Don’t Let the Complex Stop Your Success – Four Steps to Avoid Service Supply Chain Failure

The service leader of today has a lot on his or her plate. Just a few years ago, he/she was primarily expected to manage a service team to efficiently and cost effectively deliver service per Service Level Agreements and service contracts. Show up on time, resolve the issue, and move on to the next job.

But, today the service leader is now looked upon to drive at revenue opportunities and wow customers with an enhanced experience at each interaction. With often contradictory goals, service leaders can’t be blamed for looking for a new line of work. But to their credit, service leaders and their front-line employees love what they do and take the delivery of excellent service on as a challenge not a burden.

However, the complexities of the service supply chain (i.e., parts visibility, variety of parts, lack of internal focus on service) have made these goals of delivering customer value more difficult, but not impossible. Customer-centricity demands more than just the establishment of a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program from the marketing department or the sending out of feedback surveys after customer service calls. Service organizations and manufacturers must come to the realization that in order to deliver exceptional experiences, functions beyond the field or customer support team must be aligned and accountable for their role in the delivery of service. Specifically, stakeholders in the service supply chain must recognize the impact that they have on customer experience. In the past, the service supply chain which includes service parts planning, forward and reverse logistics, repair, and inventory management, was not looked upon for its impact on the customer. Service parts were typically managed by the supply chain group or business function and the tools to manage parts were primarily concerned with containing costs and enhancing visibility. This mindset is outdated.

To connect the service supply chain with the support organization, service leaders must focus on four critical areas:

Revisit the Metrics of Success
As the focus of service leaders has evolved from being primarily operationally focused to become more customer-focused, so too must the metrics that determine success. Fill rates and probabilities of stock outs are important to measure, but organizations must review a hierarchy of metrics that touch upon operational results, customer outcomes, and commercial success. Is a secondary truck roll required because the technician didn’t have the right or a good part? Did a customer call in to the contact center because the part on their new piece of equipment was defective? Service leaders need to understand how all of these metrics tie together to ensure that they are driving at the right results.
Respond to the Information Needs of the Team
Customers expect faster and better service. The complexities of the service supply chain make this challenging. At the core of this challenge is information and the confidence that key decision makers are basing their actions on the right information. This requires an integration of information silos. For example, effective parts planning requires the planning tools to pull information from case management and field service execution systems. Similarly, effective parts execution requires that inventory solutions are integrated with field service scheduling and dispatch.

Retool the Service Technology Infrastructure
The tools that have supported the service supply chain have provided only a partial view into parts. Service parts management accounts to more than just parts tracking or inventory management. The dynamic nature of customer expectations and the need to balance suppliers, partners, and a field support team demands a more robust technology infrastructure which is specific to the needs of service. The solution and technology infrastructure for service parts must be able to be scalable to support new regions, product lines, and customer types, accessible by multiple groups, and flexible to changing needs of service.

Rethink the Service Strategy and Team
Where do parts sit within the organization? This is a question that hasn’t been resolved for many organizations just yet as highlighted by 40% of organizations managing parts within service and 32% under supply chain. But whether service parts are managed by supply chain or by the service function, there needs to be dedicated processes, dedicated resources, and a dedicated strategy to support its success. Parts and the service supply chain touch upon too many aspects of the business to be siloed. Organizations that fail to prioritize service parts and integrate the discipline into a broader customer support framework will suffer.

If you would like to explore more of the trends regarding the topic of the service supply chain, feel free to listen to an on-demand webinar I participated in with service leaders from Becton Dickinson and Lexmark here. When you download the webinar recording, you will receive exclusive access to a recent report from The Service Council which further highlights the challenges facing the service leader regarding parts management and what they need to do to excel. Finally, if you would like to join the on-going discussion of parts management and the service supply chain please join our research group of Parts Leaders. As a member of this research group you will be able to benchmark your organization’s maturity against your peers and gain access to research highlighting a path to improvement.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities

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