The Service Factory: An Intelligent Approach to Superior Aftermarket Services
Gopalakrishnan V K,
Vice President & Global Practice Leader, After Market Services (AMS)
July 20, 2012
The single most sustainable differentiator for companies competing in the global market is superior aftermarket services that drive customer satisfaction long after the sale. Closely coordinated field service organizations are an absolute necessity for long-term customer satisfaction, however; the dispersed and extended nature of field service networks can hamper a company's best efforts.
Long seen as just a means of driving customer satisfaction, AMS when correctly configured, is not only a revenue generator but a way for manufactures to create a more "intelligent enterprise"; one that is more agile, more profitable, and better differentiated in the market place
Struggling on the Front Lines
Frontline service engineers often bear the brunt of customer dissatisfaction with a company's response to their aftermarket needs. Customers demand immediate attention and quick resolution of issues, requiring field service personnel's ready access to accurate information that can help make decisions and act promptly. This includes:
- Repair history of the equipment
- Lead times for critical parts
- Commitment to the service resolution cost
- Alternate solutions for component shortages
- Acceptance and fulfillment of new service orders from customers
- How to determine the optimal service contract for each customer
Many companies look for technology solutions such as the ERP systems deployed by manufacturing operations, which are structured to manage discrete scopes of activity in relatively static environments. Aftermarket demands, however, tend to be much more volatile and encompass dispersed clusters of field engineers or service depots, independent service centers, parts warehouses and logistics service providers. Service personnel and parts centers need to work in tandem, with accurate, real-time information. This requires smooth coordination between Service (field engineers) and Logistics (parts). Technology alone is not enough. People, technology and process are the keys.
Smarter Processes for Better Service
If the link between customer contact at the front end and service fulfillment is broken, a strong back end process is needed to ensure continued focus on resolving issues. Structured field and parts management support are therefore critical to driving issue resolution. This is done by a core group of people with access to multiple tools for planning, fulfillment, scheduling, CRM, etc. They conduct work based on strong, predefined processes and reach out to management only for exceptions.
Consolidated central support for local execution, driven by strong common processes, is highly relevant to aftermarket requirements, since service businesses are generally dispersed or regional. Integrating the customer contact with the field and parts support in this manner is essential to driving higher issue resolution and first time right percentages, which directly lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Creating a "Service Factory"
The manufacturing factory concept is known for its strong process excellence, repetitive working model, and effective coordination of people, machinery and materials. The Aftermarket Services model functions much the same way, creating a "service factory" focused on three critical factors:
- Decoupling and consolidating similar portions of service processes across business units, regions, etc.
- Linking consolidated processes with physical execution and coordination through defined handoffs
- Creating a centrally managed support structure
The Aftermarket Services model eliminates the broken link between customer contact and service fulfillment and runs the end-to-end operation in a coordinated manner.
This increasingly effective platform benefits the customer by integrating customer contact centers with field and parts support organizations, leading to faster resolution of issues and higher customer satisfaction at a lower cost to the service organization.
In addition, the consolidated support processes, staffed with personnel possessing the appropriate competencies, help create a business services model able to centrally support multiple operational groups across the organization. This breaks down the silos that often impede speedy, cost-effective resolution and provides clear insight into what is happening at any given moment across the entire service operation.
The service factory approach is a solid option for companies looking to differentiate their aftermarket operations and bolster customer loyalty.
Aftermarket Services, Service Factory, Process