Market Outlook: The Impact of the Convergence of Field Service and the Internet of Things

[Excerpt from our upcoming Feature Article in the April 2017 issue of Field Service News.]

There have been myriad times in recent years when a new technology seems to control the conversation in the business world – and, particularly, in the services sector. And, field service is typically one of the first areas where customers and users catch their first glimpse and initial understanding of what each of these “new” technologies can do for the industry. However, it usually takes a while longer before they truly understand what these new technologies can do specifically for their respective organisations.

Many of these new technologies enter the mainstream of the business world – and the global services community – after some initial fanfare, trade press, blogs, tweets and white papers, etc. However, most of them will actually take years to be fully accepted and deployed via a more staggered and drawn-out basis over a lengthy period of time. For example, 10 to 15 years ago, RFIDs were all the rage, with seemingly every article and white paper talking about the potential use of RFIDs for everything from tracking parts shipments, to identifying personal items that consumers send to the dry cleaner for laundering.

The evolution of RFIDs, however, was fairly steady to the point of almost being modestly linear over the next decade and a half. But, fast forward to 2017, and Tesla Inc. founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has recently announced the formation a new company, Neuralink Corp., which The Wall Street Journal describes as a “medical research” company that plans to build technology “through which computers could merge with human brains”, essentially using embedded chips to upload and download thoughts directly from humans. In less than a couple of decades, RFIDs went from the “talk of the town”; to a backdrop of steady (albeit non-glitzy) market adoption and deployment; to a virtual science fiction-like catalyst between the technology of today and the advanced future.

That is why the introduction and accelerating proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in field service is such a big deal. Because, as most industry analysts tend to agree, the projected growth path for the full integration and convergence of the IoT into the global services community – particularly in field service – are stunning!

[Watch for the complete article, including findings from SFG‘s 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, in the April 2017 issue of Field Service News. I’ll also be presenting some toppling data as part of my opening Keynote at the 2017 Field Service Summit in Coventry, UK, on April 11, 2017.]

Bill Pollock to Conduct Workshop at the 13th Annual Warranty Chain Management Conference in Tucson AZ, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bill Pollock, president & principal consulting analyst at Strategies For Growth℠, to conduct Workshop on the topic of “Transforming Warranty Management Into Improved Customer Satisfaction and Revenue Generation”, Tuesday, March 6, at the 2017 WCM Conference in Tucson, AZ

[Reprinted/Edited from the February 16, 2017 issue of Warranty Week]

From March 7 – 9, 2017, warranty professionals will gather in Tucson, Arizona, for the 13th annual Warranty Chain Management Conference. And as always, the opening day is taken up by a series of pre-conference workshops.

Many times, at past conferences, people arrive too late to attend any of the workshops, but wish they had. So while there’s still time for attendees to switch to an earlier flight, we wanted to provide some detail about what’s on offer.

This year, there will be six workshops — three in the morning and three in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 7. They’ll be followed by a welcome reception in the evening, and then the main conference proceeds on Wednesday and Thursday.

What these workshops provide is a deep dive into a single topic, such as transforming effective warranty management into improved customer satisfaction and the bottom line. They’re run by experts in the field, but the attendees are from all levels. And what they all know is the fundamental value of conferences like these: none of this material can be learned from books.

Bill Pollock‘s workshop is one of the three workshops scheduled for 9 AM to 12 noon, MST.

 

Raising Customer Satisfaction Levels

Pollock’s workshop is entitled, “Transforming Warranty Management Into Improved Customer Satisfaction and Revenue Generation“.

Pollock, who is a repeat presenter of WCM workshops, said he’s aiming this year’s presentation at managers and executives who need to improve customer satisfaction, drive revenues, and gain competitive advantage through improved warranty management.

“The perfect attendee would be anyone who deals both internally and externally with customer satisfaction, revenue generation, revenue management, or sales and marketing,” he said. “They’re the people who have the mandate — all their merit increases, their bonuses, are going to be dependent on how efficiently they run their part of the warranty management organization.”

Pollock said companies want to see both a contribution to the bottom line and an improvement in customer satisfaction levels. “But they’re almost diametrically opposed to one another,” he said. Deny more claims and satisfaction drops. Approve more claims and profits drop. So there has to be another way: increase revenue.

“One of the best things you can do to improve your revenue stream and to satisfy customers is to focus on warranty management, contract renewals, and attachment rates,” Pollock said. “You’re going to have increased revenues, and they’re going to be more predictable.”

Once the revenue increases, the money can be invested in automating and improving processes, which will ultimately raise customer satisfaction levels, Pollock explained. The goal is to turn a warranty claim into a more pleasant encounter for the customer, rather than adding insult on top of the injury.

“If you can’t make them feel better virtually immediately, then you’re going to allow a bad situation to get even worse,” he said. “What you need to do is build a warranty management program that can generate increased revenue, then take that revenue and spend it on improving the processes.”

Pollock said his advice is backed up by surveys he’s conducted both recently and in years past. “The first part of the workshop is going to be me presenting what best practices organizations are doing that are different from what the average organization is doing. But we also introduced some new questions into the survey this year,” he said, such as whether your organization has recently upgraded its warranty management solution. “What we’re finding is that there’s a big difference,” he said, in metrics such as claims processing time, service profitability, and supplier recovery rates.

More basically, Pollock said, the companies that recently upgraded their warranty management solutions are better not only at measuring themselves, but also at reporting the improved metrics. “Now, through more automated processes, through the cloud, powered by the Internet of things, you can build algorithms that allow you to more quickly identify than ever before, what’s really making a difference,” he said.

For more information on this workshop, or to register for the 2017 WCM Conference, please visit the conference website at: http://www.warrantyconference.com

Looking forward to seeing you in Tucson!

Bill

Strategies For Growth℠ Announces March 1, 2017 Warranty Management Webcast, to be Hosted by Tavant Technologies

Westtown, PA., February 16, 2017 – Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst, Strategies for Growth℠ (SFG℠), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based research and consulting organization, today announced its upcoming Webcast entitled, “How the Right Warranty Management Solution Can Help Improve Your Organization’s Bottom Line!“, largely based on the findings from the firm’s third annual Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey Update.

The Webcast will be hosted by Tavant Technologies, “the world leader in providing Warranty Management Solutions”, and will be held on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST. A complimentary White Paper will also be available for download by Webcast registrants at that time.

According to Pollock, “The findings from Strategies For Growth℠’s 2017 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey clearly reveal that services organizations that have acquired and/or upgraded their Warranty Management solutions within the past three years have begun to see significant improvements among key factors contributing to their respective bottom lines.”

“For example, since the acquisition or upgrade of their Warranty Management solutions, these organizations have realized:

  • A 9% improvement in Warranty Claims Processing Times (and are now processing their claims at a rate more than twice as fast as all others); and
  • A 6% improvement in Supplier/Vendor Recovery (as a percent of total warranty expenses).”

Led by Pollock, this Webcast will focus on the specific challenges that Warranty Management organizations are facing, the strategic actions they are taking to address those challenges, the technologies they are using, and the key drivers that are pushing them to strive toward Best Practices status. The importance of warranty analytics and the establishment of an effective Key Performance Indicator (KPI) program will also be addressed.

The Webcast is intended to provide Warranty Chain managers with the guidance they will need to build an effective Warranty Management operation that can take them to the next level with respect to increased revenue generation and improved customer satisfaction. Among the key areas to be addressed are:

  • What Best Practices Warranty Management Organizations are doing to attain the highest levels of Customer Satisfaction, Warranty Claims Processing Times and Service Profitability
  • What drives these organizations to aspire to higher levels of performance, and what challenges they are likely to be face along the way
  • How to emulate the strategic and tactical actions presently being taken and/or planned by these leading Warranty Services organizations

To register for the Webcast, simply click on the following Weblink: http://info.tavant.com/WCM_Warranty_Webinar_2017.html.

Also, please be sure to watch for more information from the SFG℠ survey results in upcoming issues of Warranty Week: http://www.warrantyweek.com.

About the Presenter

Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and services consulting firm he founded in 1992. In 2015/2016, Bill was named “One of the Twenty Most Influential People in Field Service” by Field Service News (UK); one of Capterra’s “20 Excellent Field Service Twitter Accounts”; and one of Coresystems’ “Top 10 Field Service Influencers to Follow”. He writes monthly features for Field Service News and Field Service Digital, and is a regular contributor to Field Technologies Online and Warranty Week. Bill may be reached at +(610) 399-9717, or via email at wkp@s4growth.com. Bill’s blog is accessible @PollockOnService and via Twitter @SFGOnService.

About Tavant Technologies

Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Tavant Technologies is a specialized software solutions and services provider that provides impactful results to its customers across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Founded in 2000, the company employs over 2,000 people and is a recognized top employer. Tavant is the world leader in providing Warranty Management Solutions. The company offers ‘Tavant Warranty’ – a globally leading, complete service lifecycle – on premise warranty management software and, ‘Tavant Warranty On-Demand’, The only 100% native warranty management system on Salesforce. Find Tavant Technologies at www.Tavant.com, and on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Strategies For Growth Announces Launch of Its Third Annual Warranty Management Benchmark Survey Update and Workshop Session

Westtown, PA., January 19, 2017 – Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst, Strategies for GrowthSM (SFGSM), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based research and consulting organization, today announced the launch of the firm’s third annual Warranty Management Benchmark Survey Update.

The survey will be running “live” through the third week of February, and a summary of the results will be presented as part of Pollock’s Pre-Conference Workshop Session at the 2017 Warranty Chain Management (WCM) Conference to be held on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, in Tucson, Arizona. The two-day WCM Conference itself will follow on March 8 – 9, 2017.

Pollock’s Workshop Session, entitled “Leveraging Effective Warranty Management into Improved Customer Satisfaction and Profitability”, will share both information and guidance based on insights derived from the data collected from the more than 100 Warranty Services professionals who are expected to take part in SFGSM‘s 2017 Warranty Management Benchmark Survey Update.

According to Pollock, who also blogs regularly via his www.PollockOnService.com Blogsite, “Research like this makes for invaluable assets that are foundational to organizational best practices with regard to warranty chain management. In this session we will share findings from our 2017 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey Update that identify the top drivers, strategic actions, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and emerging technologies that are pushing Warranty Management Organizations to aspire to attain higher levels of performance.”

Led by Pollock, the Workshop Session will present fresh insights on the current state of the Warranty Chain Management industry, and how Best Practices services organizations are able to differentiate themselves from all others. The session will also help participants learn:

  • What Services Organizations are doing to attain Best Practices status with respect to Warranty Chain Management
  • What leading Warranty Services Organizations are doing to attain the highest levels of Customer Satisfaction and Service Profitability
  • What is driving the Warranty Services market to aspire to higher levels of performance, and what challenges they are likely to face in doing so
  • How to emulate the strategic and tactical actions presently being taken and/or planned by the leading Warranty Services organizations

To participate in SFGSM‘s 2017 Warranty Management Benchmark Survey Update, respondents may simply click on the following Weblink: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2017SFGWCM.

All participants that provide their name, title, company, e-mail address and phone number, will also receive a link to a complimentary copy of the Executive Summary, to be made available shortly following the WCM Conference.

For more information, or to register for Pollock’s Workshop Session, please visit the 2017 WCM Conference website at: www.warrantyconference.com.

Also, please be sure to watch for more information from the SFGSM survey results in upcoming issues of Warranty Week: www.warrantyweek.com.

Transforming Market Research into Customer Satisfaction and Retention

Leveraging Market Research into Customer Satisfaction

Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary defines market research as ”the investigation and analysis of consumer needs and opinions about goods and services”. However, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, market research is defined more as “the gathering and evaluation of data regarding consumers’ preferences for products and services.” Thefreedictionary.com complicates matters by defining it as “research that gathers and analyzes information about the moving of good(s) or services from producer to consumer”.

While the three of these distinguished resources provide different “takes” on what market research really is, we prefer to define it essentially as the sum of all three, taking into consideration each of the implicitly stated nuances, by defining it as: “the data collection, analysis and assessment relating to customer needs, requirements, preferences, expectations and perceptions with respect to the goods and services they acquire and use”. In this way, we believe that market research can always be relied on as a tool to support a service organization’s ability to measure, gauge and assess what it will take to understand its customers – and ultimately keep them satisfied and loyal.

We prefer to define Market Research as the data collection, analysis and assessment relating to customer needs, requirements, preferences, expectations and perceptions with respect to the goods and services they acquire and use.”

Regardless of which of these definitions you prefer, one thing remains perfectly clear – market research is a powerful tool that can be used to:

  • Collect and analyze all of the data and information you need to understand your market better, and make your products and services more appealing to your customer base
  • Assist you in identifying and prioritizing market targets that can be exploited to meet your business development goals
  • Provide a foundation upon which all of your customer-focused activities may be supported, measured and tracked
  • Enable you to define, quantify and articulate specific goals and objectives to all affected parties – internal & external
  • Support your ability to measure, monitor and track your customer relationship management successes (and failures) on an ongoing basis.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction Is Important; But, How Do You Do It?

Many services managers mistakenly use “customer satisfaction” and “customer retention” as interchangeable terms; however, they are two entirely separate and distinct things. Customer satisfaction is, basically, “keeping your customers happy”. However, even satisfied customers may consider switching providers for better prices, greater coverage, or just because “it’s time”, etc. As a result, the best way to define customer retention is essentially as “keeping your customers – customers”.

Among the most commonly used alternative measures, or surrogates, for tracking customer satisfaction are typically things like:

  • Increased sales/account revenues,
  • Increased profitability,
  • Repeat services sales/contract renewals, or
  • Improved levels of customer retention.

However, not all of these measures may be either relevant – or accurate, as:

  • Sales/account revenues may be growing more as a result of inflation and/or increasing services prices, rather than as an indicator of customer satisfaction;
  • Increased profitability may be more a result of improved internal services operations and/or cost-cutting, than anything the organization has done to make its customers happier;
  • Repeat services sales may be more the result of customers feeling “locked in” to existing service contracts, or believing it will be easier to “re-up” with your organization than it will be for them to find a new vendor; and
  • Customers may stay with you longer than they want, simply because it is easier than switching.

As such, the primary goals of a Customer Satisfaction research program should primarily be to:

  • Identify the specific product and service attributes that are proven to be important to customers;
  • Provide baseline measurements of both importance and satisfaction for future trend comparisons;
  • Determine the relative strengths/weaknesses of the organization’s current products, services and support offerings;
  • Identify the critical areas requiring improvement;
  • Collect data that can be used to set targets and goals; and
  • Provide a scientific and statistically valid means for measuring and tracking customer satisfaction over time.

Where Should You Focus Your Market Research Efforts?

In considering launching a new (or refining an existing) customer satisfaction/market research program within your organization, there are essentially four questions that you will first need to answer. They are:

  1. Does your organization already have a formal customer satisfaction measurement and tracking program in place? Is your survey research plan designed to yield the specific types of outcomes that are needed to support the organization’s business development plan?
  • Some organizations have no formal customer satisfaction measuring & tracking program; surveys are performed only on an ad hoc basis – if at all!
  • As a result, customer service improvements are probably not supported in a consistent manner, or with all of the necessary data and information to justify making changes – in fact, some problems may go unnoticed, and realistic priorities may not be easily set.
  • If the research plan is not specifically designed to support the subsequent action plan, then you may end up not collecting adequate information to make key decisions.
  1. Should we conduct our customer surveys internally, or should we use an outside market research/consulting firm to design, conduct and analyze our surveys? Which methodology will yield more actionable results? Which way is better?
  • By conducting your customer surveys internally, you may lose the perception of objectivity and, thus, credibility; plus, you run the risk of administering what may appear to your customers to be either an “unprofessional”, incomplete – or even worse – misdirected survey.
  • An outside market research firm generally has the ability to design, execute and analyze surveys more efficiently than your own organization – and can maintain an entirely objective posture throughout the course of the research (e.g., collecting and analyzing responses, providing customer feedback, etc.).
  • Most internally conducted customer surveys turn out to be little more than exercises in public relations, and generate neither statistically valid nor actionable survey outcomes; especially in cases where your service performance is poor, or major improvements are required, it is generally better to go outside.
  1. What type of survey methodology should we use? In person, telephone, mail, e-mail, or a combination of methodologies? How can we tell what will work best with our particular mix of services offerings and customer base?
  • Alternative survey methodologies may reflect substantially different levels of costs, coverage, response rates, statistical reliability and skewness, effectiveness, usability of outcomes, and applicability to the overall business plan.
  • Accordingly, the methodology you choose will dictate – to some degree – the likelihood of generating actionable survey outcomes.
  • E-mail surveys have become relatively inexpensive to conduct, but may not always be the best way to reach all of the customer base that you want to reach; telephone and mail still represent alternative methodologies for some organizations.
  1. Should we be surveying our existing customers, or should we be focusing more on surveying the market prospects that we hope to convert to customers in the future? Where should we be focusing our market and survey research efforts in the short term?
  • The answer is “yes” – to both!
  • In general, customers always come first – you cannot afford to lose the customers you already have (for any number of reasons).
  • However, you may also want to survey the general market base (i.e., prospects) in terms of their awareness and perceptions of your organization, as well as the likelihood of their buying/acquiring your products and services in the future.
  • As a surrogate, you can also survey “New Wins” and “Lost” Prospects” in combination with existing customers to determine what brought them in – or what drove them away – in addition to what makes them happy.

Regardless of which research methodologies you ultimately choose, there are certain guidelines that must also be followed as you begin to collecting the desired customer data and information:

  • First and foremost, do not abuse your customers. Don’t survey them day-in and day-out; they are not on your payroll!
  • Focus on the “need-to-know”, rather than the “nice-to-know”. “Need-to-know” data will always pay off in the long-term, whereas “nice-to-know” data can be particularly expensive if you ultimately do not get much of a return for the amount of time and money you have invested in the research.
  • Collect as much customer data as you can internally, from as many sources as possible, including service activity reports, call logs, call center metrics, KPIs, etc. However, you must remember that while internally collected data is your “reality”; it will be “perceptions” that are your customers’ “reality”. You will need to carefully reconcile these two often disparate sets of objective and subjective findings.
  • Use complementary methods of data collection wherever possible:
  • Ongoing communications is a two-way street; stop … and listen.
  • Get everyone involved – sales and service reps, CSRs, Managers.
  • Utilize trade shows, seminars, workshops, webinars, users groups.
  • Leverage Blogs, tweets, newsletters, e-mails, Website – all with “real” feedback channels.

Once you get started, the key areas you will need to address as part of the customer satisfaction measurement and tracking process will include:

  • Customer attitudes and perceptions toward the importance of the products, services and support they are using, and the levels of performance they are receiving from your organization.
  • Identification and ratings of the principal selection and evaluation factors customers use to rate those services.
  • Customer needs and requirements for those services in total, as well as by key customer/vertical market segments.
  • Levels of satisfaction with your organization’s performance, identification of areas where improvements are required, and what it would take to become their “Total Services Provider”.

Among the key questions that will need to be answered from the results of the customer survey analysis are:

  • How satisfied are your customers with the organization’s existing portfolio of products, services and support?
  • What additional areas of service and support do they need, want, or expect?
  • What can be done to improve current levels of customer satisfaction?
  • How can your organization become more responsive to the needs of its customers?
  • What areas need to be specifically addressed in order to provide customers with “total service and support”?
  • Who makes the decision to purchase your company’s products and services? What message do they need to hear?
  • What are the primary, secondary and peripheral factors used by customers to evaluate service performance?
  • Are all of your customers’ needs being met? To what degree? What are your specific (and relative) strengths and weaknesses?
  • How vulnerable is the organization to losing customers to the competition? For what reasons? How can this be avoided?

What Are Some of the Potential Outcomes of Conducting Market Research?

The key outcomes of a baseline Customer Satisfaction survey program would be the strategic identification, analysis, assessment and profiling of your organization’s existing customer base, in total, and by principal customer market segments, including:

  • Determination of the principal purchase decision makers
  • Relative importance and “weights” of key services attributes
  • Satisfaction with the quality of your products, services and support
  • Correlations between product and service quality, and their
  • respective impacts on overall service performance satisfaction
  • Satisfaction with your organization’s pricing perceived value
  • Perceptions of customer loyalty to the organization
  • Customer usage/purchasing patterns
  • Other key factors likely to impact customer satisfaction

Other key market/business development factors that can also be examined include:

  • Principal types of products/services being used/planned
  • Plans for future purchases/upgrades/migrations
  • Primary “value-added” features used/required
  • Factors of importance used to select/evaluate vendors
  • Satisfaction with present product/service providers
  • Loyalty to present vendors likelihood to switch
  • Overall awareness/perceptions of the organization’s total portfolio of products, services and support offerings
  • Others, TBD

When conducted on a routine, periodic basis, tracking customer satisfaction over time can provide:

  • A comprehensive benchmark, or baseline, analysis, complemented by regular tracking/trend survey “waves”
  • A series of detailed analyses that explain key patterns, trends and areas requiring improvement over time
  • Executive-level management reports and trendsheets that address key patterns and their strategic implications
  • Identification of specific problem areas and recommendations for improving levels of customer satisfaction
  • The ability to develop both strategic and tactical “fixes”, both in total, and by individual customer/vertical segments

Knowing your customers can be an extremely effective marketing tool. The more you know about your customers, the more responsive you can be to their needs and requirements. In fact, we believe that you can never know too much about your customers. Your customers will tell you when they are satisfied, and when they are not; but you have to ask them directly, as they may not always volunteer to provide this information.

That is why customer survey research is so important – because, if you do not regularly ask your customers about their specific needs and requirements, they may think you are either uninterested or – even worse -– incapable of performing better.

The applications and uses of Customer Satisfaction survey results are multifold, including:

  • To establish a formal input/feedback mechanism to obtain critical data/information directly from customers
  • To use satisfaction trend data to improve, or otherwise modify, existing product, service and support features
  • To use the specific results of the survey as marketing tools (e.g., publish an article in a services trade journal, offer a “white paper” on the Web, integrate results into company marketing collateral, etc.)
  • To use the statistical findings, verbatim quotes or other survey results in promotional materials, handouts or mailings

The following represent just the “tip of the iceberg” with respect to what some of your peers have already been able to accomplish:

  • A Help Desk Software company combined a joint User Needs & Requirements Assessment/Satisfaction Survey with a New “Win”/“Lost” Prospects Survey to identify the differences in the way they support existing customers how they attract “new” ones (and also “lose” some along the way).
  • A High-Tech OEM conducted an in-depth, qualitative survey among its machine operators to identify whether both their key product and technical support issues were being adequately addressed – and coordinated.
  • A CRM Software company established a baseline survey, and then tracked changes in its service delivery performance over a 3-year period until all of its quantitative goals for performance improvement had been met.
  • A Medical Device company conducted concurrent surveys of prospects who chose them their competitors to identify patterns of vendor selection criteria and any potential “kick-out” factors that may have been driving some prospects away.
  • A “Brand Name” Third Party Services company conducted routine competitive intelligence updates used to “spin off” competitive vendor New Service Product Action/Reaction reports to assist its services sales force.
  • A Field Service Management (FSM) solution company conducted vertical market research to identify and prioritize new (to them) verticals to target for future business development.
  • A Print/Publishing OEM surveyed customers of a company they planned to acquire to see whether there was a “match” between the two customer bases in terms of customer needs and requirements for the merged service product offerings.

All told, there are dozens of different customer satisfaction- and retention-related issues that can best be identified, measured and analyzed through a specific market research program. As such, the versatility of market research should never be understated, as it can be as narrowly or broadly defined, as necessary; as formal or informal, as required; as expensive or inexpensive, as the budget permits; and as general or customized, as is required.

Summary

In summary, there is a big difference between merely “keeping your customers satisfied” and “keeping your customers – period!” We believe that only by conducting an appropriate series of market research activities can you keep sufficiently up-to-date with the market’s evolving needs and requirements for service, and their corresponding levels of customer satisfaction with their vendors.

Similarly, only by conducting ongoing competitive intelligence research can you fully understand how your organization is positioned in the overall marketplace, and how it can best compete in an intensifying competitive environment. And, only by conducting periodic customer satisfaction measurement and tracking surveys can you measure your own organization’s performance over time, and make the necessary changes to keep your customers satisfied and loyal.

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.

Are You Satisfying Your Customers Today? If Not, What Can You Do About it Starting Tomorrow?

Establishing a process for improving and maintaining the ability to satisfy your customers does not have to be a daunting effort. It can actually be quite easy – if you plan accordingly, rally the necessary resources together, execute effectively, and manage the results over time. While conducting a large-scale customer survey may take a few months to develop, implement and analyze, there are still many things you can start tomorrow, to provide you with some actionable customer data in the short-term. Read on to see what you can begin doing tomorrow to improve the way in which you are able to satisfy customers.

Many services organizations have found that by routinely conducting customer satisfaction measurement and tracking surveys, they are continually able to

  • Determine the defining characteristics of service and support that best meet their customers’ total needs;
  • Identify, measure, and track changes in their corresponding levels of customer satisfaction;
  • Determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of their customer support organization;
  • Identify all of the critical areas requiring improvement;
  • Collect data that can be used to set targets or goals for improvement; and
  • Recommend changes to their existing customer support processes and organization.

All of these objectives are admirable, important, easy to implement, and will ultimately lead toward the ability of the organization to “fix the system” (i.e., the business processes, operations, and infrastructure) that will empower it to deliver expected levels of customer service and support. However, while it is working hard to “fix the system”, there is always the risk of losing some of the organization’s most “vulnerable” customers in the interim since systemwide improvements typically take a long time to design, implement, manage, and maintain. For this reason, we believe that the most effective customer survey programs are those that also provide all of the information and guidance needed to “fix the system” – and “fix the customer” – both at the same time!

That is why we have developed a unique survey approach that also generates individual Customer Relationship Case Study Profiles that may be used to supplement the overall survey findings, strategic implications, and general recommendations for moving forward with a systemwide “fix”. In this way, while your organization is spending the time and dollars required to correct its systemwide problems, it can also address the specific problems that are impacting individual customers well before they become “kick-out factors”.

Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) Customer Discovery Survey program is designed to help services organizations identify the root causes of problems and recognize “real” opportunities for customer support improvement that will enhance – or bring back – their desired levels of customer satisfaction and profitability by focusing on the key customer-oriented issues that directly affect the business, including:

  • Customer Needs & Requirements for “Total” Customer Support
  • Customer Perceptions, Preferences and Expectations for Service and Support
  • Product/System Evaluation Factors
  • Service & Support Evaluation Factors
  • Gap Analysis/Unmet Customer Needs
  • Existing/Potential Problem Areas
  • Areas Requiring Improvement
  • Changes in Service Performance Over Time
  • Likelihood of Recommending the Vendor
  • Closing Thoughts/Verbatim Comments

Using a time-tested approach consisting of preliminary client management interviews, questionnaire design, and conventional survey research, each Customer Discovery Survey program is tailored to the organization’s specific needs and situation to achieve the maximum output and return on investment. If your organization is ready, it can typically best be served by implementing a full-scale Customer Satisfaction Measurement, Analysis & Tracking Program that can be used to identify, prioritize, and assess the specific actions required to “fix” systematic problems in its overall customer service and support operations.

However, if you are not quite ready to address systemwide change, you can still benefit by identifying the specific areas that will allow you to “fix” specific customers through a Customer Discovery Survey program. In either case, you will still be able to benefit from a detailed analysis and management report that tells you what needs to be fixed, how vulnerable you are to losing customers in the interim, and what timeframes for resolution will likely be required.

In general, SFGSM‘s Customer Discovery Surveys seem to work best for organizations with either a relatively finite customer base, or where a small number of customers represents an important component of the total customer base. Some clients prefer to survey their most valuable and/or “vulnerable” customers as a way of stopping major problems “dead in their tracks”, or preventing minor problems from growing larger. The general rule of thumb is that in cases where there is a large enough sample of the customer base (e.g., let’s say 25 to 30 or more customers), we can prepare both:

  • A detailed analysis of the total respondent sample, thereby providing the organization with a general customer base overview, as well as
  • A set of individual, case-by-case, customer-respondent profiles – thus, providing the ability to “fix” the customers while you’re “fixing” the system!

Many of our clients like the way these individual profiles present detailed, case-specific information that may be used to “fix” customers on a one-by-one basis, as they move forward with the systematic “fixes” that are otherwise recommended by the strategic findings of the survey. In fact, many clients use this information on a prioritized, case-by-case basis as they move forward – concurrently – with their systemwide improvement initiatives.

Basically, each profile presents the key findings from a single customer interview, including side-by-side comparisons of perceived importance vs. vendor performance for all of the performance attributes tested. As such, these profiles are enormously helpful toward gaining a better understanding of exactly how your services offerings (or your dealers’ offerings) are being perceived by individual customers, and where particular points of vulnerability, disconnect, or other potential problem areas may be occurring.

Through these Customer Relationship Case Study Profiles, we can also identify and “flag” areas of moderate, significant or severe customer “vulnerability”, as well as the root causes for why these problems may exist in the first place. Potential “kick-out” factors can also be easily identified. Ultimately, these individual case study profiles afford our clients a unique opportunity to utilize a customer-centric database that allows them to focus on the specific concerns of each interviewed customer, as well as from the results of the analysis of an aggregate, or representative, survey base.

Customer Discovery Surveys are a cost-effective way to determine the current levels of satisfaction – and vulnerability – of your most important (or representative) customers without having to engage in a full-scale customer survey effort. This program allows you to put your major concerns to bed quickly, while giving you a better understanding of where you need to focus – immediately – to get your systemwide support organization running more effectively.

SFGSM’s Customer Discovery Survey program is offered at a fixed price and can be completed in usually in less then one-to-two months, so you can get fast results and know exactly where you stand without incurring any major delays or expenditures. Results are presented in terms of executable actions accompanied by a set of case-specific Customer Relationship Management Profiles that can help you to better understand – and “fix” – each targeted customer.

For more information on SFGSM’s Customer Discovery Survey program, or Customer Needs & Requirements/Satisfaction Surveys, please visit our Blogsite at: http://wp.me/P3Q70i-3o

Salesforce Poised to Strike with Its Field Service Lightning Solution (Part 4 of 4)

[This is part 4 of a 4-part series on the launch of Salesforce Field Service Lightning. Part 4 focuses on SFGSM’s “Take” on the new offering.]

Field Service Lightning – SFGSM’s Analysts Take

With the introduction of Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning, the FSM market has now witnessed, in the space of only two years or so, a trifecta of large, established, ubiquitous, global companies – each historically known for their respective other business platforms and solutions – entering the FSM market in a “big way” (i.e., in terms of market posturing, press releases, promises of FSM market dominance, etc.). The largest – and potentially, most promising of these – include:

  • Oracle, acquiring TOA Technologies in 2014;
  • Microsoft acquiring FieldOne in 2015; and, now
  • Salesforce announcing Field Service Lightning (FSL) for market launch in Spring/Summer 2016 (i.e., no acquisition made; platform includes ClickSoftware technology).

However, of these “big three”, only Salesforce has elected (i.e., at least, so far) to build its FSL functionality, albeit, with help from ClickSoftware for schedule optimization, while the remaining two have each elected to “buy” their way into the segment.

Whether it makes a difference to potential FSM solution users as to whether their vendors have acquired their way into the business, or have built a home-grown model is unknown at this point in time. However, past research conducted by Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) would indicate that it will most likely not be a major selection or evaluation factor for most potential solution acquirers. In fact, it will probably end up being a non-issue for most.

Other smaller – but typically faster-growing – FSM solution providers may have brought their respective solutions to market much earlier than Salesforce, although Field Service Lightning still has certain advantages that these other relatively new entries to the global FSM market are not as likely to have. Further, the introduction of Salesforce into the global FSM through its Field Service Lightning offering now provides an added level of competition to the competitive landscape – a level that ServiceMax and its peers have not seen in recent years (i.e., save for the emergence of the acquired “newbies”, such as Oracle/TOA, IFS/Metrix and Microsoft/FieldOne, etc.).

For example, ServiceMax – which is essentially built on the Salesforce platform, itself – had virtually dominated the recent FSM user market in terms of familiarity/awareness, marketing and promotion, and user consideration and adoption in recent years. However, the May, 2015 announcement of the company’s strategic partnership with PTC “to provide [a] comprehensive and connected Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) solution offering” (i.e., where ServiceMax provides the SLM support, powered by PTC’s ThingWorx IoT-based platform) positions it, in some minds, as just another one of the industry’s “new” and/or reengineered SLM vendors, among other like vendors.

All-in-all, the entry of Salesforce into the FSM market does not simply represent the addition of a single “new” competitor to the overall landscape – but, rather the introduction of a “new” synergistic “mix” of traditional FSM functionality (i.e., built on the platform of one of the most popular and well-respected vendors, ClickSoftware), but seamlessly integrated into the overall Customer Experience, CSM and Sales Management suites offered by the “world’s #1 CRM company”. As such, potential users have the opportunity to not only choose a “new” FSM solution provider – but a “new” type of integrated FSM vendor, with a “new” (i.e., to the FSM market) corporate culture and philosophy for providing “cradle-to-grave” pre-sales, sales, after-sales service and perpetual customer support to an ever-evolving and demanding customer base.

In any event, the introduction of Field Service Lightning reflects Salesforce’s continuing “push” to enter this expanding global market segment on at least an “at par” basis with the other major players currently comprising the “new” FSM market entrants. However, while its entry into the market may initially seem like something “new” for Salesforce, it is not necessarily a “new” idea to the many services organizations that could realistically be thought of as potential Salesforce FSM customers – actually, many have already been using Salesforce to assist in running their respective services organizations for some time now.

For example, the results of SFGSM’s previous two Field Service Management Benchmark Surveys, conducted in 2011 and 2014/15, respectively, reveal the following about Salesforce’s historical positive image and reputation within the global FSM community – even before it had formally entered the market this year with its Field Service Lightning offering. The following data is derived directly from these two SFGSM FSM Benchmark surveys:

In SFGSM’s 2011 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey, respondents were asked to answer a number of questions relating to their familiarity with each of 48 individually listed FSM solution providers. The specific question asked was:

  • “For each of the solution vendors listed below, please indicate the ones with whom you are currently familiar in terms of their Field Service Management

For the 2011 survey, Salesforce was not included among the 48 pre-selected FSM vendors listed in the questionnaire; however, based on new information obtained during SFGSM’s one-on-one telephone interviews conducted as part of the 2014/15 survey Discovery Phase, Salesforce had been mentioned enough times to be included as the 49th FSM vendor – although, it still did not technically offer an FSM solution at that time!

Therefore, in 2011, the most cited FSM solution providers, listed in terms of their respective familiarity among the respondent base, specifically as a “Field Service Management solution provider”, were as follows:

2011 SFGSM FSM Survey Results (percent familiarity as an FSM solution provider):

  • #1 @ 39%; SAP
  • #2 @ 33%; Oracle
  • #3 @ 29%; ServiceMax
  • #4 @ 26%; ClickSoftware
  • #5 @ 24%; Astea
  • #6 @ 18%; Servigistics
  • #7 @ 17%; Metrix
  • #8 @ 15%; Microsoft Dynamics

The 2011 survey results reaffirmed the #1 & #2 standings of SAP and Oracle from earlier FSM surveys, and reflected the growth of ServiceMax which, for the first time, had surpassed ClickSoftware in this historical series of surveys. Further, although Microsoft also did not yet offer an FSM solution in 2011 (i.e., the company did not enter the FSM solution market until July, 2015, via its acquisition of FieldOne), it was still listed as #8 (i.e., at 15% familiarity) by the respondents to the survey. It is noted that two other of the highest cited vendors have since been acquired by larger organizations (i.e., Metrix, by IFS in May, 2012; and Servigistics, by PTC in October, 2012.)

However, SFGSM’s 2014/15 FSM Benchmark Survey update (i.e., with the expansion of the list of potential FSM solution vendors to include Salesforce, for the first time) reveals a largely altered ranking of the most familiar FSM solution providers, as follows:

2014/15 SFGSM FSM Survey Results (percent familiarity as an FSM solution provider):

  • #1   @ 56%; Salesforce
  • #2   @ 50%; SAP
  • #3   @ 35%; ClickSoftware
  • #4   @ 32%; Oracle
  • #5   @ 28%; ServiceMax
  • #6T @ 25%; Astea
  • #6T @ 25%; Kronos
  • #8   @ 21%; AT&T Advanced Mobility Solutions
  • #9   @ 21%; Microsoft Dynamics

In 2014/15, while SAP actually increased its FSM market familiarity to 50% (i.e., from 39% in 2011), and Oracle dropped a mere one percentage point to 32%, Salesforce, the “new” entry to the list of vendors, was cited by 56% of survey respondents as one of the FSM vendors with which they were currently familiar – again, however, without actually offering an FSM solution at the time.

Thus, the key takeaways revealed by trending the two most recent SFGSM FSM Benchmark Surveys, are the following:

  • In 2014/15, Salesforce had already been recognized as a potential FSM solution provider by a majority (i.e., 56%) of the field services marketplace – despite the fact that it did not actually offer an FSM solution at that time.
  • Microsoft, through its CRM Dynamics platform, had also risen in familiarity as a potential FSM solution provider, growing from 15% familiarity in 2011, to 21% in 2014/15 – despite not formally entering the FSM market until July, 2015.
  • The historical leaders in terms of FSM solution familiarity (i.e., SAP and Oracle) have, as a result, since been relegated to the #2 and #4 positions, respectively, trailing far behind Salesforce.

We have seen these types of familiarity rating anomalies in the past; however, what the trend data clearly reflects is that many field services organizations have already been using (arguably, mis-using?) either the Salesforce and/or Microsoft platforms for more than just sales management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, respectively. And, that this is apparently not limited only to Small/Medium Businesses (SMBs), but also to small-to-medium-sized divisions of larger services enterprises, as well. In many cases, Salesforce (and/or Microsoft CRM) serve double duty within the organization with respect to their use in managing some of the key components of FSM. In fact, in 2014/15, 7% of respondents also reported that Salesforce was their “primary FSM solution provider.”

What this all means is actually good news for Salesforce – and especially for the services organizations that have historically been relying on the company’s platform to support their field service operations, in that, with the introduction of Field Service Lightning, they will now be afforded with much greater FSM functionality – however, this time from a solution that is specifically designed for use in running a services organization.

While other companies, all with fairly deep pockets, have either tried to buy their way into FSM, grow an FSM capability organically, or some combination of the two, not all have had either the resolve – or inclination – to strive to dominate the FSM market. However, with respect to Salesforce, the combination of a corporate mentality that looks to dominate in each of the markets they serve, with a documented history of key players in the FSM community having already been using (i.e., or mis-using) their CRM platform to assist in running their respective services organizations, the prospects for Salesforce actually becoming a dominant leader in the FSM marketplace may be a somewhat safer bet.

Nonetheless, it must still be stated that, so far, Salesforce has only announced a very small portion of field service capability (i.e., key components including contract management, parts management, etc. are still missing) and, as a result, the jury will continue to be remain “out” until more of the company’s Field Service Lightning offering actually hits the market – in full – and in sync with the market’s expectations.