The Hero’s Journey: Xerox’s Field Service Force Is Armed With Augmented Reality

This article first appeared in the April 17, 2017 edition of Field Technologies Online.

It’s not hard to imagine that in today’s market, your customer’s success is dependent on the speed and quality of the service provided by your company. This is the situation in the print market which is highly competitive. Many printers utilize similar state-of-the-art equipment and systems in their establishments and printing has become a commodity business. In a commodity market, suppliers compete based on time and cost. If a printer cannot turn a print job around quickly, say within 20 to 30 minutes, the customer will seek an alternative option.  So, it probably comes as no surprise that printers are highly dependent on their equipment suppliers to ensure that the equipment, so critical to operations, is operating properly and at full capacity during their typical working hours (e.g., three shifts/24 hours per day). Extended periods of downtime, output errors, and printing glitches (e.g., smudges, smears, color mismatches) are unacceptable.

Ensuring high levels of machine uptime and quality print output places increased pressures on manufacturers for service and support. Regardless of whether they are forced to deal with a hardware issue or an application error, customers demand rapid response and fast resolution. If service is not provided in a reasonable time frame, manufacturers run the risk of losing customers as well as click-through revenue.  As digital printing technology becomes more complex and sophisticated (think expanded features and functionality), customers need more support and manufacturers find that they must hire more field service technicians to keep up with increased service demand.

Customer Demands Become A Growing Concern

Xerox Israel found itself in a similar situation during the second half of 2016.  Increasing headcount was not an option because it would have had an adverse impact on operating margin. Maintaining the status quo was also not possible. With a 77 percent market share, Xerox’s Israel-based service management team understood that it had to find an innovative and creative solution to overcome this challenge. Otherwise, they would run the risk of losing market share. That’s when Xerox’s Customer Service Manager, Eyal Mantzur, became aware of Fieldbit Hero, an Augmented Reality (AR) software platform. The Fieldbit solution is comprised of smart glasses and software that enables collaboration of live streaming and recording of video, audio, images, and text.

Prior to implementing Fieldbit, Xerox’s customers would call the Xerox Welcome Center and notify them of their problem. The Welcome Center would dispatch a Field Engineer (FE) who would call back the customer and attempt to resolve the problem by telephone. Usually, the callback was made because the FE was at another customer’s site.  Often, the FE needed to travel to the new customer site to see the problem to diagnose and resolve it.  The net impact was that customers had to wait hours for an FE to arrive onsite to resolve hardware faults and application issues. This resulted in unhappy customers and, ultimately, lost business.  FEs were also not as productive as they could be while onsite because they were often multi-tasking on the telephone with other customers who required help.  A stressful situation for all parties involved!

New Realities, New Possibilities, Better Results

Upon learning of the Fieldbit solution, Mantzur and his team realized they needed to redefine their support paradigm to provide better service to customers and achieve better results.  They placed an experienced technician in the Welcome Center who was responsible to use Fieldbit Hero. He provided technical support to both customers and FEs, who would also have access to the application. By using this solution, the expert support specialist and FEs could observe the problem that the customer (i.e., machine operator) was experiencing and provide instructions, in real-time, in the form of AR content (e.g., video, images, text, etc.) on how to resolve the problem. If they could not resolve the problem remotely then they could provide the customer with a workaround until the FE could arrive on-site.  More importantly, they could provide the FE with the knowledge and resources (e.g., parts, repair instructions, etc.) needed to resolve the issue on the first visit to the customer site.

The Xerox team realized exceptional results in several areas of their service operation after implementing the Fieldbit.

  • Xerox improved remote resolution rates by 76 percent within four months of implementing Fieldbit
  • Xerox experienced a 67 percent improvement in First Time Fix (FTF) rates
  • FE utilization increased by almost 20 percent while the total elapsed time to resolve a service request (e.g., telephone time, travel time, onsite repair time, etc.) was reduced by two hours

Most of Xerox’s FEs are now able to handle at least one additional service event per day. These performance gains result in real cost savings for Xerox because the service team does not have to hire more staff to support customer demand and travel costs are reduced.

While these internal performance gains are impressive, the impact on customer satisfaction is even greater.  “The customer feels very happy and empowered when we help him solve the problem [using Fieldbit],” boasts Mantzur.  “He feels he is the service hero. The quality of interaction between customers and FEs as well as remote technical support personnel is also much better because everyone can see and talk about the same thing.  There’s no guessing anymore. With Fieldbit, customer satisfaction at Xerox improved significantly, to 95 percent, per Xerox’s most recent customer satisfaction research.  Furthermore, customers experience shorter periods of downtime and receive more accurate advice or recommendations on how to improve both machine uptime and the quality of print output.

Ensuring AR Buy-In 

Like many service executives, Eyal Mantzur was initially uncertain about what AR could do for his company.  He first learned about it from referral by  a colleague.  However, Mantzur notes that AR is a difficult concept to describe verbally. It is something that you need to see to understand. Mantzur had many pressing questions when he first heard about Fieldbit… Would it work, would customers be receptive, would the field service organization embrace it?”   These fears were quickly dismissed after seeing the product in action.  Things started to connect when for Mantzur when he realized Fieldbit could help his team see what the customer is talking about and then use AR content in the form of video, text, and images to show the customer and/or FE exactly what to do to resolve the problem.

The management team at Xerox clearly understood the value of AR. This was not necessarily the point of view of the field service organization.  Some of the FEs did not understand the power of the tool. Some were afraid of being replaced or marginalized by the tool. Mantzur overcame this challenge by showing his FEs how Fieldbit enabled them work smarter rather than harder. In doing so, he offered them a trade-off they could embrace – either continue to be stressed out by complaining customers, or enjoy a better quality of work and more satisfied customers by using Fieldbit. Once the FEs started using Fieldbit “they fell in love with it ” claims Mantzur.

Working Smarter — Not Harder — Is Better for Everyone

In summary, Fieldbit is fast becoming an integral part of Xerox Israel’s service and support strategy. The goal is for Xerox Technical Support Specialists to reside at the Welcome Center and provide first-level support to customers.  The number of specialists will also increase.  By utilizing Fieldbit, everyone from the specialist to the FE to the customer can work smarter, and FEs will no longer operate purely in demand mode. Instead, they will have more time to perform periodic/scheduled maintenance, which in turn will improve machine performance and print quality output.  “Instead of maintenance leading us, we will be able to lead maintenance”, claims Mantzur. “It will also allow the customers to be more productive during their normal business hours. They can do a better job at planning their workload. Our FEs will also be under less stress and experience greater productivity”.

In a highly competitive market like printing, manufacturers must constantly be on the lookout for ways to gain a competitive advantage.  The Xerox service organization is on the front line when it comes to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.  Their FEs play a critical role in maintaining high levels of uptime and quality for their customers.  Mantzur’s advice for any service executive skeptical about using Fieldbit is to see a demo and experience it firsthand. “Most people won’t understand the power of Fieldbit until they see how the technology performs,” he notes.  Even the customer will not appreciate its value until they use it for the first time; then they will demand it all the time.”  It is for this reason that Mantzur believes Fieldbit provides Xerox with a competitive advantage and a source of differentiation in the market.

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Field Service Management

Current State and Future Outlook

This Q & A first appeared on Mobile Reach as part of their Field Service Management Expert Interview Series. 

In what ways do you think field service management is changing? What are the future areas of growth?
Field service is becoming a technology-intensive business function. Technology enables field service organizations to build “Uber” like service offerings which are always available on-demand and in real-time. The future growth will come from adopting disruptive technologies like mobile, augmented reality, GPS, IoT, etc., to make this happen.

Speaking of IoT, what role do you see it playing in field service management?
I see the Internet of Things playing a very important role in field service management. It provides field service organizations and individual field service engineers with real-time visibility into status, health, and the condition of equipment they must support within their installed base. With this knowledge, field service organizations can be more effective at solving issues remotely, and field service engineers can be certain to have the right skills and resources (e.g., spare parts) with them when they arrive onsite to resolve an issue.

How are mobile technologies changing the way FSM organizations interact with their customers?
Mobile technologies provide field technicians with instant access to information about equipment history, spare parts availability, and technical knowledge. This helps them be more effective in doing their job for customers. In addition, they can use the technology to receive real-time updates and alerts about customers’ equipment. Furthermore, field technicians can utilize mobile technology to capture business intelligence about their customers that can then be utilized to upsell and cross sell additional services.

You mention upsell and cross sell. How can field service organizations use mobile technologies to drive revenue and competitive advantage?
Field service organizations can use mobile technologies to capture information about their customers’ machine population. For example, they can record data about what equipment they own, how long they’ve owned it, whether it is under a service contract, when the service contract expires, and their level of satisfaction with their current service provider. This information provides market intelligence that can be used to upsell and cross sell additional products and services. Companies can also drive revenue and competitive advantage by using mobile technology to capture customer satisfaction data and other relevant market research that would help improve performance and lead to the development of innovative products and services. Organizations should coach and train field technicians on how to sell and establish sales oriented KPIs for the organization.

How is the broader economy affecting field service management? How do you see this changing over time?
The current economy has a very positive impact on field service management. In an “up” economy, such as the one we are currently in, customers usually invest heavily in new equipment which means more service in the form of installations and service contracts. They are also more likely to spend more on services by purchasing premium service offerings that they may have not purchase in a down economy. I see the economy and the field service industry remaining strong for the next several years. However, even a down economy can have a positive impact on field service. Investors view field service as a defensible business in the sense that it is not hurt by cyclical economic trends in the way that industries like automotive or luxury goods are. Customers still need field service even when the economy is performing poorly. In fact, they are likely to increase their dependence on field service to extend the life of the equipment they currently own instead of buying new products.

What is role of the Chief Service Officer and how will this position evolve going forward?
The role of the Chief Service Officer is to drive customer satisfaction by managing service delivery against KPIs. In addition, their role is to serve as an internal advocate/champion within their organization for service. This means they work toward obtaining investments and resources when needed to improve customer satisfaction and service delivery performance. The role is evolving in the sense that CSOs are being tasked with responsibility for managing field service as a profit center as well as taking a leadership role in developing business strategy and driving innovation within their organizations.

What are the top three KPIs that you recommend FSM organizations focus on now?
My top three KPIs are First Time Fix (FTFR), Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), and customer satisfaction (CSAT). In the future, as field service generates greater value for companies, the KPIs are more likely to focus on financial metrics and customer outcomes such as gross margin, uptime availability, contract attachment, and renewal rates.

How can FSM organizations integrate big data without becoming bogged down with information overload?
They should consider the problems they are trying to solve before trying to find a big data solution. Once they have a clear understanding of the problem, they can determine if a large data set is required to solve it and, more importantly, identify what types of big data analytics are required. Does the problem require descriptive, diagnostics, predictive, or prescriptive/cognitive analytics? Lastly, they must understand that from a data solution perspective these analytics build upon each other. In other words, you can’t run until you learn how to walk. Trying to implement a prescriptive/cognitive big data analytics solution is pointless unless you have effectively addressed problems that can be solved through descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive analytics.

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Should Technicians Sell to Your Customers?

I attended a very interesting session at WBR’s Field Service USA 2017 Conference a few weeks ago.  It was billed as an “Oxford Style Debate: Should Technicians Sell to Your Customers?”  The debate about whether technicians should sell has been around for decades.  I know that has been a hot topic of discussion since I’ve been in the industry and I started working as a consultant in 1985.   While the topic has been discussed in countless articles and conference presentations, this was the first time I’ve heard it presented as an open debate.  I found it refreshing because it gave conference participants the opportunity to ask questions and challenge conventional wisdom which helps in formulating one’s position on a subject.

Arguing for technicians as sales people were Tom Vorin, VP of Customer Services, ISCO International and Ron Zielinski, VP, Global Customer Service Coherent.    Arguing against Technicians as salespeople were Andrew Kovach, VP US Lifecycle Services, ABB and Chris Westlake, VP & GM of Services & Electrical Businesses, RK.  Each side did an excellent job in presenting their case.

The argument that Vorin and Zielinski presented was that companies who have technicians sell create additional value not only for their company but for their customers.  In other words, their customers appreciate the fact that their technicians can identify new products and services that help improve their situation and/or business.  Since they already view their technicians as trusted advisors, customers are more likely to listen to technicians’ suggestions than if a sales person approached them directly about buying more products or services.  Basically, technicians are perceived to be objective when advising customers of their options and thus carry an air of credibility around themselves.

Kovach and Westlake’s argument against technicians as sales people centered around three issues. First, technicians are not comfortable in a sales role. If they like to sell, then they would have pursed a career as a sale person.  Second, putting technicians in a sales role can hurt the brand and jeopardize the level of trust that already exists.  After all, customers are not stupid and will quickly catch-on that they are being sold too.  Third, and most importantly, technicians must stay focused on their job of solving problems and keeping customers happy.   Anything else is a distraction and disruptive to the customer relationship.

Of course, each side had an opportunity for rebuttal and the audience had a chance to express their opinion and vote on which position/argument they favored most. The vote occurred before and after the debate.   Although a larger percentage of the audience were in favor of technicians selling before the debate occurred, Kovach and Westlake changed several people’s opinions about whether technicians should sell.  Ironically, after the debate Kovach and Westlake revealed it was staged, that they were asked by the conference organizers to take the against position, and that they do involve their technicians in the sales process.  Basically, they have them identify opportunities and refer them to the sales force.  In describing the sales role of technicians, Vorin and Zielinksi also implied that their technicians work in a similar capacity.    Both sides agreed that the “debate” was all in fun and it provided a fantastic opportunity to present ideas on the best way to involve technicians in the sales process.

In case you are wondering, I agree that technicians should not be selling to customers.   However, neither side of the debate was really arguing that technicians should sell.  They were basically suggesting that technicians can play a role in the sales process by uncovering customer pain points, identifying solutions, and referring business opportunities to the sales force.    Quite frankly, unless, a technician has a sales quota, can overcome objections, and close the sale they are not actually sales people.  I also think that if their compensation is not based in part on some form of sales incentive or commission for closing business then they will never be fully committed to sales.

However, I would not argue for placing technicians in a direct sales role as it could be disruptive or damaging to business.  On the other hand, any company that is passionate about growing their top line revenue, increasing customer satisfaction, and improving their market share needs to adopt a “sales” oriented approach where everyone in the company plays a role in the sales process.  That’s why I agree with the proposition that technicians should be play an important role in uncovering customer pain points, identifying solutions, and referring business opportunities to the sales force.   Bear in mind, the systems, performance metrics and processes need to be in place, and the proper training and coaching needs to be provided if they are going to realize success in this role.

I’d love to read your perspective on this subjective. Do you think technicians should sell to customers?  If yes, please share your experience in the comments section of this post.   Let me know what works and doesn’t work.  If you want some advice or suggestions on how to make it work then schedule a free consultation today.

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What’s on Service Director’s Minds

Nick Frank is a Co-Founder of Si2 Partners and this article is based on one first posted in Field Service Matters.

With customer expectations on the rise, field service organizations are constantly fighting to keep up. The service industry has shifted from a cost-centric and reactive approach to a value-centric and proactive approach. But aside from more demand from the customer, the transformation has also opened up new opportunities for service technicians, process, and technology.

Recently, I met with service and operations directors from the United Kingdom’s biggest organizations gathered at Field Service Summit. Field service leaders from manufacturing, telecommunications, and utilities met to exchange ideas and discuss opportunities and trends. Here are the most important topics they addressed.

On dealing with near-impossible expectations

Thanks to on-demand services such as Uber, customer expectations are higher than ever. Your customers want faster resolutions, more visibility into their service, and real-time communication with their technicians. But disruptions happen, and sometimes the customer wants more than you can give them at that moment. Here’s how the experts are managing customer expectations:

Set realistic expectations & don’t over promise

What do you do when the customer wants more than you can handle? Start by setting expectations. Before the service visit, know exactly what the customer wants accomplished and when. You always want to strive for a quick, first-time fix. But don’t over promise if you can’t deliver.

Let’s say a customer wants a tech to fix their washing machine the same day they call, but your techs are already booked for the day. Since it’s not an emergency situation, let the customer know they’ll have to wait, and schedule them for a different time slot. They might be upset that you can’t help them as soon as they’d like, but they’ll be more upset if you’re unable to deliver on a promise.

Let the customer set their own (controlled) expectations

Better yet, give your customer a range of options so they can set their own expectations. Most field service directors at the summit found that their customers want to be partners during the service process. Involve customers by allowing them to set their own expectations for the service visit. Just make sure to do so within in a controlled environment.

For instance, give them open time slots to choose from before they decide on their own. And if they want a higher level of service that will take more time and labor, let them pay more for it. This way you’re giving the customer more control throughout the process, but maintain manageable expectations.

On developing service technicians

Most of the experts at Field Service Summit agreed that the people side of the service delivery is crucial. In other words, your techs, along with their attitudes and capabilities, determine the successful delivery of solutions for your customers. Think about it. Your techs make up most of your company’s interactions with your customers. As the face of your organization, it’s important that the tech makes a good impression. Here’s what the experts advised for developing technicians:

Help your techs become brand ambassadors

It’s crucial for technicians to have the right technical skills, but attitude and image are just as important. Coach your techs on how to represent the brand and company values during their service visit. They should be courteous, engaged, and dressed appropriately. Your customers should feel confident in their tech’s ability to solve their problems and think of them as trusted advisors.

Make customer feedback part of the service process

The best way to learn how your techs are performing is by asking the customers. Consider making customer feedback part of the field service process. Send your customers a survey immediately after the service visit so they can respond with the visit fresh in mind.

If the feedback is positive, send it directly back to the tech. In addition to learning what he or she did right, the tech will also feel good to know they had a positive impact on their customers. If the tech gets a negative review, have a manager deliver feedback. Set a meeting to discuss their performance and talk about ways they can improve for next time.

On the importance of service value over price

As products are commoditized, quality service and positive customer experiences become main competitive differentiators. Field service directors at the summit noticed that customers today are less competent technically, and care more about the outcome. Being said, it’s important to constantly communicate the value of your service, especially if you have not been as visible to the customer. Make sure they know what’s been happening in the background, and throughout the service process.  Here’s what the experts advised:

Demonstrate value with proof

As your company grows, be sure to document a service portfolio. Get your customer support team on board with your company’s value propositions and demonstrate them. Work with your customers to build case studies (with numbers) to use as proof points for potential customers.

Be a business partner

Just as customers should see techs as trusted advisors, they should see your company as a partner invested in their success. Customers are looking for more than just a fix — they want solutions. And they want advice on their assets in case the problem arises again. Let them know you’re always there for them, even when they’re not due for a service visit.

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Driving Revenue Growth without Losing Sight of the Customers

CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

Several months ago, Derek Korte, the editor of Field Service Digital solicited my opinion for article titled “Expert Roundtable: Never Lose Sight of Customer Satisfaction”.    The basic question that Derek asked was “How do service leaders ensure the important work involved in managing a service business get done while still keeping the needs of customers involved?”  After all, Derek pointed out, Field Service leaders have a lot on their plate. They must continuously balance the need to improve the quality, productivity and efficiency of service operations with the strategic objective to drive revenue and growth; all while never losing sight of keeping customers happy.

This dilemma is a challenge facing all businesses not just Field Service.  When it comes to practical advice, Peter Drucker said it best, “the goal of any business is to get and keep customers.”  This quote provides a good lesson for Field Service leaders.  Driving revenue and growth, and maintaining customer satisfaction is not an either-or proposition.  They are one in the same.

To achieve superior outcomes in these two areas, Field Service leaders must view themselves as business owners.  They must view themselves as owners of a business franchise called “service” whether they are equity owners or not.  In other words, they must adopt an “ownership” mindset.

To succeed as business owners, Field Service leaders must first have the right “seats on the bus” otherwise known as the right functions that manage their service business.  This includes functions such as service delivery operations (i.e. dispatch, field service, parts management, etc.), accounting & finance, sales & marketing and others.  Without the right functions, the business cannot perform.

Second, Field Service leaders must make sure they have the right people in those seats. This means they must find talented people to manage these functions.  The people can be groomed from within the organization or recruited from outside.  Regardless, field service leaders must develop performance standards by which personnel must adhere.  These standards should consider the characteristics, skill sets, experience and behaviors that service personnel must possess.

Third, Field Service leader must have clear outcome of where they are heading.  If they are going to drive growth, then they must have a map to help them reach their destination.  In business, another term for a map is a strategy and/or plan.  Without a clearly defined strategy or plan to follow, a business can’t go very far.

Fourth and finally, Field Service leaders need to make sure their bus (i.e., their organization) is running efficiently. That it has a clean engine, good tires, etc. They also most make sure they have a GPS or dashboard to help them monitor their performance, the direction in which they are heading, and the speed at which they are going.  The engine, tires, etc. are a metaphor for state of the art service delivery infrastructure and related technologies that make superior service possible.  The GPS and dashboard are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and operating benchmarks that help Field Service leaders keep course on their direction.

Now it’s your turn to answer the question: “How do service leaders ensure the important work involved in managing a service business get done while still keeping the needs of customers involved?”   What have you found that works and doesn’t work? If you’d like to read about other experts’ perspectives on this topic then read Derek’s online article.

Please also feel free to schedule a free strategy session with me today if you need more insight and guidance on how to improve service operations and drive revenue and growth while maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.

Still looking for answers?

 

 

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.

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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The Most Empowering Question You Can Ask

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Have you ever felt stuck when it comes to growing your service business? For example, you feel that things are stagnant or perhaps just not going as well as you’d like.  If your answer is yes, then chances are that you have been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  That’s called insanity!!

You know you need to make a change but you are not exactly sure how.

All of us in business have at one time or another felt this way.  Most people in this situation ask themselves…”What should I do?”  “What should I do to get better results?”   The truth is this is a poor question to ask.  It is a poor question to ask because it is a disempowering question.

Disempowering questions seldom give us new insights or perspectives that lead to real change.  This is because our mind always tries to find a way of answering our questions. When you ask yourself “What should I do to increase service sales?” you come up with a million different answers.  One answer may be advertising, so you spend money on advertising only to find that it doesn’t help. You may again ask yourself, what should I do to increase sales, and your mind answers…”invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”.  You invest in SEO, yet still you observe little or no improvement.

You continue to ask yourself the same question over and over again and get answers like do more networking, do thought leadership marketing, do price discounts . . . but still no improvement.  Soon you find yourself running around in circles doing different things. You keep doing more and more different things in hopes of getting better results but nothing happens. That’s crazy!  If you keep this up, soon you are likely to hear a small voice inside your head say “Woe is me, what should I do, I don’t know what to do, poor me!”

Poor you is right!

Can you see why asking yourself “What I can do to increase sales?” is a disempowering question?  Asking this type of question creates a vicious cycle that you have to break before it breaks you.  You can break it by learning how to ask empowering questions.  The most empowering question you need to ask and answer if you are trying to grow your service business is, “What value does my company bring to the marketplace?” In other words, what is you value proposition?

The truth is you can’t improve your sales until you are clear about the value you provide. Without a clear value proposition, spending money on advertising, incentives, networking, and other forms of marketing is throwing good money after bad.

In order to define your value proposition you have to answer 3 additional questions:

  1. Whom do I serve?
  2. What problem do I help them solve?
  3. What results do I help them achieve?

These answers provide input to the value proposition formula, which goes something like this…l help X, solve Y, so that Z. Here, X is the answer to the question, whom do I serve; Y identifies what problem you help them solve; and Z clarifies the results you help them achieve.

For example, my value proposition is, I help service managers and executives gain access to new perspectives, strategies, and insights about service management so that they can increase sales, boost profits, and delight their customers.

Once you determine you value proposition and consistently apply it you’ll achieve better results:

  • You’ll gain clarity about whom you help
  • You’ll be more certain about how you help them
  • You’ll be more effective in finding more people like them
  • You’ll find yourself working with people who really understand and appreciate the value you provide them
  • You’ll close more sales

Remember, if you are feeling stuck in your business or career, and nothing seems to be working, you are probably asking yourself disempowering questions. Break the cycle of despair by asking empowering questions, instead!

Now it’s your turn.  Complete the value proposition formula (I help X, solve Y, so that Z) and share it with us in the Comments section.  We’d love to learn what you’ve developed and how you think it has helped or will help you company get more business.  If you need ideas about what to do now that you’ve developed your value proposition, schedule a free consultation today.

7 Strategies To Build A Powerful Technical Support Team

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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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Improving First-Time Fix Rates

A Field Service Manager’s Guide

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In my last blog, I discussed the importance and impact of high First-Time Fix rates for the field service industry. (If you have not already read it, catch up here.)  Knowing that a high First-Time Fix rate leads to greater customer satisfaction, higher renewal rates, and lower costs for your company encourages management teams to want to improve this Key Performance Indicator (KPI). And making those changes does not have to be difficult or costly. On the contrary, making this KPI a priority will increase profitability and can make your organization flow more smoothly.

Here are 5 keys to increasing your First-Time Fix Rate:

  • Triage
  • Training
  • Dynamic Scheduling
  • Parts Planning
  • Knowledge Tools

Call Triage:  This is where it all starts.  Your customer calls in with a problem. The team on the front line needs to have the right technology and systems in place so that when a call comes in they can screen the call, understand the issue, and understand what skills and which parts may be needed to resolve the issue. Some calls may be able to be resolved over the phone if you have given the Call Triage Center the technology and systems to evaluate the call properly then no dispatch is necessary, saving time and money for you and your customer. If this is not the case, knowing as much as possible up front will help in the decision making process for the next step – dispatching the correct Field Service Engineer (FSE) with the right skills and equipment to have the highest chance of fixing the problem the first time. Is there a FSE in the physical area? Does that technician have the skills and parts to repair the problem? If not how can the FSE get the needed parts? And how do you achieve this in the time frame you have promised to your customer?  Your call center needs to know who is available and what skill set and equipment they have to make the best decisions for both your customer and your field service organization.  By conducting upfront call triage, you can provide the FSEs with the information they need to know in order to resolve the issue right the first time. Having the right systems and technology will help facilitate this process.

Training:  While it may seem like an obvious thing, you must have highly trained and well qualified FSEs available for dispatch.  Make the investment in both hiring and training your existing team of FSEs.  The more skills they each possess, the greater chance that the one closest to your customer at the time needed will be able to make the First-Time Fix happen.   How do you make this happen? First, have consistent and periodic training. Second, training should take place both in the classroom and in the field. Third have continued skill assessment and evaluation, that is evaluate your technicians and see how well they perform, then go back and do more training in the areas needed. In summary train, let them do, evaluate, and train more.

Dynamic scheduling: This means using advanced technology to identify and assign the best technician who has the skills, is available, can get there in time frame promised to customer and has or can get the required parts. Again, it may seem obvious, but if the FSE does not have the right part to fix the problem then a second trip to the customer is a given.

Parts: Parts management must be a part of any profitable Field Service Strategy.  What are the most commonly needed parts for the most common issues your FSEs encounter? What are the parts that have the highest failure rate? How do you make decisions about what each FSE carries with them for every call? And what is the availability for the parts that are not included in those most common service requests?  All of these decisions impact your organization’s First-Time Fix rate.

The fifth aspect of creating a high First-Time Fix rate is enabling your technicians to be more efficient to troubleshoot while in the field. There are several ways to achieve this:

  1. Give FSEs access to mobility solutions to access knowledge bases while in the field.
  2. Provide access to a Telephone Technical Support center they can call while in the field.
  3. Implement collaboration tools that allows FSEs to use their mobile devices to query and collaborate with other technicians who may have faced the problem and know how to solve it.
  4. Rely on augmented reality technology so that your technician can learn in real time while in the field what they need to do to solve the problem.

Investing in people, technology and processes make a high First-Time Fix rate achievable. By utilizing time and resources to have a well-run Triage Center; Train and re-train technicians; use Dynamic Scheduling to make the process efficient; implement effective parts management; and giving your FSEs the tools to be successful while at your customer, your First-Time Fix Rate will enhance the profitability of your Field Service Organization.

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