Running a Global Services Organization

Globalization is becoming the norm in the services industry. A market once content with relying on a local, regional – or even national – services organization is increasingly becoming even more reliant on a global support infrastructure. Continuing advances in technology and the proliferation of cloud-based Services Lifecycle Management (SLM) solutions have empowered even the smallest of services organizations with new and expanding possibilities to improve their global service and support operations.

For example, as a result of this trend, we have seen a growing customer demand for global service agreements that result in uniformity in the delivery of service to customers all around the world. In many cases, the unique local or regional service and support needs are rapidly disappearing for many customers who no longer wish to deal with local organizations anymore but, instead, are looking for consistency in global service and support performance, as well as (relative) uniformity in pricing across regional territories based on single contract negotiation.

Customer requirements for service and support will never be the same from one country to another, any more than they will be the same from one customer to another. However, one thing remains very clear – the requirements for service are becoming increasingly standardized on a global basis. A growing number of businesses are going global each year in terms of sales, marketing and services capabilities, supported not only by the proliferation of new Internet-based tools and multinational strategic partnering, but also by the increasing demand for global services and support as evidenced by the market as a whole. However, there are many key functions that will need to be consolidated into a global organization.

Another factor supporting the movement toward globalization is the ability to improve internal efficiency. In a typical decentralized organization, many functions are duplicated and performed independent from each other, which leads to increased communication efforts and differing ways of operating. We have seen organizations where product support documentation was developed by at least three different regional organizations, in some cases, providing conflicting information. For these organizations, operating on a more uniform basis would serve to both improve efficiency dramatically and, at the same time, provide a higher level of consistency in the way in which certain activities are performed. Through improved information and communication technology, new opportunities are also being created that allow services organizations to perform certain business functions more efficiently at a global level, while maintaining local control over their individual market segments.

A third factor supporting the case for globalization is the ability to reduce costs while maintaining or improving service level. The greatest area of opportunity involves the logistics operations where local policies have historically resulted in high investments in inventory, especially for slow moving items. Based on what we have seen in the industry, it makes sense to elevate certain of these functions to a global level in an effort to:

  • Meet customer requirements
  • Increase efficiency
  • Improve consistency

The details of each of these functions obviously will vary by company, but the basic functions do exist in virtually all of the companies in the services sector.

There are many functions that may be offered on a global basis

The best way to determine which functions can be offered on a global basis is to evaluate them from both an efficiency and consistency point of view. However, this does not mean that all tasks must be performed at a global level. Dependent on the individual situation, certain tasks may still be outsourced, or executed at the regional level. A good example is training, where the overall structure of the training programs and material should be consistent all around the world, although the courses can be fine-tuned and provided at regional or local training centers to reduce travel cost. Still, there will likely be increasing pressure on services providers to ramp up to their customers’ increasing global needs by offering a full range of global service and support solutions.

Among the principal functions that may be offered on a global basis are:

Business Development

The Service and Support function is critical for all businesses and has to be an integral part of the overall business strategy. For this reason, it is important to be actively involved in the planning activities that result in the development of a Service and Support Business Development Plan that addresses:

  • Service and Support product portfolio
  • Global marketing plans
  • Global Customer Care and Sales

This business function is most critical at the global level because it ties everything together and establishes a framework for setting the goals and objectives for the other parts of the organization.

Product Management

The Product Management function is also critical at the global level. Historically this function has been highly technology-oriented, and tied very closely both to the business’ development and manufacturing environment as well as its regional and local operations. With the implementation of global systems, this function can now be most efficiently managed at the global level. The function includes tasks such as:

  • Lifecycle management
  • Product documentation
  • Product analysis
  • Sustaining engineering

As stated earlier, the information and communications systems presently available allow for a faster and more reliable information flow to be managed at a central point, thereby requiring the need for only minimal additional investments in research and communications tools to support a global operation.

Logistics

The Logistics function probably represents the greatest opportunity from a cost reduction point of view. Historically each segment of the organization was responsible for its own planning and execution, which generally led to the implementation of multiple independent logistics systems requiring additional safety stock and a huge risk for obsolescence. Based on our consulting experiences, and supported by information culled from our ongoing surveys, creating a Global Logistics System, supported by the right automation systems, commonly reduces the inventory requirement by 20% – 30% without jeopardizing customer service levels.

At the same time, the risk for obsolescence is reduced which also creates additional cash for a company on the basis of lower reserves kept in the books. Dependent on the situation, most of the specific operational aspects of the logistics function may be outsourced to logistics service providers, which ultimately changes the focus of this function from one of execution to basically one of managing the function. At a global level, the Logistics function should include, at the very least:

  • Forecasting and inventory planning
  • Procurement
  • Repair management
  • Inventory control
  • Vendor management

The benefits of a global operation are obvious through the elimination of safety stock at all levels, automatic replenishment based on planning and forecasting, alliances with global parts and services vendors, etc.

Training

Training also needs to be consistent on a global basis. However, the development of good training programs and tools requires specific knowledge in addition to product knowledge. For this reason, it is most efficient to develop training programs at a global level, which will allow for specialization where required, and will improve the overall quality of the individual courses and material. This would encompass:

  • Customer training, and train-the-trainer
  • Technical and Partner training
  • Licensing (if services are outsourced to other companies)

Newer developments in training techniques via distance learning and the Internet are just an extra motivation to centralize this function at a global level.

Field Service

The Field Service function should also be managed on a regional or local level. The principal reasons are that labor restrictions and language barriers are still important geo-centric issues. The challenge is to determine what the appropriate service level should be from a management and support perspective (i.e., second/third line support).

In most situations a hybrid model may be developed where first-line support is provided at the local level, while second- and third-line support are concentrated at the regional or global level. Dependent on the specific type of business, the availability of new technology and expanding Internet capabilities may offer opportunities to increase operational efficiency in an environment where the location of the actual support person becomes less important.

Customer Support

The Customer Support function is a front-line function that is very dependent on the regional and local situation. Similar to the field service function, the level of centralization will be dependent on the local situation and culture. It remains important, however, to link all of these functions together via centralized automation systems and rolling out the appropriate communication systems to allow for local optimization.

Regional and local functions must also be carefully integrated


Because of key factors such as cultural differences, language barriers and the importance of a local presence, certain functions may still be best performed on a regional or local level. Although the trend is typically geared more toward the centralization of certain functions at a regional level (e.g., Pan-European, ASEAN) some cultures still require a local presence to do business. The challenge is to determine which front-line functions are absolutely necessary at the local level, and which can be combined at a higher geographic level.

Although some customers will do business on a global basis, the majority of sales will still occur at the local level, dependent on the culture of the region or country. Some markets might even have local requirements that point to a local sales function. However, all local sales functions supporting the business’ service and support products should be in line with the company’s global programs.

How does your organization get there?

Looking at each of these business functions and determining which can more effectively and efficiently performed at a global level is easy – you simply take a step back and apply some common sense, and the conclusion is almost the same for every business. However, in most cases, managers have to deal with an existing organization that has historically grown to where it is now operating on a non-global basis, and the change to a global environment is likely to greatly impact both the organizational structure, and all of the people in the organization.

In addition to these more tangible effects, there will also usually be many underlying issues that have to do with other, harder-to-define issues, such as philosophical and geo-political factors, changing roles and responsibilities, new reporting structures, etc. To address these issues, a careful approach will be necessary, and it might take some time.

The transition from a regionalized to a globally-managed operation is not easy. There will be a great deal of roadblocks that require attention, and the sensitivity of certain solutions will require a well-crafted and thought-out approach. For this reason it is generally helpful to seek assistance and support from an external party to manage the overall effort and ensure the development of the most appropriate global business model.

Are You Successfully Managing Your Customer Relationships?

Most service technicians have at least a fair understanding of who their customers are, and what kinds of relationships the business has with them. However, even the “good” technicians are often deficient in their full understanding of exactly how to manage those relationships. (Remember – these are the three key elements of CRM: customers, relationships, and management.)

In some cases, it may be that the technician has the basic understanding – but not the tools – to fully manage his or her customer relationships. In other cases, the technician may have neither the tools, nor the understanding, to make it work. Of course, the latter is the worse of the two scenarios, although in either case, it is abundantly clear that without proper management (i.e., M), there can be no “real” relationships (i.e., R) and, ultimately, there will be no customers (i.e., and C)! There is no question about it -–  services organizations cannot afford to let management be the weak link in their customer relationships – and neither can you.

Managing your customer relationships is comparable to managing any other aspect of your business – with the one main difference being that successful execution will be a critical component of your overall performance evaluation. If you do not manage your customer relationships effectively, you will still have your customers to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and you will definitely have relationships with them – although they may be bad ones, or ones that will ultimately make your own day-to-day job that much more difficult to handle. This is why every service technician out in the field needs to pay a considerable amount of attention to the management of their customers – to foster the most optimum relationships possible with them, thereby making everybody’s job that much easier.

We have seen many organizations implement a CRM software package from a major CRM vendor and think that they now have everything in place to effectively manage their customers. However, many of them have yet to see the desired return on their investment because the CRM solution will only work if it is integrated into all aspects of the business – particularly those areas that directly “touch” the customers, such as field service and technical support.

To improve your own chances for success, and to be able to manage your own customers better, you will first need to:

  • Start with a solid customer-focused CRM philosophy;
  • Translate this philosophy into reasonable and achievable goals and objectives for success;
  • Understand the processes and tools that you have available;
  • Become aware of the data and information resources available to you; and
  • Prepare yourself to utilize all of the resources that your company’s organization and infrastructure provides.

You will also need to be able to measure and monitor your performance over time to ensure that you are continually meeting your goals.

Let me explain further.

CRM Philosophy

The impact of technology, the “real-time” accessibility of data and information directly off of the Internet; and instant access to e-mails, texts, tweets and cell phone calls; has given all of us the tools we need to manage our customer relationships much more quickly and efficiently than ever before. But these tools will only work for us if we use them to a dedicated purpose – and use them effectively.

Ultimately, everything we do, we do for our customers. Given that we already have a good understanding of their specific services and needs requirements, we should just naturally attune ourselves to provide them with any of the information they need as quickly as we receive it ourselves. We already know what they want; now it is time to deliver it as quickly and completely as possible. They expect it from us, and they will settle for nothing less. We have the tools and empowerment to support them completely, and the philosophy of CRM demands that we do so.

Goals and Objectives

The next step is to translate your personal understanding of the CRM philosophy into specific goals and objectives for the way in which you would like to manage your customer relationships. At the individual level, you may wish to set your own CRM goals and objectives for key things such as:

  • Communicating with your customers better – and more frequently (i.e., utilizing the LOTS approach as much as possible);
  • Providing those customers who require more detailed information with the level of detail they require;
  • Following-up quicker, particularly for specific customers and/or problems that require immediate attention or quick resolution;
  • Taking better notes to ensure that you never walk into a customer site either unprepared, or uninformed;
  • Taking advantage of all of the internal company tools and resources available (i.e., company memoranda, e-mails, newsletters, customer/equipment databases, documentation, etc.);
  • Taking additional technical and/or customer service training courses to improve your existing skill sets; and
  • Taking whatever steps are necessary to improve your ability to get your job done, and manage your customer relationships better.

Processes and Tools

In most situations, your company will already have a defined set of business processes and tools readily available for your use. These may include anything from the more traditional resources (e.g., product documentation, hardware specs, repair guidelines, on-site policies and procedures, etc.), to the availability of more sophisticated real-time customer and installed equipment databases, Web-based technical support, and the like. Use these resources as a matter of course; they have been designed to help you, and they will – if you use them.

Data and Information

Information is the key to successful CRM, and is also crucial for the ultimate success of your own customer service performance. Just remember, the majority of the data and information your company makes available to you will essentially be “global” in nature, and may not be as customer-specific as you would probably like. This is why it is so important to collect your own customer data and information on a regular basis, to augment what you already receive from the company. Again, this does not have to be a formal database – just an aggregation of important notes, comments, and observations that will ultimately help you to understand your customers better, and improve your ability to provide them with the best technical support and customer service possible.

Organization and Infrastructure

Whether the company you work for is large or small, it is probably fairly well organized and comprised of a formal infrastructure designed to support you and your peers out in the field. Take advantage of this infrastructure by getting to know all of the resources that are available, how you may gain easy access to them, and how you may use them to support your customers. This may require attending internal company seminars or workshops, or simply asking questions of your supervisors or managers with respect to what resources they feel would be of value to you.

Also, make sure you’ve read all of the internal memoranda and e-mails you receive so you can be continually updated on any internal changes that may ultimately impact you and your customers. The more lead time you have with respect to any impending changes, the easier it will be to deal with them at the customer level.

Monitoring and Tracking

Last, but not least, the key to your own success in implementing your CRM philosophy will be your ability to monitor and track your own performance over time – you cannot manage it, if you don’t measure it! This is why it is so important to set specific goals and objectives in advance. For example, one goal might be to reduce the number of complaints your manager receives each month from customers regarding your on-site performance; or increase the number of monthly commendations you receive. Another goal might be to work toward responding to all customer inquiries within 24 hours rather than in two days or more. There are many other goals that you can set as well, based on your own personal experience in the field; but, whatever the goals, make sure that you can measure, monitor, and track them over time to see whether you are truly making any improvements.

All of the efforts you put into managing your customer relationships better will ultimately bear fruit if you are sincere – and serious – about succeeding. You will be amazed at how much valuable information you can obtain directly from the input and feedback you receive from your customers if you build the proper two-way communications channels between you and them.

CRM does not need to be a complex exercise. It is not “rocket science” – it is just managing the relationships you already have with your customers better. Sometimes you will need to go “outside the box” to find all of the tools and resources that will make it work, and you will almost always need some outside help to get started, or to take your understanding of CRM to the next level.

CRM is not just for the mild-mannered, nor is it strictly for the progressive over-achievers. It is for every employee that deals with customers – and within your own organization, this will probably apply to you most of all.

Understanding Your Role in Providing “Total” Service and Support to the Customer

If your organization already has a good understanding of the unique needs and requirements of each of the individual customer segments in serves (and shares some of this information with you), this will be of great value to you in terms of your ability to support your customers with a “total service and support solution”. However, the ability to promote and sell the appropriate portfolio of products and services to your customers is also of equal importance, but may require additional expertise and selling tools in order for you to ultimately be successful.

Accordingly, we have developed the following set of “five rules” for being successful when promoting, selling – and delivering – “total service and support” to your customer segments. The five (5) rules for ensuring that you are adequately prepared to address the key product and services selling points for each of the customer segments you serve are:

1.  “Develop a personal marketing, promotional, and sales approach designed to reflect a focused commitment to the individual accounts you support, rather than one which is perceived to be too general in scope”

While your organization may have all of the products, services, and resources necessary to support multiple customer segments, most of your customers will only be interested in what you have offer to their specific vertical segment. Typically, banks won’t be very interested in what products, services, and support you are providing to hospitals, and vice versa.

The most effective marketing and promotional messages that you can provide your customers will be those that are perceived to be directly relevant to the unique needs and requirements of the systems and equipment users in their own vertical segment – and this generally requires the availability of segment-specific marketing and promotional collateral from your company, combined with a good knowledge of each customer segment yourself, to get the proper messages across.

In some cases, you may already be part of a dedicated vertical industry segment sales and service force; but, in most cases, you are probably positioned primarily as a systems and equipment generalist. For the most part, your greatest marketing, promotional, and sales successes will occur in those circumstances where you can show your customer accounts that you really understand their specific-specific needs and requirements, because you really understand the type of business they are in – as well as how they use their systems and equipment to support their overall business operations.

The best way to convince an account in a particular segment that you truly understand their unique needs and requirements is to have a personal arsenal of segment-specific marketing, promotional, and sales tools (and whatever company marketing collateral is available) to show them.

2.  “If you can provide information on a full array of products, services and support to your customers, you will become much more important them”

Research has confirmed the importance that your company provides customers with a “total” product, service and support solution. Further, most customers do not care whether your company ultimately provides them with this total solution directly, or through the use of authorized dealers/distributors, qualified subcontractors, or strategic alliance partners – they simply care that they are able to get a total solution from a single vendor, and that everything can be managed through a single point of contact – in some cases, you!

Once you are able to prove to your customers that you (as a representative of your company) can provide them with a total business imaging service and support solution, they will quickly learn that they can rely on you for all of their future product, service, and support needs; however, if they believe that you are unable (or unwilling) to do so, they are more likely to begin to look for another vendor that can.

3.  “If you already have the capabilities to be a total service and support provider to your customers today, you must still ensure that you can grow along with their needs and requirements for service and support tomorrow”

Field technicians that are perceived to already have all of the skills, training, and capabilities to support the total services needs and requirements of their customer accounts today will be more likely to be depended upon by their customers to support their evolving, expanding, and/or changing needs in the future. However, the best way to ensure the likelihood of a long-term relationship with your customers is to show them that you personally understand their evolving needs, and that you are continually taking steps to grow along with them (i.e., attending additional training seminars or workshops, going for addition certifications, reading up on new business imaging applications in their specific industry segment, etc.).

It is also important to be able to position yourself to meet your customers’ changing needs as they grow through merger or acquisition, reorganization, business process re-engineering, or any other types of corporate maneuvering. Simply knowing each customer segment’s unique set of acronyms, “buzz” words, and key industry players will not assure you of their trust and dependence – but it will certainly help in your ability to articulate and communicate your commitment to users like them, in the industry segments they serve.

4.  “If you are not perceived as being a total solution provider to your customers today, they may look elsewhere for a total provider in the future”

Increasingly, customers are looking for suppliers (and field technicians) that can provide a broad range of value-added services and support in addition to traditional products and services. The most successful suppliers will be those that are able to provide “enhanced” levels of customer service and support (e.g., professional services, training, consulting, applications engineering, etc.), as desired. And while you may not have either the training or charter to provide these things to your customers yourself, you will need to at least have a strong understanding – backed up by the appropriate leave-behind information – to let them know what is available from your company.

Not all of your customers require a full range of service and support today; but, over time, many of these additional support options are likely to become more attractive to them, and you will be depended on to pass this information to them at just the right time – whether they have specifically asked for it, or not. The fact that your company may already have some of these value-added services included in its portfolio  – and that you are prepared to provide additional information, or speak about them, whenever they are ready – will give some of your customers an extra measure of “comfort” in knowing that you will probably be prepared to provide them with total service and support solutions in the future, as their needs grow.

5.  “If you are already able to offer customers in highly demanding segments what they want today, it will be easier for you to meet their needs tomorrow”

Customers in highly demanding segments (i.e., medical/healthcare, financial services, government/security, etc.) are constantly looking for credible providers that can act as a single source of products, services and support, either as a direct provider, or as a prime vendor. Furthermore, customers in these highly demanding segments generally tend to be acutely aware of how difficult it is for some vendors to meet their mission-critical needs.

Most believe they would benefit from finding a single organization – fronted by one or two specific individuals (e.g., their sales/account representative and service technician, for example) – that could serve as the catalysts that can provide them with the full range of products, services, and support they will require over the long haul. The ability of your organization (and you) to offer everything the customers in these highly demanding segments need would represent the ultimate “value-in-use” product, service and support offering.

The most successful providers in any individual customer segment will ultimately be the ones that are best positioned as the primary source of “total” systems and equipment support solutions by either having the ability to deliver the required products and services directly, or to manage other providers as part of a total support offering to the segment. However, in order for this to be successful, your company’s “portfolio” must also be supplemented by the presence of strong sales, service, and field support personnel (again, including yourself) that reflect its true commitment to the total understanding of – and responsiveness to – the unique services needs and requirements of both the segment itself, and the individual customers that comprise it.

Choosing the Right Technology Is Only Half the Battle to Managing Your Services Lifecycle

Technology isn’t new – it’s what makes things new. It’s like that old BASF television commercial – “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products you buy better“. Well, when it comes to Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), technology is the primary tool you can use to make the services you sell better – but there’s much more to it than just the technology!

One of the greatest opportunities we have in the services sector is the ability to use technology as an enabler to make our offerings better. R&D is used all the time to make products better; but for most product manufacturers, R&D typically takes years, costs tons of money, and involves a great deal of rebranding and market re-positioning. The advantage we have in the services sector is that we generally have a much faster turnaround, and it’s far easier to improve our existing service offerings than it is to, say, reengineer an entire product line.

However, one of the greatest fallacies in the services business is that if you simply embed technology, you’ll be in a better position just for the sake of having done so – that you’ll automatically be able to make your customers happier, and you’ll make more money. But that isn’t always true. If all you’ve got is an old, archaic services delivery model, and you apply the newest technology to it, you’ll just end up with a quicker, more automated, archaic system – but not necessarily a better one.

What we have found is that only by applying the right technology, to the right functions and applications, will you be able to provide your customers with exactly what they want, when they want it, and all the while reducing your internal costs, and ultimately keeping both your customers – and your CFO – happy!

There have been some stunning examples of the misapplication of SLM technology over the years involving businesses that have implemented “brand name” technology just for the sake of implementing technology. They have built some enormous infrastructures – state-of-the-art – but as impressive as they may have initially appeared on paper, they generally end up being only anecdotal to what the real mission of the business is in the marketplace. Even with all the technology they have put into place, they’re still not running efficiently! They didn’t “get it” before they implemented the new technology, and they still don’t “get it” – they’re just more automated than they were before.

The sad thing is – what should have been a tremendous business transformation opportunity for them, generally turns out – instead – to be nothing more than an expensive technology implementation with no real value-add to either the organization’s business operations – or its competitive market position. And, this is sad, because, in most cases, they’ve spent a great deal of time – and money – for the technology, but without any plan for how to actually use it. So all of their time and money spent ends up going for naught. That’s why technology without a purpose is just an expensive – and disruptive – toy. But technology – with a plan – will undoubtedly yield some positive results for those who know what to do with it.

But technology is not the only thing that a services organization needs in order to succeed – and thrive. There are many other things that are also needed to make it strong – and successful – in the marketplace. It certainly needs people, because without people, it has no “face” to show its customers.

However, in recent years, an organization’s “face” may no longer be merely visual. In fact, what has historically been the service provider’s “face” is increasingly being transformed into a “voice” – and that voice, text or chat doesn’t only have to be located right here in the United States. It can – and is increasingly being – distributed all over the world, regardless of where the organization’s customers are actually located themselves. People will always be important to services organizations; but where they’re located – and who signs their checks – may be quite different tomorrow than they are today.

Services organizations also need customers. It’s a fact of life – without customers, they’ve got no one to sell their products and services to – no one to complete the transaction. However, the days are long since gone for when manufacturers would only support those customers that had purchased their products. Today, not only do most services providers support multi-vendor products, but they also find themselves selling services to completely different types of customers, such as consortiums, group purchasing organizations, and other “new” types of buyers.

Services organizations also need infrastructure – both in terms of organization and operations – in order to ensure that the transactions between their people and their customers are executed and managed effectively. To run their operations efficiently, services organizations must also have the right mix of business processes, policies, and procedures to provide the levels of support that are required – and expected – by customers.

Each and every one of these needs – at first blush – may look to be standalone, independent elements that all organizations face; but, there is a common thread that runs between and among all of them – and that is technology. Technology is the great facilitator – the great expediter that ties everything together: the people, the customers, the infrastructure, and the processes – and it is the one element that most directly impacts all of the others.

It impacts the people, because it empowers them to do things that they would not otherwise be able to do on their own – that is, without the latest IT systems, communications, or software applications. It impacts the customer, because it allows the services providers to deliver the levels of support that are expected, and empowers the customers to assume some of the management and accountability that may go along with it. It impacts the infrastructure, because it ties together all of the otherwise separate and distinct components of the business that now need to “communicate” with one another – generally on a “real-time” basis.

However, technology, in and of itself, has no value. If it isn’t being used effectively, it adds no real value to the organization. But, if it is being used effectively, it can be the single greatest empowering tool that any organization can have – empowering people, supporting customers, and facilitating the infrastructure to get the job done.

Technology also enables us to do things we never dreamed we could do. Services providers can now resolve equipment problems either remotely, on-site, by phone, over the Web, through social media or through any combination thereof. They can wait to hear from the customer before initiating the “fix”, or they can fix the problem before the customer even knows there is a problem. They can fix the problem themselves, or they can partner with others to get the job done. Services providers have many alternatives to accommodate their customers’ needs, and customers have their choices, as well.

Even last year’s technology may just not cut it anymore in today’s business environment – certainly not in a segment that is as demanding as the services industry. The technology that abounds today runs circles around yesterday’s technology – and it is almost frightening to think about what tomorrow’s technology will bring to the table. But what’s even more frightening, is where your organization will be if it doesn’t also evolve technologically along with the times – and the demands – of the marketplace.

Service Is a Global Concept

Customer requirements for service and support will never be the same from one country to another, any more than they will be the same from one customer to another. However, one thing remains very clear – the requirements for service are becoming increasingly standardized, even on a global basis.

This is particularly true as more and more local companies are going regional, regional companies are going national, and national companies are going international in terms of sales, marketing and services capabilities.

Just a few years ago, only the largest services organizations had credible worldwide service and support portfolios. However, today, mainly through the proliferation of Cloud-based technologies; Internet, tablet and social media tools; and the use of strategic alliance partners, even the small and medium-sized services organizations are finding themselves empowered to support their customers on a global basis.

Still, the perceptions of what it might take to be a “world class” services provider remain inconsistent even among some of the most sophisticated vendors. For example, while some services providers may believe that their mission-critical customers in Europe require exactly the same level of support as their mission-critical customers in the United States – nothing more, nothing less; there are still others who believe that the only differences between required levels of service in the U.S. and the UK are the substitution of an “s” for a “z”, and an occasional “u” stuck inbetween an “o” and an “r”. However, regardless of each individual organization’s approach or perceptions, it can safely be said that services requirements are both every bit the same, and every bit different, in each corner of the globe.

Further, many services providers in the United States have discovered over the past several years that there is more than one language spoken in global service. This was a lesson learned years earlier by most European and Asian providers, as well as by Canadian services organizations that have been dealing with bilingual support for decades. However, the globalization of service and support refers to much more than simply language differences – it must also focus on the cultural, economic and business differences that are manifested in varying forms all over the world.

As most individual businesses continue to grow larger, and larger businesses continue to acquire, merge and consolidate, there will be increasing pressure on services providers to grow along with their customers’ needs for a broader and more sophisticated range of services – both in terms of breadth and scope (e.g., a full array of professional services in addition to traditional break/fix and help desk support, etc.) and geographic coverage (e.g., cross-border capabilities). The conventional wisdom is that some of the services providers that presently offer very high levels of service and support, but only among the basic, or “core”, types of services, or only in a limited geographic area, may actually end up losing out to other, less high performing providers that offer a wider array of services over a larger geographic (i.e., global) area.

The general rule of thumb is often, “why settle for varying or erratic levels of service and support over the whole of our enterprise by relying on the use of multiple vendors, when we can ensure a more standardized mode of delivery – all at satisfactory levels – provided across our entire system?” While the former mode of service delivery may range from “excellent” to “average” depending on the type of service provided, or the location of the end user, the latter mode generally ensures that, at least, there will be consistent levels of service provided enterprisewide – i.e., with no geo-by-geo “surprises”.

In today’s services environment, the true measure of a provider’s ability to adapt to its marketplace is no longer answered strictly in terms of how well it can deliver different types of support to different types of customers, but in how well it can provide desired levels of service and support to each of its customers, regardless of their size, industry segment or geographical location. This requires a full understanding of both its individual customer bases and the global marketplace, and can only be successfully addressed through a painstaking effort to learn to know each market better – that is, better than the knowledge that was previously available, and better than the competition.

The word “global” should no longer simply conjure up images of field technicians trudging through the wilds of the Great Australian Outback, or cross-country skiing through a harsh Canadian winter terrain (although this may also be the case from time to time), nor should it be interpreted solely as fostering a company mentality of trying to be “all things to all parties”.

Rather, “global” should be defined as “offering the full complement of desired services and support, either directly or through strategic services partnerships, to support the enterprisewide needs of the customer.”

It has taken the services industry the last century to get to the point where it is today. However, it will be around this definition of “global” service and support that the future of the industry will be based. Where it will ultimately take us will, as always, be heavily dependent on how the services marketplace believes its providers are responding to its “global” needs.

What’s in a Name (Part 2): What Type of Solution Are You Using to Manage Services Operations?

Only a small percentage of us in the global services community can remember way back when our organization’s services operations were powered simply by solutions known as Field Services Management Systems, or FSMS. Shortly thereafter, following the introduction of Depot Repair service offerings, most solutions providers dropped the “F”, rallying around the shortened acronym of SMS, standing for Service Management Systems.

Throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s, many providers offered their solutions via an increasing number of “new” names or acronyms, ranging from Customer Interaction Systems (CIS), to Customer Facing Systems (CFS), to … well, just about anything else you could think of. The acronym soup was clearly being served to the industry.

Sometime in 1995, Gartner was largely acknowledged as being the creator of the term “Customer Relationship Management”, or CRM – the name and acronym still most widely used today to serve as an umbrella over all major aspects of services management.

However, today, there are even newer names and acronyms being used – oftentimes for similar, if not identical – services management solutions. Among the more popular are: Services Lifecycle Management, or SLM (with or without the “s”); Customer Experience Management, or CEM; Customer Experience and Service Management, or CESM; and, I am sure, still others.

SLM ties in nicely with PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management; and CEM brings services management and sales management closer together. CESM … well, let’s just say that in today’s attention-deficit culture, we don’t really need another 4-digit acronym anymore (i.e., even ADD only has 3 digits!).

So, where does that bring us today? Despite the fact that CRM has already spawned other like-sounding acronyms, including VRM (Vendor Relationship Management), PRM (Partner Relationship Management) and DRM (Device Relationship Management), I still like CSDP’s “Service Relationship Management” – the name under which all of the company’s services management offerings reside.

CSDP uses its copyrighted SRM© nomenclature to house all of its field service, reverse logistics, customer service and end-to-end service management solutions. And, this is not just a new way in which the company is trying to cash in on the CRM terminology – it actually copyrighted the term back in 2008!

According to Christina Wilczewski, Senior Marketing Manager at CSDP, “We’ve built all of our solutions offerings under the Service Relationship Management, or SRM, banner because we believe in the power of delivering service excellence. You can’t maintain strong customer relationships if your technicians don’t have the right parts or have limited or no access to customer history, knowledge management tools, or what services the customer is entitled to receive. That’s why our software spans the entire service delivery lifecycle, including Field Service, Reverse Logistics and Customer Support so all services interactions can be coordinated. And in the end, when customers are happy, companies see it in their bottom line.”

So, whether you call it SRM, SLM, VRM, PLM – or whatever – one of the following two things should be perfectly clear:

a.    If you’re a services management solutions provider, you need to offer it; or

b.    If you’re a services organization, you need to use it!

And, it needs to be comprised of the full complement of services management tools that are required to effectively – and efficiently – run your services operations.

So, what’s in a name? Why don’t you share with us the name you believe serves as the best all-encompassing label for the various types of applications and functionalities required to manage your company’s services operations. We’d love to hear your suggestions!

Oh … and by the way, please try to keep it to only a 3-character acronym, if you can!