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Pitney Bowes Europe adds sales and CRM to the field service role

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan October 20, 2014
Pitney Bowes Europe has taken its 900 field services engineers and turned them into extensions of the sales and customer experience teams to great success.

Nearly 95 years ago, Pitney Bowes produced its first postal franking machine and set itself en route to its current position which CEO Marc Lautenbach describes as:

our multi-year journey to transform our company and unlock the inherent value of Pitney Bowes.

Key to that is growing the firm’s digital commerce business which grew 27% in the most recent quarter to the end of July, worth around $211 million per quarter at present but which Lautenbach sees as a $28 billion opportunity.

It’s just one of the ways in which Pitney Bowes is changing as it readies for its second century. Last week at ServiceMax’s Max Live event alongside Dreamforce, I caught up with Ian Davidson, President, Pitney Bowes Europe, who said:

We’ve changed as an organization as the market has changed. If you use any of the location features on Facebook or Twitter they are powered by Pitney Bowes. Likewise anyone who buys something from eBay in another country and has it shipped to the US or if you are in the US and have something shipped to another country, that’s powered by Pitney Bowes ecommerce. We’re quite a long way from the franking machine of 95 years ago.

Davidson was present at MaxLive to talk about his firm’s transformation of the role of field service technicians, particularly the addition of CRM and sales functions to their remit. He explained:

What we’ve seen over past couple of years is more and more of our sales transaction being in the field to being more and more inside sales, on the telephone and the web. In many cases, the public face of Pitney Bowes to the customer is the service technician. He or she is person who comes into the mail room of that particular client when they have an issue. Therefore it’s really important that they represent the right image that we want from a Pitney Bowes point of view, making sure they’re growing those relationships.

What Pitney Bowes really needed was a pan-European, connected field services team; what it had was rather different:

We have a lot of legacy systems within Pitney Bowes Europe, mainly because the business grew over 12-15 years through acquisition. So we bought a series of the distributors of our products through various European countries, particularly some of the smaller countries. Of course they already had systems in place. So now we have disparate systems based all around Europe. We have a core ERP system of SAP. In the major countries we had Siebel, but it was impossible and too costly to put Siebel into all the smaller countries. It wouldn’t have been cost effective.

This was a situation that couldn’t continue:

We needed comparisons, we needed information on performance to be able to drive best practice across our service organization. All too often we’d be in a review and I would ask the service leader in a given country why something was the way it was. His answer was always they measure things differently in his country. You could never get any comparison into what was best practice to drive any improvement. I was pushing for sustained improvement, asking them to find ways to track things and make sure we had better practice across the various countries.

So we were faced with a decision really. Do we invest in our on premise solution, with lots of cost in the back office, designing and redesigning these systems. Or do we leverage the investment we’d already made in the platform, move to ServiceMax and have our sales and service organizations on a common platform across Europe?

Into the cloud

You can guess the answer to that one. It’s a decision that is paying off, said Davidson, citing the increase in communication and collaboration as one key benefit:

Whether you’re in sales or service or working in the contact centre, you’re on [’s] Chatter. It’s amazing to see the screens of conversations that take place between the sales people, contact centre people and the service techs to (a) take care of the customer and (b) maximise any revenue opportunities in the marketplace.

We are able to close more leads sourced by the service technicians. The fact that the service technician is in the environment of the client means that they can see where there is competitive product, they can load that into the system immediately into and immediately we’ve got a better marketing database. We’ve also got more informed sales people about competitive opportunities that might be in that particular organization.

Also, having the service tech be the public face of Pitney Bowes to the client in their own environment means they can be more self sufficient and make decisions in real time based on data to satisfy that particular client. With ServiceMax, every single technician is connected. Having this fully connected service tech is now really important to us.

Connecting the field team has meant investment in mobile kit:

We gave each technician an iPad so that they are always connected to the real time system. This meant we were capturing more information and more customer data, but also we had simple, standardised reporting that you could use over the whole of Europe. You used to have to wait months to get reports because we’d have to go to IT for it, so by the time you actually got the report it was fairly meaningless because the business had moved on in that particular area and the information had become redundant. ServiceMax allowed us to create a series of dashboards and a series of reports that could be called in literally a matter of minutes. You didn’t need to be an expert to do this. It can be done by front line sales managers, service managers or by service techs in the field if they wanted to look at something specific to their particular geography.

Technicians in the field also now have more insight into the contractual requirements they have towards customers:

Our technicians have clear visibility into what the customers contracts enable them to have free and what they have to pay for as initial services. In the past that wasn’t very clear so techs would give away revenue or in some cases they would try to bill customers for things they shouldn’t have been billed for.

We are taking decision-making away from service tech on site and back to management level so we can see whether a client is being billed appropriately and make sure that we collect the revenue as a result of that. We managed to collect an additional $530,000 in 2013.

But the ultimate outcome of all this was to generate increased revenues, turning the ‘man in the van’ into someone who bumps up the bottom line with cross-sell and upsell opportunities:

By having sales and service on the same platform we have greater visibility to the clients overall infrastructure, what technology they had deployed there, so we have much better lifecycle and sales cycle management across the organization.

Service was always important from a client retention perspective, but also being a powerhouse for revenue generation and profit, it’s really given us much more visibility into just how important the service tech is, particularly as more and more of our sales go to inside sales and to the web.

It’s made us understand that we need to invest more in the soft skills of the service engineer, like communication skills and looking for opportunity and the way you hold that conversation with the client. It’s helped us bring way more focus on the service engineer, not just as break/fix organization,  but as the customer relationship organization.

There's also the realization that service techs are more trusted than sales people:

The sales person says something and people take it with a pinch of salt. The service tech who has been calling on that particular account for years, if they speak to the office manager and say the machine is on its last legs and you need to think about replacing it, then they believe them. The service tech enters the information into the iPad and and then the sales person can ring up and get a warm reception from the customer.

That led to $7 million more revenue in 2013. Elsewhere Pitney Bowes Europe saved half a million dollars by making it possible for a customer to call into the contact centre, where the person there will try to resolve the customer’s problem over the phone in real time. If they’re not able to do that, they’ll dispatch a service technician. The service tech will get a report on their iPad and call the customer immediately. With a little bit more detailed knowledge, the service tech may be able to solve the problem for the client without even having to go and visit the client.

The next step is the world, concluded Davidson:

Europe’s much smaller for Pitney Bowes than the US. About 80% of our revenues are in North America, 20% outside, so the idea was let’s try outside North America first and see how it goes. If it goes well, then we’ll roll out in America. The proof of the pudding is that we’re now rolling out ServiceMax in to 3,500 other service techs across North America and Asia Pacific over the next 12 months, so we will have a fully connected global infrastructure for our service techs.

My take

A good  practical example of the 'turning field service into a profit centre' theory that we covered last week.

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