product insurance.  I think these are the exception rather than the rule.

Now it’s your turn to share.  Are warranties relevant? Do they create market value for manufacturers and retailers?  Let me know your thoughts.

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Measuring the Impact of Freelance Management Systems on KPIs

In a previous blog we presented the results of a survey regarding staffing for the Field Service Industry.  The  respondents of the survey included people who either staff or make decisions about staffing for companies ranging in size based on revenue, number of events staffed, types of technology supported, and the way in which the service business was run (i.e., cost center, profit center, etc).  The survey supported our idea that using a Variable Workforce and especially using a Freelance Management System (FMS) to recruit, hire and dispatch the Field Service Engineers (FSEs) is becoming a larger part of the industry with overwhelmingly positive results.

As in all industries, there are certain ways in which we measure success, so we looked at the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are relevant in the Field Service Industry.  These included indices like  Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance, Field Service Engineer (FSE) Utilization Rate, FSE Productivity , First Time Fix Rate, Time to first response, Gross Margin per Field Service project and per service call Time to recruit, hire, train and onboard, FSEs, Time to train FSEs, and others for the Field Service Industry.

On all 17 KPIs measured, at least 28% of companies saw an improvement with the greatest improvement noted in Geographic Reach (76%). And over 75% saw either improvement or least no change in all indices. Variable Workforce managed by FMS enables easier ability to recruit, hire and onboard specially trained Field Service Engineers. This also increases the ability to respond to seasonal and emergency needs of customers.

The survey shows that using a variable workforce model is faster, less expensive and more efficient than not using it. Because it is so efficient, this makes integration and utilization of FSEs faster. In addition, users of Variable Workforce and FMS are able to support more types of technology (4.3 vs 2.8). This means that not only is the overall function of the company improved, the use of FMS allows companies an opportunity for growth.

We also compared the results of several KPIs for companies using FMS to the Best in Class (BIC) Performance, which is an average of the top 5% of respondents for each KPI.  The results were quite encouraging:  Best In Class FMS users had an SLA Compliance Rate of 98.2%  vs 81.1% for the overall average; FSE Utilization Rate of 96% vs 94.5%; and First Time Rix Rate of 96% vs 77.8%.  In addition, FSE Productivity was the same among Best In Class FMS user versus non FMS users at 6 calls per day.

Not everyone who responded to the survey is has moved to using a Variable Workforce.  In fact, about a 25% of the survey participants are not Variable Workforce users.  What were their main concerns about making the transition?  Loss of control over service quality, coupled with concern about the reliability and capability of freelance technicians.  About a third of this group felt that their volume of service calls doesn’t justify switching to a Variable Workforce model. And 10% stated “We’ve always used a traditional workforce and will not change.”

Other than those who just are not willing to change, the reasons given by these companies for not changing were similar to those concerns expressed by many prior to making the jump to Variable Workforce.  As the survey results show, not only have the Variable Workforce adopters found that their business improved, but they also said that they will continue to use this model and increase the use of it as well.  The success of changing their staffing model seems to far outweigh their past concerns.

So are you are using a Variable Workforce? If not, what is holding you back?  Are you using a Variable Workforce but not using FMS to manage it?  This survey shows that the use of a Variable Workforce in conjunction with a FMS platform has provided overwhelming success for those who have made the transition.  Use of the Variable Workforce and FMS is growing and will continue to do so. It is helping companies to move into the changing market place while maintaining high quality standards.  Meeting and exceeding the needs of your customers, being agile and able to expand your geographic reach and service offerings and financial benefits mean that Variable Workforce and Freelance Management Systems are the way to go into the future in the Field Service Industry.

Best Practices In Selling Extended Warranty

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Augmented Reality State of the Art 

An Identification of Key Players 


Considered to be one of the most defining technologies of our times, Augmented Reality(AR)  provides a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment and then augments (or supplements) this view with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. AR improves users’ experience by enabling them to interact and learn from whatever they are observing.  Deployment of AR tools within a field service environment can have a measurable improvement on key performance indicators (KPIs) related to quality, productivity, and efficiency such as Mean Time to Repair, First Time Fix Rate, and Mean Time Between Failure.

The implementation of an AR solution requires integration of multiple components which must all function together to make the solution work.  First there is the viewer technology. Most often this takes the form of Smart Glasses or a mobile device such as a tablet or smart phone.  Next is the application which allows the device to read what the field service engineer (FSE) is seeing live and produce the additional content whether it be sound, video, graphics or GPS data.  In addition, many AR experiences rely on video from the onsite FSE to a control center or remote support personnel with special information or skills to assist the onsite FSE in completing the job.  Often the communication is done using a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet.

In this blog we examine some of the key players in the AR space who have developed both use case scenarios and actual solutions for maintenance and field service environments:


APX’s Skylight is an AR enterprise platform which integrates with smart glasses or other wearables.   It allows field service engineers to receive in-view instructions and obtain remote assistance with video from a central control center. It also has the ability to capture information at the onsite location and receive live data feeds to aid in field service.

AR Media

I-Mechanic is an AR application for smartphones that enable consumers or mechanics to perform maintenance on automobiles.  In addition it can provide consumers with useful information on closest auto repair and parts stores.

Epson: Moverio- Augmented Reality Glasses

The Moverio product uses sensors to provide onsite 3D Augmented Reality assistance while detecting issues and seeing images of what exists inside the components.  Additionally it provides one way video to a “control room” providing other resources for the onsite technician to successfully complete repair. One of the use cases for the Moverio product is the inspection and repair of HVAC systems  on cruise ships.


An AR software platform allows for both 3-D overlay of information and remote instruction/collaboration with experts using video and smart phone technology. It also provides the ability to catalog issues and capture technical information enabling users to log and track reasons for equipment failure. Fieldbit is currently being used in maintenance of Print Equipment Manufacturers, Medical Equipment Manufacturers, Utility Providers, and Industrial Machinery.  Fieldbit recently partnered with cloud based, field service management software vendor ClickSoftware  to deliver faster, more effective field service repair resolution once the workforce arrives on site.


iQagent is a mobile-based AR application for plant floor maintenance.   It scans QR codes to provide maintenance related information such as process data, schematics, and other resource.   It can be customized to read an individual organizations data and information from its database.


HoloLens – AR glasses which can be purchased as part of a commercial suite allowing for customization for enterprise use.  Current partners include Volvo, NASA, Trimble, and others.


NGrain consists of a suite of AR applications including:

ProProducer –  platform to create virtual training simulations;
Viewer – companion to ProProducer to view and use the virtual simulations;
Android Viewer – allows access to content created using ProProducer from Android devices;
SDK – allows building of 3-D imaging to provide AR experience including both surface of objects and what is inside and underneath.

NGrain has also developed a number of industrial applications for its AR suite of products including but not limited to:

Consort – for inspection and damage assessment;
Envoy – providing real-time updates and information to field service engineers and allows communication between technicians;
Scout – Use Case – Aircraft Repair shop floor – real time visual analysis with Floor Manager oversite improving efficiency.


ThingWorx Studio is an AR offering developed by PTC for use in Industrial Enterprise. It combines the power of Vuforia, an AR platform, with the ThingWorx IoT Platform. These technologies offer new ways for the industrial enterprise to create, operate, and service products. For example, this technology can be used to monitor machine conditions in real-time and provide step by step instructions on the operation, maintenance, and repair of these machines.

Scope AR

Scope AR offers several applications to facilitate an AR platform within a field service environment. The Worklink application allows 3-D images and instructions to pop up on mobile or wearable devices thus enhancing the FSE’s ability to get information on site. To see a video click here.

Remote AR  allows onsite technicians to interface with remote support personnel, sending video feed to allow for collaboration and assistance to the onsite maintenance team. To see a video click here.


A Swedish company whose product, XM Reality Remote Guidance, allows onsite technicians to use video to connect to a central control center to receive visual instructions from qualified technicians with the information on how to fix the onsite problem. Their products include Smart Glasses, a Guide Station from which to provide the remote assistance, a tablet, interface with mobile phones, and a heavy duty casing for Microsoft Surface Pros to be used in the field.

Although the AR market is in its early growth stages, the vendor landscape for these solutions is already quite vast.   We anticipate that more vendors will emerge while others evolve into more robust solution providers as the market continues to mature. There are of course many other applications for AR as well outside of field service and maintenance such as retail, consumer, building and more.  We hope that you will join the conversation and let us know about your experience with these and other companies in this marketplace.

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7 Strategies To Build A Powerful Technical Support Team


In this week’s blog post I am sharing an article written by Alice Methew. Alice is a professional writer and has written articles for many different sites. She is committed to the pursuit of excellence through writing and has a passion for technology.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a technical support team? First of all, you need to realize that the technical support team is the flag bearer of a business’ goodwill and reputation. Of course, this team has to play a big role in the process of client retention. Unfortunately, many business owners have not yet realized the true significance of a technical support team, because the benefits that this team offers are not tangible. On the other hand; smart business owners give utmost importance to technical support team and they continuously monitor the performance of this team to maintain the productivity of the business at an optimal level. Here are the 7 strategies to build a powerful technical support team based on lessons learned from Enterprise Systems, a leading IT Support Organization in Houston, TX.

1) Hire technicians who have the potential to maintain a harmonious balance between technology and humans

If you want to build a good technical service team, you have to appoint the right people. It is a well-known fact that there should always be smooth coordination between various departments within your organization to ensure optimal productivity. If you want to minimize the number of issues that the technicians have to tackle, your technical support team should have the potential to coordinate efforts with other company business departments. That is exactly why you need to hire support engineers with adequate technical knowledge and they should also have a proper customer support background. If a technically accomplished professional does not have the patience and ability to listen, he can never be a good member of a technical support team. In such a situation, you may have to deal with a lot of problems.

2) Proper documentation of problems and their solutions

Many tech support teams often get stuck on problems even if they had dealt with similar issues earlier. This situation occurs mainly because of the fact that the technical support team does not have a clear cut list of standard procedures to address frequent problems. Whenever the team gets a call, the members keep on re-inventing the wheel and this situation does not help you build a strong team. You have to make sure that the technicians are preparing notes on how they resolve each problem. These notes must also be handed over to other team members as cheat sheets. Then, a list can be compiled to form a quick reference guide. This approach can reduce the problem resolution period from hours to a few minutes.

3) Show the team members the correct career path

When it comes to highest turnover rates, technical support field stands tall. Many company owners complain that their technical support team members are leaving the company too often. Within the IT Industry, most members of the support team become developers or programmers after a short period. You must understand that there is no point in holding them back. You have to provide continuous training and flexible work hours so that they can learn faster and keep them updated. Business managers must meet them frequently to talk about the career path and goals. You have to give them opportunities to move up in your own organization. In such a situation, they are not going to leave your organization like many people do.

4) Ask the team to focus on satisfying the customer

All dynamic technical support teams strive hard to track measure and analyze the operations. In such a situation, the teams clearly understand what is working and what areas demand improvement. When a support team prepares these critical data points, they can easily improve the existing processes. If you want to build a good technical support team, you have to realize that all metrics should be geared towards achieving satisfied customers. The bottom line is that you must ask the support engineers to focus on one metric; customer satisfaction.

5) Get curious and passionate people

You can hire people who have a natural curiosity to find out how things work and progress. People, who come with this attitude, are excellent options for placing in the technical support team. Human resource managers must identify candidates who are passionate towards assembling things, tinkering with equipment and solving puzzles. These types of people possess the right frame of mind and they also have the patience to address ever emerging complex problems.

6) Do some simple calculations

When you do some simple calculations, you can come to know how your technical support team is performing. First of all, you need to check how many cases your support team is handling every week. Then, you also have to analyze how many cases are being handled by other departments and how many of them are being solved completely. This data can be used to analyze the existing performance of your technical support team in a realistic manner.

7) Set up different types of goals

When you have the existing performance data on hand, you can understand where you are heading and rebuilding process can be done by setting short, medium and long-term goals. The short term goals are for rebuilding your technical support team and they also allow you to choose the right tools that are being used to accomplish this rebuilding process. Short goals also allow you to put them in place to make the rebuilding process highly effective. Medium term goals can be set up to handle all calls within the team before the customers become really annoyed. Long term goals are primarily meant for reducing support costs. These goals can be materialized by lowering costs per product line, customer attribute, and product launch. This systematic three-step method of approach is going to deliver excellent results.

Many companies follow a wrong philosophy of maintaining cold vibes with customers. Quite often, they end up making a lot of mistakes. You cannot build a good technical support team by undermining the importance of customer requirements. You must try to develop a culture within the team that focuses on customer satisfaction and in such a situation, your customers will start noticing and appreciating it with immense satisfaction. The bottom line is that if you follow these 7 strategies, you can build a powerful technical support team in an uncomplicated manner.

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The Fine Art of Selling Services


Managing a Field Service Organization (FSO) as a profit center has become a strategic imperative for many companies.  In order to carry out this mission, field service executives must continually focus on top-line revenue growth.  Yet, research indicates that nearly three-quarters of FSOs are struggling to achieve this objective. My personal observation is that they haven’t mastered the fine art of service sales and marketing.  At issue, field service executives often confuse marketing with selling, and selling with marketing.   While there is some overlap, the two functions are significantly different.

Marketing is Not Selling

Marketing is a set of processes, activities, and/or instructions a company utilizes to create value and customer demand for the products and services it offers.  Basically, this is about turning a need into a want through promotional activities.  According to Jon Janstch, of Duct Tape Marketing fame, marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you.

In contrast, selling involves the fine art of persuasion.  It requires that the salesperson utilize a planned, personalized communication to influence a customer’s purchase decision.  Not only must a salesperson uncover a customer’s needs and wants, they must persuade the customer as to the merits of buying their product or service.

Telling is Not Selling

A common sales strategy that FSOs utilize is to involve field service technicians and managers in the sales process. The conventional wisdom is that since these people deal with customers every day, they are perceived as individuals the customer can trust for advice. As a result, they are in the best position to advise the customer on additional products and services they may need to purchase from the company.

This strategy is based on the premise that the field service technician/manager functions as a brand ambassador. Their focus is on building a relationship by solving problems, uncovering new opportunities, and telling the customer how their company can help.  This seems more like marketing than selling.  Indeed, the problem with this approach is that it often results in free consulting. In essence, the customers may not buy but instead rely on information their brand ambassador shared with them and seek competitive bids, or simply choose to do nothing at all.  It also assumes that that service salesperson can spot opportunities and effectively open up a sales dialogue with their customer.

A Structured Sales Process

Field-service leaders can avoid free consulting, increase their prospects, and improve their team’s sales closing rate by implementing a structured sales process and training their service-sales people on this process.  The sales process consists of three basic steps:

  1. Relationship Building: There are two critical aspects here. The first is bonding and rapport. This is how a salesperson gets a customer to know, like, and trust them.   A sale cannot be made without bonding and rapport.   The second aspect is known as an upfront agreement. This requires mutual consent between the salesperson and customer that each is open and willing to participate in a sales conversation. It also requires that when asked about moving to the next stage of the sales process, the prospect can provide a yes or no answer.  Upfront agreements help salespeople know where they are in a sales process with a customer and keep the sales process from stalling or falling apart.
  1. Qualifying: Sales processes may break down if the salesperson hasn’t done a good job of qualifying the prospect.  Qualification is more than just determining if the client has a need and budget.  It’s really about understanding their pain (i.e. problems).  The truth is that people don’t buy just because they like something; they buy to alleviate a pain they are currently experiencing or will experience if they don’t own the product or service. The greater the pain, the more likely they will buy.  It’s the job of the salesperson to uncover this pain.  Once done, the salesperson can discuss the budget that is required to resolve this pain.  In other words, the “pain conversation” puts the budget discussion into context for the customer.  Of course, understanding how decisions are made within customers’ organizations is also part of the qualifying process.
  1. Closing:  The closing step involves two parts, fulfillment and post sell.  Once you understand the customer’s pain, budget, and decision process then you can have a conversation about how your service will solve their pain, what the investment will be, and what it will be like to work with you after they accept your proposal.  That’s basically what fulfillment is about.  Post sell means confirming they are happy with the decision they’ve made.

Iterative Process

It is important to understand that the sale process may involve multiple, iterative conversations. This is because very few products and services can be sold in the first conversation.  The failure of the salesperson to effectively address one step of the process may impact their ability to address the next stage and thus jeopardize the sale.   If this happens, the salesperson must go back and repeat the sales process from where it failed.  This may mean they have to review or revisit previous steps with the customer to get the sale back on track.   It’s also important that understand that “speed kills” when it comes to the sales process. In other words, rush the sales process and you may lose a customer.

Think about your last conversation with a salesperson.  If you purchased from them, chances are they effectively addressed every stage in the sales process.  If not, it was probably because the sales process broke down.  Also, evaluate your own company’s selling process and closing rate.  Does your company follow a structured sales process or are service salespeople simply winging it?   If you follow a process like the one outlined here, do you know which steps are working well and which require improvement? If you’d like to learn more, schedule your free service sales strategy session today.

Turbocharge Your Service Business

Maximize Revenue through Market Research

race car

In my last series of blog posts I wrote about what it takes to build a Successful Service Marketing™ program.  To review, I described the strategic concepts of service marketing and introduced you to the 7 Ps. These are of course very important concepts. However, there are a few more concepts you’ll need to master if you are going to win at service marketing. If you’re going to be successful at service marketing or any kind of marketing, even if it is product marketing, you have to have good knowledge of your market.  You get that knowledge through market research. If you know who buys, what they buy, and why they buy then you can sell more to them and get them to buy more often.

Market research also provides the insight needed to communicate effectively with your current and prospective customers. It helps determine what messages, what images, what ideas will resonate with them and get their interest to want to buy from you.  Marketing is about taking a need and converting it into a want. You may need a watch to tell time but you want a Rolex because of the status and prestige associated with owning one.  So when you have really good market research of who buys, what they buy and why buy, then you can construct your message in such a way that you turn a need to a want.   In the field service world, you customers may need to know that they can get service on their equipment when it is down but what they really want is a guaranteed Service Level Agreement with a 4-hour response time.

Good market research not only helps in creating a service portfolio your customers really want but it helps in developing an optimal pricing strategy for that portfolio.  Chances are that you are familiar with cost plus and competitive pricing strategies. With cost plus pricing, you calculate what it costs to deliver service and then mark it up by an amount to cover you profit.  With competitive pricing strategies, you conduct market research to find out what your competitors are charging and then price your services at a lower amount.

A third type of pricing strategy is called value-in-use pricing. It basically involves measuring the economic value or loss to the customer of not having the service available in a timely manner.  This can be significant.  For example, a manufacturing facility may lose millions of dollars every hour its machines are down.  Therefore, they may be willing to a pay premium for faster service.  Market research can help you understand your customers’ value-in-use and determine whether or not you should pursue a cost plus, competitive, or value-in-use pricing strategy.   You’ll need to understand all three pricing strategies and how to effectively leverage market research to maximize service revenue and optimize profits.

The final aspect that you have to master to win service marketing is called ‘‘Invisible Selling”. This is based on the premise that you win business not by pushing your offers onto prospects, but by pulling customers towards you. One of the ways you pull customers to you is through indirect marketing as opposed to direct selling.  What’s an example of indirect marketing?  It’s an article or white paper that demonstrates that your company understands the problems that companies in your market are experiencing and that you have solutions to these problems.  It’s about using social media and public speaking opportunities to influence others to want have a conversation with you to learn more about what you do, and how you can help them.   It’s about positioning you and your company as experts and trusted business partners.   By the way, seeding your thought-leadership content with market-research data is a sure-fire way to build credibility with current and prospective customers.  Once you establish credibility they follow you and then it’s only a matter of time until they become your customers.

When you put all the elements of a Successful Service Marketing™  program together, when you fully understand the strategic concepts of service marketing, when you effectively apply the seven principles of service marketing, when you learn how to optimally price your services, when you use market research effectively, and implement an invisible selling strategy, you’re going to experience incredible results.  Your marketing program will be extremely successful, your sales will take off, and your business will skyrocket.

If you are really interested in achieving extraordinary results, then check out my online training course where you will learn strategies, tactics, and insights for Successful Service Marketing ™. As a starter, I’ve put together a brief video that describes the course content. You can access it here

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