The Importance of Truly Knowing Your Customers

The field technician’s role in supporting its customers may be extremely varied, and no one job description is likely to be able to describe or define everything he or she does – either from the customer’s perspective, or from the organization’s. In some cases, a field technician is called on to be nothing more than the repair person – they arrive on-site, fix the equipment, and leave without causing any undue disruption; however, in other cases, they may serve as anything from a consultant (i.e., being asked to provide advice on how to most efficiently use the equipment), to a trainer (i.e., being asked to teach the customer how to operate some of the equipment’s more advanced features), to a sales person (i.e., being asked to suggest what new types of equipment should be acquired to replace the existing model), etc.

If the question is “Which one of these roles is the field technician supposed to play when interacting with its customers?”, the answer is – simply stated – “All of them!” The customer will, at one time or another, expect their field technicians to serve in all of these roles, as they will typically be the only representative of your company that physically visits or speaks to the customer once the original equipment sale has been made (save for an occasional sales call made as the equipment nears the expiration date of the warranty or service agreement, etc.).

Basically, field technicians need to serve in whatever role their customers expect them to serve as they will be their only “true” connection to the company that provides them with their operating systems and equipment service and support. The irony is that, if all they do is repair the customer’s equipment whenever it fails, they will typically be perceived as “not doing their job”. However, by also becoming their customers’ systems and equipment consultant, advisor, and (pre-)sales person – if only on a casual, or as-needed basis – they will certainly place themselves in a stronger position to become the most important individual to the customer with respect to any and all of its systems and equipment service and support needs.

It doesn’t take customers a very long time to get to know who their field technicians really are. In fact, with just a few on-site service calls under their belt, they probably will get to know them very well in terms of how well they communicate with customers; how quickly they react to what they would define as “emergency” or “urgent” situations; how quickly they tend to arrive on-site; and how much attention they pay to the details once they get there.

Can your organization say the same for each of its customers? If the answer is “no”, you may find yourself in a situation where your customers are “managing” their relationships with you better than you are with respect to managing them. If this is the case, you may ultimately find yourself at a relative disadvantage in dealing with your customers in the future – especially if they believe that you don’t really know who they are (i.e., what makes them “tick”; what “ticks” them off; etc.).

So, what do you really need to know about your customers? It once again comes down to having a basic understanding of their specific and unique needs, requirements, preferences, and expectations for the types of service and support you provide, and the way they react when their equipment goes down. And, how can you best get to know your customers on this basis? By listening, observing, and thinking before you speak!

However, while understanding the customer’s need for basic systems and equipment service and support is relatively simple, understanding their need for “value-added” service and support may be a bit more complicated, as their interpretations of exactly what “value-added” means may be “all over the place”.

From the customer’s perspective, “value-added” may mean anything from performing additional maintenance service on peripherals hanging off of the equipment; to servicing additional equipment while the service technician is already on-site; to installing new software; to installing another piece of equipment they had recently purchased from your company that you were not even aware they had; to walking them through an unrelated problem that they might be facing; to anything else in-between.

While these may all represent realistic “needs” from the customer’s perspective, it will ultimately be up to company policy (and the service technician’s daily schedule) to determine what really represents acceptable “value-added” service and support while the service technician is already at the customer site – and what will require an additional, or separate (and, sometimes, billable), work order.

Some examples of the various types of value-added service and support that both the service technician and its customers may agree on while the tech is already on-site may include:

  • Answering questions or inquiries about other installed equipment that they presently have covered under a service agreement with the company;
  • Double-checking the integrity of the connectivity and/or interfaces that the equipment that was just repaired has with other units in the user’s network;
  • Ensuring that everything that was just worked on is operating properly, doing what it is supposed to do, and interfacing properly with other systems and equipment; and
  • Assessing whether there are any other potential problems or possible “flags” that both the service technician and the customer should be aware of before closing up the equipment and leaving the customer site.

Other types of value-added service and support that may be requested include showing the customer how to operate the equipment more efficiently after they have told you what they were doing that ultimately caused the machine to jam, crash, or otherwise stop working in the first place.

While it is not necessarily the service technician’s role to provide on-site, on-the-job training to its customers, it is still within the realm of his or her responsibility to ensure that they are operating the equipment properly, and performing their own equipment maintenance and management (as permitted) in an appropriate manner (i.e., neither neglecting nor abusing the equipment during the normal course of operation).

The bottom line is that you really do need to know your customers, because they probably already have you (and your service technicians) figured out!

Advertisements

Stepping Up to a “World Class” Service Delivery Model

Many businesses that have historically striven to provide their customers with merely “satisfactory” levels of customer service and support have now begun to move closer to a “world class” service delivery model in order to provide their customers with “total support” beyond merely product acquisition. Today’s customers are looking well beyond the product, and are focusing just as much on other pre- and post-sales support offerings such as implementation and installation; equipment training, field and technical support, Web-enabled self-help; remote diagnostic and predictive support capabilities; professional services, including consulting and application training; services management outsourcing; and a whole variety of other value-added services. More importantly, many are still wondering when their primary suppliers will truly be able to provide them with the levels of “world class” service delivery they now require!

In fact, we believe that now represents a critical time for virtually every business to update, or refine, its strategic plan for moving closer to a “world class” service delivery model. This plan may encompass many components, including:

  • Reassessing the company’s existing customer service and support mission, goals and objectives, capabilities, resources, and infrastructure;
  • Identifying and prioritizing the existing and emerging customer/market demands, needs, requirements, expectations, and preferences for customer service and technical support, across all classifications of the company’s market base; and
  • Developing specific recommendations for action with respect to the engineering/reengineering of the existing services organization and processes in an effort to arm the company with a more competitive – and effective – “world class” service and support portfolio.

In more specific terms, the overall goals and objectives of such a planning effort, simply stated, should be to:

  • Examine, analyze, and assess the company’s service and support mission with respect to its desired ability to ultimately provide customers with a full range of service and support offerings that will position the company as a “world class” product and services provider;
  • Identify, from management’s perspective, what the most important elements of a “world class” service operation would be expected to comprise, and within what framework it would envision such an operation to be created and managed;
  • Determine, from the customers’ perspectives, where the company should direct its primary attention with respect to creating a more customer-focused service and support organization and service delivery infrastructure;
  • Define how the desired service delivery organization should be structured in terms of human resources, roles, responsibilities, and functions; organizational components and structural hierarchy; internal vs.outside components (i.e., in-house vs. outsource); strategic partnering and channel alliances; management and staff training; and other key related areas;
  • Recommend how the optimal service operation should be structured in terms of defining and establishing the appropriate service operations, processes, and procedures; logistics and resource management controls; operating targets and guidelines; management control and performance monitoring parameters; and other key related areas; and
  • Provide specific recommendations for the establishment of a more “flexible” services organization and operational infrastructure that addresses all key elements consistent with the delivery of “world class” service and support to the company’s present and projected marketplace.

The specific areas where the services and support strategic marketing plan should focus include:

  • Identification of customer needs and requirements for “World Class” service – including recommended goals, targets, and desired service parameters based both on input/feedback gathered from existing and potential customers, as well as from an assessment/evaluation of other state-of-the-art service organizations/operations in the general marketplace.
  • Composition of the recommended customer service and support portfolio – including the development and packaging of a “tiered” customer service and support portfolio matched directly against the specific needs and requirements of both existing and prospective customers.
  • Service operation structure and processes – including recommended service and support operations supporting the overall service portfolio, focusing on customer service, call handling, help desk, technical support, on-site support, order entry, call logging, administrative, and other processes (to be determined).
  • Determination of key performance indicators – including identification and recommendations for the selection of the most appropriate industry metrics, and guidelines for measuring and tracking service performance over time.
  • Definition of service organization, functions, and responsibilities – including recommendations for the general structure, roles, and responsibilities of the service organization and infrastructure; inter- and intra-departmental roles and responsibilities; organization functions and activities; updated job descriptions; in-house vs.outsourcing decisions; channel management; etc.
  • Selection of operational tools – including recommendations for the most effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) tools, services management and CRM software, and other segment-specific support tools, etc.
  • Formalization of the implementation plan – In-house: including system selection, investment plan, organization development, training, etc.; and outsourcing: including strategic partner selection criteria, performance measurement/management requirements; and general timeframe and rollout plan.

Providing customers with “world class” customer service and support is generally not achievable without a well thought out and orchestrated “world class” planning effort. Good products don’t sell themselves anymore than they service and support themselves. All of these functions must first be developed and implemented as part of an overall business plan. However, we believe that the most successful – and profitable – businesses are those that have managed to effectively deal with both sides of the issue – that is, they know how to sell, and they are prepared to service and support the “total” needs and requirements of their constituent market base. And, by doing it on a “world class” basis, they can benefit from one of the most effective competitive differentiators.

If your organization still operates primarily as a manufacturing- or product-focused business, if service is managed basically as a cost center, or if it is still using the same service delivery model it has used for as long as you can remember, it may be totally missing the boat! Regardless of what product lines your organization has historically manufactured, sold, or distributed, one thing remains certain – your customers want “world class” service and support, and the only way you will be able to provide them with what they want is to plan for it; implement an effective service delivery strategy; acquire all of the necessary tools,  and get all of its resources and processes in place – and, then, roll it out and reap the benefits!

Knowing What and How to Cross-Sell and Upsell

Every business has a portfolio of products and services that it markets, promotes, and sells to customers. In fact, most businesses make their product and service portfolio information available through a variety of means, including published product literature and general marketing collateral, service guides, company catalogs or brochures, and various other types of printed matter. In addition, most of the product and service information is also typically accessible viathe Internet through company and/or dealer Websites, trade association or other industry clearinghouse Websites, online commercial buyers guides and/or directories, and others.

However, even your own company’s brochures or Website may not be 100% complete – or completely up-to-date – with respect to the information it provides on its portfolio of products and services. In fact, in a competitive marketplace where new products and services are being introduced on a virtual daily basis, it is more than likely that some product and service information may be missing – and most likely, these will be the newest additions to the overall portfolio. Further, what the company may make available to the general marketplace, may not yet have landed on the desks – or the desktops – of your customers.

You can probably assume that most of your customers do not keep running tallies of the various advances that are being made to the products and services that have been using for some time. Nor do they typically keep brochures or copies of new product and service information in a readily-accessible file folder. Outside of your more sophisticated and organized accounts who monitor such things as the ongoing cost of utilization of their systems and equipment, or expected product life spans and/or life cycles, and build all of this information into their annual planning processes, it is a safe bet that most customers will not begin collecting information on new products or services until their older products stop working, or the existing service level agreements are no longer doing their jobs.

For this reason, your company will be depending largely on its field technicians to make sure that you are always current, up-to-date, and well-informed on the various types of products and services it offers. In fact, if they are doing their jobs properly, they should have a more current, comprehensive, and accurate “read” on the company’s products and services than any other single document, brochure, web site, or other piece of marketing collateral.

After all, the technicians are the ones who are out in the field every day dealing with dozens of customers and all types of equipment – small, large, new, old, and everything in-between. They have probably already attended all of the most relevant training classes, or have seen a demo, for all of the new types of equipment well before the market base has even learned of their existence. They have probably even installed some of the newer products for which your company may not yet have released a formal brochure or product spec through its typical customer, dealer and/or media channels.

As a result, who better than your field technicians to know what products are available, why they may be better in some business applications than some of the company’s historical products, and which of their accounts may benefit from adding some of these new products to their own installed base of equipment? The answer is, of course, nobody else does – certainly, nobody else who deals directly with the company’s customer base on a day-to-day basis.

The bad news is that they may never actually gain access to all of the company’s new product and service information on an automatic basis. There are just too many products and services to keep track of – both new and old, and too many individual sources of information that keep passing across their tablets, through texts, or via e-mail.

The good news, however, is that it should be relatively easy for them to keep their own tabs on what new products and services are becoming available, and immediately see opportunities for where it may be beneficial to make some suggestions to some of their accounts with respect to replacing older equipment, upgrading to higher-volume machines, or generally stepping up to a more efficient business system.

They should also already have a good understanding of what the specific needs and requirements of their customers are with respect to their existing products and services; and by keeping current with the new products and services that are continually being made available, they will find themselves in an excellent position to assist their customers in matching these new products and services to their evolving needs – or basically upselling them to a more efficient operating scenario.

When you think about it, upselling should be a lot easier than making the original sale. The rationale behind this is that in order to make an initial sale you’ve got to take non-customers, and convert them into customers by selling them something for the first time. However, in order to upsell, all you have to do is sell an existing customer an additional one of your company’s products or services. What makes this easier is that once a customer has already been “sold” on your company’s reputation, qualifications and capabilities, it does not have to be “re-sold” on the company before it makes a second, or third – or twentieth – purchase.

By the nature of the word itself, “upselling” is different than “cross-selling”. When you “cross-sell” a customer, you are typically selling them a companion piece of equipment or service to what they already have. For example, if one of your customers already has an extended warranty contract on one piece of installed equipment, but not on another, you may find it relatively easy to “cross-sell” them an extended warranty on the second unit as well. Or, if a customer is already receiving preventive maintenance support on two of their three units, you may be able to sell them a PM contract for their entire installed base. Basically, in these cases, “cross-selling” simply means selling the customer “more of the same”, or more variety for the same base of equipment.

However, upselling is more vertically-focused than cross-selling. By that, we mean that upselling goes beyond simply selling your customers “more of the same”, typically involving the sale of upgraded, enhanced, and/or upscaled products and services. For example, if a customer currently has three older units installed, but you believe that they can actually handle more throughput, at less expense, by upgrading to two of your company’s newer units, this could conceivably lead to an upselling opportunity. In addition, if one of your customers is repeatedly calling for service on a time and materials basis, this may represent a good opportunity to upsell them to an extended warranty service agreement instead.

The best way to decide whether a customer sales opportunity would be better represented as a “cross-sell” or upsell situation is to first determine what the specific customer needs are. In situations where a customer’s business systems and services needs are fairly static, and the existing equipment appears to be meeting most of their requirements on a regular basis, you may still be able to “cross-sell” them additional units, or certain add-on coverages to an existing service level agreement (i.e., more frequent PMs, remote diagnostics, extended hours of coverage, etc.) as a means for making them somewhat more productive in the way they utilize their equipment (and the company’s services).

However, for customers whose businesses are continually growing or expanding, whose needs are becoming much more demanding (i.e., using new technical applications, increasing throughput quotas or expanding the number of daily shifts, etc.), or who are continually outgrowing their existing installed base, perhaps these represent situations where upgrading to an entirely new suite of business systems, or moving to a much more all-inclusive extended warranty agreement, would be a more logical solution.

Sometimes a cross-sell solution is all that is required to keep the customer operating at full efficiency; however, in some cases, it will only be an upsell solution that takes the customer to where it needs to be in order to utilize its equipment at maximum, or optimal, efficiency. The better you understand your customer, the better prepared you will be to determine whether a cross-sell or upsell solution is required.

UK/Europe vs. U.S./Global State of Field Service Management (FSM) Survey Findings Infographic

The attached Infographic presents and compares the key survey findings from Strategies For Growth℠s 2017 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Survey for the UK/Europe vs. the U.S./Global FSM markets.

The U.S./Global survey findings were presented on November 8, 2017 in a Webcast hosted by CSDP, the leading service relationship management software developer that commences every client engagement with consulting. Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For Growth℠, was the featured presenter.

The Infographic provides a synopsis of how the UK/Europe FSM market differs from the U.S./Global FSM by comparing key survey findings in an easy-to-follow graphical format. By viewing the Infographic, learn how the UK/Europe FSM market compares to all others for each of the key survey findings.

[Download the Infographic at: UK-Europe vs US Infographic (November, 2017).]

The State of Field Service Management (FSM) in 2017 – and Beyond!

[This Blog post contains a sampling of the content and information that will be presented in our upcoming Webcast, Wednesday, November 8, 2017 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST. To register for the Webcast and receive a complimentary copy of the full Analysts Take white paper, please go to: http://bit.ly/CSDPWebinarNov8.]

As we near the end of calendar year 2017, many Field Service managers have begun to wrestle with the question, “What lies ahead for us in the next 12 months and beyond? Of course, there is no quick and easy answer – and everything can change in a heartbeat due to unforeseen internal and/or external factors.

As such, it becomes increasingly important for Field Service Organizations (FSOs) to understand the specific impact that the next 12 months (and beyond) will have on the quality and performance of their field service operations. In fact, the future state of Field Service Management (FSM) will depend largely on what strategic actions FSOs plan to take in the next 12 months or so. Since these actions will be directly linked to the multitude of drivers that are most likely to influence decision making within the global services community, this would be a good place to start.

The results of Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey reveal that the top drivers cited as influencing FSOs today may be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Customer demand and/or preferences
  2. Need to improve service workforce utilization, productivity and efficiencies
  3. Internal mandate to drive increased service revenues

When asked to cite the top three drivers currently influencing their ability to effectively manage field services operations, 56% of respondents cite customer demand for quicker response time, and nearly one-third (32%) cite customer demand for improved asset availability.

However, the need to improve workforce utilization and productivity is also cited by a majority (51%) of respondents as a top driver, followed by the need to improve service process efficiencies (39%). An internal mandate to drive increased service revenues is then cited by 31% of respondents as one of their top three drivers.

Once the key market drivers are clearly identified, FSOs need to create – and implement – the most effective strategic planning actions to address them head-on. As revealed in the SFGSM survey, the most commonly implemented strategic actions, currently, are:

  • 48% Develop and/or improve KPIs used to measure field service performance
  • 40% Invest in mobile tools to support field technicians
  • 36% Automate existing manual field service processes and activities
  • 31% Integrate new technologies into existing field service operations
  • 30% Provide additional training to field service technicians and dispatchers
  • 26% Improve planning and forecasting with respect to field operations
  • 25% Increase customer involvement in Web-based service process
  • 24% Provide enterprise-wide access to important field-collected data

These data strongly suggest that there is a pattern of synergy among the top four cited strategic actions that builds a foundation for all of the other actions that will ultimately be taken by the organization; that is, that nearly half of the FSOs comprising the global services community already recognize the need to build and/or improve their KPI measurement program – this is essential! This is the first step!

Based on the SFG survey data, Jerry Edinger, President, CEO and Chairman of CSDP Corporation, a leading Service Relationship Management software developer, explains, “This is why we start every one of our client engagements with consulting. We ensure that your business processes are designed correctly before automating them. Software alone cannot improve KPIs. We design the exact Field Service Management solution based on the needs and requirements of the organization.  We detail how a solution automates the entire service delivery and customer service processes into a fully integrated field service management system and maps it into the overall enterprise workflow. Once the consultative effort is completed, we then have a detailed roadmap of how to build the most effective solution to meet the organization’s field service goals and objectives.”

However, along with the development and/or improvement of a KPI program, nearly as many organizations also recognize the need to invest in state-of-the-art mobile tools to support their technicians in the field, while concurrently, automating their existing manual field service processes and activities to provide an enterprise-wide foundation for collecting data and information, and disseminating this process to field technicians (and, in many cases, to their customers) on an as-needed basis. Further, about one-third of FSOs recognize the need to integrate new technologies into existing field service operations to make it all come together.

This synergy is built on, first, ensuring that there is an effective KPI measurement program in place, and using that program to establish a benchmark, or baseline, for measuring the organization’s current field service performance. Second, there needs to be a comprehensive internal effort to bring the technical aspects of services operations into the current (and future) timeframe – this can be done mainly by investing in an effective package of mobile tools to support the field force.

Finally, it will be the integration of these new technologies (e.g., mobility applications, the IoT, wearables, 3D printing, Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), etc.) into the overall mix of resources and tools deployed by FSOs that will empower the field force do their jobs more productively and efficiently. The desired results, of course, would be the improvement of service delivery performance and the resultant improvements in the levels of customer satisfaction (and retention).

The data make it clear that there is no mistake – that is, if your services organization already finds itself behind the curve with respect to:

  1. The automation of its existing field service management processes (or lack thereof);
  2. Its ability to meet (if not exceed) its customers’ demands or requirements;
  3. Its ability to support its field technicians and customers with real-time data and information; or
  4. Dealing with escalating costs associated with running its services operations; this gap will likely only get larger over time – unless it considers implementing a new, more state-of-the-art, field service management solution;

SFG’s 2017 FSM survey results clearly show the impact that doing so will have on the organization – as well as on its customers and its bottom line.

[For more information on this topic; to register for the companion Webcast hosted by CSDP on Wednesday, November 8, 2017; or to download a copy of SFG’s companion Analysts Take report, please visit the registration Webpage at: http://bit.ly/CSDPWebinarNov8.

Lessons Learned from WBR’s 2017 Field Service Fall Conference

FSM Is Taking a More Innovative and Progressive Approach to Meeting Evolving User Expectations

Introduction to Field Service Fall: Innovation. Progression. That’s Field Service!

There were a great many lessons to be learned about field service and customer support so far in 2017 due to a number of factors, including responses to multiple natural disasters (i.e., hurricanes, floods  and earthquakes); evolving patterns of customer needs, requirements and expectations (i.e., as a result of the introduction and proliferation of new technologies); a changing competitive landscape (e.g., the consolidation and/or acquisition of many of the “traditional” Field Service Management (FSM) solution providers, as well as the influx of many new start-ups); and so on.

That’s what’s makes the WBR 2017 Field Service Fall conference at Amelia Island, Florida, so important – especially as it immediately followed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma only a couple of weeks earlier. Innovation and progress were certainly at the forefront of those services organizations proximate to Amelia Island (and Texas only a couple of weeks earlier) that were tasked to deal with the devastation that was brought forth.

General Conference Theme

First, as conference host, Sara Mueller, WBR’s Event Producer for the conference, stated in her opening remarks, that after speaking to a number of Field Service executives leading up to the event, most suggested that they were interested in learning more about what their peers were doing (or thinking of doing) with respect to dealing with major challenges and establishing priorities for moving forward.

To that end, Sara summarized the “Big Picture” that her executive interviews painted as consisting of the following four components:

  • Business Model Transformation – moving towards selling outcomes rather than selling a product;
  • Having the Right Field Force in Place – with the right information and tools at their fingertips;
  • Leveraging Digitalization and Connected Products – for better efficiency and service; and
  • Achieving Customer Satisfaction – and growth!

The main premise behind all of this “learning”, Sara said, could be summarized in a single quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” The next three days certainly bore out Franklin’s thoughts – all with clear examples and background provided.

However, there is always additional, or incremental, “learning” that can be attained by participating in events such as WBR’s Field Service Fall. The following is our “take” on the primary lessons learned over the course of the three day event.

Advancing Service Together

Before delving into specific topics relating to lessons learned from the conference, first, we believe it would be helpful to. Take a more broadly-defined look at what constitutes the basis of field service and customer support.

In his keynote presentation, Martin Knook, CEO at Gomocha, defined the components of “Advancing Service Together” as being based on the the responses to a series of questions, including:

  • What can I do for you today?
  • What can I do better this time?
  • What solution do you need tomorrow?
  • Do you have any pain points that you can share?
  • Are you happy with my product/service?
  • What else do you expect?

While admittedly, this list of questions is not complete, it at least establishes a base, or basis, for both the solution provider and the customer to begin the process of working together to a common end. “It’s not rocket science!”, Knook exclaimed. But it does begin the process of information exchange.

Knook also cited W. Edwards Deming, who said that, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.” However, data alone does not do the entire job – the data must, first be accurate and relevant, but it must then be converted into usable information and, ultimately actionable knowledge.

The challenges, according to Knook, are:

  • Servitization
  • Technology Capabilities
  • Existing Business Processes, Products and Services
  • Innovative Learning Organization

One of the greatest challenges is predicated on the fact that “only 18% of the companies interviewed have clear performance metrics in place.” This is also supported by Strategies For Growth’s (SFG’s) most recent survey data tree along that a similar percent do not currently even have a formal Key Performance Indicator (KPI) program in place.

However, these alarmingly low percentages may be somewhat offset by the fact that up to 62% of the organizations surveyed in SFG’s 2017 Field Service Benchmark Survey are currently establishing or enhancing their existing KPI programs to include more metrics measured, more sharing of data/information and the better application of those measurements into strengthening their ability to measure and improve existing levels of performance.

Denise Rundle, GM and Partner at Microsoft, took the discussion a bit further by discussing “Turning Customers into Raving Fans.” In her keynote presentation, she cited a quote from Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, who stated the company’s mission statement as, “Achieving our mission requires us to evolve our culture and it all starts with a growth mindset – a passion to learn and bring our best every day to make a bigger difference in the world.”

It’s all there: culture, passion to learn, bring our best, make a difference via the execution of our “growth mindset”. And, not the other way around!

  1. In order to execute on its mission, Microsoft has identified three breakthrough experiences that it believes will take it to the next level:
  2. Artificial Intelligence – the technology that will make the virtual agent more human and helps agents be more effective,
  3. Collaborative Delivery Model – based on the simple routing to groups of experts who solve cases collaboratively, and before and after sentiment to understand how  customers feel.
  4. Achieve More Conversations – through the application of machine learning, predictive analytics and targeting, and campaigns.

Rundle also spoke of the things that Microsoft has already begun implementing in these areas including: (1) extending conversations with customers by 30 seconds in order to “add real value to customers; (2) eliminate “painful routing” and “frustrating bounces” by channeling customer calls directly to “groups of collaborative product specialists” (i.e., rather than to a worldwide assortment of engineers, etc.): and (3) provide customers with an “end-to-end” user experience to create new opportunities to customers (as well as cross-sell and upsell opportunities to Microsoft).

Greatest Lessons Learned

Perhaps the greatest lessons learned from WBR’s 2017 Field Service Fall conference were focused in the following areas:

  • Digital Transformation
  • Connected Services / The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Augmented Reality (AI) / Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML)
  • Outcome-Based Services
  • Dealing with a Changing Workforce / Leveraging a Contingent Workforce

[To download a complete copy of SFG℠‘s “Lessons Learned from WBR’s Field Service Fall ConferenceAnalysts Take report, please click on the following Weblink: @@@ 2017 Field Service Fall Analysts Take Report (17-10-16-01).]

How to Sell Services to Individual Vertical Industry Segments

You Need to Understand Their Unique Needs and Requirements – and Be Organized to Meet Them!

A.  Introduction

All vertical industry segments continue to undergo significant change, and along with this change comes evolving needs and requirements for field service and customer support. In addition, the competitive landscape of the global services community is in a phase of constant acquisition, merger, partnership, consolidation and realignment, and no two experts can agree on where it will end, and what it will ultimately look like.

Still, Field Service Management (FSM) solution users expect, and demand, consistently high levels of service and support so that they can deal more effectively with their own growing economic costs, shifting customer demographics, advancements in new technologies and changing patterns of growth. There are, however, some easy guidelines for getting started on the path to being better prepared to support these highly demanding and, oftentimes, heavily regulated industry segments.

The best place to start is to first gain a strong working knowledge of the unique needs for each of the individual vertical industry segments you are targeting, typically comprised of manufacturers/OEMs, third-party maintainers and independent service organizations, professional services organizations, in-house services organizations, consumers and others; who in turn, support their respective systems, equipment and devices – either on-premise, in the Cloud – or both!.

B.  Understanding the Unique Needs & Requirements of Individual Industry Segments

Knowing the specific services business of your customers and all of their general terminology, “buzz words”, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and acronyms is not only an admirable goal, but a “given” just to participate in a segment-specific sector (i.e., terms like Manufacturer/OEM, TPM/ISO, MTTR, FTFR, etc.). However, each individual market segment also has its own unique set of terms and acronyms, as well as its own structure and organization, patterns of purchasing and decision-making, and means for evaluating the needs and requirements of service

This is the level of understanding that is ultimately required in order to succeed in building a solution that meets the needs of any individual specific industry segment – keeping firmly in mind that the same acronyms (e.g., ATM) may mean something entirely different in different industry segments  (e.g., the communications and banking segments, etc.). Also, you will need to keep in mind that some segments (e.g., medical devices, aerospace, government, etc.) may be much more demanding than others.

While there are many guidelines that can be used to facilitate an understanding of the specific needs and requirements of individual segments, there are essentially six (6) which provide a sound foundation. They are:

  1. “If you don’t speak their language, they won’t think you understand their business”

All of the FSM solution provider’s sales, services and marketing personnel that have any contact, either direct or indirect, with customers and prospects must be familiar with the terminology, technology and “buzz words” of the targeted segment. They will be required to communicate articulately with company management and personnel at each prospect organization, typically coming from a variety of related fields, sometimes with vendors supporting their segment, and are now serving in the roles of department heads or purchasing managers, equipment operators and/or technicians, etc. They already speak the language, and, as a result, the entire FSM solution provider sales team will need to be trained to understand and speak to key customer issues in their own words, names and examples.

Every industry segment has its own vocabulary and terminology – and, as an example, the medical device segment is no exception! In fact, with as diverse a composition of medical systems, equipment, instrumen-tation and devices that populate this segment, as well as the many departments or groups that get involved in the solution acquisition decision-making process, simply learning the acronyms themselves can be almost overbearing. Medical systems, equipment and instrumentation that can be found in a medical center’s imaging department can include x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scanner (i.e., don’t call them cat-scanners!), nuclear medicine, PETT, and many others. There are also blood gas chemistry analyzers, patient monitoring systems, surgical suite systems and a full range of accompanying consumables and reagents, in addition to parts.

Further, although their Hospital Information System (HIS) may look similar to you as many other types of data centers or repositories – they will also have their own set of “buzz words”, acronyms and terminology, as well. Although most segment-specific medical services organizations may already understand these names, acronyms and terminologies, the more general IT services organizations will need to ramp up to learn them in order to be perceived as credible for supporting a medical systems and equipment installed base.

  1. “If you know who to sell to, you can shorten the overall sales cycle”

Knowing who to sell to within the prospect (and customer) organization is critical to the success of the overall sales effort. The fewer referrals you get within the organization before you reach the right decision-maker, the less likely you will be in getting “brushed off” along the way.

However, in order to be in a position where you can effectively differentiate between the decision-influencers and the decision-makers, you will first need to understand the segment’s (and each prospect’s) organizational structure, hierarchy and roles. This will require an enlightened understanding of the various titles, responsibilities and roles of key segment decision-makers in general, as well as the specific names relating to each within the prospect organization.

Who are these decision makers? What are their pain points? What gets them “excited” about service? What is a typical structure at companies in their industry segment?

Every services organization has its own characteristic structure, organizational hierarchy and roles. That is why it is so critical that the FSM solution sales team understands exactly how each of its targeted prospects  is structured and organized – especially with regard to who the principal FSM solution acquisition decision-makers (and decision-makers) are.

For example, at some organizations, all IT and software solution acquisitions are screened, managed, negotiated and overseen by a senior IT program team and/or committee. It is often the case where this would represent the starting point of entry for the solution vendor sales team; however, in other cases, it might commence at the CFO’s, or CIO’s, office, Finance and/or Purchasing Department. Again, it all depends on each organization’s unique structure and hierarchy of decision-makers.

The mode of acquisition will also likely have an impact on who within the prospect organization will constitute the ultimate decision-making entity. For example, under a perpetual license scenario (i.e., typically involving a large, up-front, capital expenditure), the decision-making team is likely to include Finance and Purchasing, Department Heads, as well as Service Operations.

However, under a subscription pricing model (i.e., where there is no large, up-front, capital outlay required), regular monthly (or quarterly) usage-related payments are typically substantially lower and, accordingly, the ultimate acquisition decision may not need to involve all of these departments. Since Cloud-based FSM solutions are typically sold via subscription model, the purchase decision-making process will likely be less involved.

  1. “If you know who is involved in making the decision, you can ensure that they have everything they need from you”

The decision-making process, and ultimately the entire solution sales cycle, can be both expedited and facilitated if the solution sales and marketing team has a prior understanding of who is involved in the decision-making process, how many individuals get involved, who “calls the shots”, how long the process takes, what they need to know, and when they need it. Any incomplete information provided will simply extend the overall length of the process, and any extraneous information will create “noise“. In some cases, information given to the “wrong” individual may be worse than not providing it at all.

This is an area where a more complete understanding of the specific individual(s) you will be selling to will be helpful to ensure that you fully understand all of the needs, requirements, constraints (i.e., both IT and budgetary), preferences and “pain points” that will come into play. It will generally be this individual (or group of individuals) who will convey to you the business’ main acquisition and usage considerations that may include anything from implementation timeframe and training; to initial cost vs. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Return-on-Investment (ROI), and other financial aspects, etc.

  1. “If you understand their cost constraints, you can package your solution more attractively”

All prospects are likely to inform you of their various cost constraints right from the outset. However, all solution sales personnel should be trained to distinguish “real” from “perceived” costs as a result of the initial prospect meeting and needs assessment. They should be able to establish prospect thresholds for cost vs. value and build into the equation the best timing for spreading out the total program costs.

Sometimes total cost is the principal determinant; sometimes regularly scheduled cash expenditures are more important. In either case, the most appropriately “packaged” and priced solution must be developed for each prospect and customer, and your solution sales personnel must be equipped to do this.

Some potential examples of cost constraints may include departmental limits imposed on monthly expenditures (e.g., where the Department or Services Manager may only be able to approve up to a certain amount of expenses per month, etc.). Under a subscription pricing model, this constraint may disappear entirely; however, in a perpetual licensing scenario, the approval for the solution acquisition may need to be escalated to the attention of the CIO and CFO, etc. Of course, sales of Cloud-based FSM solutions will likely avoid this level of complexity.

  1. “If you know how your customers support their users, you can better understand their solution needs”

This requires a full understanding of how the users’ systems and equipment are being supported, in addition to what specific types, and how many units, of equipment comprise the overall base (again, either on-premise, Cloud-based, or both). For example, a laptop, tablet or mobile device used in a hospital setting, or on the factory floor, etc. may have substantially different service requirements than one used in a retail or hospitality environment.

Equipment used in three-shift cycles in life-critical medical applications requires very different service than the same equipment used in a nine-to-five office shift. The impact of downtime, both scheduled and unscheduled, on process throughput (and revenue stream) is also an important consideration, and should be evaluated primarily on the basis of each type of equipment’s application. These are important considerations that you will need to learn from each prospect.

A full understanding of the ways in which the prospect organization, in turn, supports its customers will also place you at an advantage with respect to showing them that you “get” their business model – and can build a solution that directly meets their – and their customers’ – needs, requirements, preferences  and expectations for service.

  1. “If you understand how your customers are growing, your solution should grow along with them in meeting their evolving needs”

If you are aware of your customer’s plans for growth (i.e., organic, via merger and/or acquisition, etc.), you will be better able to “tailor” your solution specifically to that customer’s needs. By understanding your customers’ plans for growth, along with their anticipated timetables for change, you will be better prepared to gauge the expected impact of those changes on their services model, and suggest an appropriately scalable solution that takes the anticipated growth (or downsizing) into consideration. If you can anticipate these changing needs (and convey your understanding to your prospect), you will find yourself in a much better position to propose a solution that meets their expectations.

As many individual industry services segment are typically characterized by high levels of market growth; technology adoption; and prospects for merger, acquisition and consolidation, you must let your prospects know that you understand their evolving needs for functionality, features and scale, and are able to convey that the solution will scale along with their evolving needs.

As a result, a strong part of the overall sales message should always focus on the scalability aspects of the solution that is, that it can keep up with the expanding needs of the organization – and its customers – over time.

C.  Summary and Conclusions

In summary, the most successful solution providers in 2017 and beyond will be those that:

  • Understand the unique language, terminology and “buzz words” that characterize the segment;
  • Understand both the current and evolving needs of the segment, in general; and for each of their individual customers and prospects, in particular;
  • Are organized and structured to address the unique needs of the segment (i.e., through a segment-specific sales approach, supported by segment-specific sales, marketing and promotional collateral;
  • Are prepared to grow along with, or ahead of, the overall growth of the prospect;
  • Are prepared to “partner” with their customers in order to ensure that all of their services goals and objectives are being met.

The most successful FSM solution providers will be those that can work as partners with their customers – and that partnership must be developed from the initial dealings with the prospect, and carried out through all successive interactions during the course of the entire sales cycle.

The main key to success, however, will be the ability to show your prospects that you truly understand their needs and requirements (i.e., you “get” it), and that you can offer an FSM solution that supports all of their goals, objectives, customer satisfaction and retention, and financial targets.

[To download a complimentary printed version of the full Analysts Take paper (i.e., including the six (6) guidelines for organizing to meet customers’ services needs, requirements, preferences and expectations), please click on the following link: @@@ How to Sell Services to Individual Industry Segments (Draft-17-06-23-01.]