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.

Selling Maintenance Agreements & Professional Services – It’s Probably Much Easier than You Think!

[Reprinted from the June/July 2016 issue of Field Services News]

Most people would seem to agree that a physical product, like a copier, printer, or scanner, is the easiest thing to sell. Companies can include photographs and hardware specs for these types of products in their brochures and catalogs; photographs can be included in the company’s web site descriptions; and demos can be conducted right at the customer’s site, etc.

But, in many cases, selling a product can actually be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you have never sold anything to a particular prospect in the past, or if they are not familiar with your company’s lines of copiers, printers, or scanners, etc. This is why we are suggesting that a maintenance agreement, or professional services, for an existing business imaging system (or any other type of equipment) may actually be easier to sell than the original product itself. Let me explain.

Chances are, some of the accounts for whom you provide copier service and support purchase dozens, if not hundreds, of individual pieces of equipment every year. For most of your smaller accounts, any single equipment purchase is, in a relative sense, a major consideration for them, both from an absolute and a financial perspective. However, once they have made the decision to purchase a particular piece of equipment, they have already “bitten the bullet” with respect to its importance to their business operations, and they have accepted all of the financial considerations that will be tied to its acquisition and use.

You may have already heard the expression “total cost of ownership”, or TCO; what this means is that, in real life, there is usually more to the “total cost” of an individual piece of equipment than just the price that was paid for its acquisition. In addition to the specific purchase price, there is also the cost of ongoing hardware and software maintenance support, replacement parts, help desk support, consumables (like paper, toner, etc.) and many, many others.

For some, the acquisition of new equipment also requires moves or changes to their physical facility to create space for a new business imaging system or copier machine, as well as additional training for the individuals who may be tasked with various internal maintenance and/or administrative responsibilities. The general rule of thumb with respect to TCO is that, over the course of several years, the “actual” cost of ownership for any particular piece of equipment may be up to twice the initial purchase price (or more).

As such, it is easy to imagine that any one of your accounts that has already planned to purchase a major piece of capital equipment such as a copier, scanner, or printer would have already examined the anticipated TCO for that unit, and would have budgeted accordingly. However, even the most sophisticated business planners may sometimes misjudge what the ultimate TCO will be for an individual piece of equipment (or not forecast it at all).

For example, they may have only anticipated requiring warranty service for one year or so following acquisition, without planning for any further post-warranty support that, if provided on a time and materials basis, would end up being quite expensive. Some may not have anticipated losing the staff that was originally trained on a particular piece of equipment, and may ultimately find themselves in a situation where new hires may need “fresh” training for an existing business imaging system. These are both classic cases where your existing accounts may already be clamoring for enhanced maintenance, or warranty agreements, or for various other types of professional services that your company may already offer (i.e., user training, train-the-trainers assistance, custom documentation, etc.).

Whether any of your existing accounts have either mis-planned – or didn’t plan at all – when they made their initial purchase decision, they have one thing in common: at some point, they will recognize that they need additional support over and above what they initially received when they purchased the equipment, and that this support will typically manifest itself in either the need for an enhanced maintenance agreement, specific professional services, or both.

If you have been observing and monitoring your accounts all along the way, you probably can already pick out which ones are “ripe” for selling maintenance agreements or professional services. If you have also been keeping up-to-date with your company’s product and service support offerings, you are also ready to speak to those accounts with respect to what you believe will make their ultimate “total cost of ownership” less in the long run. Armed with this information, you will find yourself in the perfect position to make the sale of maintenance agreements and professional services as easy as possible – certainly easier than making a “cold” sales call to a new prospect.

All you really need is the understanding of what your customers require, matched against the products and services your company offers, and many of these prospective “sales” will simply be waiting there for you to “close” them.

Selling Services – How to Recognize Customer Buying Signals

Understanding your customers’ needs, and knowing what is available for sale, complete one key equation; however, there is still one other key unanswered question: How can you tell when your customer is ready to buy?

Recognizing a customer’s buying signals is one of the most difficult things there is to teach. In fact, many will argue that this is an innate trait that only “true” salespersons are born with. Whether this is true or not is really only a side issue. The main issue is that every one of your customers and prospects sends out signals that you can rally around with respect to determining when they are ready to buy. Some will be “hard” signals that you can practically take right to the bank; although most will be “soft” signals that will vary from customer-to-customer, person-to-person, and situation-to-situation. Let me explain.

The various types of buying signals “transmitted” by your customers may typically be classified into the following categories:

  • Overt
  • Passive
  • Observed

Overt Buying Signals

An overt buying signal is the closest thing to a gift that you may ever receive from your customers. This is when the customer calls you, or comes right up to you, and says something like, “Our copier is pretty much shot, and it simply won’t handle all of our volume anymore. Don’t you guys have a newer machine that you think can do the job for us?” Or, “You know, our machine will be coming off warranty soon. Don’t you guys offer some kind of extended warranty contract? If you do, we’d really be interested.” While these opportunities may seem just like manna fallen from the heavens, the problem is, if you do not take immediate advantage of them, the opportunities themselves may either fade over time, or go away altogether.

For example, given an opportunity like one of these, it may simply be a matter of speaking briefly with your customer, showing him or her a new brochure or directing them to your company’s web site, and casually discussing the enhanced features of a new system or service offering on a face-to-face basis. However, if your response is more like, “I have a few ideas. Why don’t I get back to you in a week or two when I’m not so busy, and maybe we can work out something.” By the time a couple of weeks go by, the thought of acquiring a new piece of equipment or service offering may have moved from your customer’s top-of-mind to their back-of-mind – and once there, it may involve much more work on your part to get it back up front.

Overt buying signals do not happen all the time; but when they do, you pretty much have to take advantage of them as they occur, rather than run the risk of having the customer push it far back into the recesses of his or her mind – or even worse, allowing them to have the same conversation with a competitive vendor’s sales or services person.

Passive Buying Signals

Passive buying signals may not be as obvious; however, they are still fairly easy to identify, and even easier to take advantage of. The tell-tale clues that your customers may give to you typically manifest themselves in comments or questions such as, “Man, this old machine keeps breaking down, and breaking down, and breaking down. I don’t know what I’m going to do if it shuts down during one of our big production runs”; “Ever since this machine came off of warranty, whenever we call for service, we end up paying you guys on a time and materials basis. There’s got to be a better way”; or “I don’t know. It just seems like our other division on the next floor gets their copy work done a heck of a lot faster than we do. I think they have a new machine up there, and they just keep making us look bad in comparison”.

Any of these comments or questions represent just as valid a selling opportunity as any of the overt buying signals we just talked about earlier. The only real difference is that, in these cases, you will typically need to be the one who initiates the conversation about replacement units, new machines, and/or enhanced service level agreements – and not the customer.

Even so, you may still be surprised as to how receptive your customers will be in having such a conversation. What’s more, since you already understand your customers’ needs and requirements for business imaging systems and equipment, and you know what your company has available for sale, you can probably step right in, provide some specific suggestions or recommendations, and convert a potential customer problem into a potential company sale.

Observed Buying Signals

Sometimes the customer does not even have to say a word. Since you already visit the customer’s site, on average, about once a month or so, you are probably in an excellent position to observe how one or more of their machines are routinely being overused, misused, or otherwise used improperly. You have probably also seen some of your customers reach new levels of frustration in dealing with machines that simply cannot ratchet up to their increased levels of volume or throughput, or effectively deal with emerging areas of business imaging applications.

We have all heard the expression that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In both the overt and passive buying signal situations, it will primarily be the words that are either conveyed to you, or conveyed by you to the customer, that will ultimately lead to the potential sale. However, in an observed buying signal situation, it is the “picture” you observe at the customer site that will ultimately tell you the “story” that you will need to focus on in order to ultimately make the sale.

At the end of the day, it really does not matter whether the buying signal you get is overt, passive, or simply observed – what does matter though, is that you get the signal, you know what to do with it, you take advantage of it, and you serve effectively in your role as an intermediary between what your customer needs, and what your company offers.

Building a Best Practices Warranty Management Program for 2016 – and Beyond

How Best Practices Organizations Are Positioning Themselves to Drive Revenues, Reduce Costs and Compete More Effectively

Putting Warranty Management Metrics in Perspective

Each year, Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) conducts a series of Benchmark Surveys among its outreach community of more than 40,000 global services professionals. Total responses for the updated 2015 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey, conducted over a six-month period ending in Q3 2015, are in excess of 225

Overall, global survey respondents identify the following as the top factors that are currently driving their ability to optimize warranty management performance:

  • 56% Desire to improve customer retention
  • 50% Post-sale customer satisfaction issues
  • 37% Customer demand for improved warranty management services
  • 27% Product defect-related costs
  • 24% Mandate to improve service profitability
  • 21% Mandate to drive increased service revenues

However, in order to effectively execute on each of these drivers – and strive to attain Best Practices – respondents then cite the following as the most important strategic actions already in place at their respective organizations:

  • 52% Develop / improve metrics, or KPIs, for advanced warranty chain analytics
  • 39% Streamline parts return process to improve overall efficiency
  • 35% Improve warranty management-related planning and forecasting activities
  • 32% Restructure for improved Warranty Management oversight & accountability
  • 31% Foster a closer working collaboration between product design & service

How well an organization steps up to each of these drivers by taking the most appropriate – and effective – strategic actions will ultimately determine its prospects for successfully attaining a desired Best Practices position in the global warranty management services marketplace.

Based on the updated results of the original SFGSM benchmark survey, this report provides additional insight into each of these and other related areas that may be impacting your organization’s ability to attain Best Practices with respect to its overall warranty chain management processes – and it all starts with the need to have a full understanding of the numerous processes, policies and procedures used to run your warranty management operations, coupled with the development of a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) program that can be used to measure your success all along the way.

For the purposes of this report, we define Best Practices Warranty Management organizations as those that have attained both 90% or higher customer satisfaction, and reflect average warranty claims processing times of four days or less. Accordingly, approximately 11%, or 25, of the total respondents are classified as Best Practices.

[To obtain a copy of the full White Paper report, or to register for the March 3, 2016 Webcast of the same name, please visit the Tavant Technologies Webcast landing page at: http://info.tavant.com/Warranty_Webinar_2016.html.]

Effective Warranty Management for Improved Customer Satisfaction and Profitability in 2015

Each year, Strategies For Growth℠ (SFG℠), the independent Westtown, Pennsylvania-based research analyst and consulting firm, conducts a series of Benchmark Surveys among its global outreach community of services professionals. There were a total of 228 responses for the firm’s 2014 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey, conducted over a six-month period in 2014.

According to SFGSM president and principal consulting analyst, Bill Pollock, “The survey results reveal that roughly three-quarters (76%) of respondents believe effective warranty chain management to be at least ‘very important’ to the overall financial performance of the business, with just over a quarter (28%) believing it to be ‘extremely important’. The results further reveal that this sense of importance is increasing substantially, year-over-year, as nearly one-third (32%) believe effective warranty chain management to be ‘more important than one year ago’, compared to only 1% believing it to be ‘less important’ – a ratio of more than 32:1 citing ‘more important’ over ‘less important’.”

However, while the importance of warranty management is sufficiently validated by the respondents to the firm’s survey, a majority of warranty management solution users are not as duly impressed with the vendors that provide these services. For example, Pollock claims that “only 39% of respondents are presently ‘satisfied’ with the services and solutions provided by their primary warranty management solution vendors – including a stunningly low 12%, or only one-out-of-eight, who are ‘extremely satisfied’.”

In fact, Pollock goes on to say, “the majority of users (51%) rate their perceptions of the performance of their primary vendor as ‘neither satisfied nor dissatisfied’ – or what we would normally describe as a ‘complacent’ user base. While less than 1% of users claim to be ‘not at all satisfied’, there are still a total of 10% that fall into the ‘dissatisfied’ category.”

Vibhor Mishra, Director Marketing at Tavant Technologies, a leading global provider of warranty chain management solutions, agrees that many providers need to focus on meeting their customers’ needs, requirements or expectations, and says “That is why we base much of our company’s success on the fact that we share a firm belief that software providers need to deliver value while meeting quality standards. As a result, we are continually leveraging our global experience to provide best-of-breed solutions to our customers in all of our offerings.”

This is also one of the main reasons why, according to Mishra, Tavant holds its premier marquee annual event, “engage”, now in its sixth year, as “a collaborative gathering of employees, customers, industry luminaries, and the leadership team, to discuss and exchange ideas about the latest in business and technology”. He also believes that “It serves as a venue where everything can be discussed openly, and our customers have direct access to the executives of the company to share their thoughts and suggestions.”

On the surface, while it may appear somewhat encouraging that 70% of respondents are currently running their warranty management operations using at least some “partially automated” processes, this finding is, unfortunately, not actually that encouraging. In fact, only about one-in-five (21%) claim to have “fully automated” the warranty management processes currently in place at their respective businesses.

By aggregating the various categories of partial-to-full automation, the current market base reflects one where, although 70% of respondents claim to be using at least some “partially automated” warranty management processes, there are a nearly equal amount (69%) where some manual processes are still being relied on.

However, regardless of the current state of automation – or lack thereof – within the broadly defined warranty claims management segment, Pollock says “One thing is extremely clear: businesses plan to increase their annual warranty budgets over the next 12 months (i.e., through mid-2015) and beyond. For some, about 14%, or roughly one-in-seven, the increase will be modest, at less than 5%; however, another 16%, or about one-in-six, plan to increase their respective budgets by between 5% and 9%. Still another 10% plan to increase their budgets by more than 10% – typically in the plus or minus 20% range.”

Mishra echoes that “This growth is also manifested at Tavant where the company is on track to double its revenue in only two years (i.e., from 2014 – 2016). In fact, Tavant is presently achieving a year-on-year growth of 40 percent, which is significantly above the industry average.”

All told, by the close of 2015, twice as many organizations plan to increase their annual warranty budgets, compared to those planning to decrease. This two-to-one ratio suggests a strong – and growing – global warranty chain management segment, and is further supported by the finding that the percent of work orders currently being serviced under warranty is also expected to increase over the next 12 months by an even greater ratio – i.e., 24% expected to increase, compared to only 11% expected to decrease.

So, how are the leading organizations planning to leverage their increased warranty management spending into improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability? To attain these goals, the top strategic actions currently cited by at least one-quarter (25%) of survey respondents include:

  • 52% Develop/improve the KPIs used to measure advanced warranty chain analytics
  • 39% Streamline the parts return process to improve overall efficiency
  • 35% Improve warranty management-related planning and forecasting activities
  • 32% Restructure for improved warranty management oversight and accountability
  • 31% Foster a closer working collaboration between product design and service
  • 29% Institute/enforce process workflow improvements for supplier cost recovery

However, there are many other strategic actions that the leading warranty management organizations are also currently taking, including purchasing and/or upgrading an automated warranty chain management solution (20%), restructuring/updating existing warranty pricing schedules (19%), providing additional training to extended warranty sales personnel (17%) and outsourcing some, or all, of their warranty management activities to third parties (16%).

Based on the results of SFG’s 2014 Warranty Chain Management Benchmark Survey, the key takeaways that best describe the global state of warranty management in 2015 – and beyond – are:

  • Warranty management organizations are being driven, first, by Customer-focused factors; second, by Cost-focused factors; and third, by Revenue-focused factors
  • Through 2015, annual warranty management budgets are expected to increase, with more than twice as many organizations planning more increases than decreases
  • In 2015, warranty services managers will be focusing primarily on developing and/or improving their KPIs and warranty analytic programs, streamlining their parts return processes and improving warranty management-related planning and forecasting activities
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of organizations are currently integrating warranty management with all other services functions, and almost as many (64%) already have an end-to-end workflow process in place to handle claims and returns
  • The top uses of data/information collected from warranty events are basically to improve processes (i.e., field service, depot repair, parts returns, etc.) and effect changes (i.e., product design, manufacturing, etc.

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For an expanded version of this content, including a Q & A session with SFG‘s, Bill Pollock and Executives from Tavant Technologies, look for our feature article in the January 29, 2015 issue of Warranty Week magazine.

For more information, to download a complimentary copy of the companion White Paper to this article, or to register for the companion Webcast of the same name, hosted by Tavant Technologies, please go to http://info.tavant.com/Warranty_Webinar.html.

Also, be sure to stop by the Tavant exhibit for more information at the 2015 Warranty Chain Management Conference, March 10 – 12 in Miami, Florida.