March 2014 - The Service Council

ClickSoftware Looks to Get Cozy with the Carriers, Acquires Xora

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

Its already been a busy year for acquisitions in various realms of the service space. To start things off PTC acquired ThingWorx in the Internet of Things space, which was followed by Microsoft acquiring Parature in the customer service support arena. We also saw Verint acquire Kana to boost its customer engagement capabilities. The field service space had been relatively quiet, until ClickSoftware announced that it had acquired Xora in February.

ClickSoftware, coming off a record revenue year in 2013, hasn’t traditionally been very active in the acquisition market and has been quite successful in growing its customer base organically as well as with its established partnership with SAP. However, in recent times we have seen ClickSoftware look to expand its partner network as seen with a newly developed partnership with in mid-2013. Building on that partnership we have seen ClickSoftware try to expand its mindshare with major North American carriers via this acquisition of Xora.

Xora has built itself a nice customer base of 15,000 organizations in the smaller end of the market. The average Xora customer has 8-10 users though the organization has had success in reaching up and grabbing larger customers such as Lawn Ranger and Dr. Pepper. Most customers fall in the healthcare, public sector, distribution, or merchandising verticals primarily using Xora’s applications for dispatch, work order management, navigation, mileage and expense management, and proof-of-service capture. Xora’s growth in customers has been tied to well-established relationships with carriers in the US such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Verizon white labels Xora’s (previously Gearworks’s) product in its Field Force Manager solution. These carrier relationships can be extremely vital as ClickSoftware looks to expand to new markets to supplement its core customers in utilities, telecommunications, and office equipment. There are other benefits to this acquisition (listed below):

  • Expansion into the smaller end of the market (less than 50 field workers) and the ability to offer a scalable expansion map for organizations who can start with the Xora StreetSmart product and scale up to ClickExpress or ClickSoftware for the Enterprise as they grow. ClickSoftware has previously attempted to scale down or acquire to meet the lower end of the market without significant success and has opted to maintain 50-technician floor when prospecting new business. Scaling down ClickExpress further doesn’t make as much sense here as acquiring a solution that is purposely built and priced for smaller organizations.
  • Expansion into home healthcare, a market that is extremely ripe for growth when it comes to mobile applications and mobile workforce management.
  • Increased attention to the small to mid-sized market outside of North America by introducing Xora’s product to ClickSoftware’s established carrier partnerships.
  •  Continued growth of ClickSoftware’s SaaS business.
  •  Introduction to the fleet management market with Xora’s InVehicle product.
  •  An extension of ClickSoftware’s Click2Click integration framework given Xora’s popularity with contractors.

That said, this acquisition is primarily about adding a strong group of carrier partners in North America, a move that hasn’t strongly been pursued by the enterprise focused field service automation providers in the past. Carriers have traditionally been reluctant to sell workforce management solutions to the enterprise market and have found it easier to get their sales teams to focus on the small to mid-sized market. Do they have the appetite to go up market and introduce ClickSoftware’s field service solutions to the enterprise? This will be key in determining the true success of this acquisition.

The Public Sector Cares About Customer Service Too, No Really.

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Parafest, Parature’s annual customer conference in Las Vegas. Parature, now part of Microsoft, is a customer service and support solution designed to help organizations improve their support across multiple channels. Parature serves customers in numerous industries but holds a great portfolio of customers in the public sector.

Customer service in the public sector is not an oxymoron. I know that it might baffle us, but there is a changing mindset in public sector organizations around customer service. All of this is happening because they are beginning to realize the value of retaining and satisfying their customers, the people in their constituencies.

Matt Cargle and Kevin Hamlett from the State of Georgia delivered one of the most eye opening presentations at Parafest. Matt and Kevin serve as a workgroup (team of 3) called the Contact Center Solutions team that was put in place as part of the Commission for a New Georgia. Essentially this was then Governor Sonny Perdue’s mission of running the state government as more of a private business in order to improve efficiency as well as customer service. At the time of the development of the commission, the State of Georgia was ranked extremely low in polls of best managed states. The State just wasn’t working for its people.

Back to Matt and Kevin. They are essentially tasked with working with public sector agencies and public universities across the State of Georgia to build a customer service framework aimed at delivering better support to citizens, students and more, all customers of the State of Georgia. As Matt pointed out, his team’s responsibilities with regards to the public universities they serve are:

  • Provide leadership for colleges/universities to improve the customer service experience in order to: a) Retain existing students, and b)Increase interest from prospective students
  • Recommend solutions to create efficiencies and improve service
  • Coordinate, manage and implement customer service initiatives that embed process improvement and culture development
  • Improve call centers
  • Implement a virtual information center (knowledgebase)
  • Create processes for streamlining the prospective student process
  • Develop a system for measuring the results of improvement methods
  • Drive student self-service

Matt and Kevin’s team provides a complete solution to universities to get started on or to improve their customer service processes. This includes current state assessment, developing a framework, implementing technology solutions, training, performance management and more. This sounds like a broad scale consulting endeavor costing millions and millions of dollars, but the customer service task force comes free of charge to the University. Matt and Kevin are supported by taxpayer funds.

Here’s the most interesting part. Public universities are looking to improve their customer service in order to stave off competition from private universities for applicants and students. Also, part of the funding received by the state universities is tied to student retention over the four years of undergraduate education. Therefore students who don’t come back for their sophomore, junior or senior years actually impact the funding received by these universities. As a result, there is a significant focus on improving the overall student experience at public universities in Georgia, and the customer service delivered at all administrative touchpoints becomes a key factor in ensuring student retention.

Across the board, organizations are saying that increasing competition for customers is the top driver pushing them to improve their customer service operations. This was seen in our 2014 Service Market Outlook research, where 54% of organizations across multiple industries indicated that increasing competition was the top challenge driving them to review and improve their service operations. These challenges, often tied to private organizations, are seeping into the public sector as well.

In the previous 9 years since the Contact Center Solutions team was put together, they have worked with 10 universities/colleges and over a dozen state agencies. In their work, the team has driven impressive results. Remember, this is a group of three. For the State’s Department of Revenue, the average time to answer has come down from 45 mins to 2 mins while reducing the number of total hires necessary to deal with the rush during tax season. Overall, the State of Georgia’s goal is to reduce the average speed to answer to 60 seconds and have a 9% abandonment rate. With the aid of some of these initiatives, the State has consistently ranked higher on the list of best-managed states (a B rating, achieved or surpassed only by 13 total states as per Pew Research, and other states like Tennessee and Arizona or looking to benchmark their processes to improve their customer service.

For more on other updates and takeaways from Parafest, check out this recap on Parature’s blog. To access our 2014 Service Market Outlook report and view other research, please visit our Research library.

Did You Know? Smarter Services Executive Symposium in 28 Days…

By John Carroll | News | No Comments

Please excuse the promotional nature of this blog, but I felt it was appropriate to highlight an event The Service Council hosts which continues to create momentum, the Smarter Services Executive Symposium.

This year’s event (our 3rd Annual) we look forward to welcoming in excess of 250 guests (our largest yet) in an event built around the theme “Defining & Delivering Customer Success”. With an increased emphasis on creating an interactive and experiential learning environment, we’ve structured the event around a combination of keynote presentations, panels (debate), roundtable discussions and case study driven workshops around 6 major themes, including:

  • Customer Experience Management
  • Service Revenue Growth
  • Service Transformation
  • Service Globalization
  • Field Service
  • Service Ready Workforce

We are pleased to welcome the following guest speakers:

  • Rusty Walther, VP, Global Escalations Management & Customer Experience at Hewlett-Packard
  • Renee Cacchillo, VP, Service at Safelite AutoGlass
  • Julie Larsen, VP, eServices at EMC Corporation
  • Jay Dietz, SVP, Global Services at KONE Corporation
  • Rajiv Mehta, SVP, Service at Samsung
  • Chris Gera, VP, Field Service at Vivint
  • Executives from major service brands including Pitney Bowes, Honeywell, Sears, Johnson Controls, Sprint and more.

Combining practical experience with thought leadership, we are also pleased to welcome (3) three best-selling authors to keynote the 3 day event, including:

  • Ron Kaufman

Ron is the best-selling author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller, “Uplifting Service! The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues and Everyone Else You Meet” and 14 other books on service, business and inspiration. Ron is also the founder of UP! Your Service, a company that enables leaders and organizations to build Uplifting Service cultures for sustainable advantage who serves as the Official “Culture Development” Partner of The Service Council.

  • Bob Kelleher

Bob is the author of the best-selling books, Louder Than Words – 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps…that Drive Results (Amazon’s top selling employee engagement book in 2011-2012), Creativeship, A Novel for Evolving Leaders. In December, 2013, Bob released Employee Engagement for Dummies for Wiley and Sons’ publishers. Bob is also the founder of The Employee Engagement Group.

  • Frances X. Frei

Frances is a Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School and the Senior Associate Dean, Director of Faculty Planning and Recruiting.  She is the best-selling author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press). Her research examines how organizations can build service models that reliably deliver excellence.  Her work has been published in top-tier journals such as Management Science and Harvard Business Review.  In addition, she has published dozens of case studies across a variety of industries, including financial services, government, retail, software, telecommunications, and hospitality.  These cases include Zipcar, eBay, Southwest Airlines, Tiffany’s, Houston Rockets, Commerce Bank, Progressive Insurance, Orient Express Hotels and Zappos, among others.

I hope you and your teams can join us for what will be our best yet. Please feel free to reach me directly ( if I can be of assistance in helping you maximize your involvement in the event. You can also feel free to register here (promotional discounts still available for a limited time).


Meeting Service Expectations Globally

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

When one puts the words ‘global’ and ‘service’ together, the first thought is one of outsourced contact centers. Over the previous 15-20 years a number of organizations have taken advantage of global resources to reduce the cost of service delivery primarily across parts sourcing, inventory management and the contact center. This mode of globalization is still valid and continues to offer efficiencies. However, we’re beginning to see more and more organizations evaluate global service structures in order to match the ever-increasing reach of their products and to unify the total service experience delivered to customers.

The Service Council’s (TSC) Q3 research trends survey revealed that 37% of organizations were focused on the global growth or expansion of their businesses in Q4 2013 and early 2014.  Only 30% had indicated global expansion to be a priority in Q3 2013. In fact, global expansion was noted as a top four area of focus for 2014. Granted, more than 50% of the organizations focused on global expansion are already global in nature with regards to service, but a new breed of mid-size service businesses are looking to enter new geographies from a service and support perspective. Fifty-percent (50%) of mid-sized organizations (between $50m and $1b in annual revenue) indicated that global expansion was a key focus area of growth for their businesses.

Most organizations that harbor global growth aspirations in the coming months have looked to do so for the previous 12 months as well but have been slowed by global financial market and economic challenges, as identified by 41% of respondents. However, increasing avenues for the sale of product globally and a lack of consistency in service management processes have led to a delivery challenge that can no longer be ignored. More so, competitive factors, particularly in the industrial manufacturing and medical segments, are forcing the hand of organizations that have been hesitant to strengthen their global offerings. Competition from other OEMs via multi-vendor services and from local independent service providers delivers a revenue hit on opportunities tied to contractual or transaction service. More so, ineffective service delivery, even via an unaffiliated third-party, can serve to negatively impact an organization’s brand and reputation when it comes to quality or customer service.

In addition to opening up new revenue opportunities and increasing access to a global network of customers, a global service framework enables organizations to:

  • Deliver a consistent brand of service and support across geographies
  • Standardize service processes for increased efficiency
  • Increase collaboration and best practice sharing between various geographies
  • Take advantage of shared services across multiple geographies thereby removing redundancies but also offering economies of scale

There is no one size fits all strategy for global service delivery. Cultural, language, supply chain and regulatory differences make it extremely difficult to have a unified service strategy that stretches across all geographies. However, a connected service strategy that emphasizes local accessibility with aid of global resources can go a long way in enabling organizations differentiate the offerings that they provide.

More so, business initiatives can be shared across the globe, and these initiatives are enriched by the local feedback delivered by the variety of service partners. Revenue growth, the top goal of service organizations as seen via TSC research, can be a global initiative with implications for all service geographies while the path to revenue attainment might vary depending on the geography. Similarly other initiatives such as workforce management, partner management, knowledge sharing, inventory management can all be initiatives that are collaborated on at a global level and then enacted at a local level to account for regulatory and other differences. Collaboration on global strategic initiatives is the first step in ensuring the development of a truly global service organization, as opposed to one that is just multi-national. As the Fmr. Worldwide VP of Technical Services and Automation Systems for Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson and Johnson Company, Troy Taylor, puts it, to support a global service strategy you must have ‘Global Governance with Local Execution’.

To hear more about Troy’s thoughts on global service and to catch some findings from our recent global service survey feel free to access the Smarter Services Webcast Series: Going Global session recorded in late February. More on the topic soon.

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