November 2015 - The Service Council

Customer Success Confuses Me

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

I love the concept of customer success. I’ve argued in recent blogs that it is going to be a necessary concept for organizations to embrace in the coming era of service and support. A recent interview conducted with Egnyte shows the incredible value of a well run success program.

As a customer, my experience with customer success seems to indicate that organizations are willing to embrace the term customer success without putting in the necessary rigor to ensure actual success. Seems like more of a me-too approach to the concept.

In the past 6 months, I’ve encountered customer success teams on 3 separate occasions. The first was in canceling a service where the success agent was very good. Yet, it was too late for customer success to be introduced as the decision had already been made. In addition, I have to believe that customer success isn’t just another term for churn avoidance. On the other two occasions, I was introduced to customer success at the point of purchase of business solutions. I was excited to test out the concept but very disappointed with the success experience. The introductory calls were very cookie cutter. Templatized answers with the standard “please visit our self-service portal if you have any questions”. But what has me even more confused or disappointed is that I haven’t heard from customer success since. Isn’t consistent and constant communication a core feature of customer success programs? A simple check in would suffice. Perhaps I’m not spending enough to warrant the right level of customer success. Then, why introduce me to the concept in the first place. It almost makes it worse.

I’m confused enough that I’ve decided to study the topic of customer success – its applicability to all kinds of businesses; best practices; and more. If you’re in customer success and you think that I have it wrong, or that my sample size above is too limited, then take a few moments to participate in this research survey. If you’re not in customer success but would like to share your thoughts on putting a program together, please take part as well. I’ll make sure you get the summary results when I hit 75-100 total responses.

If you don’t want to take the survey, fair enough. I’d like to hear what you think of customer success and who does it right.

Calm Technology and Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

At a recent HubSpot conference in Boston, I sat in on a session on Calm Technology led by Amber Case (@caseorganic, or web). Fascinating stuff really and the best talk at the conference in my opinion.

The terms ‘Calm Computing’ and ‘Calm Technology’ were coined by PARC researchers in 1995, focusing on the promise of technology and computing to reduce complexity in our lives by featuring and informing us of things that are really important and by running everything else in the periphery.

There is a lot of wonderful material here.

Does it apply to field service? Very much so. We’re in this rush to equip field engineers with more information via mobile applications. The important questions to ask are:

  • Who does all of this information really benefit?
  • Is the information available in the right context?

The intent of mobilizing field agents isn’t to replace the time that they spent on paper with the time they spend on a mobile device. Its to replace the paper time with customer or work time.

We’re running a mobile field service research survey. Currently, 20% of organizations responding (n=75) indicate that their field engineers spend too much time on their mobile devices, as opposed to working. Another 30% don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see the final results.

If you have a field service organization, let us know what type of information you’re providing in the field. We’ll share the final results when ready in early December. I’d love your comments on the applicability of calm technology in field service. I sure can do with more of it in my personal life.

Six Takeaways from ClickConnect 2015

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

ClickSoftware held its annual user event in Miami a few weeks ago. Given that ClickSoftwareis one of the biggest providers in the field service space (over 700k resources optimized), it was vital that we were present to track updates and announcements. This was also the first ClickConnect user event held as a private company (Our commentary) and under the helm of new CEO, Tom Heiser.

My takeaways fall into two primary categories:

A- Announcements from ClickSoftware

1- ClickSoftware’s mobile focus now extends beyond the field technician. Announcements of a field supervisor app and a customer engagement module highlight how ClickSoftware is becoming more aware of all the stakeholders in the field service ecosystem. It’s not just about mobilizing field service technicians or agents, but also about mobilizing and incorporating the needs of supervisors and customers. From a supervisor perspective, mobile field management can be extremely powerful and it will only be a matter of time before all organizations demand mobile field service management apps for their regional leaders and supervisors. In fact, we’re digging into these overall mobile needs in a recent mobility for field service research project.

  • Mobile applications for field agents (Link)
  • Mobile applications for the field organization (supervisors, dispatchers, technical support) (Link)
  • Mobile devices for field agents (Link)

Traditionally, customer engagement hasn’t been given much thought when it comes to field service delivery. However, as customers begin to care more about the overall experience of field service in addition to its effectiveness, we will see a greater utilization of customer engagement tools in the field service ecosystem.

2- ClickSoftware pushes for increased configurability. The ClickSoftware solution has always been extremely robust in terms of the functionality and effectiveness. That said, implementation of the solution has often required a significant investment from purchasing organizations in the terms of time, money, and professional services. In the next release, launching in early 2016, there has been an increased push on making the product easier to set up, easier to administer, and easier to update. This upgrade will benefit even enterprise class customers to achieve faster time to value of their ClickSoftware investment even if the long-term expectation is to customize solutions based on their unique requirements. It is quite an improvement for small business and mid-market clients who would like to take advantage of the rich features that ClickSoftware provides.

3- The Service Envelope is constantly evolving.Founder and Fmr. CEO of ClickSoftware spoke at length of the concept of the service envelope. The envelope highlights the maximum attainable output for a given level of resource input you can afford. In essence, the solution to an optimization problem isn’t just about improved scheduling, but requires a focus on forecasting, planning, scheduling, mobility, and analytics. Each one of these layers allows for an improved level of productivity and also accounts for variations that occur in time. For instance, when looking at a given day, there is only so much that can be done with the given level of resources to maximize output. But if you step back and look over the course of the coming three months, there is a lot more that can done to prepare overall daily output. Preparation and predictability is also impacted by data available directly from serviceable assets. While I didn’t specifically sit through an IoT session during the event, it was indicated in main stage presentations that future versions of the software will enable links with Azure and AWS IoT Clouds. This in turn would allow for the creation of alerts and tasks in ClickSchedule and also allow for mobile technicians to view asset health information in ClickMobile.

ClickSoftware Service Envelope Presentation, ClickConnect 2015

ClickSoftware Service Envelope Presentation, ClickConnect 2015

Overall, customers present at the show were quite pleased with the products and roadmap shared. From my perspective, developing solutions that address the needs of additional stakeholders in the field service ecosystem (supervisors, contractors, and customers) is a powerful and innovative move, one that we would not have seen 2-3 years ago. It provides further opportunities for ClickSoftware to get entrenched as a system of choice in field service. Personally, I am intrigued to see continued focus on an IoT roadmap given the interest in the area across service organizations as documented by our ongoing research and discussion with TSC’s membership. This doesn’t have to be a me-too roadmap, but one that’s tailored to the needs of current customers who are interested in IoT for improved service outcomes. (Note: An IoT roadmap briefing is currently being scheduled and my notes will follow)

B- ClickSoftware Customer Discussions and Presentations

1- Utilities aren’t Ready for the Cloud. The utilities industry group, a core group for ClickSoftware, still has significant reservations about moving to the cloud. These reservations are significantly more pronounced in the case of public utilities and are tied to security, risk management, and continuity of service. This raises an interesting question about what would need to take place for these organizations to move some of their applications to the cloud especially if other mission critical and regulated industries are beginning to use cloud-based applications. It also creates an interesting challenge for ClickSoftware, which is heavily committed to the cloud.

2- Mobile at Work is still a Work in Progress.I’ve often talked about mobile maturity and how companies need to move from the replacement of paper phase of mobile use to the resolution and relationship building stages. (Mobile maturity is investigated in depth in our recent field service survey.) That said, a significant percentage of companies struggle with moving their existing field service workers from pen and paper to mobile devices. In our 2014 field service research, the adoption of mobility was still highlighted as the top area to improve field service execution and performance. This is much more pronounced in organizations with an aging workforce. I would argue that the aging workforce isn’t the issue; it’s the change management in educating and training workers on the use of mobile devices for field service work. One of my favorite sessions was one lead by Bell. In the session, Bell talked about its focus on change management for its 900-strong field technician force that involved change councils and field ambassadors to ensure a higher level of buy in from the front-line workforce.

3- Service is What you do for People to Delight them Beyond What they Expect.
Ken Schmidt, Fmr. Director of Communications Strategy at Harley-Davidson, kicked off day 2 of ClickConnect, with a talk on creating a tattoo worthy customer experience. His talk was riddled with memorable quotes, including the one use in this bullet. Ken essentially spoke about the path that Harley took to create loyal disciples of the Harley experience. This in turn allowed the organization to go from selling 30k motorcycles a year in the mid-90s to 300k motorcycles a year now. It’s also what allows Harley to charge a significant premium for its motorcycles and still outsell Honda 13:1 in the US and 9:1 in Japan. He argued that the key to Harley’s turnaround was in understanding and appealing to the drivers of rational and irrational (or the animal) human behavior. It provided Harley’s followers with a sense of identity and loyalty that spread by word of mouth. As Ken put it, “Every Harley customer became one because of another Harley customer.”

“Every Harley customer became one because of another Harley customer.”


To Ken, the three basic questions that one must ask:

  1. What are people saying about our brand?
  2. What do we want them to say?
  3. How do we get them to say it?

ClickConnect 2015 was a great learning experience. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get connected with TSC members such as Xerox and Vivint while learning from organizations such as Motorola, Black Hills Energy, Compact Power, Lightpath, and more. We brought some of these organizations together in an IdeaShare workshop, the results of which I’ll post in a follow up blog. Stay tuned.

The Evolving Escalator of Value: My Visit to Aftermarket Europe

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In late October, I was extremely pleased to visit and serve as the chairman for Aftermarket 2015 in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. This is an annual conference for service leaders put together by the Copperberg group and my comrade Thomas Igou. The audience is primarily made up of senior-level service leaders of European organizations or the European units of global organizations.

The purpose of my visit was two fold:

  • To learn about service business trends from a European perspective
  • To raise awareness of our community and research to the Aftermarket attendees

Before I get to my findings, a few comments on the overall conference:

  1. The conference is extremely well done. The content is spot on and the attendees are extremely senior level. This is very important to me as its something that we work and focus on for our own Smarter Services Symposium. Anyone looking for a service-focused conference should consider the Aftermarket conference in 2016. (Connect with Thomas Igou to learn more)
  2. TSC partner and 2015 Symposium Chairman, Ron Kaufman, led a wonderful Service Mastery workshop that was extremely well received. I’d say that Ron tried to mute his American-ism for the European crowd, but didn’t have to.
  3. I am terrible at running, but others aren’t. (See a post from Run Club leader Giacomo Squintani from PTC)
Service Mastery Day at Aftermarket 2015

Service Mastery Day at Aftermarket 2015

My Takeaways:

To set some context for my bullet points, the following are the top priorities as shared by European respondents to our 2015 preview survey (conducted at the beginning of the year).

  1. Customer-centric initiatives – VoC, Segmentation (45%)
  2. Enhancing service profitability (45%)
  3. Developing new service offerings (45%)
  4. Performance management (35%)
  5. People and Talent (30%)

It’s a jam at the top, but the priorities are very similar to those returned by respondents across the globe. These also serve as a consistent base of discussions that were had at the Aftermarket Conference.

1- Lets Move Beyond Executive Buy In.
I moderated a panel on Executive Buy in featuring Robbert Kreber, Head of Aftersales at LiuGong Machinery, and Dr. Philipp Dreyer, Sr. Manager Aftersales Bus Strategy, EvoBus (Daimler). While both indicated that executive buy in is a must for service success, both agreed that we need to start talking about continued buy-in, investment, and innovation in service. A show of hands of the audience indicated that nearly one half of the organizations had secured executive buy in on service and were ready to evolve their service businesses.

2- We Need Cross-Functional Buy In
To build on the first bullet, most organizations agreed that the continued evolution and improvement of service revolved around cross-functional buy in. In particular, support and consideration was needed from sales and R&D. Another show of hands revealed that R&D was a major area where service leaders needed better collaboration and support. Typically, I expect to see sales sit at the top of the list. Better collaboration with R&D comes from:

  • Getting service a seat at the R&D table to ensure that service needs are considered in new product development.
  • Making R&D aware of the overall lifecycle cost of supporting equipment. This is something that Elekta does extremely well.

Organizations are also developing cross-functional support teams that focus on and consider the needs of various business functions. For instance, Getinge has developed a Getinge online team that looks at the technology and information needs of various business functions, specifically as it ties to remote data capture and the Internet of Things.

3- Satisfied Customers Serve as a Lifeline
In the quest for buy in, it is vital to understand, document, and reveal the impact of satisfied and loyal customers. BMW presented on pricing strategy, as it relates to the impact of service pricing on dealer profitability. Several important statistics from the BMW presentation:

  • 70% of the profitability at BMW dealers comes from aftermarket sales (parts, service etc.)
  • BMW has a near 80% repurchase probability for customers who are very or completely satisfied vs. a 46% repurchase probability for customers who are only ‘fairly’ satisfied.

Do most organizations have this type of data? My thought is that it does exist within the bounds of the service organization, but very few individuals outside of service are aware of this. This is an area of research for us at The Service Council as part of our From Customer Satisfaction to Success research series. Please participate if interested in telling us about the importance of satisfied customers to your business (Survey Link).

4- The Definition of Value
While the first three takeaways focus on the value placed on service internally, the next two focus on understanding how customers value service. Coen Jeukens, Service Contract Director for Bosch, closed the event with a session that defined value with the following equation:

Value = Reality – Expectations.

Positive value is created when reality exceeds expectations and vice versa. The thing about value is:

  • Its definition changes with time (The Ron Kaufman escalator of expectations)
  • Different buyers value different things (next bullet point)

5- The Changing Buyers of Service
This is very true of healthcare and medical devices but is also true of other equipment manufacturing industries. With consolidation and integration, the decision to purchase and value service is now ascending to the CSuite, typically the CFO or CIO. These buyers measure service value with different KPIs as compared to the traditional buyers of service. More so, these buyers aren’t impacted by the day-to-day activities of a service organization as much as a facilities managers or plant managers. Therefore it is imperative for service organizations to display excellence in supporting uptime, reliability, and speed, but it is also extremely important that these service organizations consistently communicate value and information to this new breed of buyers.

6- The Need for a Comprehensive Talent Strategy
Patrick Soler from Linde Material Handling led a session on ‘Attracting Talent to Service’ wherein he highlighted what Linde was doing to recruit, train, and retain field service talent. As Linde looks to the future it sees a growing service business, but a shrinking pool of talent to support this business. As a result, a comprehensive talent strategy is vital:

Of particular note:

  • Linde’s focus on recruiting women in service
  • The availability of multiple career paths for field engineers
  • Performance-based and individualized training plans for field employees throughout their careers

What’s Next?

  1. TSC will be partnering with Copperberg on a research initiative focused on the European market. This will be part of our initiative to publish Europe-specific content and research
  2. To that end, several of our research projects (1) Mobile field service applications – Link, and 2) The Importance of Customer Satisfaction – Link) are open for participation for service leaders across all geographies. If we generate a high level of response per a particular geography, we will publish region-specific results.
  3. We expect to be more visible at European events to share our research in 2016. In addition to the Aftermarket event in 2016, we hope to attend 2-3 other customer-held events in 2016.
Activate Your Service Connect™ Membership Learn More

Login