Every day, the service and support team at Sony Professional Solutions Europe (PSE) ] faces the considerable challenge of helping corporate customers get the best from a wide range of audio/visual products - around 6,200 individual products in total. In the average year, they’ll handle around 50,000 service requests.
The products involved can range from simple, office-based digital projectors and handheld camcorders, right through to complex systems used in hospital operating theatres and broadcast newsrooms.
This demands a multi-faceted approach to providing fixes and repairs, according to John Cooper, general manager of service and support at Sony PSE. Some products, usually the simpler ones, sold in high volumes, are sent to centralised repair centres in Wales and France.
Other, more complex products, or those working as part of bigger systems, merit a call-out by a field service engineer. Some work is handled by technicians on Cooper’s own team and some of it by skilled, third-party professionals, working under contract to Sony.
On top of that, some of Sony’s ‘smarter’ products can increasingly report directly on their status and operations and be fixed remotely, using the ‘Internet of Things’ model. Others are provided to customers such as Spanish broadcaster TeleMadrid, on a pay-as-you-go basis, as part of a managed services contract.
Until recently, Cooper and his team were struggling to handle this complexity using an ageing Remedy-based service management system, much customised over the years to handle new support models. It was OK, he says:
...but not much better than OK. It was really designed for one-to-one interventions: one customer, one product. They’d ring the helpdesk, we’d use Remedy to manage the incident, recover the project and get it repaired. We’d cobbled together customisations to get the system as fit for purpose as we could, but it was becoming clear that this wasn’t a long-term solution.
One reason for that was, in the past, a lot of Sony PSE’s support work involved direct conversations between a Sony engineer and an in-house engineer at the customer. Over time, that situation has changed: today, the call might just as easily come in from an employee working at a cinema, whose other responsibilities include selling tickets and serving popcorn.
In other words, many customers now rely entirely on Sony PSE to get a problem sorted and don’t have the technical know-how in-house to diagnose a problem. And, at the same time, they increasingly expect management reporting and a level of visibility that helps them understand what’s happening with their repair:
With our previous system, we just didn’t have the ability to easily pull out a report to tell managers, ‘Here are the products we’ve repaired for your company over the last three months, by location, by data and by the severity of the problem. Well, sometimes, we could do that - but it was a pretty painful and time-consuming process.
At the same time, another equally pressing, internal problem had emerged at Sony PSE, says Cooper:
A classic problem in service management is that your colleagues in sales and marketing only ever know there’s a problem with a product when something goes wrong and a customer calls them up saying, ‘I’m not happy’. That gives them a pretty dark view of the world, which isn’t very accurate, because in reality, 90 percent of customers never see a problem, but equally, don’t call their account manager to say everything’s wonderful.
What was needed was a service management system that could integrate closely with Sony’s company-wide CRM system from Salesforce.com. An implementation of ServiceMax, Cooper decided, might help Sony PSE achieve two goals:
First, it would allow us to keep sales and marketing informed about how we’re helping customers and what a good team my job does in terms of helping them with any issues that arise.
Second, we wanted to give our colleagues in sales more incentive to sell service contracts to customers. We have a high retention rate among customers that we’ve helped with issues - but that message can sometimes be hidden from sales executives. What we wanted them to understand better is that, when customers buy from Sony PSE, they’re not just buying a great product, but also great back-up and support.
Several service management packages were considered, but ServiceMax won out, not just because of its close integration with Salesforce, but also because Cooper felt that the ServiceMax team understood better than competitors exactly what he needed:
It was the one system we saw where we felt that service professionals had been closely involved in the architecture and design. In some of the early demos we saw from other suppliers, we’d ask them: ‘Can the system do this?’ And they’d answer: ‘Probably. We’ll go away and think about that.’ With ServiceMax, they’d show you straight away, on screen, how what you wanted was already supported by the system.
ServiceMax went live at Sony PSE in May this year. It has so far been rolled out to laptops, says Cooper, adding:
In the implementation cycle, we learned a great deal about the mobile capabilities in the system and we’re already starting to think about them - but that’s not generally the way our field service engineers work today. They typically use laptops, so we want to get that capability bedded in nicely before we push ahead with a mobile agenda.
Still, Cooper’s service and support colleagues in Latin America are already pretty far along with a ServiceMax implementation of their own, and he’s looking to show off the system next week on a visit from Japan by the president of Sony Professional Solutions.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s boss in Europe is already “seriously impressed” by the reporting metrics coming out of ServiceMax. Implementations in the US and Japan, he predicts, may not be far behind:
For us, one of the big things about this system is how clearly it reflects what we do for our customers. As technology becomes more commoditised and we offer more products under managed service contracts, the whole relationship we have with a customer becomes less about the product itself, and more about the product and the ongoing relationship with that customer.
Disclosure - at time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica.