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Connected Customer Experience

Today’s Crisis Triggers the Next Revolution in Field Service

Author Robert Gillette on Apr-17-2020

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This blog was written by Robert Gillette. Throughout his career, Mr. Gillette has maintained responsibility for P&L and revenue growth for all presales, post-sales, and service delivery operations. Most recently, Robert served as Vice President of Customer Support for an OEM line of precision HVAC/R products for the IT Data Center and Indoor Agriculture (cannabis) markets.

In a recent LinkedIn article, I shared my thoughts on how service delivery will change in a post-COVID-19 world. Among the many topics that we continue to discuss is the digital transformation of the field service world. Many field service organizations (FSOs) have stretched above and beyond what even the most forward-thinking and progressive service leaders have predicted. This begs the question, what enabling technologies are the service leaders able to leverage today to meet the new reality? Also, what will be needed in the future to address the next crisis?

I recently got together with my friends at Mize and discussed how FSOs could leverage Mize’s Connected Customer Experience Platform and SmartBlox to meet their immediate and future needs. Mize has designed a solution that evolves with an FSO’s needs allowing service leaders to focus on service instead of trying to make the platform work. While I was VP of Customer Support at STULZ USA we had started our digital transformation. Mize’s platform was one of the enabling technologies we were evaluating for adoption. Taking another look at Mize in recent days with a COVID-19 perspective has enabled me to see how Mize’s approach is on the right track. Mize allows the ability to evolve with you and will allow you to tailor the platform to meet your service needs.

Touchless Service Experience

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how to provide a 100% touchless Field Service experience. In some situations, as we have seen during the pandemic, access to the equipment or facility may be cut off to protect vulnerable individuals. FSOs who can quickly pivot to remote troubleshooting and repair assistance will be the big winners here. There are some critical applications needed to enable a remote support infrastructure, and Mize makes it easy:

I can speak from personal experience when I say many OEMs have been on the sidelines watching these technologies develop. Many have been unwilling to invest. Is COVID-19 the catalyst that will trigger the technology revolution in the Field Service industry? Is this the moment OEMs and service organizations will win the internal budget battles and receive the funding they need to implement these emerging technologies? I think so!

Collaboration is Critical

From my perspective, the technology vendors who can quickly position themselves to provide the strongest value proposition for service organizations embracing an omni-channel approach to service delivery are going to win big. Now is the time for complementary technologies to form collaboration agreements and present turn-key solutions to the industry. Field Service leaders will consider technology platforms that enable remote support, facilitate an omni-channel approach, and enable collaboration between all stakeholders and corporate systems of record.

The Connected Customer Experience Platform and Smart Blox from Mize connect Customers, Channel Partners, Manufacturers, and Suppliers to enhance service interactions on all channels and generate higher margin revenues from the loyal customer base.  CX Connect is an integration platform based on a Service-oriented architecture (SOA) that provides a standardized framework, components, and connectors to integrate Mize Connected Customer Experience software with other enterprise applications.

As the former VP of Customer Support for a global OEM, I can speak from firsthand experience how difficult it is to manage the integration of technology into service operations. OEMs are good at building equipment, not information systems. Therefore technology vendors must make this process as simple and as painless as possible.

A Time for Action

COVID-19 is changing virtually every aspect of our lives. Field Service organizations are not exempt. Now is the time to begin planning your organization’s post-COVID-19 service delivery channels. Now is the time to start the conversations with your customers and partners and start making the right investments to protect your team and your revenue streams.

Mize offers solutions that address the service challenges and opportunities created by the current environment and position your company for future growth.  Please Contact Mize if you have any further questions or want to discuss how you can enable your team and all stakeholders to deliver the service experience that your customers expect.

I leave you with this thought. The technologies that emerge as the next big thing in the Field Service industry may not even exist yet. It is the challenges we face that spur innovation, and COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge the world has faced in my lifetime. We have already seen extraordinary creativity and ingenuity occur around the globe, and let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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COVID-19 Update: Mitigating Service Parts Supply Chain Disruptions

Author Ted Fellowes on Apr-6-2020

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This guest blog was written by Ted Fellowes, President of Fellowes Research.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a black swan that is taking a toll on society. While our first concern is for the health of family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and everyone everywhere – ‘sheltering in place’ is providing many of us with the spare time to consider this crisis from the perspective of own industries and professions.  I have been asked a few times in recent days for my thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on  Service Parts Management (SPM) is and how improvements to and investments in SPM solutions may improve our current situation and prepare us for the next disruption.

COVID-19 is clearly impacting SPM: according to news reports, service parts shortages are growing – creating delays in vehicle and equipment repairs, And eCommerce is soaring – displacing face-to-face and even ordering by phone.    Below I address how OEMs and their networks of dealerships and distributors can leverage SPM solutions to (partially) mitigate adverse impacts and adjust to the changing landscape.


OEM Parts Availability.
  Service parts are critical to the maintenance and repair of all durable goods – particularly vehicles and equipment.  Over the last several decades, the slack in our supply chains has systematically excised with a just-in-time perspective on parts availability.  The more supply chains are optimized, the more sensitive they become to disruptions. 

OEMs’ service parts inventories – and those of their suppliers – have become very lean.  But in many industries, dealerships and distributors have boosted the breadth of their service parts inventories to have off-the-shelf parts availability for a broader range of service operations.  As a consequence, the combined service parts inventories in an OEM’s dealer network are considered part of a virtual parts warehouse.  To leverage this virtual OEM parts depot, The first step in leverage these virtual part depots is to implement a parts locator to facilitate dealer-to-dealer (d2d) parts trade.  Adding OEMs’ parts distribution centers (PDCs) to the network enable dealers to immediately know to source a part from another dealer if the part is not readily available from their OEM.  Next, ‘vintage’ parts inventories (older parts that OEMs choose to no longer carry in their warehouses which are not scrapped, but are available in large, centralized warehouses shared across OEMs) can be added to the locator.  With an OEM service parts locator, dealers can find parts that are temporarily not available from OEMs. 

Mize designed their SPM platform so that even service parts kept in vehicles driven by service technicians, and specialists can be tracked and included in parts locator search results. 

OEM can mitigate service parts supply disruptions with d2d parts locator and related SPM solutions.

OEM Parts eCommerce. Walk-in parts buying now comes with risks and challenges – and perhaps liabilities as ‘social distancing’ becomes our watchword.  Even ordering by phone could be degraded or unavailable if Parts Department staff cannot work remotely or become ill.  With eCommerce, parts buyers are able to serve themselves – identifying the parts they need and submitting orders – with the option of attaching messages and questions to tentative orders.  Dealership Parts Department staff can respond, providing a high level of customer support to ensure that every order is accurate and complete. 

COVID 19 is motivating buyers to switch to eCommerce across industries – for service parts sellers, eCommerce is morphing from an option to a necessary sales channel.  For many OEM parts buyers, eCommerce will now be more familiar – and their expectations.  For OEMs and their dealer network, parts eCommerce is one way to mitigate some of the risks of parts ordering during the current crisis – and for future disruptions.

Referral.  Combining service parts availability and eCommerce solutions results in service parts ‘Order Referral’ solutions – which also aid in mitigating COVID-19 disruptions in parts and services.  Several use cases (or scenarios) are covered below. 

For our first scenario, consider what happens when vehicles in a dealer’s service bay are diagnosed and determined cannot be safe to drive.  If the dealer does not have the needed parts on their shelves, they must place an order with the OEM for parts.  If the OEM does not have the part in its stock of service parts – the dealer’s order becomes an ‘emergency backorder.’  Augmenting a d2d parts locator with an automated eCommerce mechanism enables the creation and transmission of parts buy-back offers sent to participants with needed parts on their shelves).  In practice, the vast majority of service parts that are on emergency backorder status are in-stock at multiple dealerships.  Many – if not most – times, a dealer will accept an OEM’s electronic buy-back offer and ship the part where directed – for a moderate handling and processing fee.  While backorder referral automation solutions will not eliminate parts shortages, it can reduce the severity by half.  Several OEMs have implemented automated “Service Parts Emergency Backorder Referral” solutions successfully and have used them to flatten the curve of unfilled parts backorders. 

The next order referral scenario occurs when an OEM receives a stock order from a dealer in a remote location.  Fulfillment of the stock order from the OEM’s nearest parts depot may be expensive or slow. However, nearby dealers can fill regular parts on backorder quickly if the SPM systems and policies permit this.    The OEM can also provide incentives for nearby dealers to serve as a just-in-case virtual parts depot for other dealers in that location.

A third use case for parts order referrals occurs when end-users order parts from a dealer that is out of stock for one or more parts in that order.  A few well-designed OEM parts eCommerce solutions have an option for that parts order to be referred for fulfillment by the OEM or by another dealership.  

Delivery Options.  We are also seeing local delivery options expand as an extension to SPM solutions – as fewer customers in this time of social distancing are willing to pick up items at dealer parts departments.  The same firms that deliver food and people (Postmates, Lyft, others) will provide OEM service parts via an automated tasking and scheduling mechanism.

Recommendations.  COVID-19 creates new challenges in terms of OEM service parts performance.  OEMs can respond to this disruption and prepare for future interruptions by investing in SPM platforms designed to (1) mitigate the increasingly brittle nature of OEM service parts supply chains, (2) to open online sales channels and (3) reduce stock-out impacts with order-referral.  And best of all, these three solution sets – parts locators, parts eCommerce, and parts referral solutions – are valuable aids to business in good times too.  A key takeaway is that the need for new functionality can occur with little notice.   That is why it is important to select a technology partner with a quality, broad platform encompassing a wide range of SPM solutions (as opposed to an OEM building their stand-alone SPM capabilities).

Mize Service Parts Management solution, powered by Connected Customer Experience Platform and Smart Blox, streamlines all Service Parts processes, including Parts eCommerce, Ordering, Fulfillment, Returns, Support, and Logistics.  Please Contact Us if you have any further questions or want to discuss how you can enable your team and all stakeholders to optimize service parts management and mitigate supply chain disruptions.

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COVID-19 Update: Six Ways Manufacturers Can Adapt Their  Aftermarket Service Business

Author Michael R Blumberg on Apr-1-2020

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There is no escaping the threat of the Coronavirus as it hits communities across the globe.  It seems that no one is immune to it, not even the Aftermarket Service Industry.

Business leaders and managers will need to do everything they can to get through this current crisis.  While we might have the knee jerk reaction to throw our hands up in the air and proclaim, "we've never seen anything like this before," the truth is we have the means and ability to respond. 

It is highly likely that selected segments of the economy, those businesses that are deemed essential, will continue to operate at peak capacity and require high levels of service availability. Take, for example, supermarkets and grocery stores. These establishments can't tolerate downtime of any of the equipment operating on their premises. Neither can other participants in this ecosystem, such as the wholesale distributors and trucking companies, who are responsible for getting products to market.

Here are six (6) ways that manufacturers can leverage business strategies and technology they've already implemented to ensure there is no disruption to service:

1. Rely on Cloud-Based Enterprise Systems: To respond to social distancing and self-isolation issues, Manufacturers and their Service Provider Networks need to ensure they have secure and reliable cloud-based systems in place to support a mobile workforce and remote workers, such a tech support personnel, who may otherwise be working from their company's premises.

2. Maintain High First Time Fix Rate: Given the fact the extensive downtime is intolerable for essential businesses and Field labor might be scarce due to illnesses, manufacturers must ensure that have technicians who are working can easily find the parts and knowledge they need to resolve services right the first time. There's no room for repeat visits.  The following solutions are critical to achieving high first-time fix:

Service Knowledge Management - A unified knowledge management platform provides technicians with single sign-on access to disparate knowledge artifacts, including but not limited to manuals, bulletins, schematics, augmented reality tools, etc.  This type of platform significantly reducing the amount of time it takes technicians to find relevant knowledge and reduces the burden on telephone support personnel to assist with technicians with technical support issues.

Service Parts Management – The combination of inventory tracking, parts locator, and electronic parts catalogs can ensure technicians have access and visibility to spare parts where and when they need them.  These features minimize the potential that service visits may be extended on hold or abandoned due to a lack of parts. 

3. Connect with Dealer and Service Provider Networks: Manufacturers will need to ensure that their dealers and service providers have access to data, knowledge, and information to support the end customer.  The manufacturer may also need to turn to these networks to provide expanded coverage and support if many their service personnel are on sick leave. A Channel Portal improves the collaboration and communication between manufacturers and their dealer/service provider network to enhance customer satisfaction and optimize service experience.

4. Route service requests to Customer Self- Service or Remote Support: In dealing with social distancing, manufacturers can alter or modify service delivery by transitioning from onsite field service to a Customer Self-Service or Remote Support model.   Manufacturers must have the right technology and processes in place to facilitate this model.  Online customer portals, guided troubleshooting, same day/next day parts delivery, AR/MR, parts catalogs, and knowledge bases are all part of this model.

5. Use Dashboards to track the performance of Remote Workers: Companies must continuously monitor the performance of remote workers to ensure high levels of productivity.  For example, Managers can do this by logging into a dashboard to review the daily service tickets opened and closed by remote Customer Service Reps (CSRs).  They could then follow the steps taken to process the service tickets as well as view the completion date and time these actions, assuming time and date stamp features are part of the solution. 

6. Build value and goodwill with customers: During this current health crises, some customers may be faced with economic hardships and contemplate canceling their service contracts or placing their renewals on hold.  Manufacturers can pre-empt this and build goodwill by offering some level of "freemium" service or flexible payment terms.  They can also extend the length of service contracts or explain to customers the contingency plans that they have put in place will not cause any disruption to their service.   Another of building goodwill is by educating customers on the strategies and tactics they can implement to stay safe and avoid any disruption to service.

Eventually, we will all pull through this crisis and come out of it stronger and more resilient than ever before. Manufacturers mustn't lose sight of the fact that they have the tools and strategies at their disposal to respond to this crisis effectively.  Those who don't must act now and deploy these solutions since these solutions will still be relevant and required in the future.  Within every crisis lies an opportunity as the old saying goes.

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