How Were You Planning to Use Market Research Data as Input into Your 2021 Strategic Plan?

Just after the Labor Day holiday, every year, businesses begin their planning processes for the coming year. This is typically the time when internal planning teams are created, planning deadlines are set, and marketing goals and targets are established. But what types of market research data are you planning to use in your planning process? And how are you going to get it in the first place? Now is the time to plan exactly where your customer research will come from – and how to use it most effectively in supporting your strategic planning process.

In today’s upended business environment, even the most skeptical services managers will agree that “the customer is always right”. Still, there are too many organizations that do not – or will not – go directly to their customers for input and feedback. A reporter once asked the legendary bank robber, Willie Sutton, why he robbed so many banks. Without hesitation, he replied, “Because that’s where all the money is!”. While Willie’s business practices may not have been either legally or politically correct, there was one thing that you had to give him – he knew where to go to get what he needed. In the services industry, the place where we need to go, to get the information we need – is the customer.

Some managers argue that internal call activity data, information and reports are all they need to measure and track their organization’s performance over time, and identify unmet user needs and requirements. They claim that these internal data are more objective, accurate and statistically valid than anything market research may derive from conducting customer needs, requirements and satisfaction surveys.

Objectively speaking, they may be right! However, the customers your organization supports are typically not objective in the way in which they assess and evaluate your performance and, in most cases, the internal data you are able to derive do not adequately reflect their true perceptions of satisfaction – let alone loyalty – with respect to your organization’s performance. It is primarily for these reasons that we believe the only true source of customer-focused research comes from the customers themselves – and that the most effective means to collect this information is to interact with them through a customer survey.

Customer Survey Design Components

Customer surveys, in and of themselves, are not new. They have been used for decades. What is new, however, are the ways in which the data are collected, processed, analyzed and applied, as well as how the information is ultimately integrated into the strategic planning process.

Traditional modes of conducting customer surveys via mail, telephone and personal interface have now been essentially replaced by e-mail or Web-based surveys. Newer data processing tools, coupled with the increased speed of collecting and processing data through electronic means, have also made it much easier – and quicker – to analyze the collected survey data. What used to take months to design, execute, process and analyze now only takes weeks.

Still, one thing remains unchanged over time; in order for any customer survey program to be effective – especially with respect to supporting the strategic planning process – it must address each of the following key survey design areas:

  • Business Objectives, such as “Why is the research being conducted?” and “How is it going to be used?”
  • Information Objectives, such as “What information do we need to support our business objectives?” and “How can we most effectively obtain it?”
  • Organizational Structure, such as “What areas do we want to measure?” and “Which areas require separate, or more detailed, analysis?”
  • Customers and Customer Groups, such as “Which customers should be surveyed?” and “Who within each customer organization represents our most appropriate contact?”
  • Competitive Environment, such as “Who are our direct and indirect competitors?” and “Who should we be benchmarking against?”
  • Operational Information, such as “How do we obtain current lists of customers?” and “How can they best be reached?”
  • Statistical Requirements, such as “What is an acceptable margin of error?” and “How can the data be most effectively reported?”
  • Previously Conducted Research, such as “What have we learned from our past studies?” and “How can we integrate what we’ve learned into the new survey process?”
  • Internal Measures, such as “What mechanisms are currently being used to measure and track performance?” and “How can we reconcile the external findings with our internal data?”
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM), such as “How can the customer survey program support our overall CRM initiatives?” and “How can the results best be communicated internally and externally?”
  • Tracking and Monitoring, such as “How should we track our customer needs, requirements and satisfaction performance over time?” and “How frequently will we need to update our information base?”
  • Timing and Scheduling, such as “When will the baseline results be required?” and “How quickly can the survey be designed, executed, processed and analyzed?”

A Customer Satisfaction Measurement and Tracking program can successfully address all of the areas as described above, as well as provide management with a comprehensive analysis of the baseline, or “benchmark”, customer needs and requirements/satisfaction survey results, and the analysis of trend data that could be used to identify key patterns of change, or movement, in customers’ perceptions of service performance over time. These would include, but not be limited to:

  • Detailed analyses of the overall survey findings that establish baseline needs/satisfaction levels, and track trends and shifts in customer needs and satisfaction from period-to-period;
  • The identification of specific areas requiring improvement and/or enhancement;
  • Generation of executive-level summary reports, detailed survey data and regular (e.g., quarterly) tracking reports;
  • Assessments of the strategic implications for the organization based on the analyses of the overall survey findings; and
  • Development of specific recommendations for improving the existing services portfolio and corresponding levels of satisfaction.

Survey Research Applications and Uses

The applications and uses of the findings from a customer satisfaction measurement and tracking program of this type would be multifold:

  1. The organization could acquire new and useful input and feedback directly from its customers regarding their perceptions of the value, need and levels of satisfaction associated with the acquisition and use of the company’s products and services.
  2. The survey results could then be used to monitor trends in both company performance and customer satisfaction over time. This information could contribute directly to the ongoing improvement of the company’s products and services as part of an overall marketing plan, and could ultimately lead to the development of new, or modified, products, services and support features designed to meet the total needs of the customer base.
  3. The results of the survey could also be used as a marketing tool for promoting the company’s various product and service lines through a number of means including:
    • The creation of an executive summary, or “white paper” report, based on the general survey results, for distribution to targeted customers and prospects via mail, e-mail, insertion in corporate literature folders, or at industry trade shows;
    • Development of a series of promotional and public relations-oriented news releases targeted to key business publications and trade papers; and
    • Publication of a “genericized” summary of the survey results in an appropriate industry trade journal or magazine that serves the organization’s general customer/market base.
  1. The results of the survey analysis, as well as a sampling of selected verbatim quotes and comments, could also be incorporated directly into the company’s advertising and promotional programs, corporate brochures, testimonials, newsletters, etc.

Any business that has put off conducting a customer needs and requirements assessment, or customer satisfaction survey, for a year or more allegedly to “save money” or wait for the “right time” may now be experiencing a dramatic decline in customer satisfaction. since they haven’t really tracked it over time, or implemented any corrective actions before things began to deteriorate.

However, by the time an organization typically realizes that there has been a significant downturn in customer satisfaction, it may take another year or more before it can effectively reverse the trend (i.e., through problem recognition, identification, correction, and tracking). That may seem like a long time, unless you consider that if they didn’t forego their customer survey tracking in the previous year, it could have corrected all of the problems by now!

Measuring customer satisfaction is a necessary process for all businesses, and not one to be taken for granted. Simply because your customers appear to be satisfied with you today does not ensure that they will remain satisfied forever. Why not let them tell you exactly what makes them “tick”, and what “ticks” them off?  You can only do that if you take the effort to design, execute, analyze and track your customers needs, requirements and corresponding levels of customer satisfaction, through an orchestrated process, on an ongoing and focused basis. If you haven’t already, now is the time to make customer-focused research a regular part of your ongoing strategic planning process. The time to start is now!

SFG℠ Makes Four eBooks and 15 Analysts Take Papers Available for Licensing and Distribution

Today, July 27, 2020, Strategies For Growth℠ (SFG℠) announced that it has 4 eBooks and 15 newly-written Analysts Take papers now available for licensing and distribution.

These papers range in topics from transitioning your customer base from customer satisfaction to customer retention; the positive impact of “great” communications (i.e., as opposed to only “good” communications), and how to get to that level; how the leading services organizations are planning (and executing) for future growth and sustainability; Warranty Management patterns and trends for 2020 and beyond (i.e., the results from SFG℠‘s 2020 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Tracking Survey); and many others.

If there is any interest at your organization, please contact Bill Pollock, president & principal consulting analyst, directly at 484.620.2711 to discuss further, or feel free to e-mail Bill at Also, be sure to ask about the companion Webcasts available for each of the eBooks and papers.

Simply click on the following link to download a summary description of each available paper, along with their associated licensing fees, etc.: Available SFG eBooks and Analysts Take Papers

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Transforming Targeted Market Research into Improved Customer Satisfaction & Retention

Market Research Is Not an End unto Itself – It’s Basically a Tool for Identifying Opportunities and Preventing Problems

No services organization ever went bankrupt as a result of investing money in market research that delivered actionable results, and provided a positive Return on Investment (ROI). It is only those organizations that have wrongly invested a great deal of money in “untested” areas that could have been better served by conducting the appropriate market research first.

Read SFG℠‘s latest Analysts Take paper on the value of Market Research in terms of its ability to help you transform your Services organization.

Click here to access the paper: Transforming Market Research into Customer Sat & Retention (20-06-11-v01)-compressed

Video Podcast #02: Using the LOTS Approach to Communications to Ensure Maximum Customer Reliance and Retention

Hi All!

[This is our second Blog-posted video Podcast! There will be more coming on a regular basis from this point on!]

Using the LOTS Approach to Communications to Maximize Customer Reliance and Retention! Analyst Bill Pollock of SFG℠ and talks about what FSOs should be using as communications tools to make sure their field techs are always engaged – and customers are rarely enraged!

To access the video, please click on the following link:

BTW – Thanks again to all of you who contributed to our first 56,500 Blogsite visits! It is greatly appreciated! Looking forward to the next 56,500+!



Video Podcast #01: Turbulent Times Require Serious Solutions – Especially in Field Services!

Hi All!

[This is our first Blog-posted video Podcast! There will be more coming on a regular basis from this point on!]

Turbulent Times Require Serious Solutions – Especially in Field Services! Analyst Bill Pollock of SFG℠ and talks about what FSOs should be thinking about – and doing – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – and beyond!

To access the video, please click on the following link:

BTW – Thanks again to all of you who contributed to our first 56,000 Blogsite visits! It is greatly appreciated! Looking forward to the next 56,000+!



PollockOnService Predictions for Field Service in 2020 – and Beyond!

[Reprinted from the March, 2020 issue of Field Service News.]

[To All Field Services Professionals, I would like to extend you an invitation to download a complimentary Webcast on the topic of COVID-19 – How to React, Recover and Restore”. The Webcast is hosted by FieldAware, the leading cloud-based service management software that runs on any device – desktop or mobile – to accelerate business results, and features mealong with a panel of industry experts. Simply click on the following link to access the archived Webcast (and please feel free to forward this invitation to any of your business colleagues):]

There has been a growing shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitisation model for decades already. However, while the manufacturing model is a well-entrenched, deeply-rooted model that everybody understands; the Servitisation model is still not anywhere near being as widely understood – even within the services sector.

The transition from break/fix, to network services, to self-help, to remote diagnostics/support has been steady, and has followed a logical evolution over the years. However, the move toward Servitisation requires more of a “leap of faith” as well as a whole new mode of operating (and pricing) for which many services managers are still not familiar – or comfortable.

This trend has carried on for decades – and the services sector is just about ready to “rock and roll” with it moving forward; however, even some of the key (and more savvy) players are not yet 100% certain that they have it right with respect to re-engineering their overall service delivery structure; services support organisation; KPIs and metrics; services support policies, procedures and processes; pricing, accountability – and the list goes on. As such, this trend will positively carry on throughout 2020 – and well beyond – as each major group of services organisations (i.e., leaders, followers, “wait-and-see’ers”, skeptics, and all others) begin their respective transitions.

The evolutionary prospects for Servitisation are quite simple: the market, as a whole, will need to see some prime examples of success in their respective vertical and/or horizontal services segments before making the plunge. They’ll need to move beyond all of the “failure” and pratfall stories before feeling more confident. They’ll need to hear some success stories – and, in their own segment. Bank/financial organisations will need to see how others in their field have succeeded, and what the positive results have been. The same will go for the medical/healthcare segment, manufacturing/industrial segment, and so on.

Most organisations will also need help with how to price “power by the hour”, “airplanes in the air”, and other “new” ways for pricing their services. I suspect there will be an uptick in the number of case studies, Webcasts and conference sessions focusing on these and other related areas. Servitisation is – and will continue to be – a big deal for years to come.

Organisations are also transitioning from providing corrective maintenance to predictive maintenance, and this trend continues to shape the industry moving forward. Corrective maintenance has worked for many years because, basically, that’s all the industry had to offer. From the break/fix, call the manufacturer’s hotline, days; through the current remote diagnostics and repair days, there has been a common thread running through our industry: Some piece of equipment fails, a call is made (i.e., either by phone, in the past; or, today, remotely from the equipment itself) and a corrective action is taken.

However, these are examples of the soon-to-be-bygone OTR (i.e., On-Time-Response), MTBF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Failure), MTTR (i.e., Mean-Time-To-Repair), FTFR (i.e., First-Time-Fix-Rate) and PM (i.e., Preventive Maintenance) days. Through Predictive Diagnostics and Predictive Maintenance the need for any On-Time Response will be highly diminished, as will the need for MTBF, MTTR and FTFR KPIs/metrics, etc. Over the coming years, there will be the need for “new” metrics, such as MTBPF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Prevented-Failures); MTTR will be measured in minutes or seconds, rather than in hours or days; FTFRs will be normalised as everything will get fixed in a single attempt, whether it requires a single “try”, or multiple “tries”; and PMs will virtually disappear (or at least be replaced by another PM = Predictive Maintenance).

There will be a whole “new” way of delivering service, as well as measuring the success of the organisation through an entirely “new” set of KPIs, or metrics. [By the way – I have already written many times about the need for “new” KPIs/metrics and, respectfully claim the rights to MTBPF!]

Customers no longer will be pleased simply with equipment that is working, sensors that are communicating, and devices that are operating – they are now beginning to look more closely at how their systems, equipment, sensors and devices are working together, in their behalf to get the job done. A services organisation that merely keeps individual systems or equipment up and running (i.e., maintaining high levels of uptime), but does not ensure that they are all working together to effectively and efficiently execute the company’s business, will ultimately find themselves being replaced by other services organisations that do. The clear winners will be those organisations that “get” Servitisation, and not those that do not.

Again, what will move the needle in 2020, is clearly communicating to the marketplace what failures to avoid (and how to avoid them), and what successes can be had (and how to achieve them). There will need to be an industry-wide educational “push” as to what Servitisation really is, what it can do for the organisation (and what will happen if they don’t embrace it), what the ultimate value propositions are for transitioning to this “new” model, and what some of the best success stories have been.

Further, most services organisations are not currently using their respective Field Service Management (FSM) solutions to their full capabilities. The most successful organisations may come close, but there are few that eke out all of the capabilities that may otherwise be offered to them. Some may augment their FSM solution with a home-grown Excel spreadsheet “patch”; others may be using their Sales & Marketing Management (SMM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions for activities that their FSM could (or should) be able to support; and still others may not even be aware of the full spectrum of capabilities they may have right at their fingertips. Again, it becomes an educational process that should be driven by the FSM solution providers themselves through the offering of strengthened professional services, such as customer portals, training, train-the-trainers, etc.

As some FSM solution providers may be focusing more on developing Augmented Reality (AR), Merged Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) based applications to bolster their offerings, they may be relatively deficient in focusing on the basic, or “core”, components of their solutions and, thereby, miss the opportunity to help their customers/users get the most out of their offerings.

Services organisations will also be relying much more heavily on apps and mobile devices in support of their service delivery performance in 2020. Society, as a whole, is relying more and more on apps and mobile devices for communications; and, in many cases, the services sector is leading the way.

Most FSM solution providers are providing their customers/users with more apps and customer portals to facilitate their use of the solution, as well as for communications with their remote support providers. Every year, a higher percent of business is being conducted remotely, and the need for more functional mobile communications is increasing commensurately. The IoT stands for the Internet of Things; and in this regard, humans may also be considered as one category of “things” that the IoT helps to connect. 2020 will see the proliferation of all types of “things” connected to one another through the IoT: systems, equipment, devices – and people. In fact, the numbers of connected things will likely to continue to grow at an accelerated rate in 2020 – and beyond. The more connectivity there is, the better the delivery of service can be.

Companies will also continue to expand their use of AI-powered field service technology and tools. Basically, companies that are already using AI technology in support of their services operations are much more likely to expand its use over time – and, probably, very quickly. However, companies that do not yet employ the use of AI in their services operations typically lie on either side of the fence: either, “we need to do it now”, or “let’s wait and see how this all works out.” The pressure to embed AI in their services operations will be so intense, however, that there is likely to be a surge in usage throughout 2020 and successive years.

Primary uses of AI include the powering of a chatbot capability; the ability to identify key target markets for selling/upselling/cross-selling products and services; and the ability to make their overall services operations work much more productively and efficiently.

Just as Virtual Reality (VR) has made watching American football games (and European football games, as well) easier for the layman (or woman) to understand, it is also making it much easier for field technicians to repair equipment in the field. No more bulky documents or manuals are required, and training programs can be short-cut (to a certain degree) as AR and VR, merged together into MR, can lead the technician to a “perfect” fix, first time, and every time.

The move toward AR and VR is beginning to grow even faster as more installations have been deployed, and more success stories are making the rounds (at trade shows and Webinars, etc.). In fact, the merging of AR and VR has sent out a signal to the “Wait and see’ers” that they may be missing the boat on AR as it is already merging with VR – all while many of their competitors are beginning to implement AI and Machine Learning platforms in support of their services operations. The time to move is now – before it’s too late in terms of having your competitors ending up being better equipped to support (and market to) their targeted customer base.

With the rise of IoT-connected devices and smart homes, many new challenges lie ahead for the field service industry. The rise of IoT-connected devices and smart homes provides a major value proposition to customers, as well as to the FSM solution providers. However, what also comes along with the benefits are a number of potentially serious consequences.

For example, once virtually everything is connected, smart systems will likely become more susceptible to power outages, hacking and various types of breaches in security. The analogy is: before watches, people used sundials to tell time. Then watches could help them tell time – until they either wound down, or the batteries went dead. Today, if the global satellite network goes down (e.g., as a result of space debris, solar flares, etc.), many things we all take for granted will stop working, including a partial/temporary halt to our ability to tell time, make change, or communicate to one another via our mobile devices.

As an example, as I have been writing this article for Field Service News, I have used a pink post-it note to cover the camera on my iMac. At the same time, Alexa is probably listening to anything I say without me even thinking about it. Further, somewhere across the globe, there is probably someone standing outside the front window of a home and yelling at Alexa, Googol or Siri to “remind me what my password is for the front door security code.” What the “expert” hackers can do to outsmart smart homes or businesses will only get more invasive – and potentially dangerous – over time (i.e., the invasions of privacy tend to happen first, with the “patch” or “fix” coming later). As such, the need to provide continual connectivity PLUS protect the privacy of the customer/user will be paramount as more and more smart implementations go into play.

Making projections for 2020 in the services industry is relatively easy. Basically, everything you have gotten used to is going to change!

  • The “good guys” will make everything better; and the “bad guys” will try to make everything worse
  • Every time you make a mistake, the whole world will find out about it virtually instantly
  • Service fixes will be completed faster – but you won’t always be aware that there was a fix
  • Service pricing may or may not be more expensive – but it will certainly be different
  • New start-ups will enter the market; but some old standbys will be forced to depart
  • Most of the KPIs/metrics you’ve used for decades will be replaced
  • The most successful services organisations will follow the lead of technology – not the competition
  • You think that today’s Merged Reality applications are too futuristic or too soon? Wait ‘til tomorrow, when everything is merged (i.e., connected)

[To listen to an archived copy of Bill Pollock’s companion Podcast, conducted by Field Service News in January, 2020, please click here: Podcast.]

The Case for Video Telematics in Support of Field Service Management / Fleet Management (Executive Summary)

[The following is the Executive Summary excerpted from SFG℠‘s Analysts Take paper on the topic of “The Case for Video Telematics in Support of Field Service Management / Fleet Management“, prepared for Lytx, a leading provider of video telematics, analytics, safety and productivity solutions for commercial and public sector fleets.

The full report will be released at the annual Lytx Users Conference, February 23 – 26, 2020 in San Diego, CA. Watch the Lytx Website immediately following the conference for a link to access a complimentary download of the paper. Until then, the Executive Summary should provide you with a taste of what’s yet to come!]

Video telematics is the new frontier for field services, and it is gaining significant traction among businesses looking to this new technology to gain an edge in their intensely competitive fields. Video telematics took the trucking and transportation business by storm this past decade, and now it is coming to field services. That’s because customers in both trucking and field services are seeing significant ROI from improvements in such metrics as routing efficiency, fuel consumption, service assurance, claims reductions, etc.  As a result, more and more field service operations are looking into video telematics as their latest go-to tool for boosting their core KPIs in process improvements, productivity, customer service, and ROI / financial return.

To put things in perspective, there is currently a “perfect storm”  occurring in the global services community that reflects a growing market demand  – and need – for video as part of a Field Service / Fleet Management Telematics solution. The main components of this “storm” may be summarized as:

  • Rapid growth for the Field Service Management (FSM), Fleet Management and Telematics segments;
  • Increases in the value-add realized through the implementation and use of video-based telematics; and
  • The FSM segment’s focus on increased technician productivity, utilization and process efficiencies.

Further, due to what appears to be an ongoing global technician shortage, it becomes even more critical for Field Services Organizations (FSOs) to gain as much productivity as possible from each of the technicians in their current mobile workforce in order to prevent any potential lapses in service delivery performance.

However, there is much more to Field Service Management, Fleet Management and Telematics than simply monitoring incidents, collecting data, and reporting the relevant findings back to services management. In fact, there are great differences in both the means by which the data are collected and the ways in which the collected data may be used – with one of the main differentiating factors being the added value brought to the table via the incorporation of video into the standard Field Service / Fleet Management solution.

While driver safety and liability protection are still acknowledged as highly important factors, field service managers must primarily focus on other key issues, such as technician productivity, utilization and the overall efficiencies of the systems they use to run their respective field service operations. These principal factors are clearly borne out in Strategies For Growth℠’s (SFG℠’s) annual Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Surveys, as follows.

The results of the 2019 FSM tracking survey update identify that the principal factors influencing the field services market today may be categorized as:

  • First, process-focused (i.e., the need to improve workforce utilization and service process efficiencies);
  • Second, customer-focused (i.e., meeting customer demand for quicker response time and improved asset availability); and
  • Third, financials-focused (i.e., internal mandate to drive increased service profitability and revenues).

This represents a shift away from a customer focus (i.e., in previous years’ surveys), to one that hones in specifically on process improvement, which can then be used as a catalyst for creating a foundation from which services organizations can build stronger end-to-end engagement relationships with their customers. Accordingly, the results of the survey clearly reaffirm the relationships between and among these three groupings by linking internal process improvements directly to improved customer support, ultimately leading to reduced costs, increased revenues, more satisfied customers, and a healthier profit margin.

Supporting the Customer Journey by Providing Seamless Service & Support

Just think about it! 10 to 20 years ago, if a consumer’s refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, washer or dryer stopped working, they called their product seller (e.g., Sears, or a local appliance dealer, etc.), requested service on the unit, and were told they would have to wait a week or more for a service technician to come to the home to assess the problem. Then, once the technician arrived onsite, he would advise the consumer that they would need to order a part, and reschedule the call once the part comes in. This whole episode would typically take a few weeks or more before the unit was back up and running again.

However, the introduction and proliferation of smart products has completely transformed the traditional services industry. What customers used to tolerate in terms of getting their home appliances or consumer electronics repaired just doesn’t cut it anymore. For consumers, it’s now an entirely different “journey”!

“The servicing of smart products is transforming the Customer Journey.”

Fast forward to today and, for these same types of consumer products and appliances – many of which are now smart – the entire services cycle can conceivably be collapsed from as long as a few weeks, to just a few hours. The advent of smart appliances now allows the services provider to diagnose the problem remotely, determine the appropriate fix, and execute that fix – remotely, if possible – sometimes before the consumer even knows there had been a problem.

When parts are needed, this activity can now easily be performed online directly by the services provider or, in some cases, by the consumer itself. If an onsite service call is still required, the overall cycle time from when the problem was first reported, until the service technician arrives onsite, could also be shortened significantly – again, from weeks, to days.

However, in today’s world, the customer (i.e., typically, the consumer) no longer needs to do all the talking (i.e., making the initial service call, explaining what they think the problem is, scheduling an onsite service call, etc.). It is quickly turning into a world where the appliances or devices now make the call themselves – remotely through sensor-based telematics, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), and communicated over the Web.

Samir Gulati, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at ServicePower, agrees by saying that, “Past generations were more high-touch when it came to customer service. They wanted to pick up the phone and speak to someone. Today, the consumer wants the technology right at their fingertips, and they are taking that into consideration as they start purchasing homes, appliances and consumer electronics.” He goes on to say, “Consumers want to deal with companies that are technology savvy and offer self-service portals and efficient and fast customer service experiences.”

But this scenario only works if the services provider is, itself, empowered through the right mix of Field Service Management (FSM) tools, functionalities, resources and capabilities!

“They may be different verticals – But they still share the same Customer Journey!”

Some industry segments, such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), or Security Systems, have long been in the domain of B2B services organisations; however, the advent of smart systems and devices, powered by the IoT, has created entirely new markets for many services organisations who now find themselves also catering directly to consumers.

As a result, there are both great commonalities – and great differences – between and among each of these individual vertical market segments. In addition, each segment has its own “personality”; key industry players; market size, patterns and growth trends; customer needs and requirements; and competitive landscape.

This is where your services organisation comes in – to serve as the customer’s “tour guide” through the entire Customer Journey – and that means that the FSM solution chosen, must have the tools and functionalities required to make that Journey as seamless as possible – regardless of vertical market segment.

“Services Management has become much more complicated – Is your FSM Solution up to the job?“

As products become inherently smarter, so must the services organisations themselves in order to provide the levels of service and support that their customers demand. However, not only are customers becoming more knowledgeable about what levels of support are potentially available to them, but their expectations for seamless service and support throughout the entire Customer Journey are becoming more demanding as well.

As such, supporting the Customer Journey today involves much more than simply providing maintenance and repair services for the products that consumers buy. It also requires a comprehensive approach to providing them with seamless support throughout every facet of the product lifecycle following the sale – from product registration and warranty support; to onsite, remote and/or self-service support; to preventive maintenance – all the way through product upgrades and add-ons, and end-of-life product replacement and disposal.

According to Gulati, “Choosing the right technology and keeping the customer at the center of it is key. You want it to be not only easy to use, but a tool that helps keep the focus on great outcomes. By implementing a solution that makes the technician’s job smoother, you automatically improve the customer journey because you will have better status tracking, communications directly between the tech and customer, and more first-time fixes. A good FSM tool will not only make an organisation more efficient, but also delight the customer, which is always the end goal.”

Therefore, it is critical to be able to choose the right FSM solution moving forward by making certain that it is powered by the most current technologies, functionalities and technical support capabilities (e.g., the IoT; Artificial Intelligence, or AI; and other emerging high-tech tools and resources).

The historical service and support delivery experience has now transitioned itself into a full-on Customer Journey – one that is predicated on the establishment of a true partnership between the services provider and its customers, evoking feelings that reflect “we’re all in this together – and that we’re equal parties with shared goals”. Delighting the customer is no longer an option.

For the services providers, delivering a seamless Customer Journey is also not an option anymore – it is an imperative. With Business-to-Consumer (B2C) industry giants like Amazon, and Google already attaining close access to their customers, services organisations must also place the customer squarely in the center of their market focus – and be able to use the power and the capabilities of the IoT to deliver exactly what they need, when they need it, and without hesitation.

By leveraging the most effective FSM, Contractor Management and Warranty Management tools into their service delivery model, services organisations can ultimately realize great improvements in key areas including reduced costs, increased revenues, happier customers – as well as an improved bottom line. To be successful at doing this, however, it will be your responsibility to serve as their “tour guide” throughout the entire Customer Journey!

Download Our Complimentary Webcast on “The Case for Remote Expertise”, Hosted by Help Lightning, and Featuring Bill Pollock

[On Thursday, January 30th, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST, we presented a complimentary Webcast on the topic of “The Case for Remote Expertise“. The Webcast was hosted by Help Lightning, the leading Augmented Reality provider of Virtual Interactive Presence, and featured me, Bill Pollock, as the guest speaker.

If you missed the Webcast, no need to worry! Simply click on the following link to access a complimentary copy of the archived Webcast, along with a copy of our companion Analysts Take white paper:]

Webcast Overview:

The findings from Strategies For Growth‘s 2020 Remote Expertise Benchmark Survey clearly identify the following as the primary reasons influencing a services organization’s drive to incorporate Remote Expertise capabilities into their field service operations:

  • 65%  To improve upon current levels of Customer Satisfaction
  • 64%  Ability to meet (or exceed) our customers’ services expectations
  • 62%  To diagnose problems faster, and with greater accuracy

As a result of an ongoing technology explosion, increased competition and reduced margins, meeting the desired goals of customer satisfaction and services profitability remains a major challenge for many organizations. What is your organization doing to run its field service operations more effectively – and cost-effectively?

By viewing the webcast, you can learn:

  • What the leading global Services Organizations are doing with respect to embracing – and incorporating – new technologies into their services operations
  • What the real benefits are associated with moving to a Remote Expertise service delivery model
  • What obstacles and potential pratfalls you might experience along the way
  • How to emulate the strategic and tactical actions presently being taken and/or planned by the leading Services Organizations

In the meantime, for more information on this topic, or on any other aspects of Field Service Management (FSM) or Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), please be sure to visit our Blogsite at for trending thoughts and commentary on the global services market.

Again, to access both the complimentary Webcast and companion Analysts Take white paper, simply please go to:

SFG℠ Analysts Take Executive Summary: Has Your Services Organization Already Embarked on Its Servitization Journey?

Your Customers Have – and So Have Your Competitors! When Is Your Organization Going to Make Its Move?

[This Blog consists of a synopsis of SFG℠‘s latest Analysts Take paper on the topic of Servitization. You may either read the synopsis below, or – if you prefer – you may download a complimentary copy of the full paper, including more than a dozen charts and tables. To access the paper, simply click here: Servitization Analysts Take Paper.]

Overall, a majority (or near-majority) of survey respondents are currently using, or planning to use, the following factors to set their Outcomes-based service contracts:

  • 66%  Performance metrics (e.g., total output, time on task, utilization rate, etc.)
  • 51%  Asset uptime (i.e., uptime percentage for length of contract)
  • 49%   Time to service (i.e., guaranteed time from ticket-to-close)

Since adopting an Outcomes-based services model, the greatest benefits realized by FSOs have reflected:

  • 47%  Improved contract renewals
  • 42%  Improved technician utilization
  • 36%  Increased predictive outcomes
  • 33%  Increase in net new business
  • 16%  Increase in zero-touch service
  • 15%  Decreased time-from-ticket-to-invoice

SFG’s 2019 FSM Benchmark Survey Update (conducted in January/February, 2019) revealed that while nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondent FSOs were operating service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), there were still 29% that were operating as cost centers. However, it is noted that the percentage of FSOs then running as profit centers reflected a significant uptick from the 65% to 68% range reflected in SFG’s 2016 – 2018 annual FSM surveys.

However, the results from the 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey, conducted a mere six months later, reveal an even higher percentage of FSOs running their services operations as profit centers (i.e., 72%).

The percentage of services organizations running service as an independent profit center may vary – sometimes significantly – from one category or industry segment to another. For example, this percent increases to 74% for those operating as profit centers among FSOs with the highest customer satisfaction ratings (i.e., attaining at least 90% customer satisfaction). The percent is also virtually the same for FSOs that qualify for Best Practices status (i.e., attaining both 90% or higher customer satisfaction, and 30% or greater services profitability).

Currently, more than one-quarter (28%) of FSOs are using an Outcomes-based model for service delivery offered through their Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This percent is significant, as it has risen from a virtual “zero” basis in less than two years.

However, this percent is also expected to rise significantly, as nearly one-third (32%) of respondents plan to introduce Outcomes-based services into their portfolio of offerings in the next one-to-two years. If so, the percent of FSOs using an Outcomes-based services model would then represent an approximate 60% majority by 2021.

In fact, this percent may be even greater, as one-in-six respondents (17%) indicate they are “unsure” whether their respective services organization would make that move over the next couple of years. If the same percent of the “unsures” ultimately make that move as those respondents who cited either “yes” or “no” for the original question, the projected percent of FSOs employing an Outcomes-based services model would increase to a near-three-quarters majority (i.e., 72%).

A two-thirds (67%) majority of FSO respondents cite performance metrics (i.e., total output, time-on-task, utilization rate, etc.) as the principal factor they prefer using to gauge the success of their Outcomes-based service delivery model.

The only other factor cited by a majority of respondents is asset uptime (i.e., uptime percentage for length of contract) (52%), followed closely by time-to-service (i.e., guaranteed time from ticket-to-close) at just below 50% (i.e., 48% ).

More than one-third (35%) also cite fail rate (i.e., number of incidents for length of contract) as a primary factor).

Other criteria cited by respondents include:

  • Using the same metrics that customers use
  • Building remote services capabilities into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform
  • Software usage / transactions handled
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Location serviceability
  • Product as a service (PaaS) / XaaS

Among those FSO respondents that have already adopted an Outcomes-based service model, at least one-third (33%) or more have realized significant improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including:

  • 47%  Improved contract renewals
  • 42%  Improved technician performance
  • 36%  Increased predictive outcomes
  • 33%  Increase in net new business

These improvements are significant in that they do not only reflect beneficial ways in which these FSOs can support their customers, but also providing them with the ability to leverage those improvements into more of a predictive, rather than, reactive mode – all while leading to increases in net new business. As a result, the impact of moving to an Outcomes-based service delivery model not only improves the operational efficiency of the FSO – it also leads to incremental business development.

However, there are still several other improvements that may be realized, including:

  • 24%  Faster dispatch
  • 17%  Increase in zero-touch service
  • 15%  Decreased time-from-ticket-to-invoice
  • 15%  Selecting the most cost-effective pricing model
  • 12%  Others, including: increased profits, faster upgrades, etc.)

Of course, Servitization does not naturally happen in isolation – there are many factors that must be considered – and implemented – in order to create an environment within which this transformation may be realized. As may be expected, technology plays a critical role in the ability to make this transition, as reflected by the various technological tools and applications currently being utilized (and planned) by FSOs in support of their Outcomes-based services initiatives.

Overall, there are seven technology platforms and solutions that are currently being used by a majority of FSOs. Those approaching a two-thirds (i.e., 67%) majority include contract management (65%), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) service module (64%), and Spare Parts/Inventory Management  (SP/IM) system (64%).

However, those technologies cited for reflecting the highest levels of forecasted adoption (i.e., in the next 12 months) include:

  • 43%  Predictive diagnostics
  • 37%  Knowledge management application
  • 28%  Service forecasting and planning application
  • 24%  Internet of Things (IoT) platform
  • 24%  Remote monitoring / remote diagnostics
  • 23%  Contract management
  • 22%  Business intelligence / analytics

Delving a bit deeper, the technologies that are currently being deployed specifically to support an Outcomes-based services delivery model typically reflect a virtual “who’s who” of the most commonly reviewed (i.e., in trade publications and Webinars, at services conferences, etc.) “new” and “emerging” technologies that are, in large part, responsible for providing the foundation upon which Servitization can be built.

In fact, a majority of FSOs claim to currently be using the following technologies to power their respective Servitization initiatives:

  • 54%  Service management platform (i.e., FSM, or Enterprise Asset Management)
  • 51%  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Just bubbling under the 50% mark, predictive maintenance is cited by 48% as also being one of their current Outcomes-based services technologies.

However, there are still several other technologies that are also cited by respondents, including:

  • 38%  Routing optimization
  • 27%  Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning
  • 27%  Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
  • 11%  Augmented Reality (AR)

Field services managers are faced with multiple challenges, primarily focused in the areas of (1) management buy-in to transformation initiatives; and (2) the costs associated with acquiring, implementing and deploying new technology. As such, there are many potential roadblocks that may interfere with an FSO’s ability to successfully make the transition from a traditional Service Level Agreement (SLA) contract model to a Servitization Outcomes-based model.

The top challenge, as cited by a plurality of survey respondents at 26%, is obtaining management buy-in from the top, followed closely by the cost of introducing new technologies into existing services operations (23%).

To a somewhat lesser degree, there may still be several other potential roadblocks standing in the way, including:

  • 14%  Time it will likely take to move to a Servitization business model
  • 12%  Obtaining technician buy-in
  • 11%  Lack of existing technologies to pull it off
  •   6%  Ability to enlist our strategic service partners to join us in the Servitization Journey

It is interesting to note, however, that the following five factors receive zero responses, including lack of a corporate services mentality/philosophy; lack of a full understanding as to what exactly is the Servitization Journey; ability to convince customers that the Servitization Journey will lead to better, more cost-efficient, services delivery; and senior management unwillingness to change our existing business model which has been relatively successful so far.

When thinking about the overall Servitization Journey, the single-most commonly cited reason for moving forward on the Journey is centered around the ability to meet (or exceed) customers’ services expectations (i.e., cited by 46% as the top reason).

Most of the other cited reasons are clustered in the 10% to 18% range, including ability to improve our overall services delivery (18%), ability to price our services offerings more profitably (13%), ability to incorporate new technologies into our overall services delivery model (11%), and ability to streamline our services offerings (10%).

As was previously borne out in SFG℠’s 2019 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey Update, the primary factor driving FSOs in just about everything they do is the ability to meet and/or exceed their customers’ expectations for service. It is duly noted, however, that the 46% that cited this factor in the 2019 Servitization Journey survey (compared to only 10% to 18% for all other factors) reflects the greatest plurality attained thus far in any of SFG℠’s field service-related surveys conducted in recent years. As a result, we would suggest that the Servitization-oriented FSOs represent the most customer-focused organizations in the overall competitive landscape.

Presently, only one-quarter of respondents (25%) report that a majority of the customer equipment they support in the field is connected (i.e., via the Internet of Things/IoT). This leaves three-quarters (75%) for which less than half of the equipment they serve is presently connected.

However, these percentages are expected to flip-flop over the next five years (or sooner), as by 2024, a majority of the equipment supported in the field is projected to be connected (i.e., as cited by 57% of current survey respondents).

The most progressive FSOs today are represented by the one-in seven (i.e., 15%) that report at least 75% of the equipment they support as currently connected. However, this percent is also projected to more than double over the next five years to 31% anticipating supporting a majority-connected customer installed base.

Conversely, the number of respondents citing that less than one-quarter of their respective equipment bases are currently connected is projected to decline significantly, from 45% today, to only 18% by 2024 – a decrease of roughly 60%.

As such, the current survey results have painted a picture of a significantly transforming installed base of equipment, moving from a majority non-connected to connected within an approximate five year (or less) timeframe.

As Servitization continues to transform the field services industry, so, too, will the way in which services will likely be offered to the global services community. For example, today, 90% of service contracts are built on the basis of traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that focus on such parameters as on-site response time, number of scheduled preventive maintenance service calls, guaranteed uptime (i.e., with vendor sanctions for non-compliance), and the like.

However, within the next three to five years, this percent is expected to drop by more than 60% to roughly only one-quarter (26%) of all service contracts. Conversely, the percent of FSOs offering SLAs/contracts based on Outcomes/uptime, is projected to more than double, from 26% today, to 53% by 2022 – 2024. As such, this represents a total reversal of the way SLAs/contracts will be offered in the not-too-distant future.

It is also noted, however, that these findings reflect a greater – and most likely, a faster-moving – transition from relying on standard SLAs to moving toward Outcomes/uptime-based contracts (i.e., as initially quantified in the earlier-conducted 2019 FSM survey update).

There are a multitude of factors that may influence the perceptions of an organization’s current service model among survey respondents. However, changes in the industry (40%), growing customer pressure (39%) and new technology enablers (36%) appear to be the primary ones cited.

However, other factors may also play an important influencing role, including:

  • 29%  This is how we’ve always done it
  • 20%  Internal pressures from key stakeholders

Of the two, “This is the way we’ve always done it” may represent the most “dangerous” factor, as it does  not portend well for the organization if there is a “No need to fix it, since it’s not broken” approach to service delivery in general, and Servitization, in particular.

Survey respondents appear to have a clear and distinct view of how they feel specifically about Outcomes-based services contracts (i.e., there is little middle ground), as evidenced in their responses to the following set of statements.

The highest level of agreement (and the only response cited by a majority of respondents) is reflected for a single statement, with all of the remaining statements receiving far fewer “agree” responses, as follows:

  • 84%  Outcomes-based service represents a fundamental shift in service delivery
  • 42%  Our business will make a determination about outcomes-based service when there are more   successful use cases
  • 35%  We are confident that our business, headcount, and service apparatus can support an outcomes-  based service model
  • 24%  We are confident that our technology investments are sufficient to support an outcomes-based   service model
  • 10%  Our business has no interest in outcomes-based services

Still, the net-net responses suggest that while most respondents see Outcomes-based services as a “fundamental shift” in the way they have been doing business historically, levels of confidence in their ability to adapt remain relatively high (i.e., for a concept still in its infancy), and once they can garner more information, they will be better able to make a more informed (and, most likely, transformative) decision with respect to how best to proceed down the path to Servitization.

However, merely understanding – and agreeing with – the concept of Servitization is not even half of the battle! Once an organization embarks on the Servitization Journey, it will need to know what it takes to fully make the transformation – as well as how to position and price it in its relevant marketplace.

From the survey results, it is clear that two factors stand above all others with respect to their contribution to the organization’s overall pricing model. They are:

  • 62%  Projected total cost of service for the lifetime of a contract (i.e., service and associated costs)
  • 57%  Service history for client and asset types.

However, there are still two other factors that are also cited as key considerations by just under half of respondents, including:

  • 46%  Inventory and parts pricing
  • 44%  Competitor pricing

Finally, asset data sourced from connected devices (18%) rounds out the cited responses. Still, there are one-out-of-six respondents (16%) that claim, “We set pricing without any external guidance”. [Note: Please do not try this at home!]

Based on the results of SFG℠’s 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey, the key takeaways are:

  • Presently, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondent FSOs are operating service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), although there are still one-quarter (25%) that are operating as cost centers
  • Currently, more than one-quarter (28%) of FSOs are using an Outcomes-based model for service delivery and their Service Level Agreements (SLAs), compared to a virtual “zero” basis only two years earlier
  • A two-thirds (67%) majority of FSO respondents cite performance metrics (i.e., total output, time-on-task, utilization rate, etc.) as the principal factor they prefer using to gauge the success of their Outcomes-based service delivery model
  • Among those FSO respondents that have already adopted an Outcomes-based service model, at least one-third (33%) or more have realized significant improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including improved contract renewals (47%), improved technician performance (42%), increased predictive outcomes (36%) and an increase in net new business (33%)
  • Overall, there are seven technology platforms and solutions that are currently being used by a majority of FSOs, including three approaching a two-thirds (i.e., 67%) majority: contract management (65%), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) service module (64%), and Spare Parts/Inventory Management  (SP/IM) system (64%)
  • A majority of FSOs claim to currently be using a service management platform (i.e., FSM, or Enterprise Asset Management) (54%), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) (51%) to power their respective Servitization initiatives
  • The principal roadblock, as cited by a plurality of survey respondents at 26%, is obtaining management buy-in from the top, followed closely by the cost of introducing new technologies into existing services operations (23%)
  • When thinking about the overall Servitization Journey, the single-most commonly cited reason for moving forward on the Journey is centered around the ability to meet (or exceed) customers’ services expectations (i.e., cited by 46% as the top reason)
  • Presently, only one-quarter of respondents (25%) report that a majority of the customer equipment they support in the field is connected (i.e., via the Internet of Things/IoT); however, by 2024, this percent is projected to more than double, to 57%
  • Today, 90% of service contracts are built on the basis of traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that focus on such parameters as on-site response time, number of scheduled preventive maintenance service calls, guaranteed uptime (i.e., with vendor sanctions for non-compliance), and the like; however,  within the next three to five years, this percent is projected to drop by more than 60% to only 26%
  • Changes in the industry (40%), growing customer pressure (39%) and new technology enablers (36%) appear to be the primary factors influencing the perceptions of an organization’s current service model
  • Currently, 84% of FSO respondents believe that Outcomes-based service represents a fundamental shift in service delivery; and roughly half that amount (42%) have adopted a “wait and see” approach for making a determination about outcomes-based service until such time when there are more successful use cases to review and assess
  • It is clear that two factors stand above all others with respect to their contribution to the organization’s overall pricing model, including projected total cost of service for the lifetime of a contract (i.e., service and associated costs) (62%), and service history for client and asset types (57%)

Overall, the results from SFG℠’s 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey clearly reflect the great strides that the global services community has made in its move toward adopting Servitization in just the past two years alone. Most of the data collected and analyzed in the current survey appear to support the notion that the transition from a traditional services delivery model to one predicated on the concept of Servitization is apparently moving at an accelerating rate.

As a result, we strongly believe that the concept of Servitization – and the desire to move toward that business model – has built up quite a bit of momentum of late, and is likely to carry over throughout 2020 – and far beyond.