May 2018 - The Service Council

Maintaining a “Head Start” in Your Proactive Support Journey

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In a previous blog post “Proactive. Predictive. What’s the Difference?”, I outlined the various components of a proactive support strategy. As a refresher, here they are below:

1- Predictive Service / Maintenance
2- Resource Planning for Predictive Service Operations
3- Proactive Operations Management
4- Proactive Installed Base Management
5- Proactive Customer Communication

In speaking to organizations about their proactive journeys, it has occurred to me that service leaders agree on the necessity of a proactive support strategy, but they’re waiting for the right technology or the right stage of data maturity prior to embarking on their proactive journey.

While I agree that you need a well-established data framework to make proactive customer management decisions, I would encourage leaders to take active steps to get started and to make proactive a business priority. It won’t be long before customers begin to demand this and it definitely won’t be long before competitors begin taking a more proactive approach to customer management. In fact, many organizations have already put programs in place, and while these programs might still be in their infancy or only touch upon one of the proactive strategy components, they are already providing valuable information and insight to the early movers.

The use of the Internet of Things (IoT) data to support predictive maintenance has been taking place for some time now, especially in industries with high-value assets such as Aerospace & Defense, Medical Devices, and Oil & Gas. Organizations in these industries are getting much more precise in identifying future failure events and are getting more intelligent about incorporating data capturing sensors into future iterations of their products.

Organizations in High-Tech manufacturing are taking the lead in proactive installed base management by getting smarter about the coverage of their service agreements and initiating appropriate sales, marketing, and awareness actions to increase revenue capture and to enhance customer retention.

We’ve also seen organizations in High-Tech Manufacturing take strides in proactive customer communication and management. One TSC member in particular has developed a proactive outreach and support program that is based on a customer health index. This index accounts for all the things positive and negative that have happened to that customer and all of the events that are likely to happen in the future. The purpose of the health index is to mobilize necessary customer management resources to prevent a future escalation. This involves prompt resolution of open customer requests, improved response for new customer inquiries, and greater communication between the service provider and the customer. Such customer health indices are becoming more common given the benefits associated with avoiding a customer issue versus resolving a full-blown meltdown.

And in the areas of proactive operations management and resource planning, we see progress as well. In fact, I had the opportunity to discuss the proactive concept with the team at Stedin on a recent webinar (Download Recording) hosted by TSC partner ClickSoftware. Here is a short excerpt from our interview that focuses on the predictive field service and operations management.

Q: How does Stedin view the concept and idea of predictive field service?
A: Predictive Field Service fulfills a vital role in driving the operational excellence within Stedin Meters & Connections. It’s more and more becoming the basis for meeting our goals on first-time-right-customer, first-time-fix, and net promoter score. These in turn allow us to meet our legal obligation of offering all our 2 million customers a smart meter by 2020. We have also followed the concept of Think Big, Start Small.

Stedin has embraced the Agile mindset, and for us this means we like to start new initiatives by first proving our assumptions with a small and relatively easy to realize proof of concept before moving on to bigger initiatives. Digital Transformation

Q: Which areas of the 5 (highlighted by TSC) are ones where Stedin is actively making investments? Why?
A: For now, we have been focusing on predictive operations management and predictive resource planning because these were the areas we thought we could make the quickest and easiest improvements. They are also the areas where the biggest benefits and return of investments could be made.

What’s also important to mention is that every project we do has to have direct added value to the four operational goals within Meters & Connections: Quality & Safety, Productivity & Finance, Employee Satisfaction, or Customer Satisfaction.

Our conversation then focuses on the specific (and very interesting) predictive solutions that Stedin is actively using and the accompanying results experienced. You can listen into our conversation via the on-demand webinar. Feel free to skip through my part at the beginning, especially if you have read my first blog. On listening to the team at Stedin, one can see the predictive and proactive isn’t a future state, it’s something that’s very real right now.

For more insight to how service leaders are incorporating proactive service as part of their overall digital transformation, see our research on Digital Transformation for theService Enterprise.

Sumair Dutta previously served as the Chief Customer Officer for The Service Council™ (TSC).

A Service-Focused Vision: IFS World Conference 2018 Recap

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

IFS hosted its World Conference in Atlanta last week, and The Service Council was invited to cover the event as an Influencer in the Service Management space. Our summary of the event will fall into three primary chapters.

IFS Strategic Direction

This was the first World Conference for new CEO Darren Roos. Mr. Roos wasted no time in introducing himself to customers across the globe prior to last week’s event, but the World Conference served as his official introduction. In his event keynote, Mr. Roos indicated that he intended to continue IFS’s focus on ensuring customer success by spearheading efforts that focused on:

  • Faster time to value
  • Risk mitigation
  • Value assurance

With this in mind, he highlighted that IFS’s near term opportunities for growth were primarily centered around:

  • Extending market leadership in Aerospace & Defense
  • Growing product and customer presence in Service Management
  • Increasing reach in Mid-Market ERP (defined as companies generating $1b-$5b in annual revenue)

From a product functionality point-of-view, Mr. Roos (as supported by VP of R&D Thomas Sald and CTO Dan Matthews) highlighted that the following four areas continue to drive IFS’s product R&D.

  1. User Interface
  2. Internet of Things
  3. Artificial Intelligence / Robotic Process Automation
  4. Mobile

These areas were also highly visible in IFS’s launch of Applications 10 (Apps 10). (See Official Release)

As Influencers of the service community, we had broader access to Mr. Roos throughout the event. It’s evident that he sees an opportunity for IFS to be more aggressive when pursuing growth in the three areas identified above. He sees this growth being accomplished by a continued push on the core functionality of the product, an expanded focus on customer success, and an enhanced partner network. The increased reliance on a partner network for product extensions, implementation, and professional services is a new direction for IFS, and one that is necessary to support the more aggressive growth objectives that Mr. Roos is expected to deliver. From a customer success point of view, Mr. Roos also hinted at a more standardized engagement model across IFS’s global businesses and increased technical and brand integration of IFS’s acquired products within the overall umbrella.

These are early days in Mr. Roos’s tenure, but his comments suggest an acknowledgement of IFS’s strengths as well as a realization of the need for support in accelerating growth. We anticipate a period of cultural change within IFS, where the hallmark focus on product quality will be accompanied by a greater push in the areas of sales, marketing, and customer success.

IFS and Service Management

In Service Management, there were three major product updates. Firstly, the announced IFS Apps 10 suite includes several new service management capabilities. This is typically intended for manufacturers running IFS as their core ERP and looking to extend the capabilities for service-specific functions. Additions are focused on linking service work and quotations to contact records, adding improved resource forecasting capabilities, and better integration of work sent to contractors. (Other improvements in Apps 10 focused on the entire organization, such as chat bots, and more are also applicable to the service organization). The niftiest service-focused demo in Apps 10 involved the direct scheduling of some service work with a partner within the confines of the Aurena user interface.

IFS also showed a demonstration of its newly launched (in Alpha, General Availability planned for Q4 2018) Field Service Management 6 with UI enhancements (Image 1 below) and added functionality (Image 2). The Field Service Management product is a stand-alone field service solution that is aimed at customers leveraging other enterprise partners as their back-end ERPs or CRMs. Much of the core functionality in the FSM product comes from IFS’s acquisitions of Metrix and 360 Scheduling.

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Customers can choose to deploy the FSM Solution in the cloud (multi-tenant on Microsoft Azure or as a managed service) or on-premise. The on-premise focus is interesting, as most field service management software providers only support cloud versions of their software, given that this is where most companies are headed. Legacy systems in field service management are primarily on-premise and there is still an appetite from certain companies, especially in the industries of utilities, oil & gas, and telecommunications, to stick to the on-premise deployment format.

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

The demo during the FSM keynote focused on the UI enhancements and the ease with which users can configure fields or events within the solution. We also got to see the enhanced scheduling engine to which IFS claims to have added support for more business and delivery models.

Away from the bright lights of the keynote stage, I also got to view a demo of the IFS Customer Engagement platform, acquired through the purchase of mplsystems (TSC commentary). The solution extends IFS’s service management footprint into the area of customer engagement, typically a strength of traditional contact center or CRM providers.

Source: IFS World Conference 2018

Source: IFS World Conference 2018

The Customer Engagement Platform can support an organization’s multi-channel service desk, but the focus of the demos was on the intelligent desktop available to service agents and the AI-driven intelligent response capabilities that can be extended to agents or directly to customers in the channels through which they choose to interact (text or voice). These capabilities are quite powerful, and they not only enable IFS to claim a more robust service management solution, but also play on the increasing interest from B2B service companies to offer more consumer-like experiences to their customers.

In our 2018 research on customer support trends, our members indicate that their customers are demanding better response times and increased visibility from their service providers. Essentially, customers want better visibility into the status of their purchased assets and associated service requests and expect greater response and action times when service actions are needed. Enterprise customers aren’t as likely to move to messaging or chat as communication channels, but they do expect the response and the convenience that these channels provide.

Source: The Service Council Data. January 2018

Source: The Service Council Data. January 2018

IFS Customers

No review of an event is complete without a conversation with customers. Luckily for us, several TSC members are customers of IFS and I had the chance to catch up with several of them at the show. Most conversations centered around the breadth of IFS’s portfolio and the excitement around key capabilities introduced in the FSM and the Customer Engagement Management solutions.

All of the customers were pleased with the solution stack and the continued focus from IFS around service management. Several indicated that they were excited to see a greater collaboration with partners to support added functionality and to enhance deployments. A few also highlighted that they were surprised by the breadth of IFS’s Service Management portfolio and would prefer to see a greater push from IFS’s account management and customer success teams around solution awareness and education.

I also had the opportunity to host a panel with service leaders from Eickhoff-Bochum, The Polygon Group, and REMA Tip Top around the challenge of finding and retaining talent in the field service discipline. All of the leaders conceded that they were struggling to find new talent, but all three claimed that they saw this as an opportunity to rebrand their organizations in order to increase interest in the field service profession. Several of the takeaways from the discussion focused on:

  • Increasing the measurement and evaluation of employee engagement at the field technician level
  • Enhancing the autonomy of field service agents in a time when technology allows for more control
  • Focusing on broader personality traits at the time of hire to enable a more customer-centric field service organization
  • Driving greater levels of diversity in the field workforce
  • Using technology to remove some of the obstacles to the completion of service work and essentially making life easier for front-line agents

As you can see, there was a lot that took place over the two days of my experience at the IFS World Conference. The customer panel was definitely a highlight, especially as it focused on the human element of field service at an overall technology conference. It also highlighted that companies who work with the likes of enterprise software providers such as IFS are grappling with the role that technology will play in the future of work. There are more questions than answers at this stage, but there is a greater awareness that leaders within organizations need to take a greater interest in their employees as opposed to solely focusing on employee output.

On a final note, IFS’s Global head of Service Management and I had the opportunity to share our thoughts on major field service trends on a live broadcast on The Cube.

Proactive. Predictive. What’s the difference?

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective, Uncategorized | No Comments

There’s no doubt that service businesses are organizing themselves to be more predictive in the service that they provide. Instead of responding to a service event, they can now act on information and data available and prevent future repair issues with predictive actions. This has significant ramifications, especially on the customer who is potentially facing a shutdown of operations due to product failure. The impact on the service organization is significant too, as resources don’t need to be scrambled to meet an emergency service request. Being able to predict service needs allows the service organization the luxury to plan for future resource needs.

Achieving predictive service outcomes can be expensive. One can approach predictive service with more of a time-based preventive maintenance model, but that doesn’t really weed out all service issues and therefore doesn’t afford all the cost benefits of reactive service avoidance. We also believe that service buyers will begin to question the value of preventive maintenance schedules without real insight into how these visits are driving the outcomes desired by their businesses.

For true predictive service, one needs to get a better view into what’s happening with products in the field. This view isn’t limited to the operating performance of the product or the equipment, but also covers the environment that the equipment is in, and the nuances of how operators are handling the equipment. To enable real-time data capture and management, many organizations are heading towards the introduction of more sensors on their equipment. Anyone who has tried to do this knows how difficult it is. Sensors raise the short-term cost and complexity in R&D cycles and can get discarded in R&D’s attempts to remain on time and under budget. It takes a senior business leader who understands the long-term enterprise value of an investment in sensors to ensure that R&D and service can work hand-in-hand. Even then, it isn’t guaranteed that the service organization will receive all the information needed to develop a predictive picture. Sensor data can be supplemented by data that’s captured through customer requests or during on-site service visits – all models of data capture that should be considered by service organizations looking to introduce predictability into their delivery models.

While predictive service is being enabled, organizations mustn’t lose sight of the opportunity in becoming more proactive in how they approach their customers. Predictive service is one element of a more proactive customer management strategy. We believe that a proactive support strategy encompasses the following elements:

1- Predictive Service / Maintenance
2- Resource Planning for Predictive Service Operations
3- Proactive Operations Management
4- Proactive Installed Base Management
5- Proactive Customer Communication

I recently spent some time highlighting the various stages of The Service Council’s proactive support strategy on a Smarter Services™ Webcast called “Raising the Bar for Field Service with Predictive Technologies.” To hear a recording of the webcast, please click here. This webcast is supported by ClickSoftware and includes a wonderful presentation by team members at Stedin a leading energy management company based out of the Netherlands, who are focused on driving business value with the aid of predictive technologies. Next week, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts and presenting them on a post-event blog available on The Service Council’s website.

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