October 2013 - The Service Council

CONNECTING the Grand Ole Service Ecosystem: Snippets from ClickSoftware’s User Event

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

ClickConnect North America was held in Nashville this year, and I had the opportunity to attend and learn from the 95+ customer organizations assembled there which included Xerox, Pepsi, Carestream, SaskTel, Siemens Energy and more. Dr. Moshe BenBassat, ClickSoftware’s Founder and CEO, kicked off the event with his vision for the organization and the ClickSoftware (Click) community and highlighted that Click’s tools were now being used to manage over 500,000 resources worldwide. I thought that it was extremely interesting that he stated “We are the service optimization company, not a technology company”, highlighting Click’s increasing focus on providing more than just a set of mobility and scheduling applications to customers and prospects, but inherently in providing them the tools and services to be successful. Some takeaways from the event:

Prevailing Theme: Connecting. Yes, I get that the event is called ClickConnect, but I experienced a greater impetus from ClickSoftware and its customers on increasing the connectivity across the service ecosystem. In the traditional Click solution sense this would tie in to the link between schedulable resources and desired business outcomes, or the link between the back end dispatch team with the field workers. However, this year there was an increasing focus on enabling technician-to-technician connectivity via social or collaborative tools, as well as, developing a greater level of integration between OEMs and third parties (evidenced by SaskTel and Ledcor). More so, connecting technicians with better and more contextual information was a key point of discussion and discovery.

Best Practices of Note. There were a number of sessions tied to change management around new technology adoption. Some of the interesting ideas shared:

  • Consider a positivity coach to engage employees during a time of change – it helped the team at AutoGlass
  • Phased rollouts are a must for larger deployments. These not only enable quicker adjustments and fixes but also reduce the time to value for subsequent phases of the rollout
  • Put in an application support team post-deployment. While most discussions focus on the management of change pre-deployment, post-deployment support resources can greatly assist the adoption of new processes and applications

Technology to Keep an Eye On: ClickButler. While ClickButler was mentioned at last year’s event and has yet to see widespread adoption, I believe that the form of contextual guidance delivered via the Butler can be extremely valuable in the field. The hoopla around Virtual Assistant tools such as Google Now and Grokr has dimmed somewhat, but it’s only a matter of time before we see these tools pop back into the limelight to support the improved management of time. As in the consumer space, the path of mobility will take on a contextual feel albeit with a certain lag. Mobile application maturity within field service organizations will lead to this. Stage one of the maturity map involves the replacement of paper processes with mobile devices. While this enables less administrative time for the field agents and reduced errors, the real value seen is tied to back-office metrics around number of tasks completed and improved time to cash. For the technician per se, it’s nice to be less reliant on paperwork, but time spent on paper is quite often replaced with time spent on a mobile device. The next stage in mobile maturity is tied to the provision of better information at the point of service in order to aid better resolution and customer management. TSC’s research shows that 63% and 51% of organizations are looking to enable better access of resolution and customer history information respectively to their field agents via mobile devices. Once again, review of this information can enable technicians to resolve issues more effectively and potentially solve broader customer issues, but this information has to be sought out in current applications and therefore the technician needs to know where and how to find it. The next stage of maturity should involve contextual guidance wherein based on the location of the technician and his/her status, the mobile application can push necessary information to ease travel times, enable better resolution, and support improved customer management.

The Butler, or a similar contextual tool, can also be leveraged to support back-end scheduling and planning strategies.

Other Updates of Note: There were two updates from ClickSoftware that didn’t receive much attention but are worth noting:

  • Click’s expanding partnerships with the likes of Salesforce and NetSuite can be extremely powerful in increasing their reach to organizations outside of the utilities and telecommunication spaces.
  • Click2Click integrations between OEMs and third parties on the Click platform make the solution more applicable to broader utility networks or those industries that are heavily reliant on a broader dealer or partner network.

Quote of the Event: “Service optimization is about doing the right things, and then doing them right.”

Nashville Note: Goo Goo Clusters are very good candy bars and made in Nashville. I preferred the Original to the Supreme (pecans instead of peanuts). Another interesting treat is that the Goo in Goo Goo doesn’t stand for Grand Ole Opry. 

I’d be interested to get the thoughts and comments from other teams at the event? Its an exciting time in field service automation not only due to the innovation shown by technology vendors, but more so, the interesting use of mobile apps and tools by field service organizations.

Smarter Services: Local Boston Coffeehouse "Simply" Gets Service

By John Carroll | Perspective | One Comment

einsteinI’m a creature of habit like probably many of you. If you speak to me before a coffee in the morning, whatever I say can’t be used against me. And there is a local coffeehouse in Boston that simply gets Service (the operative word being SIMPLY).

Every morning, after the pleasant greeting as if I’m Norm from Cheers, they instinctually know what I want (and I’m the type of person who switches it up a bit, constantly trying new flavors of coffee, so my orders aren’t very regular). With this knowledge, they offer what they believe my order will be based on their historical understanding of their customer’s needs (i.e. “You might like…”). They are also constantly looking for opportunities to position new products (but not oversell as remember they are service people). They aren’t automated with technology (they still use an old cash register and I’ve suggested they consider using Square or some other payment automation tool) and rightfully so as their business model is not sophisticated. But their PEOPLE just get it.

I constantly look for examples of Service in my everyday life (both good and bad). I recently encountered the need for customer support from a service I subscribe to in my personal life (think of a company name that rhymes with “Domcast”) which was a different experience than the Boston coffeehouse experience. Admittedly, Comcast services millions of customers and has a much more sophisticated business model, but I’d be willing to bet that they endeavor to leave their customers feeling the way that I do when I leave the coffeehouse. Comcast has spent millions of dollars on technology automation tools (this I’m sure).

And the story goes like this. We rented a Barbie movie for my daughter. As soon as the movie was to begin, it froze on the screen. We immediately shut down the TV to try to start the movie again. We repeated this step a minimum of five times. Apparently there was a service outage in my area which would continue for the next 2 days. Unbeknownst to us, every time we tried to restart the movie it was racking up rental fees to the tune of $5.99 per attempt. We never watched the movie and had a disruption in our normal cable services for the next 48 hours.

Here is a summarized transcript of the conversation with their service team (which from start to finish lasted just shy of an hour to conclude):

Comcast Operator: “Thank you for calling Comcast, who am I speaking with?” (I realize this is a precautionary measure to ensure the identity of the person on the phone but couldn’t they re-phrase this to recognize that they appreciate I went through the steps to identify myself by entering account information and confirming my identity?)

Me: “John Carroll,…”

Comcast Operator: “How can I help you?”

Me: “We attempted to rent a movie and our service is frozen. It has been frozen for the previous 48 hours. Is there a service outage in my area? I also want to make sure that we did not incur fees for the rental of the movie given we never got to enjoy this service.”

Comcast Operator: “Yes there is a service outage in your area and the system is showing me it will be resolved in 4 hours. You did incur rental fees for the movie totaling $29.95 ($5.99 x 5). These fees span the duration of 2 days.”

Me: “These fees are unacceptable. The movie was a 2 day rental, so why would the system allow me to be charged on two consecutive days for the same movie? Also, don’t you have tools that can show you the analytics on whether or not the movie was actually watched?”

Comcast Operator: “Let me place you on a brief hold.” (returns) We will only be able to authorize a return of 2 days worth of services of your monthly television services.”

Me: “Were you able to determine whether or not the movies were watched? What would 2 days worth of my television services be?”

Comcast Operator: “No, this department is unavailable and I don’t have access to this information. Two days worth of television services calculates to roughly $2.61.”

Me: “Am I being Punk’d or am I on Candid Camera? Can I speak to your manager…”

After an hour-long battle with this service person and then spending the time to explain the entire situation to the manager, we were given a 100% refund and a courtesy refund for the time that I spent to resolve the issue when it was such a straightforward situation. The difference in these two situations is very clear: PEOPLE. The Comcast call center agent could have easily resolved my issue in a very short period of time but chose, was instructed to, or simply didn’t have it in her DNA to take a different path. And for all the technology automation and analytics tools that I’m sure Comcast has, the person on the phone was unprepared to use them to her advantage, or more importantly to the customer’s advantage. They created a confrontational situation with a customer and although it was temporary given the issue was finally resolved, left a blemish on their brand from a service standpoint.

In a recent Multi-Channel Customer Experience Engagement survey conducted by The Service Council (take the survey) we asked the question: “In the previous 12 months, what percentage of incoming support requests originated via the following channels?” The leading response at 51% of respondents indicated “Voice”. However, if service organizations expect their agents to be empowered to resolve issues, they might want to consider providing accurate and reliable information to its agents. In a follow-up question we asked: “What are the biggest CHALLENGES of operating in a multi-channel environment?” The second leading response (at 6.67 out of 10) was “Accuracy of information provided to agents at various channels”.

While data accessibility might have enabled a more positive outcome earlier in the issue with Comcast, I’m curious how many service organizations are looking at the DNA of their people and creating a culture of customer centricity and simplicity like the Boston coffeehouse?

MAXIMIZE the Service Opportunity: Notes from ServiceMax’s User Event

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

I had the opportunity to attend ServiceMax’s annual user conference, attended by 115 customer and prospect organizations. This was the first stand-alone conference hosted by ServiceMax as previous ones were tied to Salesforce’s Dreamforce event (ServiceMax continues to remain a major sponsor of Dreamforce). The stand-alone event not only highlights a bigger focus on marketing but also a greater degree of excitement around the growth that ServiceMax is experiencing. In his keynote, CEO Dave Yarnold highlighted how the company has seen 100%+ revenue growth for the fifth straight year and reached the 300 customer mark. More impressively, the company has also experienced continued expansion in subscription revenue, seeing that rise approximately 125% over the previous 12 months. From my perspective, the discussions at the event can be broken down into the following: 

Prevailing Theme: Revenue Growth. While I don’t believe that revenue growth was the official theme of the event, it was something mentioned throughout all the customer (especially by the folks at McKinley Equipment and Coca Cola Enterprises), analyst and ServiceMax presentations. Organizations are looking to the front lines, aka their field service teams, to enhance revenue opportunities. What is up for debate (as evidenced by an intense discussion at my lunch roundtable) is whether field service agents should actively be selling at the point-of-service or if they should just be identifying sales and value opportunities for their customers. Both sides have their advantages, and whichever side is chosen has its hiring, training and automation implications. This much is true, revenue growth as an objective is top of mind for field service teams as evidenced by our 2013 field service challenges survey, wherein 48% of respondents indicated that service revenue was the top metric in focus for the next 12 months.

Technology in Focus: Analytics. While there were plenty of discussions around mobile applications, collaborative tools, and more, a lot of attention was paid to analytics and dashboards and the ability of service teams to use data and insight in order to enhance productivity, boost customer satisfaction, and drive loyalty.  An impromptu show of hands revealed that 30% of the audience was leveraging the reporting tools provided by ServiceMax and others were looking for better ways to tap into the intelligence available within their organizations. TSC’s field service research shows that performance visibility and management is the 2nd most important area of focus for field service organizations behind workforce management.

Note: We did get to sample Google Glass, which can have implications on field service teams. More on that soon

Technology I Wish I Had Heard More About: Knowledge Management. While Chatter in Salesforce and ServicePulse in ServiceMax can ultimately serve as knowledge management tools, I believe that their current use in field service is limited. Some organizations have seen success in leveraging these collaborative tools for learning purposes, but there is a significant need for improved knowledge access at the point-of-service.

Best Practices: A panel featuring GE, Medtronic and Luminex provided a treasure trove of best practices specific to the implementation of field service automation. These practices can be summarized as:

  • Have clear requirements and objectives, hopefully in a scalable map
  • Have a dedicated team focused on the project that involves all necessary stakeholders. Don’t leave it in the hands of leadership.
  • Keep it simple. Focus first on the implementation and then on the integration (Note: Please don’t ignore integration)
  • Be open to ideas from other organizations and / or professional services teams

Most Innovative Idea: Ride-Alongs by ServiceMax.  While customers presented some interesting field service concepts, the idea that really caught my attention was that of ride alongs developed by the ServiceMax team, wherein the entire organization is tasked with spending a day riding along with customers’ field service engineers. At the time of the event nearly 90% of ServiceMax’s team, including the organization’s CEO, had spent time riding along with field service engineers. Most CEM experts will highlight that listening to your customers is key to understanding their pain points and how they use your products. More importantly, it provides an instant feedback loop with regards to enhancements and improvements that can be made. In my opinion, the next step in customer engagement is to begin to learn from your customers’ customers with regards to potential areas of improvement.

Product Update of Note: ServiceMax’s Summer 13 release includes an offline mobile solution for Windows-based laptops. The release also includes user interface and other enhancements for the iPad, but the laptop release, while not as eye catching as others, is noteworthy. Thirty-one percent (31%) of organizations still indicate that the laptop is their primary field service device with another 36% indicating the use of laptops as a secondary device paired with a smartphone or cell phone. These devices will continue to play an important role in the field service market for the next few years.

Quote of the Event: With regards to field service implementation, “Keep it simple. Resist efforts to turn your field service system into an ERP system.”

If you were at the ServiceMax event, let me know what you took away from the event. I look forward to checking in to see future developments from ServiceMax and its customers.

Looking Ahead: Q4 Holds Revenue Promise for Service Organizations – Part 2

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

While the government of the US might be on siesta, most service organizations are driving hard to support new revenue streams. In fact, 57% of organizations polled indicated that they expect an increase in their service revenue results over the coming three months, with another 23% expecting no change in their revenue growth.

As seen for the previous three months, cost containment and revenue growth top the charts with regards to focus areas for the upcoming quarter. In addition, organizations are shifting their focus to customer experience management, cross-functional collaboration, and global service expansion (See Part 1 of the blog). It is expected that the focus on these areas and subsequent investments detailed below will be matched by efficiencies that can be gained with the aid of well defined processes and with increased automation. As a result, 50% of organizations expect their service costs to remain constant with 25% expecting a less than 10% increase when compared to Q3.

Areas of investment for service organizations are spread across the board with regards to the various service functions. From a people perspective, most organizations are looking to invest in field service and their contact centers. These investments come in the form of new resources, better training and increased reliance on third-party providers to support a busy Q4. We also see a keen interest from organizations in bringing in people at the service and customer strategy level, not only to plan for the rest of the quarter but also to solidify long-term service and customer experience strategy.

From a technology perspective, we see three primary areas of investment in Q4:

  • Parts management
  • Service supply chain (service logistics)
  • Contact center (non-voice channels)

These areas of focus map back to the fact that organizations are investing in customer experience management and the global expansion of their service businesses. The multi-channel and omni-channel experience delivered to customers becomes extremely vital given the tools available to customers (consumers and business alike) to interact with their product or service vendors. For a large percentage of enterprise customers, the omni-channel experience received as consumers impacts the type of experience expected when dealing with business partners and vendors.

Global expansion is an intriguing area of focus for service businesses as these organizations look to tap into rapidly growing customer bases while looking for global partners to support their strategic efforts. For industrial manufacturing organization members in the research surveys, expansion to Brazil and Latin America is top of mind given the vast growth potential seen there to support manufacturing operations. Progress in these markets has been cautious given regulatory and cultural challenges, but the results reveal continued interest from organizations in evaluating the set up of service hubs in these markets over the coming three months and beyond.

Overall, organizations predict a healthy fourth quarter (calendar) for their service businesses. These organizations are extremely mindful of the cost associated with tools and resources required for service and customer experience improvement, but continue to open their eyes to and increase their focus on the revenue contributions of their service businesses.

In the Dec 2013 – Jan 2014 timeframe, we will share Q4 results and compare those with Q3 predictions. More so, we will also look ahead to 2014. If interested in learning more or participating in our Q4 survey, please feel free to contact me at sd@servicecouncil.com.

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