As a company grows and matures from a startup entrepreneurial venture to a sustainable corporation, the departments and company services that begin as good ideas expand and evolve to support the company’s growing business. Many times these services simply develop without any strategic vision resulting in institutionalized behaviors that are incompatible with the company’s business goals and objectives. Consequently, the transition to a larger corporation becomes a challenge. A notable example is a company’s Engineering Services Department.
When people think of Engineering Services, the Customer Support or Help Desk team is what first comes to mind. However, other services such as Product Training, Field Services (product installation and troubleshooting), and Engineering Sales Support may be provided as well.
As a product development company begins selling product, the Customer Support function becomes one of its first service offerings whether or not it recognizes it as such. In addition, it is natural for the focus of the Customer Support function to be on pleasing their customer base, as many sales are contingent upon repeat business and word of mouth until the company and its product line become established in the marketplace. Nevertheless, without a clear idea of its charter and strategic direction to support business growth and identify new markets and service offerings, the Customer Support Specialists focus instead on supporting their customer base on non-company and non-product issues and questions that consume internal resources without any tangible benefit to the company. Once a company starts banging its head on the “glass ceiling” as it attempts to grow, the leadership may recognize that its current Engineering Services approach does not support its strategic business goals and objectives.
In these circumstances, the company is not necessarily interested in implementing the CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC) and becoming appraised to either Maturity Level 2 or Maturity Level 3. However, by using the Continuous Representation, the CMMI-SVC can provide the needed guidance to help a company restructure and reorganize its Engineering Services approach in order to become a profit center or revenue generating function.
In this presentation, we will present a case study for OMNI Flow Computers, Inc., a company that specializes in the design, development, and manufacture of panel-mount multi-run, multi-tasking liquid and gas flow computers, and field-mount, hazardous area controllers/RTUs for liquid and gas custody transfer metering systems. The challenge facing OMNI was to develop its Engineering Services Department into a high-functioning, customer-driven profit center. OMNI’s Engineering Services Department consists of three groups: Customer Support, Training, and Engineering Field Services. Customer Support handles customer questions, concerns, and issues. The Training group provides training on the OMNI product line to its customers and users. Engineering Field Services provides on-site troubleshooting services on an as-needed basis.
As the Training and Engineering Field Services groups were recent additional capabilities, Customer Support presented the biggest obstacle to overcome. Noted management consultant Peter Drucker declared several years ago that Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it. Moreover, an obstacle to achieving this objective was one of the core challenges faced by the department: developing an appropriate customer focus and developing new service offerings. A major reason for these challenges is the nature of OMNI products. OMNI's customers integrate their products into custody transfer systems that involve a wide variety of large-scale hardware and electronic equipment from other manufacturers. OMNI’s customers usually develop and commission these systems for their clients and end users. Therefore, when calls come in to OMNI’s Customer Support group, the first challenge they had to overcome was determining if the customer’s issue was actually an OMNI product issue or the result of an external issue. The next challenge was to determine the root cause of the issue, so that the customer would receive a timely resolution of their issue.
Fortunately, the release of the CMMI-SVC came at the right time for OMNI. Of the seven new services Process Areas (PAs), many of the Specific Practices and associated informative material proved useful in guiding the transformation of OMNI’s Engineering Services Department. The Service Delivery PA provided excellent guidance for establishing and documenting Engineering Services’ existing service offerings, ensuring that each group was prepared to deliver the defined service offerings, and delivering the service offerings. The Incident Resolution and Prevention PA provided excellent guidance for identifying, documenting, tracking, reporting, and resolving customer complaints, issues, and other service interruptions. The Service Continuity PA helped focus the Engineering Services Department manager to identify and prioritize the department’s essential functions and necessary resources. The Strategic Service Management PA brought the needed focus to establish the Engineering Services strategic needs and plans for its standard services.
The OMNI Engineering Services Department’s journey is not yet over. They are still growing, maturing, and learning what it means to become a high-functioning customer-driven profit center. However, along the way they learned some valuable lessons. This presentation will discuss some of the pitfalls they encountered, what strategies worked and what did not work, as well as provide some practical advice to aid other organizations facing similar challenges.
If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6000 friends. - Jeff Bezos
Customer service is not a department. It is an attitude. – Unknown
This presentation provides a case study of a computer manufacturer that used the CMMI for Services to help transform its Engineering Services department (Customer Support, Training, and Engineering Field Services groups) into a high-functioning, customer-driven profit center. Challenges, successful approaches, lessons learned, and practical advice to aid other organizations facing similar challenges will be presented.