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.

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.

The Impact of a Changing FSM Competitive Landscape Is Revealed from SFG℠’s 2016 Field Service Management Tracking Survey

[If you haven’t already taken SFG℠’s 2016 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Survey, simply click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SFG-PollockOnService.]

We’ve all heard the expressions, “Everything old is new again”, and “Back to the basics”. However, while these expressions may still be somewhat reflective of the global services community, we have finally begun to see an uptick in the degree of market consolidation, as well as the impact of the many mergers, acquisitions and partnerships that seem to be re-defining the competitive landscape on a virtual daily basis.

For example, just a couple or few years ago, there was no real (i.e., dedicated) presence in the global services community by companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, PTC and Salesforce (although many services organizations, mainly among the smaller-sized companies, had already started using Microsoft Dynamics and/or Salesforce to, at least, piggy-back their Field Service Management (FSM) operations onto their existing CRM, ERP or Business Management platforms).

Other vendors, such as IFS, Oracle and SAP had, years earlier, embedded some form of FSM into their general offerings, but not everyone was necessarily buying. Of course, there was always ClickSoftware and ServiceMax generally breaking out of the pack to gain some robust market share, leaving most of the tried-and-true traditional vendors as proud purveyors of their respective Best-of-Breed FSM solutions (e.g., Astea, Metrix, ServicePower, ViryaNet, Wennsoft and many others).

However, fast forward to today: Where are all of these vendors now? PTC acquired Servigistics (including MCA Solutions), ThingWorx, Axeda Systems and other technology firms; Oracle acquired TOA Technologies; IFS acquired Metrix; and Microsoft acquired FieldOne, all major software players “buying” their way into the FSM market through a series of blockbuster deals.

Salesforce, which had historically either been used (and/or mis-used) in its ability to manage field service operations, decided earlier this year to build its own Field Service Lightning module – but, built primarily on ClickSoftware’s Field Service Expert platform. ClickSoftware went private (i.e., after years of speculation that it would, one day, be acquired by SAP) and may have lost some of its historical luster in the marketplace (i.e., in terms of “Who are they now – really!). Another long-time vendor, ViryaNet, was acquired, first, by Verisae (i.e., taking its name), and now, by Accruent; and Wennsoft is now known as Key2Act.

In other words, the FSM competitive landscape has probably changed more in the past two years than in the dozen years before, in terms of structure, presence, influence and use. However, we would be burying our collective heads in the sand if we thought that this recent spate of market consolidation is now over – it’s not – and there are likely to be further surprises in the short term, rather than in the longer-term future.

So, … what does the future hold for the global FSM marketplace? Much will depend on how the market itself (i.e., the current and prospective FSM solution users) believes it should evolve.

That’s why Strategies For Growth has launched its 2016 Field Service Management Benchmark Tracking Survey after an approximate two-year hiatus. The times have changed; the competitive landscape has changed; and user needs and requirements, perceptions, expectations and preferences for FSM solutions have changed.

In fact, it may be because of the latter that many of these mergers/acquisitions were “forced” to take place. In many cases (i.e., too many cases) the existing FSM solution providers did not, or could not, evolve as quickly as the market’s needs and, as a result, either lost their traction, their “mojo”, their market preference, or any combination thereof.

It is frustrating to not be able to present some of the key preliminary findings from our current (i.e., 2016) FSM Survey – but that could likely influence the responses of some of the individuals who have not yet taken the survey.

So, … here’s our suggestion: First, take the survey, and we guarantee that you will, at the very least, learn something more about the global services community merely by reviewing the questions and answer sets, and thinking about what your top-of-head responses should be.

Second, after taking the survey, be sure to continue to watch our Blogsite, www.PollockOnService.com, for frequent updates and posts on key survey findings; Third, watch for our various published articles in Field Service DigitalField Service News and Field Technologies Online, and any of the other client-sponsored White Papers and Webcasts; and, Fourth, we will be happy to e-mail you a special, not otherwise published, Executive Summary, following the close of the survey later in the mid-to-late November timeframe.

In any case, we’ve got you covered – with the market data and information that you can use to compare the challenges, drivers, technology adoption and strategic actions taken by your organization compared against all others. All it takes is about 15 minutes of your time, for timeless information about your field – Field Services.

To take SFG’s 2016 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Survey, simply click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SFG-PollockOnService.

Salesforce Poised to Strike with Its Field Service Lightning Solution (Part 3 of 4)

[This is part 3 of a 4-part series on the launch of Salesforce Field Service Lightning. Part 3 focuses on the Industry’s “Take” on the new offering. Part 4 will follow over the next week or so.]

Field Service Lightning – The Industry’s Take

Early on, CRM Daily cited that “Salesforce is adding some lightning to its customer success platform. The latest iteration of Salesforce Lightning aims to raise the bar on customer relationship management with a platform that taps cloud, mobile, social, IoT (Internet of Things) technologies and data science.” The publication also reported that, “Salesforce launched Lightning in 2015 as a multi-tenant, next-generation metadata platform that enterprise workers can use on any device. It quickly gained traction, boasting 90,000 customers and 55 partners today.”

NewsFactor referred to Salesforce chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff’s, press release statements hyping Lightning as a “game-changer” for Salesforce and its customers as just that – “hype!”. But, in a direct response to the press release, wondered whether Benioff was “overselling the platform.”

However, Mary Wardley, vice president of enterprise applications and CRM Software at research analyst firm, IDC, believes that Salesforce is on to something, as she opined (in a Salesforce statement) that, “Salesforce has set the standard for innovation in the cloud, and by association, CRM, delivering an unprecedented three releases per year for the last 17 years. Maintaining that pace of innovation is even more crucial as both the pace of technology and customer requirements continue to accelerate and become more complex.”

She further went on to say that, ““Field service operations remain a bastion of antiquated systems in many organizations. With the advent of IoT and more objects becoming connected, field service will only become more complex and critical to the success of service organizations. Having a complete end-to-end view of the entire customer service experience – from purchase to installation to maintenance – will allow companies to grow customer loyalty and engagement.”

ChannelBiz reported that Sarah Patterson, Salesforce senior vice president of marketing, after presenting a preliminary demo of the new Field Service Lightning platform, referred to the app by calling it “the Uber of field service apps.”

Also according to ChannelBiz, “the demonstration showed how Field Service Lightning tracks the location of service representatives and has the ability to assign the one closest to a new job. But the system also lets the dispatcher see if that first choice is stuck in traffic and automatically assign the job to someone who can get to the job site faster. An online map shows the field representative’s progress getting to the job and when they’ve arrived.”

However, Diginomica believed the introduction of the new Lightning component to be generally expected on the basis of scuttlebutt … that a field service play would feature at last year’s Dreamforce after Oracle acquired TOA Technologies and Microsoft snapped up FieldOne”. However, it also believed that the announcement was just “another example of Salesforce’s expanding functional footprint putting it on a collision course with partners in the company’s ecosystem”.

Nonetheless, the analyst firm went on to say that “Salesforce’s angle on partner-clash is simple enough – these are big market sectors and the key is to provide customers with choices. That’s also the line being taken by ServiceMax today.”

In support of their belief, Diginomica provides a quote from Spencer Earp, ServiceMax’s Vice President EMEA, saying that:

  • “Field Service is a very big market – it pretty much keeps the world running in just about every sector you can think of from healthcare to energy to manufacturing – and it’s applicable to companies of all sizes. What’s interesting is that it’s not just the size of the market that’s expanding, but also the potential.
  • So it’s not surprising that as both the market for field service grows and the potential for monetising grows with it, that we’ll see multiple players with different levels of offerings. It’s a multi-billion-dollar market, so there’s plenty room for field service leaders like ServiceMax who operate on the Salesforce1 platform to co-exist with Salesforce in this space – partly because of the sheer size of the market, but also because of the diverse set of customer requirements in a market this big.
  • Some companies will want to simply automate the location and scheduling of their service techs, for example, whilst others will need the richer experience and deep sector expertise that a complete end to end field service management solution like ServiceMax provides.”

Information Week sees Salesforce as having, “enhanced the field service and several other capabilities across its platform, reconfigured its packaging, and raised prices. It has also added Accenture as a cloud CRM customer (i.e., on the same day as the announcement)”. In an interview published soon after the initial announcement, in Information Week, Forrester Research senior analyst, Ian Jacobs, was quoted as saying that Salesforce’s approach to adding field service functionality is “lightweight” and internally developed; that it marked a difference from Salesforce competitors, some of whom have sought to add this field and dispatch functionality to their products through acquisition (e.g., Oracle and Microsoft). He also believed that other large global companies may also follow suit.

However, following Salesforce’s March 15, 2016 press release, Jacobs went on to say that, “There are several reasons for Salesforce to jump into this space. The obvious one: they are in a competitive tit-for-tat with Microsoft and Oracle who have both acquired their way into the market. But there are actual benefits to companies of combining field service and customer service on a single platform: better handoff between contact centers, dispatch, and field workers; connecting field service to cases opened in Service Cloud; and a better ability to create a holistic service process.”

In another interview with Jacobs, Elec Café reported that “The company took the unusual step of releasing the new field service product without a pilot or Beta testing period, instead going straight to market. The lack of a pilot did not escape the notice of Forrester’s Jacobs,” who further elaborated in TechCrunch that “The no pilot or beta was a big surprise to me. But the growth in the subscription model across all sorts of industries (HVAC companies offering cold air as a service, for example) dramatically elevates the importance of field service in the B2B world, and the explosion of home automation and ‘smart’ appliances does the same for the B2C realm.”

Fortune also weighed into the mix by reporting that, “The cloud software giant’s latest application launched Tuesday, called Field Service Lightning, automates the management repair or service calls – everything from dispatch alerts to work order creation to wrap-up reports. As you might expect, the service ties closely to the flagship Salesforce customer relationship app. In theory, that turns service technicians into potential sales representatives. For example, if someone notices that a customer might benefit more from a product update – rather than a repair – the technician will be able to suggest that to the customer and note that in his or her report.”

Overall, the various industry analysts’ reports look very positive thus far.

[Watch for part 4, to be published on our Blogsite shortly.]

Salesforce Poised to Strike with Its Field Service Lightning Solution (Part 2 of 4)

[This is part 2 of a 4-part series on the launch of Salesforce Field Service Lightning. Part 2 focuses on the Salesforce “Take” on the new offering. Parts 3 and 4 will follow over the next couple of weeks.]

Field Service Lightning – The Salesforce Take

In its March 15, 2016 follow-up press release, Salesforce described its Field Service Lightning solution as, “Built on Service Cloud, the world’s #1 customer service platform, Field Service Lightning enables companies to deliver mobile, intelligent customer service from phone to field. With Field Service Lightning, companies can:

  • Connect their entire service workforce: Field Service Lightning connects the entire service organization from call center to the field. Agents, dispatchers and mobile employees in the field are on a single, centralized platform, bringing a new level of transparency and efficiency to customer service. Service agents have a 360-degree view of the customer and can create a work order from any case. Mobile employees in the field now have access to the customer’s full service and purchasing history, empowering them to easily resolve any issue that may arise and possibly upsell the customer on another product. For instance, a homeowner requests a service visit because their Internet connection has gone down. After resolving the issue, the technician sees within the field service app that the homeowner has previously asked about a faster Internet connection. Using this insight, the technician presents new packaging options and the customer upgrades to a faster Internet speed at a discounted rate.
  • Intelligently schedule and dispatch work: At the core of field service is scheduling and dispatching. Leveraging features from ClickSoftware like scheduling and optimization, Field Service Lightning takes dispatching one step further by applying a layer of intelligence. Scheduling is automated based on skills, availability, and location to optimize on-site service. Rules can be put into place to automatically assign senior field employees to complex service issues, and junior field employees to the routine service calls. Because scheduling is automated, dispatchers can focus on the real-time view of service operations and adjust resources accordingly. For example, if the first job of the day ends up taking longer than anticipated, a dispatcher can assign a different field employee to the next job so the customer’s appointment does not get delayed. Or if a mobile employee gets delayed by traffic, a dispatcher could route another field technician to the job.
  • Track and manage jobs in real-time: Customer service moves fast and forward-thinking companies need real-time access to their service data. Field Service Lightning enables all service employees to update work orders, issue change requests and adjust job status, anytime, anywhere and on any device. A staggering 65% of field service workers still print out their service tickets and bring them in their vehicles, slowing down the service process. Now, an employee in the field can see their open work orders on their mobile device, update them throughout the day as they complete jobs, and all the information is seamlessly updated in Salesforce.”

With this particular lineup of field service capabilities in place (or, more accurately, ready for delivery in Spring/Summer 2016), Salesforce believes that it will now have the capability for “delivering industry-leading field service out of the gate” supported by the “power of the platform combined with Best-in-Class functionality”.

The primary components of Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning may then be divided into two main categories, all contained within the umbrella of Salesforce Customer Success Platform, as follows:

Field Service

  • Scheduling
  • Optimization (i.e., to be available in H2 of FY17)
  • Appointment Booking
  • Dispatcher Console
  • Resource Management
  • Work Orders
  • Asset & Install Base
  • Service Contracts
  • Entitlements & Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  • Mobile with Offline (i.e., to be available in H2 of FY17)

Service Cloud

  • Console
  • SFX Lightning
  • S1 Mobile
  • Analytics
  • Workflow
  • Cases
  • Knowledge
  • Products & Parts (i.e., to be available in H2 of FY17)
  • Integration Platform
  • Internet of Things (IoT) (i.e., to be available in H2 of FY17)

Built on ClickSoftware’s Field Expert platform (acquired by Salesforce for several million dollars), Salesforce has internally incorporated additional functionality to support its offering, and now bills its new Field Service Lightning platform as featuring:

  • Industry-leading Scheduling and Optimization
  • Robust, integrated Work Order Management
  • Core Field Service Functionality built into our Data Model
  • The #1 Customer Service App built on the leading Customer Success Platform

Salesforce goes on to identify the greatest attributes of its Field Service Lightning platform for each major type of beneficiary, as follows:

The Customer

  • Service for Apps
  • Service for Websites
  • Connected Devices
  • Appointment Booking

The Mobile Worker

  • Offline Mobile App
  • Absence Management
  • Location Tracking
  • Van Stock

The Dispatcher

  • Automatic Scheduling
  • Real-Time Visibility
  • Exception Handling
  • Dashboard

Technical Support

  • Appointment Booking
  • Service Estimated-Time-of-Arrival (ETA)
  • Work Order Management
  • Entitlements

As such, the “new” Salesforce Field Service Lightning platform looks very much like the most current iteration of the prototypical ClickSoftware platform – although, now synergistically linked to each of the other key components of the Salesforce Lightning offerings. Large pieces of future functionality (i.e., optimization) has also been OEM’d from ClickSoftware.

In accordance with the preliminary “roadmap” for the release of each of the major components of Field Service Lightning, Salesforce has announced a staggered timetable ranging from Summer ‘16 (June, 2016); through Winter ’17 (October, 2016); and Spring ’17 (February, 2017). Basic functionality for all Dispatch and Scheduling, Work Orders and Service Contracts, and Mobile Workforce were to have been made available in the Summer ’16 (June, 2016).

Some of the more sophisticated areas of functionality (e.g., Capacity Planning, with Optimization; Optimization Auto Tuning; and Multi-stage Dependencies will not be available until Spring ’17 (February, 2017). However, even some of the FSM solution’s core functionality, such as Preventive Maintenance, Parts and Inventory, and Van Stock will also take until Spring ’17 to “officially” hit the market.

Overall, Mike Milburn, SVP and GM, Service Cloud, Salesforce, sums up the launch of Field Service Lightning by saying that, “We are just beginning to see what customer service can look like in the era of mobile and IoT. Field Service Lightning gives companies the ability to reinvent their approach to service by connecting the phone to the field on a single platform, resulting in an amazing customer experience.”

[Watch for part 3, to be published on our Blogsite shortly.]