UK/Europe Field Service Organisations (FSOs) Are Closing the Performance Gap by Investing in New Technologies and Analytics

[The following is an excerpt from the Field Service News June, 2017 issue focusing on how UK/Europe Field Service Organizations are closing the historical performance gap with the United States and, in some cases, the rest of the world, by investing in new technologies and analytics. As such, please consider this Blog as a “teaser” for the full article which may be accessed via the link provided at the bottom of the page.]

Each year, Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) conducts a series of Benchmark Surveys directed to the global services community. The final results of the 2017 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Survey clearly reflect that UK/Europe Field Service Organisations (FSOs) are continuing their focus on addressing the top market drivers that impact their geographic marketplace – and in many cases, at a significantly higher rate than their global respondent counterparts!

Susannah Richardson, Account Director, mplsystems, concurs with these findings stating that, “We’ve seen our customers increasingly asking about what further functionality they can add into mobile applications to improve effectiveness of their field force. It’s no longer simply about field technicians being at the right place at the right time with the right parts, but also about them being empowered to excel in the service that they offer and to provide additional services.”

[To access the full, published Field Service News feature, please visit their website at http://fs-ne.ws/bV9g30cBss6.]

Leveraging Customer Survey Data Directly into Practical, Tactical Applications

Most business talks about conducting Customer Surveys, but not every one actually conducts them. What is even worse is that too many companies do not really know how to fully leverage their customer survey results into practical, tactical applications. In the first case, it’s mainly an opportunity loss; however, in the second case, it’s a waste of both time and money! However, it’s not that difficult to develop practical, tactical applications from the results of your customer survey initiatives.

Every business, regardless of its type, size or market focus, can benefit from the results of a survey-based research program designed to identify, assess and evaluate its performance in meeting customer needs, requirements, preferences and expectations for the products or services that it sells. These surveys can usually provide valuable data and insight reflecting:

  • Overall market demand, or need, for the company’s products and services;
  • The specific product and service components, both “basic” and “value-added“, that are desired, or preferred, by potential customers;
  • The identification of areas where existing products, services and/or customer service can be improved; and
  • The need for implementing required changes and/or improvements to the organization’s existing service delivery model.

However, in conducting any survey research program, an organization must first ensure that it has established and identified both the appropriate research objectives as well as the proper methodology for carrying out the program. Common research objectives include collecting customer/market data that can be used in the:

  • Identification and assessment of customer needs, requirements, preferences and expectations with respect to the company’s products and services;
  • Identification of the specific features, characteristics and attributes that define the desired products, services and customer support that will meet the market’s overall needs;
  • Identification of customer/market perceptions and opinions with respect to the quality and availability of the products and services they are receiving from their present suppliers (including your organization); and
  • Development of suggested, or recommended, improvements to the existing products and services in order to maximize both new sales and existing customer satisfaction.

The analysis of the findings from this type of market research program can be extremely useful in providing an organization with both a strategic and tactical “roadmap” to:

  1. Modify and enhance its existing product or service lines to address the highest levels of market needs and requirements;
  2. Develop new products and/or services to reflect the most important “value-added” requirements of the market;
  3. Identify and cultivate new target markets based on identified patterns of market decision-making and purchase behavior, product preferences, user characteristics and customer/market perceptions; and
  4. Strengthen the company’s overall product awareness and image, sales and marketing, advertising and promotion, and PR activities through recommended refinements and enhancements based on the study findings.

In this way, the use of customer surveys can be much more valuable than simply for measuring “how well are we doing?”. They can – and should – also be used to identify new business development opportunities in new or emerging markets as well as cross-selling, or up-selling, opportunities within the organization’s existing customer base.

A general method of approach for carrying out a survey-based research program of this nature can generally be accomplished in terms of the following seven tasks:

Task 1 – Initial Liaison and Coordination

  • The first task typically involves the creation of a designated internal project management team to establish team members and key points of contact, identify any existing data resources and work with any outside consultants. Under this task, the project team would coordinate and develop the overall research plan and schedule, checkpoints and milestones, and means for monitoring the ongoing progress of the program.

Task 2 – Internal Management Interviews

  • Task 2 would involve more detailed interviews with designated company customer-facing management and staff with respect to gaining an internal overview of the organization’s goals and objectives; its strengths and weaknesses; perceived service delivery performance, reputation and image; desired market and planning targets; existing problem areas; and opportunities for gaining a more competitive market position through the refinement, improvement and/or expansion of its existing business lines. From these discussions, the project team would gain a full understanding of the internal company perceptions and expectations which could serve as a benchmark from which external (i.e., customers, market prospects) perceptions and expectations can ultimately be identified, compared and evaluated.

Task 3 – Qualitative Interviews with Customers/Prospects

  • As part of this task, a limited number of qualitative, in-depth interviews would be conducted within the existing and/or prospective organization’s customer base. The principal purpose of these interviews would be to determine the potential range of needs and requirements, preferences, perceptions and opinions that the market may have with regard to the company’s existing product and service lines, and to identify the primary issues to be quantified in the large-scale survey of customers/prospects to be conducted as part of Task 4.

Task 4 – Customer/Market Survey

  • Based on the results of the first three tasks, the project team would then develop an overall survey design for a customer/market survey to extend the original qualitative interview phase (Task 3) to a statistically valid quantitative customer/market base. The survey could be conducted electronically and would target the universe of present and prospective customers representing a desired, or targeted, market base. Sufficient responses would be collected from all targeted respondent segments to ensure a statistically valid survey sample. The subsequent analysis of the survey data would then be used to develop specific study findings and strategic implications that would be of direct value in refining, modifying, augmenting and/or expanding the organization’s existing product/service lines.

Task 5 – Strategic Analysis and Findings

  • The fifth task would involve a comprehensive analysis of the full survey results on both an aggregate, and individual vertical and/or horizontal market segmentation basis. This would also take into account the results of the first four tasks and would involve the development of specific study findings and strategic recommendations for action with respect to defining the optimal product/service line features, characteristics and attributes to offer to the marketplace.

Task 6 – Executive Report and Presentation

  • The sixth task would involve the preparation and presentation of the overall study conclusions to company management in terms of a comprehensive report and executive briefing. The report and briefing would focus on the key findings of the overall survey analysis, the strategic market implications resulting from the analysis, and specific recommendations for improving existing levels of customer satisfaction and market penetration.

Task 7- Development of Practical Tactical Applications

  • The final task would take the specific findings from the survey analysis, and translate them directly into practical, tactical applications for improving and expanding existing customer relationships; identifying and cultivating new market opportunities; and rolling out targeted sales and marketing activities using a tactical “roadmap” based in part on the survey results.

The only effective market research programs are those that are well-planned, well thought out, and well executed. By following these steps, your organization will be much better prepared to take full advantage of the practical, tactical applications made available through the execution of a targeted market research program.

Companion Piece to Field Service Experts Interview in the May, 2017 Issue of Field Service News

[This companion piece to the Field Service News May, 2017 issue focuses on the impact of the recent spate of events (i.e., mergers/acquisitions, strategic partnerships, new entries to the FSM competitive landscape, etc.) that appears to be transforming the global services industry. As is the case in the magazine’s multi-analysts interviews, most of these responses are not included in the published feature. As such, please consider this Blog as a more detailed companion piece that provides additional “between the lines” thoughts and opinions.]

Q1: Why do you think that Field Service Providers have recently become an attractive target for investment – is this indicative of the growing importance of field service to the wider economy?

The current spate of acquisitions of Field Service Providers is long overdue. In fact, it should have happened years ago! However, the acquiring organisations seemed to have other priorities in mind with respect to broadening and strengthening their existing offerings, and tailoring them to a more narrowing-defined market space.

For example, CRM vendors tended to focus more on expanding the functionality of their respective CRM platforms, while ERP vendors tended to do the same with theirs. Remember, there were days – way back when – when a Field Service Management (FSM) solution provided only the functionality required to run a services operation – but not a services business (i.e., no accounts payable/billable or accounting functionality; no reverse logistics; no human resources; etc.). In those days past, a services business would also need to acquire ancillary software packages (e.g., anyone remember Peachtree Software) in order to manage the entire services business.

However, it’s a bit different today. As more and more software providers expand their offerings to run the entire business, they now market themselves as offering a “new” type of platform for doing so.

In general, it will be those organisations that move into (or buy into) the field services arena – for all the right reasons – that are most likely to be successful. That is, if a field service functionality makes sense as a logical extension of their existing offerings, then they will be more likely to succeed. However, those that attempt to “ram their way” into what is already a fast-growing and vibrant market sector, some without even having a complete FSM offering, will find themselves “busted” in the eyes of their targeted market base.

Q2: The FSM solution space has seen huge innovation in recent years, is there a danger that with so much M&A activity this innovation will plateau, and if so is the technology now available suitable to empower field serve organisations to meet growing consumer demands?

Currently available technology, coupled with newer technology that always seems to be lurking “just around the corner”, is already sufficient to meet (and exceed) all of the FSO’s requirements for managing their field service operations – and then some! It’s already here!

As such, the global services market is not likely to experience a plateau in terms of recognition, adoption and/or deployment of these new technological advances anytime soon. In fact, as the proliferation of technology appears to be eclipsing adoption by the marketplace, there is no plateau in sight. There is still a “mountain of growth” ready to be conquered!

As such, this accelerating growth is likely to bring more FSM provider suitors to the forefront rather than less. For example, three or four years ago, how many field service managers thought that Microsoft would acquire itself into the fray? Many industry analysts missed the signs that Oracle was about to acquire TOA Technologies. However, with several major players already having acquired, licensed and/or organically entered the field services market, the question arises: Who will be next?

On the demand side, where has Apple been? What about SAP? What about any of the large, global, systems integrators? On the supply side, what, if anything, will ultimately happen with ClickSoftware? What about the “tried and true” historical vendors, like Astea? And what about all of those Venture Capital and investment firms that seem to be gobbling up one FSM vendor after another?

The technology is already here! Watch out for the impending approach of more acquiring organisations!

Q3: Finally, the comments from each of these acquisitions almost universally refer to FSM “platforms” and certainly there is a growing trend for Field Service Management tools to be part of a wider service platform solution. Do you think that ultimately we will see FSM become as integral to business systems as ERP and CRM?

The difference between an FSM solution and an FSM platform is that the former is essentially used to run the services operations, while the latter is used to run the entire business. As far as marketing and market positioning go, doesn’t “platform” sound more important than “solution”, anyway?

CRM-based solution providers have long touted their products as full “platforms” that may be used to run an entire business; ERP-based solution providers have essentially marketed their offerings in the same manner. By incorporating an FSM solution into their respective offerings, they can now all claim (and, probably, rightfully so) that their offerings represent a complete (or near-complete) platform upon which future services functionalities can be built – whether strictly in support of field service operations, or any other business activity.

However, it is not necessarily a “slam-dunk” that FSM will become as integral to business systems as ERP and CRM, as not all businesses have field service offerings – while all have (or should have) an ERP and/or ERP capability. Further, as remote and predictive diagnostics, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR), make further footholds in the general services arena, running a field service operation may become more important, while become less cumbersome to run (and, as such, more likely to be outsourced, possibly, to a third party).

For the time being, FSM will likely remain subservient, in most cases, to CRM and ERP – but will only become more important to those FSOs for whom FSM is basically the whole business to them.

[To access the published Field Service News feature, please visit their website at www.fieldservicenews.com.]

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.