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Using Service Lifecycle Management

11 Aug, 2008 By: Debbie Geiger imageSource

Using Service Lifecycle Management

Every day you deal with a multitude of customers who vary by type, size,
installed base, usage, personality and everything else that ultimately
differentiates one customer from another.   However, one thing always remains
constant - their document imaging systems and equipment are important to their
day-to-day business operations. Despite this common thread that runs through
virtually all of the customers you support, it’s important to recognize that
each will be different in terms of their use.


  • The various types, brands, models and numbers of units they have installed at their respective sites
  • The ages of the individual machines that are covered under their various Service Level Agreements (SLAs), or supported on a time and materials  (T&M) basis
  • The usage patterns of the equipment at their individual locations (i.e., continuous vs. intermittent use; single vs. multiple shifts; simple vs. complex multifunctional peripheral, or MFP, applications; and so on)
  • The volume or throughput they regularly execute
  • Any other unique and/or specific differentiators

For some of your customers, their equipment is an integral component of what
they do on a day-to-day basis. Customers in the legal, financial, medical, real
estate, government, and other related markets will tell you that their document
imaging equipment is essential to their business operations, and that when their
equipment is down, their production is severely affected. For others, the MFP
may be the only means they have for providing their customers with a receipt,
order confirmation, or other important transaction-generated document. In the
latter category, their reliance on the equipment you support may be even more
critical to them.

Regardless of the specific vertical market segment or type of customer, there
will always be a basic level of reliance on the imaging systems and equipment
they have installed at their facility. In addition, you will find that your
customers will also be relying heavily on you and your organization to make sure
that their equipment is always up and running as required - and as expected. As
such, it is important to recognize that in the customer’s mind, if the MFP is
not working optimally - regardless of the technology that may have been built
into it - it is worthless.

Since there is just so much that the customer is either inclined or permitted
to do in order to get the equipment back in working order following a failure,
in most cases, you will be the sole entity that they can count on to make that
happen. Accordingly, you will need to approach the servicing and support of the
equipment with a great deal of professionalism and responsibility. Customers
usually do not care whether the cause of an equipment problem was due to a
hardware or software failure; a paper jam; or whether it was the machine’s
fault, their fault, or nobody’s fault in particular. All they know is that when
they needed to make a copy, the machine didn’t work.

Then you come into the picture. Often, you represent  the  only “real” 
physical  manifestation  of the  service & support that keeps their equipment up
& running - or at the very least, you may represent their first line of service
and support defense. Your customers may rely heavily on the equipment itself to
support their daily business operations; but they rely even more on you & your
service force to ensure the equipment can continually do what it is supposed to.

This is a unique area where most dealers and distributors can use some help -
and the good news is that there is help available through the use of something
called Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) software. In fact, for companies that
sell and service imaging equipment, parts and consumables, there is already an
SLM package available that can provide a comprehensive set of integrated
business solutions that empower strategic initiative while driving tactical

Companies that install, repair, and maintain imaging equipment, including
printers and plotters, copiers, photographic and optical equipment, and other
document production equipment, can increase their competitive advantage, grow
top-line revenue, and bolster bottom-line profitability through the use of a
consolidated, shared, SLM enterprise solution.

Comprehensive Contract & Service Level Management

Through SLM, customer contracts and SLAs can be structured in ways that best
fit the business, as well as the businesses of your own customers. Key items
such as meter billing, preventative maintenance, and draw-down contracts can all
be easily established and managed. As such, the organization’s services
management can be assured that all of the obligations of its customers’ SLAs are
well-planned for - and met - and that all of its mission-critical commitments to
the customer are being honored. In this way, services revenues are maximized,
and there is little risk of experiencing lost revenues. Company representatives
can quickly and easily verify both the customer and vendor entitlements, thereby
eliminating any costs that might otherwise be associated with providing
customers with parts or services they are not entitled to under the terms and
conditions of any existing warranties or contracts. This also ensures that any
and all dealer claims will be quickly processed.

Service and Sales Integration

The Service and Sales Integration functionality of an SLM software suite can
be relied on to enable the dealer organization’s field service technicians and
contact center personnel to more thoroughly service the company’s accounts,
while also driving increased revenue in the process. By placing intuitive,
easy-to-use sales tools into the hands of the appropriate service employees, the
number of new opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell equipment, parts and
consumables to existing customers will increase multifold. The organization’s
service technicians are out in the field every day talking to, and interfacing
with, its customers; why not also provide them with the tools and resources they
can use to close - or at least open - additional sales opportunities within this
virtually captive customer base!

Increased Help Desk/Contact Center Effectiveness

SLM can also allow the organization to increase its call handling
efficiencies, especially in the areas of first-call resolution and call
avoidance rates. This will ultimately result in the lowering of internal service
costs, and commensurate improvements in existing levels of customer satisfaction
and retention. In many ways, document imaging equipment and service has been
somewhat commoditized over the years, and the only way that one dealer can
establishment a competitive advantage over another is to differentiate (i.e.,
improve) the way in which it supports its customer base after the initial sale.
The best way to do this is to provide superior levels of help desk and call
center support empowered by a robust SLM capability. By arming your call center
personnel with accurate and up-to-date customer and installed equipment base
information - be it entitlement, configuration, or marketing campaign data - the
organization will be able to greatly increase its ability to sell, cross-sell,
and up sell its entire portfolio of document imaging products, parts and consumables.


The principal features and benefits of SLM functionality for the document
imaging segment may best be summarized as follows:

  • Comprehensive Contract & Service Level Management
  • Service and Sales Integration
  • Increased Help Desk/Contact Center Effectiveness
  • Field Service Efficiencies

Field Service Efficiencies

Leveraging the field service automation tools inherent in the SLM software
allows the organization to optimize its field force capacity utilization,
resulting in significant operational efficiencies as field technicians quickly
become empowered to increase revenue generation and recovery. By streamlining
and managing the invoice process, billing cycles will be lowered, as will Day
Sales Outstanding (DSO). This will almost immediately go directly to the bottom
line as you will be able to manage your cash flow and receivables much more
effectively. Similarly, by streamlining and managing your service inventories
(such as trunk stock) more effectively, you will also be able to realize
significant inventory cost reductions.

What many dealer organizations seek is an end-to-end, enterprise-wide SLM
solution that addresses the complete equipment/service lifecycle, from lead
generation and project quotation, to service and billing, through asset
retirement. They are looking for a solution that both integrates and optimizes
the critical business processes that all dealer/distributor organizations have
to face with respect to providing their customers with the levels of service and
support they require.

Debbie Geiger, VP Marketing, Astea International, a global leader in
service management software that addresses the unique needs of companies who
manage capital equipment, mission critical assets and human capital. Contact her
at dgeiger@astea.com.



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