The Role of Data in the Servitization Journey

Data is becoming more important as we consider one of the most significant trends impacting the technology industry, "Servitization".

Several years ago, Blumberg Advisory Group worked with a company that provided hardware maintenance on film based photo labs found in big box retail outlets. Their service revenues and profits were declining because digital photography was replacing the need for film based photo labs. Although the client offered a new digital based technology to replace film based photo-labs, these systems were not being installed at the same rate as the older systems were being phased out.   Digital systems didn’t require as much service and support. They were less complex and easier to maintain than their film-based cousins.

Our client required a new strategy to offset their declining revenues and profits.  They needed a solution urgently or the parent company would shut down this division.  If we did not know the importance of data or the concept of managing the capability to serve, we would have probably recommended that the client lay off some of its field service workforce to reduce costs and improve profits.  This could have led to a downward spiral of layoffs, company morale and growth.

So what steps did we take?  We analyzed their data.  We reviewed their field engineer utilization rates, customer response times, field engineer skill levels, and the equipment on customers’ premises.  In conclusion, we found that their field engineers were not being completely utilized.  We found out that these engineers had further knowledge and expertise in supporting other types of equipment found on the customer site.  They were typically able to respond to a customer request within four hours even though the guarantee was for eight.  

Based on our analysis, we recommended that they expand their service footprint to other types of equipment located on the customers’ premises, i.e. electronic cash registers and point of sale equipment.  We also recommended that they charge a premium price to customers who required faster (e.g., 4 hour) response time.  As a result, this client went from losing 20% of their profits per year to a 50% increase in new business within 24 months of implementing our recommendations.

Ultimately, the key to our client’s success lied within the data.  Data is becoming more important as we consider one of the most significant trends impacting the Technology Industry, “Servitization”.  This trend describes the transformation that many companies are undertaking as they move from primarily selling products to generating a sizable portion of revenue and profits from services.   Ultimately, the path toward Servitization leads companies toward offering anything as a service (XaaS).  In other words, their business has reached the stage of development where they are no longer selling products or solutions to their customers, but outcomes.   For example, instead of selling a copier machine they are selling their customer the right to use the machine to produce a certain number of copies over a specific period or time.

To deliver on this promise, the provider must not only have great people, process, and technology but access to data related in terms of machine condition and performance (e.g., alerts and notifications), parts availability, field engineer location and skill sets, diagnostics, etc.  With this data in hand, the provider can ensure resources are available when needed and that the customer receives the outcome it purchased.  The data is made available through technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, etc.   Examples of companies that are along the servitization journey are Rolls Royce, ABB, Siemens, Kone, and General Electric. They have generated profitable income and know that a truly exceptional service business is built on four foundations – people, process, technology, and data.

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Rethinking the Value of Warranties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation.

Augmented Reality State of the Art 

An Identification of Key Players 

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

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

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

APX

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

AR Media

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

Epson: Moverio- Augmented Reality Glasses

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

Fieldbit

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

iQagent

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

Microsoft

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

NGrain

NGrain consists of a suite of AR applications including:

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

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

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

PTC

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

Scope AR

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

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

XMReality

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

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

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation

Make Way for a New Marketing Power:

Service Marketing

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In this week’s blog post, I am sharing an article that first appeared in Field Service Digital on July 15, 2016.  The article was written by Derek Korte, editor at Field Service Digital and a senior editor at Original9 Media.  

Thanks to technologies like the IoT, and enticed by the promise of more revenue and a cozier relationship with customers, traditional manufacturers are now getting in on the service game. It’s a shift that not only blurs the lines between manufacturing and service, but also how companies market those products and services.

Sure, tried-and-true product marketing strategies are still relevant, but service marketing is a different beast entirely, says Michael Blumberg, president of the Blumberg Advisory Group. Below, he explains service marketing’s growing importance — and why it’s so hard to do well.

Is service marketing now more important than product marketing?

It’s not that product marketing is less important, it’s that service marketing is becoming more important. There are several reasons why: First, many companies have made it a strategic priority to build and grow their service businesses. Second, they recognize that services can be sold independently from products and, in some cases, in lieu of products. Third, they recognize that service marketing is different from product marketing and a different approach is need. Fourth, they understand they have to step up their marketing game if they are going to generate more service business.

So products might sell themselves, but that’s not necessarily true with services?

That’s true. You can sell a product by showing the customer the great things it can do because it has cool features, such as the IoT and augmented reality. On the other hand, service is intangible.

There is nothing you can show or demonstrate to the customer before they buy it. Just because a product has certain features, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will buy the service and support that comes with it. This is different sale all together.

How do you convince customers to invest in an unfamiliar service — especially if they don’t immediately know why they need it?

You have to focus on the economic value to the customers of having (or not having) the service available when they need. When you understand that, you can start selling services around that value proposition. Companies that struggle with service marketing can’t explain this benefit to the customer. Instead, they talk about service as an insurance contract. That’s a very general term. It doesn’t tell them anything about how the service will be provided, when it will be provided, or what outcomes it will produce.

What are the biggest differences companies should consider when marketing services, rather than products?

In a product sale, you sell the customers on the form, fit, and function of the product:. You basically sell them reality: what it does, how it works, its dimensions, etc. When selling services, you also have to sell customers on perception: the outcome or defined level of service they can expect. Bear in mind, you also have to sell reality, which is also known as the actual capability to serve, by describing or showing all resources that make it possible to deliver that level of service.

Is it fair to say service marketing is a lot harder — and a lot more work — than product marketing?

It’s a lot harder for a couple of reasons. First, service is an afterthought for many companies. They think that because the customer owns the product, they’ll buy the services, too. That’s often not the case.

Secondly, you can’t market a service like you would a product. Marketers talk about the four principles or Ps of marketing — product, place, promotion and price. But those principles are product-oriented. They don’t work with services marketing. Why? Services are intangible, and it’s hard to market something that’s intangible. To market services, companies need a new mix — the Seven Principles.

Are new technologies changing how companies market their services?

Service technologies like IoT, Big Data, and even field service software enable companies to collect and analyze very granular data about service events, product usage, failure rates, etc.

This information enables them to offer very tailored and customized solutions to their customers in terms of service coverage, response time, pricing levels, etc. The technology also helps companies be more precise about who they market to, when they market to them, and what they market.

Any standout companies that are doing this well?

Siemens, GE, and Philips are doing a pretty good job in marketing their service. They’ve made service marketing a priority because they understand services’ strategic value to their bottom line. They have carefully designed their service portfolios and pricing strategies to meet customer needs and requirements.

Their service marketing and sales people are adept at articulating the economic value of their services, and they are properly trained and incentivized to sell those services. They are effectively leveraging technology to find new market opportunities and exploit existing ones.

Are you interested in growing your service business? Check out my online training course where you will learn strategies, tactics, and insights for Successful Service Marketing ™. As a starter, I’ve put together a brief video that describes the course content. You can access it here.

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation

The Service Marketing Mix

Understanding the 7 Principles

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One of the reasons service executives struggle when attempting to grow their businesses is they try to apply product-marketing concepts to service marketing. This is like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.  The 4 P’s marketing mix is one such concept that works great for products but not for services.  It’s based on the theory that the success of a company’s marketing program is based on how well the company manages strategies and tactics related to product (i.e., design, form/factor, etc.), price, promotion (e.g., sales, advertising, etc.), and place (i.e., distribution).

The problem is that these 4 P’s do not apply to services. First, service products are intangible and difficult to describe.  This begs the question, how can you promote something that is difficult to describe?  Another problem for service marketers is that place has a very fuzzy connotation in service marketing because there are multiple entities involved in service distribution. Sometimes they cooperate, other times they collaborate, and still other times they compete.  Services can be offered by one entity, ordered through another, and delivered by a third.  Without well-defined product, promotion and place strategies, all that is left is price and that becomes a slippery slope for service marketing.  Sales and marketing can never be just about prices because customers will always find a way to negotiate price.  In product marketing, the 4 P’s makes it possible for a seller to justify the price.

For the past 20 years, I’ve devoted a great deal of time and resources to understanding this dilemma, in the process developing my own theory about service marketing.  I determined that a Successful Service Marketing™ mix is actually based not on 4 but on 7 key principles.  These principles are:

  1. PORTFOLIO: Often described in terms of a service-level commitment, such as 24/7 with a four-hour response time. The more distinctions you can make to define your service portfolio, the more likely you will be to fulfill the needs of prospective customers.
  2.  PROVIDER: Tangible elements of your service infrastructure, such as your call center, self-service portals, enterprise systems and service technology that make it possible to deliver on the promise of your service portfolio.
  3. PROCESS: The steps your customer must take to request the service, and the tasks that occur to deliver the service. For example, performing front-end call screening and diagnostics before dispatching a field technician.
  4. PERFORMANCE: Evidence that you can deliver on your promise, such as KPIs, customer satisfaction results and customer testimonials.
  5. PERCEPTION: Your ability to win business and retain satisfied customers is based on your ability to influence their perception of you. This goes beyond simply promotion through advertising, branding, and communications. It gets to the essence of who you are, what you stand for, and how you portray yourself in the market.
  6. PLACE: Services distribution channels can be complex.   Quite often, consumers can purchase service from one place, order or request it from another place, and have it delivered to them at a third place (e.g., onsite, depot, remote, etc.).  Sometimes it’s the same company delivering this service. Other times it’s not.  Regardless, the service marketing mix must deal with these complexities.
  7. PRICE: Of course, there is always the issue of price. The important thing to remember is that price is a function of value in use and perception that consumers have about your company (i.e., expertise, experience, capability).

Many people have asked me why I haven’t included “People” as one of the Ps in my service marketing mix.  While people are important to the success of any endeavor, I feel very strongly that their ability to deliver exceptional results is a function of the 7 Ps that I’ve identified above and not the other way around.  Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results when there are great strategies and tools in place.

Please let me know what you liked about this blog and your key takeaways.  If you’ve found this blog of value and think your colleagues or business associates could benefit from it, kindly share it with them.

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

 

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.

The building blocks to Servitization

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The “Servitization” of Manufacturing is taking the High-Tech Industry by storm!  By definition, Servitization is a transformation from selling products to delivering services.  It typically involves two components:

  1. The idea of a product-service system – an integrated product and service offering that delivers value in use.
  2. A “Servitized” organization which designs, builds and delivers an integrated product and service offering that delivers value in use

In more practical terms Servitization turns the product–service offering into a “utility” that the customer pays for on a subscription basis.   Under this model, the customer pays a monthly or annual fee equal to the amortized cost of the equipment plus the value of services provided for a specified period of time.

The concept of Servitization is nothing new. As early as the 1950’s, manufacturers provided their customers with the option to lease equipment with services attached to the lease agreement.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, companies like ABB and GE begin to offer tperformance based service contracts to their customers.

Servitization is more than just a pricing strategy.  It is an overall business model that attempts to maximize and monetize value in use to the end-customer. This requires a manufacturer to proactively identify all the services that an end-customer may require over the lifecycle of equipment operation, understand the value that the customer assigns to these services, build this value into the subscription pricing model, and then deliver on that promise.

The trend toward Servitization has picked up steam in recent years for a number of reasons. First, market participants (i.e., OEMs and End-customers) have a greater appreciation of the strategic value of service to their overall business models.  Second, manufacturers recognize that service can generate more revenue over the lifecycle of the equipment than the actual purchase price of the equipment itself.  Third, the Great Recession forced many manufacturers to rethink the economics associated with how their customers justify the acquisition of new equipment.  Fourth, service tools and technology are now available that facilitates the design and operation of an integrated product-service system in a cost effective and real-time basis.

Ultimately, it’s the technology that is having the greatest impact on advancing Servitization business models.  There are some basic building blocks that any company will need to implement in order to deliver on the promise of Servitization. First, they’ll need a state-of-the-art service management system. It needs to perform the basic activities involved in managing a service organization (e.g., dispatch, scheduling, parts management, etc.). Second, they’ll need to have a way to connect with and monitor the condition of equipment within their serviceable installed base.  They will also need to integrate this information into to their back-end service management system. The third step is a mobility solution to communicate with people in the field. Finally, analytics are needed to evaluate what’s happening. Most companies will probably benefit by using a big data solution, as well, so they can look at unstructured data from their installed base and the customer’s environment at large, and start to analyze, predict and forecast.

In summary, Servitization is a transformational process that requires manufacturers to rethink all aspects of their business from marketing and sales, to pricing and financial management, to service delivery infrastructure.  The benefits of Servitization are great including the ability to build a multiyear annuity stream, gain account control, and create deeper and longer lasting relationships with customers.

I’d love to get your thoughts on Servitization.  Let me know if your company is pursuing Servitization.  What benefits do you expect to achieve? What obstacles remain in the way to realizing these benefits?   Last but not least, if feel free to schedule a strategy session with me if you want to discuss how Servitization could impact your business.