Servitization: empowering customers

Posted on 3 Jun 2015 by The Manufacturer

Stuart Hogg, Business Systems Manager at Capital Document Solutions explains why servitization must start with a change in thinking, before service innovation can truly become a reality.

Stuart Hogg, Business Systems Manager, Capital Document Solutions.
Stuart Hogg, Business Systems Manager, Capital Document Solutions.

As Scotland’s largest independent supplier and service provider of office equipment and document solutions, headquartered in Edinburgh, it is important for our business to be able to continue to respond quickly and accurately to our customers’ needs, which was previously difficult.

Management information was not easy to obtain and analyse from three disparate IT systems, and when we did gain data visibility, we used it to create fixed reports, which we would bind and file in hard copy – rendering our data out-of-date very quickly.

When we implemented a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Columbus, we changed the whole view of the business and took a different approach to information, focusing instead on real-time data; a single source view of critical business information that we could start to use to not only further our own competitive advantage, but that of our customers’ too.

Our previous business model was built around distributing copier or document devices to customers, and servicing them on request.

We often faced challenges around the status or location of each device and had little intelligence as to how it was being used. With a new approach to our business model, we are adapting our services to add much greater value to our customers.

Having access to real-time information made everyone in the business change the way we work, from sales through to service and support. It has enabled us to produce a series of applications for our sales team to view and interrogate factual information live on the new system, regarding devices used by customers.

Columbus PQThey can now engage with a customer far more effectively by relating to real-time information on specified manufacturer volumes while comparing this to the actual volumes being created, to indicate whether or not a machine is being overused or underused, therefore helping them realise effective ROI.

But servitization is doing more than equipping our sales team with real-time business information.

Capital Document Solutions is extremely successful on the government procurement framework and we receive numerous requests to provide our customers with access to device information in an online format.

With our new system, we are building an online customer portal, which all of our customers can log onto at any time or place with an internet connection, to view their devices and update key information as often details such as the location of the device can become out-of-date, which causes an issue when we send an engineer out.

By enabling our customers to be more self-sufficient and empowering them to manage and update their own details, our engineers will always have the right information on any device they service, making the support we offer our customers even more efficient.

Columbus PQ 2

Customers will also be able to place field service calls or place orders for consumables outside of office hours via the portal. This enables us to offer a 24/7 sales order service and the more customers we can empower to use the portal, the more staff can be freed up to concentrate on other areas of the business, adding greater value to our customers.

Of course, embracing servitization is a big move but it’s maintaining servitization in the long-term that is the biggest challenge, and sustaining this new way of thinking. We’ve already utilised this to develop an eReadings system for meter billing automation.

It gives our customers another opportunity to enter their meter readings electronically in order to receive accurate invoices.

In addition, a large number of multi-functional Devices (MFDs), which we service, have monitoring software configured, which sends real-time email alerts to notify our field service management teams whenever there is a fault, or if a machine is low on consumables along with the relevant meter readings.

To discover more about servitization, visit the Manufacturing Services Thought Leadership Network at & @MSTLN_UK

Understandably the provision of meter readings direct from the device is of further benefit to the accuracy of the billing process and we are currently rolling out a solution, which will integrate these readings directly into the system.

Servitization is still very new to us but we are already seeing the benefits that it is providing both ourselves and our customers.

By changing our own approach of how we collect and analyse business information, we are empowering our customers to take more control of the services we provide, and helping them to interact and engage with us on their own terms.

As we are currently laying the foundations for servitization and changing our way of thinking, we are extremely confident that the end result will be a next generation business model that will continue to evolve around our customers by making our field service engineers more productive, our billing more accurate and our ordering process more available.