Sell More Service By Providing More Value

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Over the last month I’ve spoken to over two dozen Field Service Executives about challenges they are facing when it comes to generating additional service revenue for their companies.   I observed several common themes.  First, every executive I interviewed indicated that they would like to sell more service contracts.  However, they were experiencing resistance from customers as evidenced by low contract attachment rates.   Second, these executives were concerned about whether or not their prices were too high or if their customers really needed service contracts.  After all, this was the feedback they were receiving from their sales teams and even first hand from the customers that had spoken to directly.

This is an all too familiar problem for me.  I’ve encountered this for the last twenty five years as a management consultant. It is also a challenge that many field service executives face.  Seldom is price the real issue why companies struggle to sell service contracts.  In market research studies that I have completed for clients in a wide array of technology service industries, I have found that price is often low on the list of criteria that end-users consider when selecting and evaluating service providers.  Indeed, criteria such as quality of service, knowledge and skill of service personnel, breadth of service offering, and vendor’s knowledge of their business are perceived by customers to have higher importance than price alone.

The truth is “your price is too high” will always be an objection that customers provide when they cannot justify the purchase of a product or service.  In other words, they have no way of logically defending the value of the service being purchased.  Stated another way; they are not able to differentiate the benefits of service contracts from time and materials service.  The problem is that Field Service Organizations (FSOs) often attempt to sell service contracts without providing reasons why a contract is better than simply paying for service on a time and materials basis.   In order for end-customers to rationalize their purchase of service contracts, FSOs must be able to demonstrate the contrast between service contracts and time and material/pay as you go service.

In order to achieve this outcome, FSOs must be able to articulate the value of service contracts to customers as well as to their own sales people. They need to describe what’s included in a service contract that is not included in time & materials. This requires they do an effective job in defining the service contract and answering the question “What’s in it for me (the customer)?”  If the only difference between a service contract and time & materials is that the customer is able to prepay for service, then there is no value and no contrast.  However, if the service contract provides a preferred level of service (e.g., 4 hour response time, 7 by 24 hour coverage, parts, etc.) or preferred price structure then the customer is presented with some real value and contrast.

Ultimately, FSOs must be able to help customers defend their purchase of service contracts.   They do this by offering more value in a service contract than the customer could possibly receive through time and materials services.  Another way that FSOs can help customers defend their purchase is by letting their customers know why they offer service contracts in the first place, and why they prefer customer purchase them.   Usually, service contracts help FSOs do a better job at anticipating and managing service requests. It helps the FSO forecast and plan resources better.  As a result, service contracts benefit the customer which is something customers will understand and appreciate.

If your company is facing struggles when it comes to selling service contracts then perhaps it is time for a marketing tune-up.  A tune-up will identify where there are challenges in your sales and marketing process and more importantly, explain how to overcome them.  If you are interested in learning more, then contact me to schedule a free strategy session where I’ll describe what’s involved in a marketing tune-up, help you determine if it is something you need, and explain how you can get started. Isn’t it about time you stop leaving money on the table and start winning more business.

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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.

Tell us what has worked for you?

Or if you are looking for answers call for a free consultation.

The New Field Service Workforce

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There has been a dramatic shift over the past 5 to 10 years in the way work is performed in the U.S. and Europe as more and more workers join the gig economy.  By definition, a gig economy is an environment where temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.  In other words, people are increasingly taking on freelance work.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53 million Americans are currently working as freelancers.  By 2020, 50% of the American workforce will be engaged in freelance activity. Furthermore, a study published by the Freelancers Union and Elance O-Desk indicates that freelance work contributes $750 billion annually to the US economy.

The gig economy has played a significant role within the Field Service Industry.  It is driven by the trend of many companies to implement variable workforce (VWF) models. This is a business model in which a field service organization (FSO) relies on a contingent workforce to manage peaks and valleys in labor demand.  Earlier this year, Blumberg Advisory conducted an extensive research study to examine the impact of VWF models on the Field Service Industry. The study, sponsored by Field Nation, revealed  that 8 out of 10 FSOs have implemented VWF models to manage over one-half (53%) of their workforces.

One of the ways that FSOs implement the VWF model is through a Freelancer Management System (FMS).  This is an integrated software platform that includes functionality for Vendor Management System (VMS), Human Capital Management System (HCMS), Service Ticketing System, on-line recruitment tools, and reporting & analytics. Approximately two-thirds of survey respondents use this type of solution to manage their contingent labor pool of field technicians.

The single biggest benefit of using an FMS, as reported by 70% of survey respondents, is scalability.  In other words, the ability to scale the workforce up or down based on service demands.   A majority of respondents also perceive access to a vibrant marketplace of freelance technicians (61%), the flexibility that an FMS has in managing W2 and 1099 employees (56%), and lower cost of overhead (54%) that results from using an FMS, among the top benefits.  Just under half of the respondents (46%) viewed lower direct labor cost as a benefit of using an FMS platform.

In addition to these benefits, FMS platforms have a measurable impact on field service financial and operating performance.  Indeed, companies that use FMS platforms report having observed a 6% or more improvement in field service key performance indicators (KPIs) such as field service productivity (i.e., # of visits per day), labor utilization rates, SLA compliance, recurring revenue, and gross margins.

Obviously, the gig economy has had a positive impact on FSOs who rely on the VWF model and FMS platforms.  However, many opponents of the gig economy believe that freelancing models take advantage of workers and therefore are bad for individuals.  The facts point to the contrary. In 2015, Field Nation, a leading FMS platform provider to the field service industry, conducted a survey among freelance workers to understand their attitudes and perceptions of freelance work.  An overwhelming majority indicated that the freelance lifestyle is both a personnel choice (88%) and their primary source of income (73%).  Almost all the respondents were satisfied with the work they do (97%) and the career choice they had made (95%).

These findings suggest that the nature of work within the Field Service Industry has changed for good. The days of individual commitment to a single employer and vice versa are long gone.  Freelancing is not a passing fad within Field Service .  Furthermore, Freelancer Management System (FMS) platforms make it possible for FSOs to achieve positive, measurable results from implementing a Variable Workforce Model. Clearly, the gig economy is here to stay.

Have a question? Click to schedule a consultation.

To obtain a copy of our new ground breaking report on benchmarks and best practices in field service staffing click here.

What Do Pokémon Go and Service Lifecycle Management Have in Common?

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Augmented Reality (AR) became a physical reality earlier this month when Nintendo launched its Pokémon Go application. This is the first example of a consumer based, augmented reality application that can be downloaded free on any Android or iOS device.  According to Vox Examiner, “Pokémon Go is a game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game.”

Many analysts believed that consumer applications for AR would not hit the market until 2017.   Nintendo was ahead of schedule.  Pokémon is taking the world by storm and fueling the market for  AR applications, a market that Digi-Capital reports will reach $90 billion by 2020.  Goldman Sachs estimates that 60% of the AR market will be driven by consumer applications, with the remaining 40% of the market attributable to enterprise usage.

In case you have not been paying attending to technology trends, 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.  The technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.  AR improves  users’ experience by enabling them to interact and learn from whatever they are observing.

Prior to the launch of Pokémon Go, AR applications where limited to the enterprise market.  I saw an example of a real-world-use case for AR at PTC’s LiveWorx ’16 last month in Boston.  At this conference and exhibition, PTC provided a proof of concept of how AR can be utilized within the context of Service Lifecycle Management.  In conjunction with their customer FlowServe, a leading manufacturer of pump and valves for process industries, PTC demonstrated an integrated solution which provides users with a better experience when it comes to operating, maintaining, and managing centrifugal pumps.  Sensors on the pump identify when an anomaly is detected.  Using AR, a virtual representation of the machine is placed on top of the device to expose the root cause of the problem.  AR is then utilized to identify the exact steps that need to be taken to resolve the problem.

By implementing AR solutions, companies can expect to realize significant improvements in key performance indicators related to Service Lifecycle Management.  For example, AR can help equipment operators anticipate and/or avoid machine failures and thus increase equipment uptime.  AR can also facilitate repair processes, thereby reducing both repair time and downtime while improving first time fix.  In addition, AR can improve the learning curve of novice field technicians, enabling them to become more proficient in diagnosing and resolving problems.  Furthermore, the contextual knowledge that is made available through AR enables equipment owners to make smarter decisions about operating the equipment, which  in turn can help extend the equipment’s life.

These results are only possible if field service technicians embrace AR and actively utilize it.  How likely are technicians to embrace this technology? This of course is the big question on people’s mind.  One scenario is that AR adoption will be very high, so high that technicians will become dependent on it.  The implication is that technicians will lose their domain expertise and be unable to resolve problems without it.  This could pose a challenge if for some reason the AR interface is not working properly and the machine still has a problem that requires resolution.  This outcome can be avoided through ongoing education, training, and skill-assessment drills.

A more likely scenario is that adoption rates will occur gradually.  Although technicians may embrace the use of AR in consumer applications, they may have some resistance to using it in a technical environment.  This is because AR requires technicians to modify their workflow and perceptions of themselves as problem solvers.  Technicians have been conditioned to rely on their own experience, intuition, and “tribal knowledge” to solve problems.  AR changes that basic premise.  Technicians will have to remember to activate AR applications when they are in the field and rely on the information that is presented to them to complete the task at hand. They’ll also need to become proficient at analyzing and acting upon the information they observe.  These activities are not second nature and may take some getting used to for veteran technicians because it represents a different way of working and a challenge to their conventional way of thinking.  Companies that want to leverage the value of AR can overcome these challenges by managing technicians’ performance against key performance indicators (KPIs).  They can observe who on their team is using AR and evaluate the impact on performance. They can in turn incentivize and reward good performance as well as identify who needs more training and coaching on the use of AR.

Got a question? Click to schedule  a consultation.

4 Ways Service And Support Adds Customer Value

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This is a guest post by Sam Klaidman. He is a consultant focused on Service Marketing and Customer Experience. You can read his blog and follow him on LinkedIn. If you want to guest post on this blog, email me at michaelb@blumberg-advisor.com and write “Guest Blog Guidelines” in the subject field.

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service and support

Today, customers are looking to receive more value from their partners than ever before. The two primary reasons are:

  1. Customers are “crazy busy” and need relief because they are drowning in problems, opportunities, issues, and challenges. This relief is one form of value added by the supplier (partner).
  2. Partners see many “similar” situations at their customer’s locations and so should have a good idea about what will work to help the customer and can be implemented with little effort or risk, with a high likelihood of success.

Almost sounds like the customer wants the supplier to solve their problems and expect no more that a “thank you.” The first part of the sentence is correct but not the second part; smart customers are perfectly willing to pay for value added services if they understand the benefits they will gain.

Who is best suited to deliver value-added services?

For a number of reasons, service organization are best situated to deliver value-added services to existing customers. Here’s why:

Of the two primary customer-facing organizations, the “sales” department is generally charged with selling products. Their compensation plans are based on closed business; they have marketing breathing down their necks pushing them to turn leads into orders and their nature is to be hunters.

The other group, services, is totally different. Their role is to make the customers successful; they enjoy helping customers, frequently have little or no revenue objectives, are totally familiar with the products and, organizationally, have seen all the customers and how they have attempted to solve their problems

How can Service and Support add value to customers?

  1. Technical people understand their product’s capabilities and limitations. When they are talking with individual customers they should be asking questions like:
    1. What exactly are you trying to do with our product?
    2. What do you wish it could do but have not found a way to do it?
    3. Where in your process is our product helping you? Slowing you down? Making it impossible to do everything you need to do?
    4. Do you know of any other products that help you do your job?

 

As they get a better understanding of the customers jobs-to-be-done, they frequently can teach the customer how to use the capabilities they already paid for and did not know existed.

  1. When we see how our product is integrated into the customer’s job stream, we frequently can identify unnecessary steps. By sharing this with the customer, we add value because we help them do their job quicker and easier.
  2. Many hardware owners are totally concerned with uptime; they bought our product because they needed to use it when they needed to use it. However, the person who sold the service contract, or the one who actually purchased it, may not have discussed the critical uptime requirements and so only discussed the standard plan. When the Service Marketing person works closely with the equipment owner, there are frequently creative ways for the customer to increase uptime (for an additional price) while the service group provides unique services that can be integrated into their workflow.
  3. Finally, if your service and support people identify a value adding opportunity but do not know how to actually accomplish the customer’s needs, they should get the case into the hands of the product manager. He can then research the feasibility of adding the feature, assess the market size and implementation cost, and potentially move ahead in a future upgrade.

 

Your service and support team has a number of separate roles to play. Here they are:

  1. Fix the customer’s problem. This is Job #1. Helping them get full value for money for their purchase is critical; without it there is no business relationship.
  2. Collect information about product performance and put into a useful format for your Engineering or Manufacturing departments to use to improve the products.
  3. Identify opportunities for the business to add additional customer value. The front line service and support professionals should always be thinking about ways that your customers can squeeze additional value from their purchases. When they find opportunities they must not only help their immediate customer implement changes but must also spread the word throughout your company so other customers can take advantage of these new findings.

 

If not already in place, these behaviors must become part of your company’s culture. People must be able do these things as though it were it standard operating procedure so that everyone wins!

Strategies to make service more affordable

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In my last blog post I discussed the strategic importance of continually finding ways to reduce cost of operations while enhancing service quality. A company can benefit from their cost savings in the form of higher profits or by passing them on to customers in the form of lower prices. Most rational business owners and executives would probably choose higher profits over lower prices unless of course lowering prices is a matter of survival. However, cost reduction is not the only strategy for achieving this outcome.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a number of market focused strategies that a company can pursue that can result in offering customers services at a more affordable fee. Let’s examine them:

  • Standardization The establishment of standard, well-defined service modules or portfolios can lead to reduced cost through the ability to control the human element and ensure consistency in the service delivery process. McDonald’s is a good example of a company that employs standardization in their service strategy.   In the High-Tech Service & Support Industry, standardization may take the form of offering the customer a bronze, silver, and gold service package.
  • Use of alternative delivery systems To reduce investment and operating costs a company can find alternative ways to deliver service to their customers. In other words, they can make it possible for customers to be more involved in the service delivery process. Electronic banking, including bank-by-phone and the use of ATMs, are examples of this type of service strategy. In the High-Tech Service & Support Industry, this may take the form of an internet portal that allows customers to issue work orders directly to Field Service Engineers or perform troubleshooting on their own.
  • Market segmentation and focus on price sensitivityThere are, of course, significant service sub-market segments, some of which are price-insensitive. However, price-sensitive service market segments also exist. In general, those customers who are more price-sensitive will tend to do a greater portion of the service themselves, including self-maintenance and delivery functions, which might normally be done by the external service vendor at an added cost. IKEA, a furniture distribution organization, is an example of service directed toward the low-priced customer base. As such, they leave services such as picking, delivery, and assembly up to the customer. Medical Device companies do this by offering parts only service contracts.
  • Changing service response and completion times. A final tactic that could be utilized to reduce costs or increase margins is to change or lengthen the service response time and delivery characteristics. In essence, some customers are simply willing to wait longer to reduce service costs), than others. (Some customers want and need rapid response and are willing to pay a premium for such service.

 

Companies seeking to make service more affordable to customers can pursue any or all of these options and still achieve healthy profit margins. Now it’s your turn. Do you have a segment of the market that is price sensitive? Which option would you implement to better serve them? Please share with me you thoughts or experiences you’ve had when it comes to this issue. Still searching for answers, schedule a free consultation today.

Four Principles for Overcoming the Biggest Challenge in Your Business

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We recently conducted a market survey among 250 service managers and executives on critical trends facing the Field Service industry. As part of this research effort, we asked respondents to indicate which issues where the most challenging to their company. Reducing the cost of service delivery was at the top of this list. Over two-thirds of the survey population indicated that this issue was either somewhat (40%) or very (29%) challenging for their organizations.

The truth is that taking a disciplined approach to reducing costs is critical to a business’ long term growth and sustainability.   One way to ensure high profits, year after year, is to consistently find ways to reduce cost by at least 10% per year. They are not simply cutting expenses haphazardly by laying-off people, taking short cuts, asking vendors for price concessions, or making do with less. Those tactics have negative consequences on morale, productivity, and quality which ultimately hurt rather than help a business.

Instead, world class companies take a strategic approach to cost – cutting. They pursue an approach that leads to long term growth, improved market share, and an enhanced reputation among customers and employees.   In other words, an approach that makes them the type of company that makes people want to do business with, work for, or invest in.

Here are a couple of key principles to keep in mind when  applying a cost cutting strategy to your service operations:

  1. It never ends – Just because you were able to find a 10% savings today doesn’t mean that costs will remain the same next year. Your operating expenses will always find a way to creep up on you. There will always be a learning curve associated with rolling out new technologies and launching new services. Even when it comes to delivering existing products and services, waste and inefficiencies will multiply if left unchecked
  2. Know your numbers – There are two old adages that you need to remember when managing a service business – 1) quality is not free and 2) you can’t improve anything that you can’t measure. That’s why it is important to keep an eye on key performance indicators that impact both quality and cost such as First Time Fix Rate, Utilization Rates, Repeat Visits/Repairs for the same problem, No Fault Found, and Dead on Arrival. Continually find ways to improve your performance in these areas and cost savings will follow.
  3. Pursue process and systems improvements – It goes without saying that cost savings can be achieved by streamlining processes and deploying technology to automate manual processes.   For example, a company can achieve a 25% or more improvement in operating efficiency by implementing a disciplined approach to call management, remote resolution, and technician dispatch through reliance on advanced technology such as knowledge management tools, mobile communications, and dynamic scheduling solutions.
  4. Seek alternative delivery models Outsourcing has traditionally been viewed as an effective alternative for reducing costs without jeopardizing quality. However, new advances in crowdsourcing platforms and sharing economy business models offer another alternative for companies to gain economies of scale, improve operating efficiency, and maintain high levels of service quality by contracting directly with independent contractors. In effect, take out the middle man and enable a self-service model. Check out Essintial Enterprise Solutions, an independent services organization (ISO) who uses a Freelancer Management System (FMS) developed by Field Nation to make this type of business model possible.

 

These four principles focus on the internal operations of your business. Follow them consistently and deliberately and you are guaranteed to reap rewards. There are of course market focus strategies that you can pursue to control or reduce the cost of service which we will explore then in our next blog post. In the meantime, schedule a free consultation with me today if want more ideas on where to find cost saving in your service business.

Is it time for a mid-course correction?

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The summer is here and with it brings the beginning of the second half of the year. This is great time for re-evaluating progress in meeting our business goals.  It represents a half-way point to determine if we are on track for the year, if we need to change course in direction, or simply act with greater resolve and urgency to achieve our outcomes.

One thing that we uncovered in our recent Readership Survey is that a large percentage (47.7%) of subscribers desire to learn about strategies for achieving better results. The most frequently occurring response when respondents were asked about what they want to achieve in their business over the next 3-5 years in “growth”.  I think that it is safe to say that many of our readers can benefit from strategies that will help them achieve higher levels of growth.

In my attempt to provide readers with more of what they want, let me give you some action steps to follow if you find that your actual growth for this year is not in line with your original target.   First, remember that the trend is your friend.  This means that you need to periodically evaluate your market to determine if the trend is working in your favor.   You’ll want to get a handle on the size and growth rate of the market you serve, the level of competition, industry dynamics, buyer behavior, and purchasing criteria.   You can uncover this information through internet research, market surveys, analysts, and other secondary sources of data such as articles, press releases, annual reports, etc.

Assuming you’ve concluded that the market you serve is large and growing, then you need to ensure you have the right marketing strategy in place to capture your share of this opportunity.  Think of your marketing strategy in terms of a triad.

market strategy triadAt the base of this triad is your company’s performance.  The ability of your company to deliver on its promise is critical to keeping customers. If they are happy with your service, they will tell others and you will gain word of mouth referrals.  The second side of the triad is the value your company provides to customers. Is it defined in a way that the value is clear and compelling to current and potential customers?  Value is often defined by the quality of your offering and the little things you do to win over the customer.  For example, are you providing them with options so they get exactly what they want?  It also includes offering great service and support before they buy.

The third side of the marketing strategy triad is your tactics.  You want to make sure that you are implementing tactics that will drive customers to you and encourage them to do business with you.  Tactics to consider are pricing, social media, advertising, promotion, etc.  Most importantly, the tactics you use must be consistent with the other elements of your triad.  In other words, your advertising and pricing tactics must align with the value you provide and the performance you deliver, and vice versa.

This triad provides a good framework for evaluating the results of your marketing efforts. Like most frameworks, they are only effective if use them as an analytical tool.  If sales are not where you want them to be then look at your marketing strategy triad. Use it to evaluate how effective your performance, value, and tactics are in attracting and keeping customers.  It will provide you with insights on how and where to improve.  If used consistently, it will enable to you win more than you fair share of business.

Service in the Sharing Economy

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The sharing economy is on the rise as more and more consumers conduct business transactions through platforms like Airbnb to find lodging and Uber for transportation services. These companies have experienced explosive growth in the last couple of years and their financial value is skyrocketing among the investor community.  Indeed, Airbnb’s valuation is at $25.5Billion in their attempt raise an additional $1.5 Billion in funding and Uber’s valuation of $50B is higher than 80% of the S & P 500 companies.

A sharing economy platform is one that leverages information to empower individuals and organizations with information that enables distribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity in goods and services.

Sharing economy platforms take many different forms, including:

  • Product-service systems – privately owned goods that are shared or rented out via peer to peer market places.
  • Redistribution markets – pre-owned good are passed on from someone who does not want them to someone who does.
  • Collaborative lifestyles – people with similar needs and interests banding together to share and exchange less-tangible assets such as time, space, skills, and money.

 

I also think of a sharing economy platform as having a number of basic elements. First, it uses technology to create a peer to peer marketplace.  Second, they are “open” meaning anyone can exchange goods and services with anyone else.  Third, goods and services are available on demand.  Fourth, payment in full is often made only after the service is delivered in many sharing economy platforms. Fifth, fixed costs are converted into variable expense through the sharing of resources.

The success of Airbnb and Uber has not only led to the emergence of competitors in the lodging and transportation market but also the creation of sharing economy platforms in other industries.  “Uberized” has become a commonly used buzz word in the business world by industry analysts and thought leaders.  This word is often juxtaposed within the question… Is our industry the next to be Uberized?

To a large extent, High Tech Service & Support is far along the path to becoming Uberized. For example, product – service systems like Rolls Royce’s “power by the hour” form that basis of the “Servitization” trend which is gaining appeal in the High Tech Industry.   In addition, redistribution markets have existed for decades within our industry; just think about all the businesses in the IT, Telecom, and Medical Electronics industries that trade used and refurbished equipment.  Collaborative lifestyle solutions are provided through companies like Field Nation, Work Market, and PC-SOS that enable individual field service engineers and small businesses to become a contingent workforce for larger companies.

However, in many ways the High-Tech Service & Support Industry is not truly “Uberized”.  For example, the platforms/solutions I’ve identified above are not truly peer to peer.  They typically involve an intermediary or aggregator that manages the redistribution of products and services. Equipment owners (i.e., end-users) are not leasing or renting unused capacity to other users.  Second, some of these models are not truly open.  There is often a thorough vetting process involved in becoming a member or user of these platforms and solutions.  On the other hand, the on-demand, pay for performance, and conversion of fixed cost to variable expense elements of the sharing economy do exist today within the High-Tech Service & Support Industry

Regardless of where you think our industry is on the sharing economy spectrum there is certainly room for new innovation.   Now it is your turn.  I’d love to get you answer to this question…. Is our industry (i.e., field service, reverse logistics) the next to be Uberized? Please cite examples and share your thoughts on why or why not the sharing economy can work in our industry.  You can also feel free to schedule a strategy session if you have a great idea you’d like to vet or discuss with me in more depth.

Enterprise Service Management System Trends

 

enterprise-service-management2There has been a lot of attention given in recent years to the need to automate field service and related logistical processes through the implementation of Enterprise Service Management (ESM) systems.   Although the benefits from improved automation are well documented, there is still a segment of the market that is facing challenges to achieving measurable productivity and efficiency gains associated with key service performance metrics.  This shortcoming is due in part to lack of integration between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functions.  The growing trend toward remote support combined with the increasing reliance on spare parts in the service resolution process places even greater demands on equipment service providers to ensure their field service and related logistical process are both integrated and optimized.   We conducted a survey among a cross representative sample of companies in the High Technology Service & Support Industry to validate these assumptions.  Over 250 respondents participated in the survey.  The survey results reveal a number of very interesting trends:

  • Greater reliance on Remote Support: The survey results support the fact that more and more service requests are being resolved remotely without the need to dispatch a field service engineer. More importantly, a large percentage of these remote activities are resolved by sending a replacement part to the customer site.
  • Best of Breed Solutions outperform Integrated Solutions: Despite the breadth of functionality found within integrated enterprise systems, our results indicated a higher level of satisfaction with Best of Breed solutions than with Integrated ESM platforms. We believe this is because best of breed solutions are more focused on the detailed processes and transactions involved in managing a field service and/or reverse logistics operation.
  • Perceived Gaps in Reverse Logistics functionality: Many companies perceive their ESM solutions have gaps in the ability to deal with Reverse/Service Logistics issues particularly when it comes to depot repair activities.
  • Integrated Automation is critical to success: The level of integrated automation between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functionality has a direct impact on ESM effectiveness. More importantly companies with a high level of integrated automation perform better on key service performance metrics than those who do not.

 

In summary, our research findings reveal that companies who have been able to successfully integrate Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes report a higher level of service performance than those who have not.  The most effective integrated solutions are those that incorporate best of breed functionality for both Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes.  More importantly, the data reveals that these integrated solutions are not only highly effective in managing ongoing service requirements but essential to overcoming critical business challenges.

We’d like to thank IFS, a leading provider of Enterprise Service Management systems, for sponsoring our research study.  IFS has made available the results of our study in a 14 page whitepaper that can be downloaded at Whitepaper Download.   To better understand the implications of these findings to your organization or to define requirements for a best of breed, integrated solution, schedule a free strategy session with us today by clicking here.