The Complexities of Strategic Service Management

I first introduced you to Strategic Service Management in February of last year where I indicated that it was a proactive approach to making the customer satisfied and efficient while making a profit that balances strategy, resources, commitments, and pricing. It supports the integration, optimization, and efficient management of core business processes, adds to your overall business solution, and helps to differentiate your offering from that of your competitors. And it is a practice that is growing rapidly at many consulting firms as it is a topic that is now become common in many boardrooms that are feeling the squeeze in both directions on the product front: production costs are rising rapidly but prices need to remain flat in order to move any product at all.

For many companies, Strategic Service Management is now the only way to increase profits – as it not only allows premium prices to be charged for quality services that are perceived as valuable by the customers, but can also substantially reduce service costs when the right product is in the right place at the right time to be put in the hands of the right technician to do the job. The fact of the matter is that poor service often translates into real losses – which go beyond the financial penalties specified in your SLAs. If the product isn’t available or is priced too high when a customer wants it, that can result in a lost sale as well as dissatisfaction that may prevent the customer returning to you in the future. If your service team is unresponsive, not only will you lose repeat business, but your brand can take a hit. And if you price too low, you’re losing profit.

So what is involved in Strategic Service Management? As I covered in depth in my piece on Strategic Service Parts Management a few months ago, a lot of it revolves around parts and price management – having the right product available at the right place at the right time and at the right price – and this involves forecasting, inventory management, and price optimization, but it also involves having the right technician available to install the part and get the repair right the first time and making sure the technician has access to the knowledge she needs to do her job – and this involves workforce management, scheduling, routing, and knowledge management.

In other words, good strategic service management has to address all aspects of the entire service value chain (that may also include other suppliers, distributors, OEMs, dealers / value added resellers, and after market services) and not just the part or the price of the service. It also has to go beyond just the short term issues of problem diagnosis, replacement part location and delivery, technician scheduling and dispatch, and price optimization and address the long term issues of regular re-orders of parts when inventory reaches threshold levels, appropriate workforce training and staffing, and performance monitoring to insure that price levels and service remain at optimal levels.

Furthermore, the fact that this has to be done across geographies, diverse customer segments, product types, various types of SLAs, various levels of customer commitments, and both company-owned and third-party resources, should be enough to convince you that this requires a dedicated solution designed to address strategic service management. A spreadsheet (despite the fact that Aberdeen found that 91% of companies still use spreadsheets to plan and forecast parts and service levels in its report on The Emergence of the Chief Service Officer) is NOT enough. Furthermore, neither is your ERP.

An ERP was designed for inventory control, work order processing, basic product tracking, catalog management, simple case management, and, maybe, basic call center management. Enhanced add-ons may also handle inventory forecasting and planning, replenishment planning, exception monitoring and analysis, simple GANTT scheduling, and work order tracking, but this barely covers stage 2 (operational control) of SSM (where stage 1 is firefighting) and doesn’t even begin to address stage 3 on the optimization of performance management, and definitely doesn’t even hint at stage 4 where true integrated service management is reached and strategic service management acts as a growth engine for your company. To get there, you need the foundational capabilities that include parts optimization, integrated PLM, order planning and sourcing optimization, manpower planning and optimization, knowledge management for issue diagnosis and resolution, and performance analysis which then enable multi-enterprise collaboration, integrated part location and technician dispatch; integrated parts, labor, and pricing optimization, contract and market profitability analysis, and integrated service offerings – the ultimate key to successful strategic service management.

As my previous entries on Servigistics and MCA Solutions addressed strategic parts, pricing, and warranty management, my next two contributions to this series will cover workforce planning and knowledge management for service success, and, specifically, Servigistics’ new offerings in these areas.