July 2013 - The Service Council

Service Technology Updates: Further Consolidation and New Investment

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

The past two weeks have seen a wave of acquisitions and new investment in the overall service management technology space. Solutions geared for improved customer management are in high demand, and technology providers are looking to shore up their capabilities in order to appeal to wider mass of customers.

First PTC announced (release) that it had closed the acquisition of Enigma to strengthen its Service Information and Service Parts solutions. For PTC, this move is a long time coming as it looks to solidify its position in the Service Management space. The move eliminates a key competitor in the service information space, where Enigma’s solution enabled organizations to take existing technical content and make it available digitally to field and other agents. PTC’s own service information tools are primarily built to enable the authoring, distribution and access of newly developed content while the Enigma tool allows PTC to work with organizations on their existing content. Technical content in most industrial cases ranges from parts catalogs, product schematics, resolution procedures and more and can be extremely vital in helping organizations improve service resolution rates. TSC’s recent research shows that access to resolution information is much sought after in the field with 40% of respondents to our June 2013 research survey on field service indicating that their field agents could become much more effective with access to resolution information. The acquisition of Enigma also provides PTC a better foothold in industries such as automotive, aviation and transportation where Enigma has developed a strong customer base. It also provides PTC with a wealth of technical talent and resources to support and further enhance the capabilities of its Service Parts and Service Information solutions.

In field service, TOA Technologies (TOA) announced that it had raised $66m in funding from Technology Crossover Ventures (release), definitely one of the largest funding rounds seen for a field service automation provider. The investment is intended to fuel TOA’s global expansion beyond North America and Europe as well as expand TOA’s presence across industries beyond cable and utilities. TOA has made its name offering a cloud-based field service and mobile solution aimed at enhancing the experience for field workers and more so the experience for customers when dealing with field service.  It does this via a solution that offers field workers the type of work information that they need in the field to reduce administrative tasks and paperwork while also providing a context-aware or social solution to find the parts and information that technicians need in order to complete their tasks. From the customer’s point of view, better resolution is a sure fire way to enhance the service experience, but TOA’s appointment management and scheduling platform also allows for the provision of precise appointment windows addressing the ‘waiting for service’ issue faced by customers. Resolution and parts information is vital to field agents when addressing service needs. As seen earlier, 40% of organizations are looking to offer their agents with better access to resolution information in the field. More so, 62% and 35% are looking to connect their agents with better knowledge and parts information respectively in order to improve their efficacy and boost customer satisfaction.

Finally in a more contact center environment, Aspect Software (Aspect) announced that it had acquired Voxeo Corporation (Voxeo) (release), enhancing its presence as a multi-channel customer engagement player. Aspect has been on a acquisition spree as of the last 18-24 months and the Voxeo acquisition signals its intent to move away from pure back-office workforce optimization towards a pure multi-channel engagement platform. With Voxeo, Aspect gains a key player in the delivery of multi-channel self-service options to complement its contact center optimization platform tied to live agent presence. Voxeo’s self-service options are primarily tied to IVR and mobile and can deliver much needed information to customers seeking self-service options for account management, payment, and information gathering tasks. A large percentage of organizations are evaluating the benefits of self-service options in customer engagement and most of these are looking to establish a fine line between live and self-service options available in order to provide customers with access to information when, where and how they want it. While self-service receives its share of bad press (recent advertisements primarily for financial service firms), it is an extremely vital option in an overall customer engagement strategy, one that Aspect hopes to support via its engagement platform.

Major aspects of service automation have been covered in this latest round of acquisitions. Given the interest in service solutions, we expect further consolidation and investment in the space, primarily in the areas of mobility, knowledge management and analytics. Stay tuned for more research on each of these areas.

Field Service Workforce Management Priorities For 2013 Are Very HR-Centric

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Our recent research on field service challenges has provided us with some eye opening data with regards to field service workforce management priorities for the rest of 2013. Of the 225 organizations polled, 40% indicated that field service workforce management was the top challenge hindering improved field service performance. Similarly, 42% indicated that workforce management was the top area of focus for 2013.

When we dig deeper into the elements of workforce management that are a priority, we see a greater focus on traditional HR-Centric themes. For instance, the top area of focus within workforce management is training, as reported by 67% of respondents. While this might seem like a surprising statistic, it is extremely reflective of the increasing focus on talent that we are seeing across service organizations. At TSC’s Annual Symposium, our Advisory Board, which features the likes of organizations such as Sprint, Safelite Autoglass, Johnson Controls, Farmers Insurance and more, indicated that talent, knowledge, culture and engagement were top priorities for 2013. This employee-centric focus wasn’t limited to front-line field engineers or contact center agents, but also stretched to business managers and service leaders. On more that one occasion Advisory Board members indicated their interest in succession planning at the service leadership level.

With regards to our research, planning and task scheduling followed training in terms of priorities for 2013. Other HR-centric functional areas remained high on the list, such as:

  • Engagement – 33%
  • Retention (employee and knowledge) – 32%
  • Hiring – 24%
  • Assessments – 23%
  • Third-Party Management – 22%

Our data highlights that organizations are truly trying to source, train and engage the right workforce for their field service operations given the importance of effective field service on customer satisfaction and loyalty. While scheduling and planning continue to be very important, service organizations are taking a step back to ensure that they have the right workers to be allocated or scheduled for service tasks. And this isn’t only a trend for large organizations (see figure). Across the board, small and mid-size organizations are also actively looking at shoring up their training, hiring, engagement and other processes in support of their field service initiatives.

Blog Chart

We will be focusing our attention of the traditional HR-centric aspects of workforce management in a Q4 research project. Till then, we will continue to share more data on the topic and look forward to capturing your thoughts and comments on the workforce management strategies that are being followed in your business.

Servitization Requires C-Level Support. Here’s How to Get It…

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In a number of previous blogs, we have referred to the term ‘Servitization” or the transformation towards a service-centric business model. While I am aware of this trend occurring at a large number of organizations such as Ingersoll Rand, Kone, Philips Healthcare and more, I have to admit that the first time I heard the actual term was at the PTC Live Service Exchange. Jim Heppelmann, President and CEO of PTC, made mention of Servitization as one of the key trends impacting manufacturing organizations. The other trends highlighted were:

  1. Digitization
  2. Globalization
  3. Regulation
  4. Personalization
  5. Software-Intensive Products
  6. Connectivity (Connected products)

Servitization isn’t a new term. It has happened before – think software as a service, etc. But in the world of manufacturing, it is a fairly radical concept giving rise to the term ‘Product as a Service’. (Note: There is a Wikipedia article on it and the Aston Business School even has an entire program dedicated to it.) What servitization entails is more than an increased focus on customer service and support. It really highlights a paradigm shift wherein vendor-customer relationships aren’t centered around the purchase of a product (or asset or piece of equipment) but more so around the utility driven via the product. The product is really a channel to enable a set of services. Customers don’t buy a product per se; they buy the uptime or availability of that product and therefore pay for:

  • The output of the product
  • The uptime of the product or the ability of the servicing organization to keep the product running.

Service is essential in ensuring the availability of the product and level of output delivered. More so, the service organization can also serve as a base for additional services that can be provided (knowledge, consulting, benchmarking, training) to customers in order to deliver a higher level of value.

There are various factors that are vital in ensuring the success of ‘Servitization’, from often overlooked cultural factors to systems and supports needed to account for a completely new business model. However, getting started requires buy in from the top. This isn’t just to enable greater access to resources to make necessary purchases, but to ensure that the service-centric mission of the organization is conveyed to all employees and groups across the organization. Every single employee, team, group and more is impacted by this transformation. Design and manufacturing need to consider how their product enable and support new services. Similarly, billing and finance need to reorganize themselves in order to account for and support service-oriented revenue and income streams. Buy-in is needed across the entire organization, and that begins with the top.

In a recently completed The Service Council survey of 223 organizations, the following 3 steps were highlighted as the primary means to gain executive support for a service transformation:

  1. Providing executives with greater insight into the financial impact of service-related activities – 63% of respondents
  2. Providing executives with greater insight into the customer-oriented impact of service-related activities – 60% of respondents
  3. Increasing the revenue opportunities driven by the service organization – 31% of respondents

Essentially, it comes down to dollars and cents (insert local currency as applicable). Business executives have intuitively known about the importance of customer service, but they have seldom been provided with information that highlights the impact of service on customer commitment and overall profitability. That is the type of information needed at the C-Level to truly open eyes with regards to the missed opportunity around servitization.

What do you find to be the most essential in transforming to a service-centric model? Please add your comments….

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