The Syncron team is here at Field Service USA 2018 live blogging some of the keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions throughout the event, and today is the big day!

First up: an expert panel discussion on “Transforming Your Service Business Model From Selling A Product To Selling An Outcome.” The thought-leader lineup includes Arthur N. McGinn Jr. of Canon Solutions America, Gary F. Johnson of Pitney Bowes, Charles Hughes of Acuative, Venki Subramanian of ServiceNow, and Jeff Blum of KONE, covering all things service business.

In our uptime-driven world, we’re moving from selling a product to selling service. Modern companies are adding service revenue streams and adjusting payment models to reflect the value of uptime. But this change doesn’t happen overnight – the key is to have a strategic dialogue with stakeholders to drive the change that’s necessary to thrive in this new service-driven business.

But, how do you differentiate yourself in today’s competitive environment? One answer: big data. “The ecosystem is coming together with mobile, cloud computing, and the aggregation of big data,” says Blum, “we’re on a journey getting to what customers value, which is real time insights into their assets.” KONE works in collaboration with the IBM Watson platform, using sensors to show real-time updates for technician dispatches. This “right technician, right parts, right place, right time” method of maintenance is a crucial differentiator when it comes to customers’ needs.

Another differentiator that we can’t ignore, though, is price. If you’re trying to compete with the big dogs, why focus on an outcome-based model rather than simply the fastest and cheapest solution? Simply put, all companies ultimately want to provide the best service for their customers. “When you look at the real customer, what do they care about?” asks Hughes, “They want to provide services to their customers. It’s about creating an experience that allows them to do their job better.”

Take eCommerce for example: Dog food costs a fixed amount, but how it’s delivered is what impacts how much a dog owners will pay for it. If a customer feels good about a delivery experience, they’ll, in turn, feel good about company, which ultimately translates into positive relationship with brand and everyone’s favorite thing: sticky customers.

But, on this journey to servitization the first real step is executive buy-in. The hardest part of this step can be finding out what each stakeholder cares about, what the defined vision is for the customer, and how to connect both of those things back to your service value. “As more data is collected, it’s really the companies that make the data make sense with real world insights that will win,” says Johnson.

“The most important thing about all of it is making everyone feel good about how you’re moving forward with the data. It’s a team sport, it’s a journey, and every touchpoint can be a winning point for everyone to move forward and create a positive outcome.” – Gary F. Johnson of Pitney Bowes

This journey begins before your customers ask for it. “We were proactive on the business side,” says McGinn. we were more proactive. And, when it comes to product development, SaaS is the new standard. “We have to build AI powered tools to analyze the results of the services you’re offering,” admits Subramanian. “If you’re offering an outcome, but not articulating the value of what that outcome is and how you’re providing it, you’re missing an opportunity.”

But, how exactly has IoT and emerging technology impacted service and sales teams? Most teams want the data to work with their existing technologies, but as we evolve, access and compatibility with various data structures are becoming increasingly important for customers when making decisions about after-sales service providers.

“Customers want a seamless experience – with mobile, their systems, and our systems,” says Blum. “Moving forward, companies that have the right offerings are critical, but also the right people who are able to adapt on the fly as changes happen.” Ultimately, a company’s offerings and people need to be aligned, and staff needs to be willing to learn complexities of legacy systems and how to integrate with future tech.

“Every company has to become a technology company to play within a service ecosystem.” – Venki Subramanian of ServiceNow

So, what are some things companies can do to equip their staff for such an ecosystem? According to Hughes, these are some of the ways to amp up your service team:

  • Spend time investing in the skills of technicians.
  • Optimize prices to compete in the market, along with labor costs when it comes to full-time vs. contract employees.
  • Onboard independent contractor quickly and make sure there’s a network of people that can support.
  • Prepare your team for success with resources for training.

In the last five years, Canon reduced staff by 25 percent – part due to technology, part due to the evolution of market. But, the key to shifting from selling product to selling an outcome is to communicate what the new expectations are in service. “Metrics are at the core of business, and you have to justify your existence,” says Hughes. “Be careful how you communicate expectations to employees. You can’t just say ‘you have to be faster,’ you have to talk about the core values of the service experience.”

Transforming service into the new product can’t be achieved by simply doing the same things better. Organizations that build a culture around maximizing product uptime and delivering exceptional after-sales service experiences will be the early adopters of technology, and the first to start reaping the rewards.

Stay with us as we continue to live-stream the content from Field Service USA, and make sure to follow us in the app and on social to get the full event experience!