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

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation

The Most Empowering Question You Can Ask

question-mark-colorful-r

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

strategies

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.

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation

Improving First-Time Fix Rates

A Field Service Manager’s Guide

first-time-fix-technician

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

Images Outreach article

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.

Strategies for Reducing Warranty Costs

171sb-toyota-used-cars-warranty-940x529

Warranty obligations represent both an expense and a liability to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). As a result, anything that an OEM can do to minimize warranty expenses and liabilities will have a significant impact on the balance sheet and bottom line. In the high-tech industry, warranty coverage often includes repairing defective products as opposed to crediting or replacing them. Warranties of this nature involve three (3) cost components: 1) Warranty Terms & Conditions, 2) Service Delivery, and 3) Product Reliability and Maintainability.

Service Delivery represents the largest of these three components and comprises approximately two-thirds of warranty costs. Approximately 55% of service delivery costs are attributed to repair activities. The remaining 45% of costs are evenly distributed between parts, logistics, and overhead (e.g., customer service, IT, etc.).

Among the three (3) different categories of warranty costs, service¬–delivery costs are the most difficult to manage and improve. By comparison, costs associated with warranty terms and conditions and product reliability and maintainability are easier to manage. OEMs can reduce warranty expense and liabilities by adjusting terms and conditions to make them more favorable from a cost-burden perspective. OEMs can also design and engineer better products thus reducing product reliability and maintainability costs. In addition, the time frame and investment required to plan and implement these types of improvements are smaller when compared to service delivery. On the other hand, these improvements may have a limited life span. In other words, an OEM needs to revisit terms and conditions as well as product reliability and maintainability issues with every new product release.

In contrast, a significant amount of time and investment is required to improve costs associated with service delivery. For example, it may take months or years of planning and hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment to realize service-delivery cost savings. However, the improvements are sustainable over a longer period of time because they don’t just affect costs associated with one-time product launches. Instead, they benefit subsequent product launches over a multi-year period.

The reason it takes more time to implement and greater investment to achieve cost savings in the area of service delivery is because it typically requires improvements in processes, infrastructure, and people (i.e., training). Examples of the types of strategies for reducing service delivery costs include but are not limited to:
Automating warranty claims-management processes to reduce warranty processing costs
Improving call management procedures to validate entitlement, troubleshoot and diagnose calls remotely, and avoid costly field service visits
Implementing dynamic scheduling software to improve field-engineer productivity and reduce travel costs
Adopting a Variable Workforce (VWF) model to lower field-service and associated overhead labor costs
Utilizing knowledge-management tools to improve resolution times, reduce No Fault Found rates, increase first time fix rate, and improve labor efficiency
Implementing advanced planning and forecasting tools to optimize spare parts stock levels and reduce inventory costs
Making it easier for field engineers to identify, locate and order spare parts thereby improving service efficiency and avoiding repeat calls due to lack of parts

In summary, the challenges associated with reducing service-delivery costs should not prevent a company from making the necessary systemic and procedural improvements since the gains in cost savings, service productivity, operating efficiency, and customer experience can be significant.

4 Ways Service And Support Adds Customer Value

————————————————————

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.

————————————————————–

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

strategic service pricing

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.

Is it time for a mid-course correction?

mid course correction2

 

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.