By Giacomo Squintani, Marketing Manager, EMEA, Servigistics
Measuring Intangibles to Drive Customer Satisfaction and Sales
WBR recently hosted “Strategic Service Management 2008″ at the quirky, yet endearing, Hotel Le Plaza in Brussels. At the end of the event that combined the previous parts-focused Interlog and the field technicians-oriented Field Service to offer a more holistic (and relevant) view of the service business, Hilbrand Rustema of Noventum led a panel of industry leaders, including Hans-Werner Albrecht of Pentax Europe, Harald Hofstätter of Gambro, Richard Burgess of Oracle, Ole Buus of Xerox and Paul de Swaef of Baxter Healthcare discussing the balance between tangible and intangible issues in Strategic Service Management.
The key point was how the focus of field engineers appears to be shifting away from traditional KPIs, such as number of visits/day, towards spending time developing relationships, gathering sales intelligence and keeping the competition out of the door. The participants agreed that they want field engineers to strengthen the corporate brand, the service brand; they want them to push additional services, gather information, and turn customers into our salesmen. They want them, pretty much, to add account management and pre-sales skills to their repertoire. That’s quite a (r)evolutionary shift…
Albrecht commented that “service is too often focused on the logic. There is a need to establish an emotional link”; Hofstätter spelt out the implications even more clearly, stating that “in my industry [medical], it’s worth spending half an hour with a doctor or a nurse for that emotional connection… it is dangerous to focus on optimising the number of visits/day”. Considering that scheduling optimisation is a key benefit of Servigistics’ Workforce Management Solution, I won’t deny that this suggestion sounded almost blasphemous… at first. Give it a few seconds to sink in, though, and it makes perfect SSM sense - as we’ll see shortly.
Burgess painted a typically British perspective, stating that Avery Weigh-Tronix found that its techs had served the company for an average of nineteen years. But their background and their British nature meant that their inclination was to “get in, fix the job and get out - it’s what we do”.
Ole Buus then crystallized the panel’s thoughts by stating that “Strategic Service Management represents the shift from technical service management to business management, from solving technical problems to solving customer issues”. Neat. But how will this evolution be managed - and does the downturn threaten it?
I put my concerns to the panel, who appeared upbeat about the shift’s chances of survival. Albrecht replied that Pentax had processes in place to measure customer satisfaction. Great - because improving customer satisfaction is one of SSM’s true deliverables, with proven ROI. But what if the emphasis on ‘intangible’ means you can’t measure the benefits? Will Boards continue to support it without visible ROI?
Don’t get me wrong, the shift represents unquestionable progress and makes long-term sense. Techs are ideally placed to gather such intelligence, and should be encouraged to do so. But many visionary long-term strategies have been the victims of short-term-ism in troubled financial times.
How will companies balance management’s strategic vision with the risk of technicians abiding by more traditional, operational KPIs to protect their jobs? If this is not addressed, and the CFO orders a 20% headcount reduction, time spent helping their Sales colleague book their President’s Club tickets could suggest they’re slow and unproductive….
This is why I believe another way will prove to be the true SSM way, safeguarding the visibility and measurability that companies have spent years establishing. By breaking down the critical intelligence gathered by field technicians into basic components and feeding that into the corporate CRM system and processes that have so far been the primary domain of Sales and Marketing personnel, that intelligence can be measured, rewarded and acted upon. It can also ensure engineers are coached throughout an evolution that is asking them to move out of their comfort zone while continuing to promote the company’s values. And there is nothing intangible about this strategy - or about the results it can deliver if successfully executed.
This is why Hofstätter wasn’t being blasphemous after all. There is more to Workforce Management than scheduling optimisation. Leveraging mobility and Knowledge Management, it provides the necessary interactivity to capture the metrics that in Brussels were defined as ‘intangible’, ensuring they become actionable intelligence and avoiding the danger of another buzzword failing to deliver ROI.
SSM looks at the bigger picture, leveraging synergies. Whereas in the past technical and psychological barriers meant that CRM systems were the kingdom of Sales and Marketing staff, ERP systems were the kingdom of Finance and Administration, and Service used whatever disparate tools were left, in this brave new world those old barriers have been knocked down and common platforms established. That is one of the cornerstones of SSM, which delivers cross-functional decision-making support throughout an organisation to facilitate maximising service and profitability even as your employees’ skills (and needs) broaden.
Anyway, enough from me… what about you, and your organisation? Are service technicians broadening their role? How are you ensuring the time they spend developing relationships is measured? Is there increasing convergence between how your Sales and Service personnel are managed and rewarded? Let me know by commenting below. Let’s talk SSM.