Driving Top-Line & Bottom-Line Results Service pros and CFOs speaking the same language
ISSUE NO. 3 | FALL 2016
Benchmark Your Field Service Maturity Get Insights as Simple as a Graphic Result
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Creating a Maturity Assessment profile allows you to gain insights into where you are as a company and also where you are as compared to your peers.
See how you compare against industry leaders ServiceMaxâ€™s Maturity Assessment tool brings the intuition about your field service performance, together with an objective analysis of your position amongst industry leaders. It takes a straightforward approach to help you develop the right priorities for process improvement, in key areas such as customer satisfaction, utilization and cost controls. Have your first-time fix, leakage and SLA attainment percentages at hand. With that, youâ€™ll be just minutes away from assessing your business. Ready to get started?
LETTER FROM RICK GUSTAFSON
Dear Reader, The phone rings. It’s one of your big manufacturing customers — and they’re not too happy. Apparently one of their critical machines went down. So, you take down notes and send a technician out to fix the issue. He or she diagnoses the problem, orders the right part, waits a day or two, returns and installs it. The technician then gathers the paperwork outlining the work done and the next time they are at headquarters, drops off the paperwork to be processed. A week after the service was completed, a service manager looks over the documentation and, assuming it’s billable work, creates an invoice to send to the customer. A week or more after the service was completed. Sometimes longer. That’s what the service revenue cycle has traditionally looked like. Low visibility, inefficient and a lengthy time period between when the service is performed and cash is actually collected — the stuff that haunts CFOs. I should know. And when a CFO is being judged based on managing working capital, driving profitability and controlling expenses, you quickly see how a field service department run like this can turn into an organizational nightmare unto itself. But there’s a better way, and it has to do with harnessing the power of modern field service management. Imagine a service cycle where an IoT-enabled machine proactively pings a service technician before it ever goes down, and the needed replacement part gets automatically ordered. The technician’s schedule gets automatically optimized. And when he or she shows up, the part is already on-site (or in the truck), and the tech gets it fixed on the first visit. Before departing, the tech gets a customer’s e-signature on their mobile device, and the customer’s accounts payable department gets the invoice immediately. Service-to-invoice: same day as repair. Happy CFO? You bet. The emergence of the Internet of Things, improvements in mobile internet and devices have meant that field service departments — traditionally an overhead cost to any business — are now being turned on their heads and are actually generating significant revenue and often great profitability. And with the automated cloud-based mobile FSM system reducing waiting times and improving ordering accuracy and delivery, that means not just happy customers but reduced service times and administration. Field service is quickly moving from the part of the organization that caused financial headaches to one that’s actually driving business forward, top-line and bottom-line. Throughout this magazine, you’ll read stories about customers who’ve leveraged the modern FSM platform ServiceMax provides to do all that: grow their revenue and margins, reduce days sales outstanding, increase parts inventory turns and, ultimately, increase net promoter scores. Rick Gustafson CFO, ServiceMax
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TREAT YOUR TECHS’ BIZ DEV EFFORTS AS A SERVICE (NOT A SALE) The “always be closing” mentality is broken in field service. By Jim Baston SERVICE DOES NOT MEAN FAILURE Product and engineering teams want to make equipment that doesn’t break. So how do you get them to embrace a service culture? By Eleanor Musson FIELD SERVICE TEST-DRIVES LETTING GO OF THE WHEEL Google, Uber and other tech giants want to put robots behind the wheel — and your service fleet might be the perfect test case. By Sean Lyden
JAPANESE FIELD TECHS RIDE THE RAILS
CFOs HAVE A NEW BEST FRIEND: SERVICE LEADERS
HOW TO GIVE THE BOSS NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
In Japan, techs trade white vans for bullet trains and the subway. By Nevin Thompson
Two very different jobs, one goal: profits. By Rick Gustafson
For the love of good beer, clean lines and the perfect pour. By Andrew Zaleski
Navigating the tricky business of correcting The Boss. By Suzanne Lucas
“Cleaning is a very important thing. It’s the reputation of the brewers and their beer — and the reputation of the bar itself.” — Beer tap technician Nick Less
EXPERT ROUNDTABLE: NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
PROACTIVE SERVICE’S PROFOUND IMPACT ON THOSE WHO DO THE WORK
Industry leaders weigh in on every service pro’s top job: keeping customers happy. By Derek Korte
The IoT and other new technologies are making field service sexy. By Dave Hart
STOKING A (HEALTHY) COMPETITIVE SPIRIT AMONG YOUR EMPLOYEES Competition in the field might be inevitable, but service leaders can wield it for good or ill. By Donald B. Stephens
THE ART OF SERVICE MARKETING: OUTCOME-BASED THINKING Service marketing is the new product marketing. By Michael Blumberg
HOW I HIRE
SPOTLIGHT ON MEDIVATORS: TRULY CONNECTED SERVICE, SALES, PRODUCTS
Meet a HR pro who works closely with service leaders to hire the next-gen workforce. By Andrew Zaleski
A medical device firm’s bet on the IoT to provide smarter service pays off. By Christine Kent
IMPROVING TELECOM PERFORMANCE REQUIRES A FIELD SERVICE RENAISSANCE Telecoms need an attitude (and tech) adjustment to shed their reputations for bad service. By Mussy Kurt-Elli
TREAT YOUR TECHS’ BIZ DEV EFFORTS AS A SERVICE (NOT A SALE) Adapted from Field Service Digital
THE SALES PERSPECTIVE
Many smart service organizations have put in place initiatives to encourage their field technicians to promote the company’s products and services. These companies recognize that the field service team is in the best position to help customers because technicians have:
In my experience, the most prominent view in the industry today is that the technician is “selling” when he or she is promoting their firm’s products and services to their customers. You can see evidence of this in many places: • Sales courses are available to service technicians
• Appreciation of their firm’s capabilities
• Online discussion groups debate whether technicians should be selling
• Understanding of their customers’ equipment and processes
• The language used to describe the activity is usually sales-centric
• Knowledge of the technology
• Insight into their customers’ goals and aspirations • Access to customers Who better to recognize how their firm’s products and services can be helpful and bring them to the attention of their customers? And, when these recommendations are made in order to make their customers’ lives better, they provide a valuable service — a service as important as their ability to maintain and fix the equipment that they service. But not all organizations see the proactive efforts of their technicians as a service. Many still see the technicians’ efforts as selling, a perspective that can significantly limit their success.
This sales perspective limits the potential of the initiative because it confines our thinking about what’s achievable. For starters, a sales perspective tends to create an opportunistic and short-term focus. When not considered an integral part of the service that the technician provides, “selling” becomes an add-on to their work. When this happens, it is hard to get an enthusiastic buy-in from the technicians, as they don’t necessarily see it as part of their job description.
“What if our focus for our
technician’s efforts was not to get them to sell more services? What if our focus was to encourage our technicians to look for ways their products and services could be applied to help our customers to be better off?” This perspective also limits management’s perceived training options to promoting sales skills. The language, strategy and tools presented in sales courses can be uncomfortable for field service technicians to accept and adopt. Many technicians resent being considered salespeople and will resist any efforts to turn them into one. Although they may attend the course, it is unlikely they will adopt the skills or change their behavior significantly. A sales perspective can also erode trust between the field technician and the customer. Technicians tend to have the highest level of trust with their customers because they are not there to sell but rather to serve. However, if our customers get the feeling that our technician is selling to them, they become confused about their role and the foundation of trust begins to erode.
THE SERVICE PERSPECTIVE What if our focus for our technician’s efforts was not to get them to sell more services? What if our focus was to encourage our technicians to look for ways their products and services could be applied to help our customers to be better off? I realize that this is a subtle difference in perspective, but this small change in thinking will be responsible for a huge change in results.
our customers, it becomes much easier to demonstrate to the technician that making these recommendations is a service and therefore an integral part of their jobs.
A service perspective helps management recognize the importance of supporting the proactive activities of their technicians just as they would any other service. This includes ensuring that the processes and systems are in place to empower their technicians and that they have a broad range of skills to build stronger bonds of trust and professional credibility with their customers. A service perspective also provides a tremendous opportunity for service organizations to promote the proactive recommendations that their technicians make as a valuable competitive advantage. This approach can be used to differentiate the service organization and give it a leg up on its competitors.
Jim Baston is president of BBA Consulting Group Inc., a consulting and training firm located in Ontario, Canada. Since founding BBA Consulting Group in 2001, Jim has focused his attention on helping technical service companies develop and implement strategies to transform field service personnel from reluctant into enthusiastic promoters of their company’s products and services.
When we ensure that our technicians’ focus is on uncovering and serving the needs of
SERVICE DOES NOT MEAN FAILURE
For product design- and engineering-minded people, the services revolution requires adopting a whole new mindset. We all like to take pride in our work and know that what we have produced is high quality and can be trusted to do the job for which it was designed and created. Product design engineers and technicians are, of course, no different. Successful manufacturers have built their reputations on the performance and reliability of their products, and their engineers take great professional pride in this. They continue to innovate product features and capabilities, and find new ways to ensure reliability throughout a product’s life-cycle. In this way, they have held significant influence over the evolution and innovation of what the company offers to the market. In today’s markets, however, manufacturers are increasingly recognizing that selling a product on a purely one-off transactional basis isn’t a sustainable strategy for growth. Markets become saturated, products become commoditized and competitors develop cheap substitutes. Across a range of industries, more personalized services are increasingly in demand: these may be expressed as new payment models, new ways of sharing risk, or new types of contracts and outcome guarantees. Ultimately, the focus is on the customer — on understanding their needs, their “job to be done” in much greater depth, and competing to be the provider that best satisfies these needs, by providing a combination of product and service.
SERVICE-AS-A-RESPONSE So when the leadership of a company sets its sights on growing profitable revenue by moving towards delivering advanced services such as outcome-based contracts, what does this mean for its product design engineers? Thinking about how service has traditionally been positioned and viewed within a productled organization, it’s easy to see that such a shift might encounter reluctance. Engineers design products to last; having to perform a service on the product usually means that in some way (whether through its design, manufacture or use) something has gone wrong. An engineer recently expressed it to me like this: “It’s an emergency situation. Our commitment to the customer has been broken.” Viewed this way, the need for service can feel like a failure, and something that is a cost and inconvenience to the manufacturer.
“Engineers design products
to last; having to perform a service on the product usually means that in some way something has gone wrong.” To generate internal buy-in for services, it is important to make clear the difference between reactive service (dealing with an “emergency situation”) and proactive service (doing things for the customer that actively improve their operations, and ultimately, their profitability on a daily basis).
Proactive services offer an opportunity to win more business and develop new profitable revenue streams by doing new things for the customer. In turn, they can generate new and different requirements for products. This in itself can be a challenge for product engineers because it fundamentally changes their position in the company’s innovation process.
INNOVATING THROUGH SERVICE (NOT JUST DESIGN)
contracts, charging models and price points, and they have certain needs from the product to be able to support this: to last a certain amount of time, with certain scheduled maintenance intervals and complete reliability outside of that to minimize disruption to the customer, and at a certain cost determined by the service designers. The engineer’s role is to design the product to meet the requirements of the service that is being delivered to the customer. Adjusting to this new order can take time and persuasion.
In product- or technology-led companies, the product design engineer is the originator of new ideas. They develop new products or new features and capabilities, around which the rest of the business then builds plans for pricing, marketing, sales and distribution. Under a services-led strategy, innovation is fundamentally different. It doesn’t start with thinking about the product, its features and the new technologies that could be put into it. In a customer-oriented, services-led business, design of services and solutions cannot start with the technology. Instead, the process of design starts with the customer and the challenges the customer faces in doing business. The people in the organization who have the closest relationship with customers and the best knowledge about their needs probably aren’t the product design engineers. It is more likely they work in sales or service.
“Under a services-led strategy,
innovation is fundamentally different. It doesn’t start with thinking about the product, its features and the new technologies that could be put into it.”
RECALIBRATING TO CUSTOMER-LED INNOVATION This puts the product engineer in a totally different place in the innovation process. Those designing the service now set the product requirements. They develop service offerings,
Mindset and cultural change is one of the biggest challenges in any strategic organizational transformation, and is often underestimated. Understanding the heritage of how the company has operated traditionally, and the legacy that has for how people view their roles within the organization, is important to changing its culture. Once you understand where people are coming from — and why — you have a good starting point to get them on board with the change.
Eleanor Musson is senior partnerships manager for the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School. Eleanor manages business partnerships and communities, most notably the Advanced Services Partnership, a network of like-minded senior executives from global manufacturing businesses. She also leads the creation of the Advanced Service Group’s content and resources for industry professionals, using her knowledge of the mindset and operational transformation required to adopt advanced services.
FIELD SERVICE TEST-DRIVES LETTING GO OF THE WHEEL Peering into the crystal ball, experts say autonomous fleets could become mainstream by 2030.
When it comes to robots taking over commercial fleets, it’s not a matter of if, but when, says David Alexander, senior analyst with global market research and consulting firm Navigant Research. “BMW and Ford have stated a goal to get Level 4 [fully autonomous] vehicles into production in 2021, and I’m sure others will follow,” says Alexander, who expects that fully autonomous vehicles will become widely available by 2025. Juniper Research offers a similar outlook, forecasting that nearly 20 million fully autonomous vehicles will be on the road globally by 2025, with consumer adoption set to take off in 2021.
A ROBOT AT THE WHEEL Momentum has been building quickly on the self-driving front during the past year. Last fall, Tesla launched its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature for its Model S sedan and Model X crossover. This spring, GM acquired the self-driving tech startup Cruise Automation to accelerate the automaker’s driverless car development. And ride-sharing giant Uber recently made major news on two fronts: It unveiled its first self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh, and it purchased Otto, a barely six-month-old startup founded by former high-level Google employees that develops a retrofit self-driving system for heavy trucks.
“Fleets are going to take their time to learn about the practicality of self-driving vehicles just as they do with any new technology,” says Alexander. “The use of the vehicles will be very closely monitored and limited to a small number of selected fleet customers in specific sectors — such as a taxi service. I would say that 2030 is when autonomous vehicles really become mainstream [in fleets].”
A VISION OF FIELD SERVICE IN 2030 If this is really the case, and we’re looking at only a little over a decade from now before robotic vehicles become widely available, what could the implications be for field service operations?
The holy grail of self-driving technology is so-called Level 4 automation, or fully autonomous driving. The prime example right now is Google’s self-driving pod, which lacks a steering wheel, pedals and other driving controls. Software is in complete control.
Imagine this scenario: Instead of owning service trucks, you would have on-demand access to a publicly or privately owned pool of self-driving pickup or flatbed trucks, where you can schedule those vehicles to arrive at the facility first thing in the morning. Service technicians would set up and organize their tools in a removable fiberglass capsule or pod, which would be lifted (with autonomous forklifts) onto and off the bed of the selfdriving truck. This way, technicians can easily switch from one vehicle to another without tying up their time with reloading tools, equipment and products each time they change to a different truck.
So when will robots take over commercial fleets, like those operated by field service organizations?
Then imagine that a technician is at a customer site — say, to repair an HVAC system — but realizes he doesn’t have a component needed
But in each of these cases, a human driver is still required to handle certain functions of the drive, or even take the reins when necessary.
to finish the job. Instead of having to leave the customer and schedule another trip back, he can call the warehouse and have the part loaded onto an autonomous truck, or “delivery pod,” to be delivered directly on site. And instead of completing paperwork while parked outside the customer’s location, the service tech can use the commute time between jobs for administrative tasks. This would shorten the time between dispatches and enable technicians to get more jobs done per day. What’s the bottom-line impact this scenario would have on key metrics for field service organizations? • Lower capital and fleet operational costs You pay only for the vehicle when you need it, eliminating ongoing maintenance, tag and title, and insurance costs. Nor is there the upfront cash outlay for acquiring new vehicles. • Higher first-time fix rates, lower personnel costs The technician can get a required component from the warehouse to complete the job without leaving the customer’s site, while also not tying up another employee’s time with delivering the component to the technician. • Higher worker productivity Eliminating the task of driving translates into more productive commutes between jobs and more possible jobs completed per day.
SEEMS FAR-FETCHED, RIGHT? FSD posed this scenario to both Navigant’s David Alexander and Sam Barker, an analyst for Juniper Research — both experts on the autonomous vehicle market — for a sanity check. Does this scenario sound plausible? Or is it out of whack from what you think a self-driving world would look like in the field service sector? “[That] vision of the future service organization is one possible scenario,” says Alexander.
“It could mean field service companies may no longer need to own or manage a fleet. The independent vehicle fleet would have a selection of vehicles that would drop off technicians and their tool pods at the site and deliver parts when needed.” He adds that there would be no need for the vehicle to park at the customer’s location, allowing it to be used for other purposes. “The exception to this would be remote customers where the journey takes about as long as the service, so the vehicle may as well remain there,” Alexander says. Barker agrees. “That scenario is likely to occur. The introduction of autonomous vehicles means we will see a completely different vehicle ownership model with users tending to
rent out the vehicles rather than owning one themselves. Users will also see productivity increase as commute times can now be used for other tasks.” But the job of unmanned parts delivery might not be performed by a self-driving ground vehicle, Barker says. “It is more than probable that [an aerial] drone will be used to pick up small items rather than an autonomous vehicle.”
TAPPING THE BRAKES
it is likely to be some time before we witness fully autonomous vehicles in use with no human driver inside the vehicle,” Barker says.
Sean Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications, a content strategy and editorial consulting firm, and also serves as editor for Utility Fleet Professional magazine. He is a nationally recognized feature writer on sales, marketing, technology and transportation topics.
While all trends appear to be pointing toward a self-driving future, there are still regulatory hurdles that could cause the automotive industry to tap the brakes on releasing fully autonomous vehicles into the market. “We will certainly see some degree of autonomous capabilities easing their way into commercial fleets over the next few years. However, current legislation around the use of autonomous vehicles requires an individual to take control of the vehicle when necessary, so
JAPANESE FIELD TECHS RIDE THE RAILS
Adapted from Field Service Digital
When Masami Sabetto needed to send a key replacement part to one of his service techs working in a city 300 miles away, he did what any service manager in Tokyo would do: Sabetto sent the part by bullet train. “It takes the bullet train just under three hours to travel from Tokyo to Osaka,” says Sabetto, a 25-year veteran of Japan’s field service industry and now sales director at ServiceMax Japan. “We can send out a part on the bullet train after breakfast to be delivered to a waiting technician in Osaka after lunch.”
In Japan, things often get done a little differently — and field service work is no exception.
can ship parts to the site to be waiting for the technicians when they get there, and never need to worry if the delivery will be late or simply won’t show up.” Another factor that makes public transportation so attractive for field service technicians in Tokyo? It’s common for a number of buildings and facilities owned by the same customer to be clustered close together. Technicians can be sent by train to one neighborhood to accomplish a number of tasks for the same customer. Sabetto notes that train or subway travel to customer sites is limited to a few large cities with sophisticated rail networks. In other parts of Japan, field service technicians still rely on ubiquitous white Toyota HiAce panel vans to travel to client sites.
“In Tokyo it’s not unusual for field service technicians to travel to client sites by train,” Sabetto says. “It’s also not uncommon for technicians to take the bus or even hop on a moped.”
“Another challenge is that most of the parts that field service technicians need are located in Tokyo,”he says, “so it’s a constant challenge to get these parts to more remote parts of the country.”
Tokyo’s commuter rail network is vast: More than 500 train stations link the sprawling city, making nearly every corner easy to reach. Sabetto says public transit is quicker, cheaper and more reliable than driving.
Sabetto says it’s common to fly components to more far-flung destinations such as the northern island of Hokkaido.
“Tokyo is famous for its traffic jams, so arriving late when traveling by car is a risk,” Sabetto says. “On top of that, if you drive you have to pay for road tolls, gasoline and parking. Adding everything up, driving to a client costs as much as dispatching an additional technician for the day.” While field service technicians will bring their tools with them on the train, replacement parts or larger pieces of equipment are often delivered to the customer site by courier.
“While the ability to take the subway to a customer site may be unique,” says Sabetto, “field service technicians in Japan really benefit from a highly interconnected transportation and communication infrastructure that boosts efficiency.”
Nevin Thompson (@Nevin_Thompson) is a journalist, copywriter and a content strategist who works in a variety of different verticals.
“Technicians can also rely on Japan’s fast, efficient and dependable door-to-door logistics network,” Sabetto says. “Service managers 13
CFOs HAVE A NEW BEST FRIEND: SERVICE LEADERS RICK GUSTAFSON
An experienced CFO has a suggestion for his finance colleagues — get to know the person who runs the service division.
Adapted from Finance Digest
Do you know the name of the person running your service operations? You should. They’re about to become your new best friend. Service is a business growth opportunity for both topand bottom-line revenue growth that remains largely untapped. I know what you’re thinking: Service is a necessary overhead that costs us money, but we need it to keep customers happy. Think again. Intelligent field service management is shifting service from being a cost center to a profit center. And the advent of the Internet of Things is moving service from being reactive to proactive to predictive, while also impacting R&D design, with some products being built as “service ready” from the outset. According to Aberdeen Group, more than 90 percent of field service organizations that are considered “Best in Class” operations are managed as profit centers. Obviously, there is a link between having a revenue target and driving a “Best in Class” operation. Clients will not spend 14
more with a company unless they are receiving excellent value for money. So what’s all the fuss about? Growth. “Best in Class” field service management systems are delivering a 22 percent increase in service revenue, a 24 percent increase in productivity, a 12 percent increase in contract renewals, and a 19 percent decrease in average repair times for thousands of companies globally. Not bad when you also factor in that 70 to 90 percent of total lifetime cost of heavy equipment lies in maintenance and repair. The software tools in the hands of field service workers today can automatically feed into central systems, databases of products, stock levels and so on. This level of automated field service management gives businesses a higher first-time fix-rate, lower emergency shipments, higher remanufacturing and increased firsttime pick rates for inventory. Not to mention visibility for managers on utilization rates and accountability for parts usage down to the individual service engineer level.
“Field service has (finally) joined the information economy and is now
speaking the language of finance. Words like cost control, upselling, accountability and efficiency are now in the service leaders’ vocabulary.”
By empowering and mobilizing service technicians with cloud-based, real-time tools in the field, techs can manage work orders, request parts, schedule (and be scheduled), look up manuals, take payments, renew maintenance agreements, use social channels to communicate problems quickly and upsell and cross-sell products and solutions where appropriate. More importantly, you can measure and control the spend. Field service has (finally) joined the information economy and is now speaking the language of finance. Words like cost control, upselling, accountability and efficiency are now in the service leaders’ vocabulary. Why? Because with everyone chasing the same part of the value chain, the ongoing squeeze on product margins is spearheading a new service-oriented business model. This shift to outcome-based services, or servitization, is the delivery of a service component as an added value when providing products. According to Aston Business School, a servitization strategy delivers a 5 to 10 percent jump in annual services revenue, profits two to three times greater than product sales alone, 30 percent cost reductions for customers, and the opportunity to increase service revenues even further by supporting existing third party or competitive products. This creates an ongoing relationship with the customer that effectively locks out competitors.
gathered on field service missions is fed back into the manufacturer’s product design departments, where consistent issues can be addressed and improvements made for later product versions. The shift in approach to service, combined with powerful field service management software tools, is helping to reshape businesses globally. By giving it the real world intelligence and accurate cost control for each product sold and serviced, businesses can build visibility and accountability for every product, service call, field technician, and customer warranty contract. More importantly, taking advantage of the trusted position of field service organizations and unlocking service potential is an effective strategy for combating economic uncertainty.
Rick Gustafson is the chief financial officer at ServiceMax. He brings more than 25 years of financial management and leadership experience guiding emerging growth technology companies through key transition stages. Prior to ServiceMax, Rick was the CFO of Genius. com, a cloud-based marketing automation company, and Ketera Technologies, a pioneer in the B2B SaaS market. Over the years, Rick has helped guide more than a dozen emerging growth venture-backed technology companies. Early in his career, he held financial management roles at IBM and Ernst & Young.
The result is a considerable improvement in cost control of a business function that was previously unmanaged at this level of granularity. Reduced waste also reduces expenditures, but there are more proactive benefits. Field service engineers have the ability to identify revenue opportunities by being on-site and seeing first-hand potential problems and solutions. This results in product upgrades, replacement products and additional service provision. The intelligence 15
Beer tap technician Nick Less keeps clean, crisp suds flowing in Philly.
BARKEEPERâ€™S FRIEND ANDREW ZALESKI
Inside a cramped, chilled cellar in the basement of the Olde Bar sit 20 kegs. Six tap lines, each 100 feet long, extend up to the bar at this watering hole in Philadelphia. About once a month, the lines are cleaned of the calcium deposits and organismal gunk that grow inside and spoil the taste of beer. For that, the Olde Bar calls Nick Less, owner and founder of Philly Tap Services. “Cleaning is very important,” Less says. “It’s the reputation of the brewers and their beer — and the reputation of the bar itself.” It’s a sweltering Friday afternoon when Less arrives at the Olde Bar. He sports a thick beard and local brewery T-shirt. At his side he carries two 5-gallon buckets filled with various chemical cleaners. Over a snapback trucker hat turned backwards, he wears a headlamp. This is the uniform of a professional beer tap technician, a job the 38-year-old has performed for dozens of bars around Philadelphia for nearly three years.
PICK YOUR POISON Generally, tap technicians like Less run one of two types of cleaning: a pot cleaning, which involves running a chemical solution into the lines, letting it soak for about 15 minutes, and then rinsing it out with water; or a circulation cleaning, which also involves putting chemical solution into tap lines, but that solution is run continuously through the lines for 15 minutes, a movement that scrubs the lines while soaking them for a more intensive clean.
“Cleaning is a very important thing. It’s the reputation of the brewers and their beer — and the reputation of the bar itself.” How often cleanings are done, and which type of cleaning happens, is dictated by the setup at each bar. The Olde Bar, what 17
anything that’s alive and growing in the tap lines, hence Less’ elbow-length green rubber gloves. “It’s very caustic. You don’t want to get it on your skin,” he says, pointing to a spot on his right forehead. At a previous cleaning, alkali splashed on his forehead, an accident that left a small burn mark. That’s the potency of the blue-colored chemical he starts pumping through his loop of tubing. While that happens, he individually scrubs each of the tap faucets. In the past, tap technicians pumped glass beads through the tap lines to clean them. These days, Less says, the technology is advancing rapidly. While he still employs a small pump and some hoses worth about $1,000 total, he has his eye set on a more advanced system, a machine that pumps solution and tiny sponges through tap lines. But that sort of setup runs anywhere between $2,000 and $8,000. Less calls a “pretty straightforward” setup, uses an electronic system that sends an ultrasonic pulse down the tap lines to inhibit bacteria growth. For that reason, cleanings at the Olde Bar and bars like it don’t need to happen every week. “By law in Pennsylvania, if you have an ultrasonic system, you have to do a cleaning every eight weeks, whereas it’s usually every week,” Less says.
DON’T BE SOUR Most cleanings begin with a similar pattern for Less: First, head to the keg cellar, unhook all of the couplers from the kegs to the tap lines, and couple them together instead. Then return to the bar and use a wrench to remove the tap faucets. Next, jumper all the beer tap faucets together using o-rings and tubing, which makes one continuous loop. Finally, connect the tubing to the pump, which pushes different cleaning solutions through the lines. Less is doing a circulation cleaning this particular afternoon and begins pouring an alkali cleaner into one of his buckets. The alkali is a sodium hydroxide solution that kills
To the average beer drinker, bacteria build-up in a tap line won’t alter the taste of a beer — and it certainly won’t harm the drinker, one of the many benefits of alcohol. But seasoned drinkers will notice when a tap line is dirty. “If the lines are really bad, you can start to pick up sour notes,” Less says.
CAUSTIC WORK FOR A PERFECT POUR On average, a cleaning takes one to two hours, and Less will do about three cleanings per day. After the alkali solution has circulated through for 15 minutes, Less starts pumping regular water through the lines again. He uses litmus paper to check the pH of the liquid traveling through the line into a nearby bar sink: When the pH sits between 6 and 7, he knows all of the alkali solution is out of the line. He dismantles his loop, reattaches all the tap faucets, and then heads back to the keg cellar to reconnect all the tap lines to their respective kegs. Then it’s off to another bar. It’s easy to see that Less loves being a tap tech, despite the harsh chemicals and grime that would make the job a fit for a “Dirty Jobs” episode. He laughs and jokes constantly, and the work comes easily to him. Less, who owns
a couple of home-brewing supply stores in Philadelphia, always knew his way around tappouring technology. When he realized there weren’t many companies servicing tap lines in Philly, he took a three-day crash course in cleaning. He now has enough clients in Philly that he’s planning on hiring a second person. “This all came pretty naturally to me,” he says. “Once you get going, it’s easy as cake.”
Andrew Zaleski (@ajzaleski) lives in Maryland and is a regular contributor to Fortune and CNBC. He has also written for The Atlantic, Popular Science, Politico Magazine, Backchannel and elsewhere. Photos by Jim Greipp
Boost Service Revenue roﬁtability by Gaining Insights into our Is “ What gets measured, gets managed. “ Peter Drucker
You simply can’t run a successful field service organization today on “gut feel” – you need data. You must understand and closely track the key performance metrics (KPIs) to illuminate strengths and weaknesses in your business. ith the right data in hand your organi ation will be able to: Provide executives with the quantitative business impact of your field service efforts Make informed process decisions that keep customers happy and revenues flowing Immediately understand and balance the impact that changes in policy or process have on your service metrics, and much more. earn more about Service er ormance
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HOW TO GIVE THE BOSS NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
SUZANNE LUCAS Adapted from Field Service Digital
You’re probably used to your boss telling you what you’ve done wrong, but what if you need to tell your boss that she’s messed up? Not so easy. You don’t want to seem like a whiner or an obnoxious git. Is it even possible to tell your boss she’s wrong without getting in trouble? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, but you need to consider carefully how you approach it. And keep in mind that personality matters a lot here. If your boss is a complete and total jerk about everything, she’s going to be a jerk when you tell her she’s doing something wrong. That doesn’t mean you made a mistake in telling her; it just means she’s a jerk. But you knew that. Anyway, here’s how to do it.
PHRASE IT AS A QUESTION While people don’t like being told they’ve done something wrong, they are happy to point out to you where you’ve gone wrong. (Not sure what this says about society in general, but there you go.) For instance, if you think your boss has made a huge mistake on an estimate, ask her about it like this: “Jane, I don’t quite get how you got to this number on the estimate. Can you go through it with me?” As she’s going through the estimate, ask for more explanation on the points where you think there are errors. Either she’ll figure it out herself, or you’ll learn that you were wrong. Keep in mind that often the boss has more experience than you do and what you think are errors really are not. This is one of the reasons this question phrasing technique can be very effective — not only does it help your boss fix her errors, it teaches you a lot in the process.
COME WITH A SOLUTION Not all errors and negative feedback can be addressed with a question. For example, if you 22
think the way your boss deals with customer complaints is unproductive, it might be better to try this technique: provide a solution. Let’s say you’ve noticed that your daily schedule is unrealistic. You’re spending a lot of time driving back and forth across town. Instead of saying to your boss, “This scheduling stinks,” try saying, “I think we could be more efficient if we consistently scheduled suburb A for morning appointments and suburb B for afternoon appointments. Then we won’t waste time crossing back and forth.” Coming up with a solution can make it seem like you’re just a positive helper instead of pointing out errors.
BE DIRECT Sometimes a problem is big enough that it needs to be addressed immediately. If your boss makes a racist comment about a client, speak up immediately: “That isn’t appropriate, and I’d appreciate you not speaking that way in front of me.” If your boss is making an error right now that overcharges a client, say directly, “I think the math is wrong on that. Let’s double-check it.” Do you take a risk when you tell your boss she’s doing it wrong? Absolutely. Does it have to be scary? Not if you do it right. Most bosses aren’t jerks and will listen to what you say. Give it a try and see if you can make your working environment better.
Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) spent 10 years in corporate human resources where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about human resources and business for several publications.
EXPERT ROUNDTABLE: NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
Today’s field service leaders have a tough job: They must constantly strive to improve how their teams operate, vet new technologies and ensure they monitor the correct metrics to improve (and grow) their service divisions. Sure, improving growth and revenue are two important goals, but it’s easy to lose sight of every service pro’s fundamental job: making customers happy. That happiness leads directly to meeting another priority: increasing customer satisfaction levels. Field Service Digital asked six industry insiders how service leaders can ensure they do all of that important operational work with customers’ needs in mind.
“In service, there are a thousand things that can go right or wrong on a daily basis. We’re always working to perfect the customer experience. Cloud-based and mobile technologies, for example, have put a lot of enablement at our engineers’ fingertips — and have transformed how we view service, and how our customers view our company.”— Stephen McPhee, head of service, MilliporeSigma
“Balancing the need for profitability and growth with customer loyalty is one of the key management challenges of any service leader. The most successful will nearly always tell you that they invest in the team members at the sharp end. By providing clear guidelines, coaching and encouraging their team to make decisions in front of customers, smart leaders empower their people to find the right compromises in real time — and deliver exceptional and profitable customer care.” — Nick Frank, co-founder, Si2 Partners
“Understanding the job your customer really needs you to do for them should be your fundamental starting point, right from the outset of service design. Metrics, performance indicators and reward structures for service professionals should all be tailored towards meeting these needs, rather than towards your own internal processes.” — Tim Baines, director, Advanced Services Group
“Peter Drucker said it best: The goal of any business is to get and keep customers. Driving revenue and growth, and maintaining high customer satisfaction levels, is not an either/or proposition. To succeed, field service leaders must view themselves as business owners. They need the right ‘seats on the bus,’ talented people in those seats and a map to guide them. They also need GPS, or the infrastructure and performance metrics to stay on course.” — Michael Blumberg, president, Blumberg Advisory Group
“Customers have raised their expectations for clear and concise interactions with service providers. The pervasiveness of crisp interactions via smartphone apps has raised the bar across industries, regardless of process and systems complexity that many companies face. The best service providers harness the voice of the customer to streamline customer interactions, simultaneously making their team more efficient while meeting heightened customer expectations. Do that well and customer loyalty and increased revenues follow.” — Allan Alexopulos, VP of strategic services, ServiceMax
“A service leader’s job is to ensure that all customer-facing service staff have a clear understanding of the company’s priorities and customer satisfaction is the number one goal. They must also ensure that they all have the appropriate level of authority and empowerment to make the necessary point of sale/ service decisions and that they will be supported by management when such decisions are made.” — Des Evans, honorary professor, Advanced Services Group
PROACTIVE SERVICE’S PROFOUND IMPACT ON THOSE WHO DO THE WORK The new technologies invading field service toolkits are making it cool to be a technician, says this industry veteran. Adapted from Diginomica
Most of us have probably lived this scenario: the air conditioner, TV or internet fizzes out. You call customer service, a repair-person comes out to fix it a few days later and eventually you’re on your way. Keyword: eventually. Fast-forward to today. That scenario, especially applied to large industrial manufacturers, is getting completely upended thanks to technological disruption in the industry. Those consumer examples are just a microcosm of a broader industrial revolution underway. We’ve seen the field service industry go from years of traditional “clipboard and toolkit” service, where technicians reacted to outages after the fact and hoped for the best, to today, where many service-oriented companies are taking a proactive — and, increasingly, predictive — approach to servicing their machines through Internet of Things and cloudbased platforms. Fast-forward a few years more, and we may even see an entirely different future of field service. The industry is already testing technologies like drones and augmented reality in the hopes of bringing better, quicker service to more people.
A NEW MINDSET For technicians, the move toward all of this technology ushers in a full-on macro change that has daily impacts. With more advance warning before heading out into the field, engineers can be armed with an intimate 24
knowledge of what they’re walking into — machine diagnostics, repair history, warranty information and performance data, to name a few. That’s great, but all this brings with it changes and challenges — chief among them is the evolving profile of service technicians themselves. Technicians will be forced to completely evolve their mindset from reactive to proactive, as service offerings move from emergency or break-fix work to preventative and predictive. This changes the day-to-day of a technician’s job drastically, as they move from triage toward being an overall “health provider” — out of the comfort zone for many.
But the largest change will come at the hands of technology. Today’s technicians are beginning to embrace the power of technology to better serve customers. Many sign into iPads on the job to receive diagnostic information, real-time and historical data, product warranty information, and part availability, enabling them to be proactive about addressing issues in the field. The modern technician will need to become more tech-savvy overall, with a tremendous amount of data at his or her fingertips that can inform better and more efficient repairs ahead of time. Data is becoming the most valuable asset to a field service company, and using it the right way means a proactive advantage before field techs even set foot on the scene.
FIELD SERVICE IS… SEXY? IBA, one of the leading makers of medical devices, services dialysis machines and heart monitors without any tools at all. Techs only need a laptop to identify and solve any issues through the on-screen software. And at another customer, a fitness equipment manufacturer, field service techs receive alerts when treadmills or elliptical machines are headed toward an outage. With iPads and laptops in hand, these techs can get background information on parts, usage and warranty before digging into the problem with actual tools. Thanks in large part to the industry’s move toward technology and technical skills, instead of being viewed as a handyman’s profession, the field service technician has evolved into an actual career path. Think back to sales jobs 20 or 30 years ago. Nobody wanted to go into sales. It was tough work for low pay and was known as a fall-back career by many. That’s no longer the case. Hordes of graduates are heading into sales each year with companies rewarding them financially and careerwise. Sales-focused degrees and classes are even being taught in university classrooms. The reputation of sales has evolved into one of smart, technical, successful professionals — and I predict the same shift is starting to break ground in field service.
THE DATA-DRIVEN TECHNICIAN Field service jobs are now data-focused, specialized and take a great deal of technical skill — but still afford technicians an opportunity to interact with customers, contribute to bottom-line success and grow job satisfaction. Take ATM service provider FTSI. For years, field techs at FTSI — 75 to 80 percent of the company’s workforce — were faced with limited information when it came to keeping machines running and customers satisfied. They relied on paper and pens to stay organized, and reacted to machines after an outage — and for a naturally mobile company, this simply wasn’t working.
Then COO Michael Wilson enabled his technicians to leverage cloud-based and mobile service. The result? Cutting response times by an hour and maintaining 99.97 percent uptime on machines. That’s an industry-leading stat. FTSI’s field technicians were empowered with the information they needed to fundamentally evolve the organization’s future. No longer are engineers stuck with misinformation or lack of knowledge. They’re now hand-selected for jobs, prepared before they head into the field, and more efficient and effective while managing the asset. At the heart of this all is an understanding that field service is inherently connected to core business — without the technicians, our machines wouldn’t be able to serve our customers and could seriously impact the bottom line of our organizations. Now that’s an important job.
A NEW SCHOOL OF FIELD SERVICE As we continue to see field service embrace technology in myriad ways, a new school of service is beginning to displace the old. Tools and clipboards have been replaced by iPads and data, much to the benefit of field service organizations and their customers. And as this technology continues to grow in the industry, field service is shedding a long-held reputation and, in the process, becoming a viable career opportunity for technical, specialized and successful workers, young and old. I, for one, can’t wait to see how this new school of field service continues to advance the industry for the better.
Dave Hart is vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax where he focuses on working with prospects and existing customers to understand and unlock the true value of their field service organizations. Having started his career as a field service engineer, Hart has decades of field service management and customer transformation experience, most recently leading Pitney Bowes’ entire European service organization.
DONALD B. STEPHENS
STOKING A (HEALTHY) COMPETITIVE SPIRIT AMONG EMPLOYEES
Adapted from Field Service Digital
ONE HUGE PRIZE — ONCE A YEAR
Business leaders may not like to admit it, but they regularly use competitive contests to get more productivity out of their employees. Programs like “Presidents Club” and “Gold Star Awards” pit a group of employees against each other, and only one winner can emerge. These types of programs can be effective ways to spur higher productivity rates, but they often erode morale when they are poorly designed or administered. Here are my observations on what makes an effective competitive program, and when those programs can harm the team.
To me, this is the biggest competition mistake of them all. The prize is usually a trip to a resort or a touristy destination (and maybe even some cash to take along), but only one winner gets to enjoy the scenery on the company’s dime. So if you’re the first runner-up and get the $50 Home Depot gift card consolation prize… well, there’s always next year. Besides the obvious slight to all those who worked their butts off only to receive bupkis for their efforts, the program can be flawed in other ways. Oftentimes the award is left to the manager’s discretion, so even if the manager’s pick is fair, those who lose see the winner as the
boss’s pet and grumbling ensues as soon as the winner is announced (sadly, they are often right). Another mistake is using easily manipulated metrics to pick the winner, which means that techs can be rewarded for conniving and false reporting. If your company insists on using a Big Prize Program, use only data as criteria that can’t be manipulated by reporting. The manager (and anyone closely associated with the team) should not be the ones to administer the award. Another idea: make last year’s winner ineligible for the current year. They might have the dream territory that performs better than all others — no matter who’s working it.
SMALLER AWARDS — MORE FREQUENT WINNERS I like this idea a lot better. I would even agree to leave the awards to the manager’s discretion, but only if he or she is determined to ensure that every team member wins at one time or another. Field service technicians are often starving for praise, whether they’ll admit it or not, and a free lunch or gift card for “having the cleanest machines on the team” will buy you loyalty and bolster poor attitudes that lead to less productivity. Just try not to be too blatant about the fact that everyone’s a winner or your techs will start to feel patronized.
PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE REWARDS There’s no denying that money is the king of rewards. Few techs will give up their weekends willingly or stay well past the end of their quiet time to get a customer up and running because they love the company so much that they’ll do anything to help. No — they’ll do it because the overtime pay will help them buy that new toy they’re saving up for. For this reason, pay-for-performance programs are an excellent way to encourage productivity. The challenge is designing a program that is fair and equitable for all. If you put too many conditions on payouts, it will hamper technicians’ enthusiasm for the reward. Periodic bonuses based on the profitability of the entire service team are perhaps the best way to inspire productivity. They foster a team spirit, encouraging everyone to pull their weight at turning a profit.
GETTING BACK TO HEALTHY COMPETITION If you’ve read this and feel like I’m not a big believer in pitting techs against each other to spur them on to excellence, then I’ve done my job. But I do believe that there is a place for a healthy competitive spirit in the field service workforce. I was once on a team that had a sporting attitude about who could do the best job cleaning the machines. No awards were given and no one was singled out in a meeting as the master cleaner. Our manager had no idea about the competition, but we still had a great time teasing each other about dirt or fingerprints left behind. There are a couple of things that managers can do to stir the healthy competitive pot without the techs realizing they are being instigated to compete. Like everyone, field service techs are starving for approval. When a manager says, “Hey thanks, you did a great job cleaning that machine!” techs will pretend to blow it off, but deep down inside they’ll want to do an even better job the next time. They will, in a sense, be competing with themselves. Give a small compliment in a team meeting and everyone will want to top the cleaning job. Just don’t make too big a deal out of it, or it’ll turn unhealthy in no time.
Donald B. Stephens (@DBStphns) is a 30-year senior customer service engineer with the Xerox Corporation. He is also an author, humorist, blogger and freelance writer. Read more of his work at www.donaldbstephens.com.
THE ART OF SERVICE MARKETING: OUTCOME-BASED THINKING A few years ago, a medical device manufacturer hired me to help increase its service revenue. The company’s service business was stagnant and service revenue represented less than 15 percent of revenue. In contrast, its competitors were experiencing year-over-year revenue growth and service revenue rates that accounted for as much as 35 percent of total revenue. The manufacturer was struggling with service revenue because it had not mastered the art of service marketing. It did not have a welldefined service portfolio or value proposition. The company struggled to sell service contracts, so it primarily generated service revenue by selling parts. As one corporate executive told me, “Whenever our customers see us walking in the door they run away, because our people are always trying to sell them spare parts.”
SELLING OUTCOMES, NOT PRODUCTS This example represents an all-too-common problem manufacturers face in the after-sales service world. Let’s face it: Manufacturers are great at selling tangible products but struggle with selling intangible items like services. As a result, manufacturers tend to focus on selling what they perceive to be tangible aspects of service like spare parts, or time and material services. Companies that adopt this approach miss the larger (and more profitable) recurring revenue that can be derived from marketing valueadded services. More importantly, they often fail to meet customer expectations for postsales service and support.
For manufacturers to become successful service marketers they need to shift their focus from selling products to selling outcomes. To make this shift, manufacturers must recognize the strategic value of service to their companies in terms of generating profitable revenue and facilitating exceptional customer experiences. Indeed, we have found that service can generate 10 to 20 times more revenue over the lifecycle of a product than the actual purchase price of the product itself.
“Manufacturers must recognize
the strategic value of service to their companies in terms of generating profitable revenue and facilitating exceptional customer experiences.” WHAT DOES THE CUSTOMER NEED? With this objective in mind, many manufacturers’ service organizations have begun to embark on a journey of service revenue maximization. “Focus on outcomes” has become the mantra, but what exactly does this mean? Basically, it means service providers must focus on the needs of their customers. These providers need to understand what customers are trying to accomplish as well as what problems they are trying to avoid by using the products, and then tailor service offerings to meet these needs. Manufacturers gain this understanding by analyzing data on what customers want, need and value. This is the approach I used with my medical device client who wanted to grow their
service revenue. Through market research, we learned that customers were concerned about keeping their equipment operating at maximum productivity during normal business hours. They wanted to avoid situations where they had to turn away or reschedule patients because machines were not working properly. If a minor issue arose, they wanted instructions on how to resolve it themselves. Most importantly, customers no longer wanted to purchase spare parts in advance just in case they experienced a problem in the future. Based on this knowledge, we created a service portfolio that better met customersâ€™ needs. The portfolio included 5x8-hour coverage so service was available when customers needed it, preventative and predictive maintenance so customers could eliminate and reduce equipment failures, remote monitoring and diagnostics so problems could be resolved remotely, and a two-hour response window when a field engineer was needed. In addition, parts were included with onsite service calls, so customers no longer had to inventory their own parts.
â€œCustomers no longer wanted to purchase spare parts in advance just in case they experienced a problem in the future.â€?
net impact was that they were able to develop a predictable and recurring revenue stream and achieve a 20 percent per year growth rate. Companies that approach service marketing from an outcome-based perspective can expect similar results. Service contract attachment and renewal rates will improve, margin revenue will rise, market share will grow and new methods can be developed to improve customer service. Most importantly, companies can differentiate themselves on the basis of service and utilize this market position to pull through more product sales and service revenue.
Michael Blumberg (@blumberg1) is president of Blumberg Advisory Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in field service and reverse logistics. He is a leading expert on the design, execu-tion, management and coordination of hightech service and support operations within a wide array of industry segments, including information technology, office automation, medical electronics, building controls and consumer electronics. He has more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, market research, benchmarking, enterprise systems design and strategic management of product support operations.
This experience demonstrates the value of outcome-based thinking in service marketing. By focusing on outcomes, the manufacturer was able to expand its perspective of what service means to its customers and provide a broader, more meaningful service offering. The
HOW I HIRE
Jaime Adams, director of HR at Baltimore’s Electric Motor Repair Company, on working closely with the service leaders to hire next-generataion techs with the perfect mix of personality and tech-savvy.
ANDREW ZALESKI There was a time when the household appliances most people now take for granted — toasters, irons and the like — were repaired, not replaced. When the Electric Motor Repair Company started in 1927, that’s what it did. But times change. Appliances get cheaper. And over the decades, the Baltimore-based company began servicing commercial kitchens and refrigeration systems. Today it has more than 100 technicians servicing 4,000 customers at schools, hospitals and restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Field Service Digital spoke with Jaime Adams, director of HR at Electric Motor Repair Company since 2008, on what she looks for when hiring technicians. How often do you talk to the service side of the business to figure out what sorts of skills and people they need? Jaime Adams: I try to meet with the managers as often as possible. Weekly I check in to see if they’re looking for people — most of our needs are for technicians. The hardest thing is finding people who are qualified. Out of 200 resumes I looked at today, I think I forwarded four. Wow, why only four? JA: People apply with either no experience or experience in something totally unrelated. Every employee goes through a training program here, but we’re not able to just train people who are completely green. Is that a challenge when trying to hire younger workers who are just starting out? JA: That’s definitely a challenge. It’s kind of like, my generation, we were always taught education, education, education, and trade was not important. People didn’t really want to get their hands dirty. People don’t realize that it’s great money. You work your way up and you learn a trade. 30
We’ve tried to look into dealing with local trade schools to catch people who have an interest in that. But then the challenge we have with our managers is they want someone who can go right in the truck and start running calls, whereas kids coming right out of school need to be trained. So you clearly look to hire people with experience, but do kids coming right out of school have a shot at being hired and learning the trade? JA: That has happened. It takes about two years. If we have the time, we’ll definitely take on an apprentice-type person. In that situation, you’re able to mold someone into the technician you’d like. We’re all about investing in our people. Where generally do your new hires come from? What are your strategies for finding them? JA: One very successful way is word of mouth. We have a referral bonus program. We also use CareerBuilder and Indeed. I’ve often thought social media is a big thing — that’s our next endeavor to tap into, whether it’s pulling people in through Facebook somehow, or using LinkedIn. My only concern is whether people who are out there and interested in repairing stuff are the same people who are online and looking at LinkedIn. What is a specific hiring challenge you have as you’re judging candidates? JA: When you’re reading resumes you see people’s qualifications, but you can’t get a feel for their personality. We’re very big on our culture here. We have a family-oriented culture. We go over our code of conduct and our service pledge. You could get the strongest technician and then you realize they’re not going to be the best at customer service. We want our technicians to not only fix equipment but to work well with people.
SPOTLIGHT ON MEDIVATORS: TRULY CONNECTED SERVICE, SALES, PRODUCTS Medical device firm doubles its profitability with IoT-enabled products, proactive diagnostics and remote service. Playing the waiting game in the service business can put a serious dent in the bottom line. Shrinking the time it takes to close deals and deliver service reports can have the opposite effect, resulting in big gains in profitability and customer satisfaction. But as Amos Schneller, VP of global service and technical support for medical device firm Medivators, can attest, such a transition relies on visibility and connectivity.
Thanks to tools that allow technicians to log service visits and get customer sign-off immediately â€” and even diagnose service issues remotely â€” the endoscopy systems and services company doubled its profitability in two and a half years, and collapsed billing cycles from an average of 14 days to just two days.
SALES, MEET SERVICE Medivators’ 93 trainers and technicians visit hospitals and other healthcare facilities to make sure the company’s endoscope reprocessors are working properly. Before the Minneapolis-based company took a hard look at connecting service to sales, it had to change its view of service. “In the past, we had technicians report to sales and marketing,” Schneller says, but customer data was tracked manually and often generic about potential service needs.
With smart diagnostics, Medivators can also switch to a proactive service model. “Now we can receive alerts about problems even before customers know there’s an issue,” Schneller says. Medivators can use such alerts as a sort of “early warning system” about possible machine flaws and devise a solution, such as a firmware update, to prevent problems for other customers, too.
“The trainers and technicians never reported into any system about their activities,” Schneller says, so the company had little visibility into its trainers’ and techs’ schedules. And it took too much time to document service visits, or pass along useful information about new products or services that customers might need.
By storing and sharing electronic service records, Medivators slashed the time it takes to receive service reports and training certifications to five days or fewer. In many cases, it takes just one day to close out a service call.
Reporting, too, was a problem. “At the end of training, we need to share proof of training to meet patient safety and HIPAA requirements,” says Schneller, adding that the company would wait up to two weeks for the hand-written documents to be mailed. “We couldn’t invoice or begin warranties until that happened, which affected revenue.”
the eyes on-site for sales.”
Speed, a critical element in medical device service, was missing. Schneller decided the company needed a field service management solution — in their case, ServiceMax. Medivators also took a leap into the IoT with Connected Field Service, a joint offering with PTC’s ThingWorx platform that enables proactive diagnostics and remote service.
“We used to rely on primitive,
slow tools for remote access. But in medicine, speed is crucial.”
“For 78 percent of our calls, we can now use remote access to solve technical issues,” Schneller says. “We used to rely on primitive, slow tools for remote access. But in medicine, speed is crucial.”
CONNECTING DEVICES, IMPROVING OUTCOMES
“Our technicians have become Besides speeding up billing and service documentation, Medivators’ technology investment also hastens knowledge sharing about customer needs — another boon to the bottom line. If a technician notices that a customer needs to move endoscopes to many different departments, the tech can make a note in the customer’s records within the ServiceMax app. That information is immediately visible to sales teams. “Our technicians have become the eyes on-site for sales,” Schneller says. Technicians and trainers even receive incentives if they tip off sales to an opportunity — providing another source of revenue.
Christine Kent brings more than 20 years of writing and journalism expertise to her work for technology, consumer and corporate organizations.
IMPROVING TELECOM PERFORMANCE REQUIRES A FIELD SERVICE RENAISSANCE By shifting attitudes and embracing new tools, telecoms can break poor customer service cycles. While it’s no secret that telecommunications companies perennially end up at the bottom of customer satisfaction reports, a survey this summer by the Institute of Customer Service shows signs of significant improvement in the space. Not exactly time to break out the Dom Perignon, but any improvement is worth holding onto — although it must be put into perspective. So-called challenger brands, such as Tesco Mobile and giffgaff, have apparently skewed the scores, so there is still clearly room for improvement.
And according to a more recent report from Vanson Bourne, it’s not a wish that is exclusive to the telecom industry. The report shows that nearly half of IT and field service decision makers surveyed across all types of organizations peg improving customer service as a priority area for investment. For IT decision makers, field services fall below the popular categories of security, big data and analytics, but it’s still significant. To a certain extent, it is unfair to compare telecom with other sectors. Customer quantities and types of product vary, but certainly telecom has to keep working on 33
improving service quality. The Institute of Customer Service notes, “telecoms continues to generate the highest number of complaints, with 20 percent of customers having experienced a problem.” I shouldn’t complain. After all, the fact that most operators are struggling to execute high customer service themselves gives us an in to winning new business. (My company, QubeGB, provides field engineering and managed services to all of the UK’s major tier-one carriers, including BT, Talk Talk, Sky, EE, and Virgin Media, as well as smaller aggregators, such as the Post Office, housing associations, and electrical retailers.)
In fact, the telecom sector has an opportunity here to make a leap forward. As a third party support supplier for the industry, we have seen huge improvements in the technology that can help us improve service provision for customers. Improved reporting with more granularity, a clear feedback path for recurring product faults and transparent workflows are just some of the benefits we can now pass on.
In my experience, the industry doesn’t suffer from lack of experience, but more often a lack of critical fundamentals, such as modern service tools, processes, training and front line service engineers to uphold customer service standards. Without investing properly in these areas, the industry as a whole will continue to struggle with high levels of complaints.
What does this mean for telecom businesses? Ultimately a time reduction on each job, which increases service capacity and therefore financial savings. We estimate that a 10-minute reduction on each job would increase service capacity by 50,000 jobs a month and earn a potential £6m (US$7.8M) in additional revenue per year.
In our own business, we deployed the ServiceMax field service management platform to formally manage our service teams in the field, and get insight into products, history, scheduled maintenance, and cases and work orders to streamline customer interaction. Having the right tools and process in place can lead to transformational change.
It’s a strategic step that puts an end to the firefighting approach (chances are your service department has yet to modernize in terms of technology, dedicated service platforms, training or tools). Addressing the gap in field service delivery teams will not only increase customer satisfaction, but also improve employee satisfaction and lead to greater job retention. Telecoms need to accelerate change and embrace the field service renaissance. Customer service, after all, is the new growth strategy for all businesses.
So what does this mean for telecom customer service? Change is certainly necessary, and this change is as much about perception of customer service as it is the processes and methodologies in making customer service and support more efficient. Empowering field service engineers and support staff to improve communication, response times and repair times (as well as increase transparency and efficiencies) is important for modern support teams. The key is for telecoms to recognize the true value of field service, not just as something that can impact customer satisfaction, but can also provide data and intelligence on customer trends, product deficiencies, new product ideas and the potential for upselling. Unfortunately, according to the Vanson Bourne study, in the majority of cases, organizations and board 34
members are missing the link between field services and customer satisfaction, let alone everything else. This means that boards are reluctant to support an increase in field service projects and that improvements in customer satisfaction are slow.
Mussy Kurt-Elli is CEO of QubeGB, specialists in field engineering and managed services to the telecoms and ISP industries. With overall responsibility for the company’s strategic direction and success, he has deep sector expertise and insights about the challenges and opportunities in the service industry.
Service Operational Excellence
Deliver Value to Customers roﬁts to our usiness Bain & Company recently said that service is “a key weapon in the intensifying battle for technical differentiation and commercial value proposition, which every industrial company is fighting.” Service is clearly the new battleground. The key to taking advantage of this “key weapon” is operational excellence: executing on your promise to your customers and doing it in an efficient and profitable way.
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Read this ebook to learn how these three key elements; real-time metrics, process and technology contribute to operational excellence, and how they work together to create a service system that is far greater than just the sum of its parts.
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Published on Oct 21, 2016
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