sumairdutta - The Service Council

Symposium Series: Invigorating Service Journeys

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

We are now 3 months away from The Service Council’s Smarter Services Symposium (Sept 11-13, 2017, Learn More). Last month, we took a few minutes to introduce the theme for the event, Invigorating Service Journeys, on a preview webcast (Access On-Demand). In discussing the theme with speakers and prospective contributors, I’ve realized that we seem to have hit a nerve. Let me explain.

The theme for this year’s event is Invigorating Service Journeys. While it works as a stand-alone theme, it does build on the themes of past events while staying true to our broader foundational research principle of Smarter Services. The core of Smarter Services is that the forces of customer satisfaction and business profitability are not adversarial but actually work hand-in-hand. It makes business sense to satisfy, retain and grow your customers. Many have pushed this message in numerous flavors but I vividly remember this concept being shared by Joe Pinto from Cisco Systems at my very first service event nearly 15 years ago. Joe spoke of the importance of taking a customer lifecycle approach and comparing customer acquisition cost with customer retention cost. Joe continues to share his vision at service leadership events.

In reviewing the results of our 2017 service strategy and leadership benchmark, we’ve identified that leading organizations (Service Champions) are those that have embraced the concept of service journeys. For these Champions, service success isn’t limited to operational efficiency, customer-centricity, or commercial success. Its about bringing all three of these together to ensure the delivery of value to the customer, the service network, and to the internal stakeholders in the organization.

In building their service strategy and portfolios, most organizations start by tackling the operational aspects of service delivery. They then mature to focusing on customer-centric activities, typically with an initial foray into customer surveying or voice of the customer. The more mature organizations then review customer feedback and begin to re-evaluate the portfolio of service products available to customers. Bringing these three areas of focus together is the sweet spot, and thats exactly what we’re looking to investigate this September.
Definition of Service Journeys

If you are interested in Invigorating your Organization’s Service Journey, I encourage you to join us in September. You can:

  1. Request the Agenda (Link)
  2. Register for the Event (Link)
  3. Share Your Story (Link)

If you can’t wait till September, and you’d like to learn more about Service Champions and their business maturity, I encourage you to participate in our Service Leadership and Strategy Benchmark for 2017. To do so, please join our service leadership research group and you will receive an invite to participate in the strategy assessment.

JOIN THE LEADERSHIP & STRATEGY RESEARCH GROUP

Your Machines are Talking. Now What?

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Data must drive action. Otherwise, all the strides that your organization has taken to get connected to equipment in the field have been taken in vain. Internally, other stakeholders will be frustrated that the connected journey isn’t yielding any results. More importantly, your customers and partners will wonder about all the value that was promised.

We can’t assume that assets and equipment are connected. While it is easier and cheaper to connect from a technology point-of-view, there are still significant security challenges that need to be addressed when looking to remotely capture performance and health information from a serviceable piece of equipment. Yet, organizations have made progress in developing a connected infrastructure, especially when it comes to net new assets. The major selling point has been value for the stakeholder to who connectivity needs to be sold.

While our research points to increasing maturity around connectivity, we still find that most organizations are in the early stages of acting on the connected data that they have. In a simplistic manner, we find that service organizations embark on 4 stages with the aid of connected data:

Analyze

At the very core, most service organizations are trying to go from right-to-left, with the right being a field service interaction, and the left being a remote resolve. In that, organizations need to be able to analyze performance data to appropriately resolve service situations when they arise (or even before they do). An analysis of service events, as driven by the products being serviced themselves, can provide organizations with a priority list of actions and investments that they can make when addressing their service response portfolio.

Respond

Eventually the hope for most organizations is to predict future failure and service events. That is a nice vision, but one that will continue to be out of reach for most even with their connected infrastructure. The issue isn’t tied solely to technology, but also to the service resources and business models available to deliver predictive service. That said, there is a great opportunity to deliver value in reactive service and support. A better understanding of the service issue can drive a better experience for the customer. This isn’t only reflected in response times or first-time fix, but also in the ability of the service organization to guide the customer through the service event. Enhancing the customer experience around service events continues to rise to the top of the action list for service business leaders.

Predict

We spoke about going right-to-left from a field support model to one with a greater incidence of remote resolves. There is another version of right-to-left that is desired by service leaders, one which involves the creation of a service event prior to its occurrence. To accommodate this, organizations need to understand and isolate the leading indicators of pending service occurrences and then have the infrastructure in place to resolve these issues prior to their occurrence.

Evolve

The first three stages are transformational in how service is delivered. Yet, they don’t significantly transform the interaction and consumption model for customers. As service organizations get a better handle of service events, service needs, usage patterns, and usage preferences, they can begin to tailor products and services to different types of customers. In this, these organizations need to evolve to focusing on the utility that their customers desire, as opposed to relying on the standard product-service purchase/transaction.

I’ll be talking about these four stages on an upcoming discussion with leaders from Microsoft and PowerObjects on June 14 (Register). If interested in learning about the connected service journeys that organizations are taking, I’d encourage you to join in.

Are Augmented Reality Applications Ready? Service Leaders Respond

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Our current research project on Augmented Reality in service and support has yielded a treasure trove of data. The survey is still live and will be available for another week before we close and summarize results. To participate, please visit https://www.research.net/r/tsc2017ar

Only 12% of participating organizations (n=65) indicate that they are currently using AR in service and support (field service, customer support or training). However, interest in the technology is extremely high. Sixty-one percent of respondents are evaluating applications for use in the next 5 years. Of those evaluating, 40% are currently running live pilots.
Are AR Solutions Ready?

Based on what’s available, 30% of respondents believe that AR applications are ready for use in field service and customer support organizations. Another 28% believe that the applications aren’t ready yet, but they are close.

For those who believe that AR applications still need some work before they are ready for the service enterprise, the following are things that need to change.

  • Ease/speed with which AR content can be created
  • Integration of AR into current workflows
  • Ease of use
  • Integration of AR with existing applications

A number of these issues and challenges aren’t specific to the available applications, they’re more so a commentary on how companies need to transform or reconsider content to get the most out of AR. Organizations can currently insert basic video-related or AR capabilities for specific use cases in field service and customer support, but to get the most out of their investment, they have to consider their current service workflows and the role that AR-enabled connection and content can play in enriching those workflows.

As indicated, we’re still interested in opinions from other service and support organizations interested in the topic of AR. You don’t need a live project to participate. Results will only be shared in aggregate, and these results will be made available to all participants at the end of the month. To participate, please visit https://www.research.net/r/tsc2017ar.

We shared early results from our research on a recent webinar featuring TSC member Lee Company. Lee received a great deal of attention for their 2016 technology deployment, considered to be the largest rollout of wearable technology at that time. Listen in here.

Friday Service Recap: Jeff Bezos on Business Success, Artificial Intelligence, Generation Z

By Sumair Dutta | News | One Comment

Every week, Aly and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 2-3 others for your review.

For the tenth installment, and week 15 of 2017:

Aly’s pick:

Aly was traversing the world this week and will send in his travel report next week.

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: Customer Obsession at Amazon
Source: recode: Link

Commentary: Jeff Bezos’s annual shareholder letter hasnt reached the acclaim of Warren Buffet’s but given all the accolades that Amazon receives, and for the fact that Bezos is now the 2nd richest person person in the world (besting Buffett), its worth a read. There are many interesting areas in this letter, but the one that stands out the most is his focus on customer obsession. I really enjoy this line:

“Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

In our 2017 benchmark survey of service leaders (GET INVOLVED), nearly 6 out of 10 indicated that customer-centric initiatives were their primary area of focus for 2017. While not all of these leaders are looking to invent on their customers’ behalf, they are beginning to understand that success requires more than an obsession with operational efficiency or with product development.
2017 Objectives - TSC Data

Our Three Other Articles
1- Can United Recover (Knowledge at Wharton, 4/13/17)
2- How Companies Are Using AI (Harvard Business Review, 4/14/17)
3- Amazon will pay you to stay home, work customer service (RetailDive, 3/29/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Crisis Management: Some Survival Tips

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

There seem to be a lot of organizations in crisis and PR recovery modes lately. The good news is that it doesn’t take long for another organization to come along and take the mantle of “Crisis of the Week”.

I recently asked several service leaders in our community about how they would respond to a full-blown crisis as the one that United Airlines is facing right now. There have been some great response and here’s one of my favorites:

My response is pretty simple:
 

  1. Take full responsibility and apologize everywhere you can think of: Letter to customer base, Social media, Public advertising outlets
  2. DO NOT blame the agent/employee or try to pretend it was an isolated incident (that’s a losing strategy)
  3. Reassure your customer base that this will NEVER happen again
  4. Ask your customers to test your support whenever they like to verify your corrective action

The apology should be something like this … “We value our customers and don’t want them to leave us.  Clearly in our emphasis on that philosophy, we have over-stepped reasonable boundaries in our training and our oversight.  We want to take responsibility for this mistake, fix it immediately, and do that which is necessary to ensure that it never happens again.”
 
The mistake here would be to (a) blame the agent/employee, (b) not take full responsibility, and (c) pretend like it wasn’t a policy or oversight problem.If you go to great lengths to beat yourself up and admit your mistake … your customers won’t feel the need to do it for you.

That response comes from Rusty Walther, Vice President of Global Escalation Management, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. At our 2014 Smarter Services Symposium Rusty took the stage to share his thoughts on how to deal with a service issue failure. I still remember the list of lessons that he had taken away from dealing with crisis situations across his many years as a service leader.

  • Swarm to the problem
  • Mirror the customer’s sense of urgency
  • How you’re organized is never the customer’s problem
  • Speak with “One Voice”
  • Ask good questions, but don’t force the customer to answer the same questions
  • Brainstorm in the background, not in front of the customer
  • Always have a contingency plan that focuses on now, next, and later
  • Lead from the front by modeling the behavior you want your team to display

Rusty will be one of the keynote speakers at our 2017 Smarter Services Symposium taking place September 11-13 in Chicago, IL. If you are a service business leader, and your’e interested in connecting with some of the best minds in service and support, I encourage you to attend. Feel free to connect with me directly at sd@servicecouncil.com to learn more about the event. You can also get latest information and updates at our our Symposium page.

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
262-649-8721
@suma1r

Building a Field Service Lead Generation Program the Right Way

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

There is an increased responsibility on field service organizations to complement operational and customer facing improvements with commercial results. In our 2016 field service research, the lack of revenue opportunities was seen as a major strategic challenge by 40% of organizations. To encounter this challenge a number of organizations were looking at their front-line field service personnel to identify new business opportunities (aka Leads) or to sell when in front of the customer. Most organizations currently have some form of a field service lead program in place and more are beginning to equip their engineers with the tools necessary to sell. There’s not enough room to debate if field engineers should be selling in the first place. In our research, we’re finding that more field service customers are accepting of a sales approach from a field service engineer if they have a relationship with that engineer or if the engineer has resolved their current challenge and is working to provide them with additional value.

In terms of field service lead generation, there are several best practices to consider when building a program. These practices were reinforced in recent TSC IdeaShare focused on pertinent field service metrics. On the discussion, Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell spoke of his learnings in developing a $50m+/yr field service lead generation program.

Develop a Dedicated Lead Management Process and Support it With Technology

Lead generation must be easy and effective if the field service team is going to bother with the added responsibility. Field engineers will abandon the process immediately if it doesnt work. Typically, the two major failure points occur around lead follow-up by sales and in lead-affiliated compensation for field service engineers. A lot of the core areas of lead management can be automated with the aid of mobile and CRM solutions. That said, its essential that there is well thought out process for how leads are managed throughout the entire sales cycle, all the way from identification to closure.

Deliver Training Materials at All Levels of Field Service

Change management is essential in the rollout of any new program. Poor attention to this often leads to unsuccessful adoption of the program and poor attainment of desired goals. Its likely that field service engineers will resist when asked to participate in lead generation as they will see this as a proxy to selling. Therefore, organizations need to prepare this engineers on the purpose of the program and then reinforce the impact of the program on all stakeholders impacted, including the customer. Once purpose has been established, the ‘how’ of lead generation needs to be reinforced with training sessions and materials. Preferably training content and scripts are available on-demand for engineers to refresh their knowledge as needed. Its also essential that relevant instructional content is developed for multiple parties in the field service chain, starting with the engineers and moving up to supervisors and regional leaders.

Communicate and Then Communicate Some More

In this day and age of mobile content and self-service portals, it might seem silly to develop flyers and brochures to reinforce the message of a lead program, but these methods do work. The message is simple, the more a program is discussed and reinforced, the more it is adopted. In addition to reinforcing steps, best practices, and procedures, its also beneficial to reinforce the value of the program in the form of engineer success stories or customer results. What’s even more impactful is an actual testimonial from a customer of how the extra time spent by a front-line engineer directly impacted the customer’s results and outcome.

Ensure Visibility Across the Lead Lifecycle

Part of the communication process involves giving engineers visibility into the status of their leads. If its assumed that leads are just going into a black hole, the lead pipeline will eventually dry out. Engineers don’t need to see every lead be successful, they just need to know that their effort is being followed up on.

Push for Sales Accountability

The monetary value of a service lead might not compare with that of a regular sales opportunity. This might be enough to detract sales people from following up on service-generated leads. Therefore, its essential that sales leadership is bought into driving accountability for a service lead program. An easy way to do this is to show the impact that top performing regions or districts are having when it comes to top-line revenue. If sales isn’t motivated by that performance, business leadership will be.

Compensation – Make it Timely

Most organizations develop a financial reward system for field service engineers based on leads closed. Some offer incentives for lead generation. The issue is that most programs stop here. While the field engineer cares about the amount of recognition received, they care more about getting recognized in a timely and painless manner. They shouldn’t have to fight for the recognition or have to wait for it for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, its essential that the reward system developed, monetary or otherwise, is efficient enough to deliver the reward to the field engineer in an expedited manner.

Evaluate Metrics that Drive Action

Activity drives results and while its essential to measure the impact of a lead generation program to garner further buy in, its absolutely essential to track activity-based metrics as leading indicators. These metrics could include participation rates, referrals per tech, and average cycle or follow up time for leads. In our recent IdeaShare, Tyco SimplexGrinnell indicated that they use an engineer confidence index to measure the health of their lead program. The index measures how confident the engineers are in their ability to get paid on leads. The higher the confidence, the greater the activity.

We’ve worked with organizations that have developed and grown lead generation programs into significant revenue contributors. These programs don’t require a great deal of investment from a technology point-of-view, but they do require leadership, a rigorous process, and a focus on change.

If interested in participating in our 2017 research on service sales and marketing and service lead generation, please join our dedicated research group to the topic. If you’d like to chat with members of our community on lead generation, including Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell, drop me a line.

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Office
sd@servicecouncil.com

Four Amazing Tips from our IoT Research Community

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the talk of the town, the town being industrial organizations. For those responsible for service and support, connected or remote monitoring technology has been the talk for 10-15 years. Yet, the technology to connect to remote assets and products and to analyze the data coming out of those products has made significant advances in recent years.

We’ve recently concluded a set of interviews with 18 organizations in our community to ask them about their connected service IoT projects. We’re going to be publishing the final report next week. Late last year, we had the opportunity to chat with several of these organizations as part of our monthly Smarter Services Webcasts. The organizations in the webinar, along with those in our broader interview set, continue to make slow progress on their IoT-enabled solutions. Progress is slow due to internal and external resistance. In addressing that resistance, our webinar interviewees offered some extremely valuable nuggets:

Thing Big, Smart Small with IoT

While it’s essential to have a grand IoT vision for your organization, it’s also important to achieve small wins at the operational and customer level. Therefore, it’s essential to focus the investment on solving smaller near term problems and to use these wins to create momentum for a larger business case.

Sell the Sizzle

In addition to garnering small wins, it’s essential to sell the value of the technology to internal stakeholders and to customers. In that, it’s important to visually show these parties the work that’s being done because of the investment in IoT. Several organizations have established IoT command centers that they feature in customer tours or training sessions. Others use portals or applications to show information and reports to customers. Visibility is essential to selling the promise of IoT.

Make it Work for the Customer

It’s important to translate the value of IoT in the language of the customer and to communicate how the investment in the technology is addressing customer pain points. If the customer being spoken to cares about uptime, then it’s important to translate value in the terms of uptime. If another customer, or buyer of service contracts, cares about cost of support, then it’s essential to be prepared to sell the technology on the basis of support cost.

Islands of Excellence Surrounded by Oceans of Mediocrity

IoT can greatly improve service procedures and outcomes. Yet, the complete value of an IoT investment can only be felt when the entire organization embraces connectivity. In this, the business can make strategic investments or modifications to product offerings, changes to configurations, and reimagine its sales and marketing. Excellence in service should only be a first landmark.

Our IoT report will be ready soon (send me a copy). If interested in listening to our recent webinar, access the on-demand version here. Otherwise, check back in to our research and events for further updates. Future webinars hosted by TSC can be found here.

If you would like to be involved in our research and become part of a community, please join our research groups here. All research by TSC is created via the research group process. Join now.

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
@suma1r

Service Strategy Forecast for 2017

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

Annual predictions and forecasts are an interesting activity/discipline. I like to think of them as annual affirmations as strategic investments don’t necessarily change year-over-year. In some instances, organizations are looking to expand on what they’ve been doing.

Therefore, in an attempt to guide service leaders who look to us for insight and information on the overall service community, here is a list of focus areas for 2017. You can hear (on-demand link) some of these on a recent discussion that we at TSC were fortunate to have with Rusty Walther, Senior Vice President at HPE, and Tom Schlick, Vice President of Marketing and Engineering Development, at SterilMed. In addition, several of Aly Pinder’s observations are also available here.

In 2017, we envision that service business leaders will look to focus the pillars (see below) of their strategy around 4 major areas.

The Four Areas of Focus:

  1. Increasing Predictability
  2. Enhancing Efficiency
  3. Identifying New Opportunities
  4. Empowering Customers with Access and Information
The Strategy Pillars and Objectives

The Service Council: Service Strategy Pillars and Objectives

These aren’t ground breaking predictions, but let me elaborate on a topic of interest and focus in each.

Increasing Predictability

Focus: Executing on Predictive Models. In our research, we’ve found that most organizations have used investments in IoT or analytics to increase their efficiency. They are finally turning an eye to the predictive power of this information and in building delivery models to support predictive service. Effective delivery models (over-the-air, self-service, remote assistance, partner-based support, field support) of predictive support can be built on the existing reactive infrastructure, but do require an investment in training, communication, and change management. To that end, the service organization needs the support of other business groups, mainly R&D, IT, and Sales and Marketing.
An Emerging Area: Leveraging customer feedback data to predict retention or attrition events.

Enhancing Efficiency

Focus: Better Use of Better Information. Over the past five years, service organizations have made significant investments in mobility to empower the field service staff and in unified desktops to empower contact center staff. In these investments, organizations have focused on making sure that all information necessary was available at the front-lines. The problem was that the information wasn’t available in context, making it difficult for front-line staff to use this information. In that, we do see organizations re-evaluate technology investments to ensure that the right information is prioritized for front-line staff. The figure below showcases the type of information that field service engineers in Europe would like to see.
Slide16

Outside of technology, we actually see a great deal of investment into the structure and design of training programs and content to ensure that front-line agents are able to act on information that is made available to them.
An Emerging Area: Augmented or merged reality holds great promise in field service as it enhances the reach of a centralized expert model in terms of resources and customers that can be supported.

Identifying New Opportunities

Focus: Installed Base Management. While organizations are always on the lookout for new customers and new services to sell to those customers, there is an increasing recognition of the need to accomplish more with the existing installed base. In this, organizations are focusing their analytical minds on the portfolio of existing customers and the products and services that might be needed to increase customer value.
An Emerging Area: The development of customer care (customer success) teams that enable a consistent communication with customers to uncover pain points, challenges, and opportunities.

Empowering Customers with Information and Access

Focus: Ease and Effort. Ritz Carlton believes that a differentiated experience comes from the ability to surprise and delight customers. In equipment-centric service the word surprise isn’t looked at as a positive. Yet, there is a greater push from equipment manufacturers (and other organizations) to improve the experience that’s delivered to customers. Some of this can be attributed to consumerized experiences delivered by the likes of Uber and Amazon. Organizations we work with are looking to make it easier for customers to do business with them and this correlates with reducing customer angst and effort in seeking and acting on information. We’re just conducting some research on the topic and early (65 organizations) results point to this overall trend.
An Emerging Area: Messaging as a communication channel in on overall interaction portfolio.

The Service Council Research: Customer Experience Focus Areas for B2B Service Organizations (Preliminary Results)

Customer Experience Focus Areas for B2B Service Organizations (Preliminary Results)

Do these align with your objectives for the year? Let us know. As noted earlier, you can access our conversation with HPE and SterilMed here. If you are a service leader and would like to get involved in The Service Council’s research and 2017 benchmarks, please feel free to contact Aly Pinder or myself.

Where is the Chief Service Officer?

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

At the always excellent Aftermarket Europe conference late last year, conference moderator Coen Jeukens from Bosch opened the event with an incredible question/challenge. He asked:

“Where is the Chief Service Officer? If service truly is a priority, then where is the Chief Service Officer?”

I have to admit, I didn’t and still don’t have a response. When I started as a service analyst at the Aberdeen Group several years ago, I was fortunate enough to work with Mark Vigoroso (now at NCR) on a report highlighting the “Emergence of the Chief Service Officer”. In this report we argued that organizations that were serious about differentiating via service needed a C-level leader to drive the necessary transformations in the business. These transformations include:

  • Going from a product-centric business to a service or customer-focused business
  • Treating service as a profit center

A major reason why transformations fall short is the lack of internal commitment across the organization. For service to be a differentiator, it needs to be injected into the culture of the overall organization, not just in the service organization. This is why, we argued, that a service leader was necessary. By the way, the fact that service accounts for 30-40% of revenue for many businesses was another reason.

At that early stage, very few organizations had an official CSO role. Yet, we continued to push for that title in our research and work. Aly Pinder, my research partner at The Service Council, was also a key supporter of the CSO movement.

Service transformations are still occurring. In some instances we use the term servitization. And the role of the service leader is extremely important in driving transformation. In fact, in The Service Council’s 2015 work on service transformation, executive leadership and support was cited as the most important pre-requisite for a successful transformation. So, where is the Chief Service Officer?

There are several possibilities as to why the official title has not appeared.

  1. Organizations aren’t really that serious about service and all that we see and hear is me-too marketing. This is the scariest option.
  2. The C-level title for service has been taken on by the Chief Customer Officer. I believe that this is true for organizations in certain industries such as high-tech manufacturing or software. The fear with this option is that sales and marketing get a lion’s share of the focus as they have more of an immediate ROI (when measured by sales dollars). It takes someone who is well versed in service to truly understand the dollar impact of:
    a. Customer loyalty
    b. Service revenue (if you sell service contracts, warranties, parts etc.)
  3. There is someone fulfilling that role but they don’t have a C-level title. I suspect that this is the most likely scenario. I’ve heard good arguments from organizations that they believe that creating an office of the Chief Service Officer or the Chief Customer Officer can be counter-productive as it compartmentalizes the responsibility for service wherein it should be organization-wide. This seems like a cultural issue to me, one that needs the hand of a service leader to consistently communicate and reinforce how every single person working in an organization impacts the end customer.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know why we don’t see the CSO title. I’d like to find out why.

I’m going to ask the question to several service leaders on a short webcast tomorrow (Thursday Jan 12, 2017). The focus of the webcast is to capture some service predictions for 2017, but this seems to be an appropriate tie in. Plus Tom and Rusty should have great responses. Please feel free to register and listen in.

If you have an opinion on this, please do submit a comment here and/or feel free to participate in this very short survey on the topic. It would be great to see where the results fall.

ClickSoftware Seeks a Course to Software Magic: A ClickConnect 2016 Review

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

One of my favorite presentations at ClickSoftware’s recent ClickConnect conference was from J. Randall Hunt at Amazon Web Services. While he spoke about Amazon’s cloud infrastructure and how it is empowering organizations such as NASA and SpaceX, he also spoke about innovation for the enterprise. In his presentation, he also introduced two extremely pertinent and powerful quotes, both of which are worthy of their status as inspirational posters/memes etc.

The first comes from British science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke who once wrote:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

This is the most popular of Clarke’s three laws. There are many interpretations of this law. Mine follows the path that software or technology is at its best when it makes life easier. As in, the operation of technology in the background yields magical results without me having to prompt the technology to produce desired results.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in enterprise software. Out-of-the-box very seldom adheres to companies’ needs and it then becomes an exercise of configuration and customization to make software do what is desired. All of this works till the next update.

The Promise of the Cloud

ClickSoftware has always been known to be a powerful field service tool, especially on the back of its scheduling engine and mobile capabilities. This isn’t just personal opinion, its information shared from ClickSoftware users in The Service Council’s community. Yet, power has been equated with complexity, making the deployment of ClickSoftware a significant investment in change. Some of this investment has been tied to software and coding, but most of the change has been related to business process and employee acceptance. Once the change has been executed, results have been powerful, yet the change has often been the hardest part of the ClickSoftware implementation.

The organization has made a significant push to simplifying its product with the most recent announcement of Field Service Edge. With Field Service Edge, ClickSoftware has completed its embrace of the cloud and hopes that its current customers will make the leap with it. Upon early investigation, several field service customers are looking to move from their on-premise deployments to cloud options. Yet, given a strong utilities customer base, the migration has been slow. However, the Cloud seems to be model of preference, with the majority of recent customers and prospects interested in a cloud-based solution.

At ClickConnect 2016, the company was able to showcase some of the enhanced capabilities of its Field Service Edge solution and often touted the ease with which software could be set up and updated. Recent updates to Field Service Edge (June 2016) allowed for improved usability, real-time updates, and even further enhanced scheduling accuracy based on Google’s predictive engine. The future roadmap checked all the boxes in terms of areas of improvement and investment in field service:

  • Advanced reporting and improved dashboards
  • Driver behavior and safety analysis (in collaboration with GreenRoad or Fleetmatics)
  • Augmented reality in the field (in partnership with FieldBit)
  • Contractor management
  • Crew management and planning

Customers Looking to Blend Efficiency with Engagement

In addition to these areas, there were two areas that piqued customer interest.

  1. Capacity Planning.While not the topic that gets the most clicks, capacity and territory planning is a major challenge for field service companies. Organizations are always looking to build optimal territories to meet response and SLA requirements. Optimized scheduling can only go so far and needs to be augmented with optimized planning. In this area, ClickSoftware has a unique opportunity to differentiate, especially in bringing planning and scheduling together. In its future product roadmap, ClickSoftware is reinvesting in planning as a field service functionality in incorporating a more dynamic and predictive territory allocation model.
  2. Customer Engagement.Customer engagement, as a module, was introduced at ClickConnect 2015 and it would have been great to see live examples of organizations using these tools. The idea behind customer engagement in a field service setting is that the customer gets introduced into the field service delivery equation. Therefore, the customer has control over appointment setting and management and can engage with the field service organization via messaging or text to review, update, or reschedule established service work. All of this can be done with or without the installation of a dedicated app. Customers can create appointments in Facebook or via their messaging application of choice and can receive necessary updates in preferred avenues.

    Customer engagement is an interesting play for ClickSoftware. It is true that the experience delivered to customers in field service is becoming more and more of a differentiator. Customers, enterprise or consumer, want field service to be effective and want to be able to afford field service. Outside of that, the field service experience is becoming a differentiator. Of pure play field service providers, ClickSoftware is making the most significant push into customer engagement. Salesforce and Microsoft are making the push as well, albeit from the comprehensive view of the customer perspective as afforded by their CRM solutions. We believe that customer engagement will be a game changer, especially given the way that younger customers and consumers are demanding service. The question remains as to which partners service organizations will look to work with in their pursuit of customer engagement tools. Are they more likely to build it themselves, or work with CRM partners, or look to their field service providers? The answer to this question will determine the success of ClickSoftware’s push into customer engagement.

Also on display at ClickConnect were customer-led sessions from SGS, Trane, Diebold, Lowes, and Suramerica. Most of these organizations spoke of their investments in and challenges with change management. In some of these cases, the change management was tied to the deployment of ClickSoftware, while at others it was around changed processes as impacted by ClickSoftware. For instance, Trane presented on its transformation from a technician-driven, self-dispatching model to one managed by local coordinators. To allow for regional relationship development, the company decided that a completely centralized model wasn’t the way to go. However, introducing a local coordinator eliminated decision-making complexity at the technician-level (who should I visit first?) while empowering the team to cover a larger set of customers.

In looking to the future, the likes of Diebold, Trane, and SGS were most interested in increasing the predictability of their service businesses while managing the changing expectations of their service customers. These organizations also highlighted the increasing importance of employee engagement especially as workforces become more and more distributed. Improving employee engagement isn’t just seen as a means to reduce turnover, but is also seen as a path to improved and increased innovation.

Which leads me to my second quote from Hunt’s presentation. This comes from Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab.

“Want to increase innovation? Lower the cost of failure.”

On the topic of customer engagement, The Service Council is about to launch its survey focused on the Next Frontiers of Customer Experience with a section tied to field service-oriented customer experiences. The idea for this survey was developed from consumerization-oriented takeaways from our 2016 Smarter Services Symposium. The survey will be live shortly. If interested in participating in the survey to talk about changing the experience of connecting and communicating with customers, do feel free to reach out to me. I can be found at sd@servicecouncil.com.

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