Today’s manufacturers and service organizations have a wealth of initiatives underway to improve, evolve, and transform how they leverage service as a strategic differentiator and seize the opportunity that service provides. Top of mind for these companies is determining how to serve customers in a way that delivers increased profit margins and revenue growth. This is entirely possible, which is why the focus on service is so strong, but unfortunately companies can fall disappointingly short when it comes to execution.

I wrote an article not long ago titled “Is Your Business Structured to Seize the Service Opportunity?” that discusses some of the organizational and operational changes that are necessary to see success in shifting from a product-focused to service-centric company. It’s well worth a read as these points are very important, but besides these operational changes there’s a very common mistake I see company’s making that may surprise you – articulating their service transformation in a way that resonates with their customers. You may read this and say, “Wow, that seems so simple.” In some ways it is. But to this point, I’d say two things – first, it’s often the simple things that are most overlooked. Second, for a company that’s history is rich in product development, creation, selling, and delivery, learning to speak this new language of service is not as simple as you might thing.

When you’re coming from a product world and embracing this service future, you must learn a new vernacular. Selling on features and functionality shifts to selling on pain points eased and an intangible feeling or experience. The learning of this language has to happen first internally, by departments and functions and roles that may have little or no experience with such ideas. But then that language has to not only extend but evolve for its use externally. What I mean is, the way you articulate the value of your service transformation internally will be different than how you need to articulate the value of your service transformation externally. All too often I see companies using the same language for external stakeholders as they do for internal stakeholders and then wondering why the excitement for and adoption of new service offerings is nonexistent.

Here’s why: buzzwords and tech terms don’t matter to your customers. They couldn’t care less if you’ve invested in brand-new, world-class ABC technology that will make XYZ far easier. If you can embrace the importance of speaking in the language of your stakeholders, your service transformation will yield far faster and far better results. Internally, this gets discussed a fair bit when we talk about change management – you hear folks say that if you want buy-in from your employees,  you need to explain the change in the form of the “why” it matters to them and how it will help them. Companies that do this well see a big difference in how accepting employees are of a new way of working. The same idea holds true for customers – you need to communicate the advancement or new offering to them in a way that resonates.

Let’s look at a few examples.

IoT. Not long ago, I had a call with a service leader who was immensely frustrated at the response from customers around the company’s recent investment in IoT technology. He went as far as to say the project was a failure because customers just weren’t interested in hearing about what the technology could do for them. I was so upset for this gentleman! To think they’d done this great work of investing in IoT and had the perception it was a failure simply because they weren’t communicating its value in a way customers could understand and would find themselves excited about.

  • Instead of: “We are introducing IoT technology! It’s the latest technology in our industry that will let us monitor your assets remotely and provide more proactive and predictive * service.”
  • Try: “We’ve invested in capabilities that will allow us to find issues with your equipment before they ever become a problem for you! This will minimize equipment downtime and keep your productivity high.”

Augmented reality. We know that the benefits of AR are vast, but companies have been challenged in translating these benefits into revenue gains. In a COVID world, it can be tougher since in some cases AR has become the norm, at least temporarily. But, generally speaking, there’s huge value for your customers in your investment in AR.

  • Instead of: “Instead of coming to service your equipment on site, we can use AR to do so remotely! This eliminates a truck role and saves both of us time.”
  • Try: “We’re introducing remote service to be able to diagnose – and sometimes even resolve – your issue almost immediately. We can determine remotely what the problem is so that we can speed your resolution and have you back up and running far faster than ever before.”

Scheduling optimization. Migrating from a manual scheduling and dispatching process to one that’s modern and automated is often a significant investment and major change for service operations. But what part of that investment matters most to your customers?

  • Instead of: “We’ve invested in a new scheduling system so that we can get to more jobs per day and set tighter appointment windows.”
  • Try: “We know your time is precious! We can now tell you what time your technician will arrive, within one hour. Further, we can communicate with you prior to arrival so that you know not only what time he or she will be arriving, but his/her name and what to expect.”

These are just a few examples and, again, reading this it may seem oversimplified. It is, but my primary objective here is to get across the point that you don’t want to do all of this hard work of identifying a need or opportunity to transform your service in some way to better meet customer needs only to fall short in the outcome because you aren’t properly articulating the value of that change in a way that resonates with them. It’s a simple mistake with major consequences. It’s also a great illustration of why it’s so important to have cross-functional alignment on the service opportunity and how your company is going to seize it. You need a strong marketing team to create these customer-centric value propositions; you need a strong sales team to adeptly have these conversations; and you need a frontline workforce that embraces being the face of your brand.

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Field Service Evangelist, Future of Field Service