Building a Sustainable After-Sales Service Foundation for the Future

The success of any digital end-to-end operating model for after-sales service lies in the organizations ability to deliver the perfect customer experience: the right product, in the right quantity, at the right price, at the right time. Because of these rising customer expectations, competitiveness depends on performance at every level of the global supply chain.

Ultimately, the success of a full spectrum digital operating model relies on the digital transformation within the entire organization.

That’s why Petra Popp, Senior Vice President of Global Service and Customer Care at Carl Zeiss Meditec, is laser-focused on the company’s global service strategy. At this year’s ISLA conference, the International Service Logistics Association’s Service & Logistics Summit in Hamburg, Germany, Popp walked us through how she positioned service as a differentiator within the after-sales service portion of the organization.

Meeting Current Customers’ Rising Expectations

Manufacturers today face higher and higher customer expectations when it comes to after-sales service. Because of these rising expectations, service parts must be delivered immediately and at a low cost so the after-sales service organization can maintain product uptime, increase customer loyalty, and, ultimately, impact corporate growth.

For companies like Carl Zeiss, a pioneer in the science of optics, where customer loyalty and reputation is already there, excellent technical service is more important than ever. Coming in with sales of around 250K spare parts each year, Popp knew exactly what the organization needed: excellent people, tools, and efficient after-sales service.

Her key performance indicators (KPIs) critical to measuring this success? Product uptime between failure and repair, and first-time fix rates. In order to get the company’s digital end-to-end operating model for spare parts optimized for these KPIs, they needed a strong logistics partner network and digital backbone.

Building a Sustainable After-Sales Service Foundation for the Future

Essentially, they needed to bring together physical world and digital world. To get the basics right and build a rock solid and sustainable foundation for the future, the organization took the following steps:

  1. Clean master data for spare parts. What’s more effective: Hiring a regular housekeeper, or getting a one-off house cleaner when the mess gets out of hand? Hint: regular is better. The same goes for your data – it’s critical to set up an efficient data cleansing process, but even more important to keep it clean for the future. What data fields do you need? Even if even just one field is missing, the process down the line will not be functioning as efficiently as it could be.
  2. Globally align standardized training processes and IT integration. As your team evolves, you train everyone as they come into the team. But, people change roles, replacements come in and get trained by the originals, and over time knowledge is lost. When it comes to having excellent people with excellent knowledge: the tighter the process, the better.
  3. Instill meaningful analytics. Even with technology today, it’s still a struggle to get accurate, significant data. Tons of availability reports with zero reports on globally located issues – how do you track that? When it comes to analytics, you can’t improve what you can’t measure, so take the time to decide what data is truly meaningful.

With customers with expectations like the ability to search for parts and their availability, order parts to different delivery addresses, and track order status and history, everyone expects an Amazon-like experience. And in the spare parts world, it takes a lot of trial and error to stay in the game.

“You can’t be afraid to fail. You can’t be afraid to go down a path and then realize you need to adjust or even start from scratch.” – Petra Popp

Lessons Learned

Over time, Popp learned a few things along the way when it comes to creating a successful full spectrum digital operating model for spare parts:


…take on the perspective of the customer, not the perspective of your internal silos.

…measure success from the customer’s perspective, not yours.

…develop an agile culture and train people in an agile working mode.


…forget to (over)communicate your goals and progress within the organization.

…be afraid of the changes in your organization and the possible changes of your business model.

…lose sight of the big picture: have faith that you are going to get there.

Today’s most successful companies are looking beyond the new product side of their businesses and shifting the way they view after-sales service, implementing service-focused growth strategies and optimizing service operations through digital end-to-end models. What will you do to impact your organization’s after-sales service foundation for the future?