Transforming a Regional Service Organization into a National Service Presence: The TecServ Case Study

(Originally published in the November/December 2004 issue of AFSMI's Sbusiness)

By Mike Davis

In the services industry, growth is inevitable. In fact, we have seen first hand that if you consistently provide your customers with the levels of service and support they require, you can successfully grow your business, along with your overall market presence. But growth also requires change, and change requires planning. That is why management believed it was critical to carefully plan for our transformation from a regional service organization into a national service presence - one that could most effectively take us to the next level of service capability, as well as provide us with a strong foundation for future growth.

Some Background on the Organization
Before going into any specific detail with respect to our business goals, how we reached them, and what results to date are, I thought it would be helpful to provide a little background on who we were before we embarked on this transformation process. The following provides a summary overview of Castle Rock Industries, and its TecServ Service Company division.

Over the years, Castle Rock Industries (CRI) has been successful at forging together four of what we consider to be "the very best brands in the commercial cleaning and maintenance industry", including:

  • Windsor - a commercial and industrial floor care equipment and chemicals leader.
  • Prochem - the industry leader in professional carpet cleaning chemicals and technologies.
  • TecServ - a national service company for all brands of floor care equipment.
  • Graco - the industry's largest and leading supplier of aftermarket parts for floor care equipment.
Primarily through its TecServ division, CRI supports a wide range of facility maintenance equipment. The five principal service programs offered by TecServ to meet its customers' needs are:
  1. Equipment Safety Assessments (ESA): a one-time machine inspection and recommendation on service that may be needed;
  2. Time&Materials (T&M): an on-call service with negotiated rates for labor and travel;
  3. Planned Maintenance (PM): a scheduled service - at least quarterly - with fixed pricing that includes labor, trip charges and general maintenance parts;
  4. Full Maintenance (FM): a "no surprises" agreement that provides both PM services, as well as breakdown repairs, for a fixed monthly fee; and
  5. Complete Equipment Outsourcing (CEO): a comprehensive program that combines Full Maintenance (FM) with an equipment-leasing program.
While TecServ had enjoyed a strong regional presence for nearly 30 years, management recognized that it was time to step up the company's national presence that we all knew we were capable of attaining. But to do so would require a major rethinking of exactly how we would best be able to deliver on our goal. We knew the market was there, and we knew we were already providing our regional customer base with the breadth and depth of services they required; but in order to grow into a truly national - and international - industry presence, we first needed to acquire a state-of-the-art service management system solution.

The Challenge - and the Expectations
From the outset, we believed that our major challenge was to move beyond the limitations that our outdated systems and manual processes were imposing on the company's overall profitability and prospects for growth. After deliberate planning and extensive evaluation and assessment, senior management selected the Astea Alliance service management software as the enabler that would facilitate TecServ's transformation into a national industry player.

The first tasks in stepping up to the challenge were to ensure that the chosen solution would empower the service division with all of the components and tools it required to provide "world class" levels of service and support to an expanding customer base; and that the resulting ROI for the ensuing implementation would be within an acceptable range for management. It was also critical to management that the solution, once implemented, would enable the division to maximize operational efficiencies and contain costs, as well as facilitate our ability to expand nationally.

After evaluating numerous service systems' capabilities with respect to their ability to support our aspirations to expand from a regional to a national business, TecServ management finally selected Astea Alliance. The task of profitably managing a larger, geographically dispersed organization with more customers, products, services, employees, parts, tools and copious data had been a deterrent for years, but the Astea Alliance solution seemed to cover all of the issues management felt were important. One of the key deciding factors associated with this choice was the prospect of allowing TecServ to differentiate its competitive service offerings by bridging the gap from merely providing "equipment maintenance" to providing "equipment effectiveness", through the inclusion of complete asset management capabilities for optimizing equipment value.

Through the use of the Astea Alliance solution, we believed that TecServ would, for the first time, be able to bring operational efficiencies to all its business processes, plus provide the desired added value to its growing portfolio of customer service offerings. The days of relying on outdated software, inadequate databases and manual processes would soon be over and done - for good. In addition, the new service management solution would provide TecServ with an important competitive differentiator (i.e., state-of-the-art service delivery and management capabilities), as well as the means to profitably leverage it on a nationwide basis.

By implementing this solution, management also believed that the service division could minimize the impact of its "growing pains", while still containing costs, and maximizing the impact on customer and end-user satisfaction. According to William K. Pollock, president of services consulting firm Strategies For GrowthSM, "All services businesses are eager to grow, but growth typically requires change, and change typically costs money. Factoring in the need to improve customer satisfaction only complicates the matter further. That is why successful growth can only come about when you first have a plan, and that plan focuses jointly on cost containment and customer satisfaction." This was also a major factor in making our final decision. The path was clear, the commitment was made, and management felt confident that the implementation was "ready to roll".

The Solution - and the Anticipated Benefits
The main aspects addressed by the recommended solution centered on key areas including integrated contract management, contact center, field service, logistics, repair depot, and sales order processing for a user base of less than 100. The main caveat, however, was that all parts of the solution would need to focus on both cost containment and enhanced customer satisfaction - and that everything else was secondary. Once the initial internal needs assessment was completed, the joint Astea-TecServ implementation team commenced its work, building a solution designed to support the desired mix of cost containment and customer satisfaction-related areas.

Centralized Contract Management
Centralized contract management was a critical need of the organization as many of the historical processes had been performed manually over the long history of the company. The changeover to a fully automated system would allow TecServ to both facilitate and expedite its contract management activities, eliminate virtually all errors in transcription and/or transmission of data and information, and increase customer satisfaction through notable improvements in speed, accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was also important to management that visibility to all contracts - nationwide - would be readily accessible at each of the service call, customer and site, and equipment levels (Figure 1).

The inclusion of specific pricing controls would also serve to prevent the ability of field management to discount pricing anywhere beyond authorized levels, and would - for the first time - allow for the timely creation and distribution of standardized and custom price lists. A critical added benefit would also be instant access to profitability for all contracts, by customer, along with the capability to drill down to the individual equipment level (Figure 2).

Invoicing
In any services business, invoicing is also an important function, and one where speed, accuracy and timeliness are of critical importance. The Astea Alliance solution provides us with the capability to invoice on the day of service, thereby significantly reducing the "float", or lag time, that we had historically been forced to "absorb". The ability to automatically match specific price lists associated to specific customers or sites also ensures that our billing is accurate, and that we no longer run the risk of walking into any "awkward" situations where a key customer is charged too much - or too little (Figure 3).

In the two years since implementation, TecServ has been successful in reducing the invoicing time to customers by 50 percent - all handled by the same number of billing personnel, despite more than a 25 percent growth in processing volume. As a result, customers are happier, invoices are generated and paid quicker, and our existing personnel are better equipped to handle future increases in transaction volume.

Centralized Call Center
A centralized call center was another important consideration, particularly with respect to our impending growth into a truly national service operation. We needed a solution that would allow us to not only manage our rapid growth and expansion, but also do it with essentially the same headcount that currently resided in our existing regional centers.

Through the Astea Alliance solution, we estimate that TecServ has realized 25 percent capacity improvement through better-trained and empowered call center professionals who now have the tools they need to handle more calls, more efficiently.

Improved Service Logistics
Improved service logistics was, perhaps, the crux of the entire transformation effort. Our management clearly defined the following as the principal areas where they wanted to see measurable levels of improvement:

  • Sales Order Processing - (i.e., manifested through real time visibility of nationwide inventories, and resulting in a 50 percent increase in first time completion of over-the-phone and over-the-counter sales).
  • Repair Parts/Repair Chain Management - (i.e., delivering the right parts, to the right place, at the right time).
  • Inventory Management - (i.e., at the warehouse, truck and customer inventory levels, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in the duplication of inventories, and a 25 percent reduction in obsolete inventories).
It was anticipated from the outset that a significant portion of any savings realized through cost containment would come specifically from these areas.

Service Order Management
Improvements in service order management would primarily be focused in the organization's new ability to:

  • Monitor and measure all open calls; and
  • Monitor all resolved, but not yet invoiced, calls.
Further, the new system capabilities would be expected to allow for increased - and immediate - visibility along each step of the process, including such key areas as:
  • Labor consumed;
  • Parts used;
  • Traveling expenses; and
  • Customer communications - both verbal and electronic.
One of the primary benefits to be realized through the use of the new system would be an approximate 15 percent reduction of credits.

Technician Productivity
Technician productivity is also a critical element of any service operations improvement program, and one that is next to impossible to achieve when your system relies too heavily on manual processes. Through the Astea Alliance solution, TecServ set its sights on gaining the ability to:

  • Measure billable hours, per technician;
  • Measure revenue, per technician;
  • Assign a primary technician, based on both geography and mechanical skills; and
  • Maximize workload balancing.
The targets set jointly by Astea and TecServ management were designed to:
  • Improve technician productivity from 55 percent billable, to 70 percent billable hours; and
  • Improve revenue per technician by 25%.
These goals were largely - and easily - met shortly following implementation.

Controlled Branch IT Start-up Costs
Part of any growing, or expanding, process is the need to establish additional and/or consolidated branch operations and facilities. However, TecServ management wanted to ensure that the costs associated with bringing new or expanded branch facilities into the mix would not serve to nullify any of the other cost savings that would normally be associated with the new solution. Management clearly recognized that ongoing maintenance and expansion costs would be just as critical in the long run as start-up costs for the new solution would be in the near term.

One of the principal reasons why the Astea Alliance solution was so attractive to us from the outset was that the entire cost model was built on a platform of containment, and that even future costs (i.e., for ongoing maintenance and expansion) would be minimized as much as possible. The primary ways in which these ongoing costs may be contained are as a result of the inherent features already built into the solution, as follows:

  • Remote branches would be easily connected via a standard Internet connection;
  • There would be only minimal Information Technology (IT) costs associated with any such set-up;
  • There would be no local server set-up costs; and
  • Any new managers and/or call center agents will have instant access to all service information on a 24/7 basis, via a low-cost Internet connection.
In essence, once the initial system is set-up, ongoing maintenance and future expansion costs will be kept to a minimum. Management felt this was the perfect prescription for a company that was poised for significant growth throughout the foreseeable future.

Improved Customer Satisfaction
However, when all is said and done, all of the internal operational improvements would be for naught if our customers did not see some performance improvement as well. For this reason, it was extremely important to management that our customers would see some notable - and measurable - improvement resulting from our efforts, and as quickly as possible. Among the principal benefits immediately recognized by our customers are the following:

  • More timely and accurate invoices;
  • More comprehensive - and meaningful - reporting of equipment life-cycle costs (Figure 4);
  • Improved service delivery performance and follow-through; and
  • Ability to use a single toll-free access number in support of all of their "equipment maintenance" - and "equipment effectiveness" - needs.
Customers would also be expected to benefit greatly from the combined impact of the organization's newly implemented:
  • Centralized Contract Management capabilities (i.e., more timely, more accurate and more comprehensive contracts and compliance);
  • Centralized - and more efficient - Call Center support (i.e., standardized processes, procedures and training, etc.);
  • Improved Service Logistics (i.e., Sales Order Processing and Repair Chain Management conducted in real time);
  • Improved Service Order Management (i.e., no more manual processes, no more things "falling through the cracks", etc.).
  • Improved Technician Productivity (i.e., greater availability, carrying the right parts, etc.); and
  • Expanded National Coverage (i.e., as a result of an expanding number of Internet-connected branch facilities throughout the United States).

But, perhaps one of the greatest benefits to all of our customers from this point forward, is that they can now reasonably expect TecServ - as their primary service provider - to support their total equipment maintenance - and equipment effectiveness - needs, as they continue to grow in their own respective markets. We've already gone through our own "growing pains"; now we can help them get through theirs.

The Results - and Where We Have Realized the Greatest Benefits
Only a few short years ago, TecServ was a regional service company with four locations serving six states in the Northeast Region. However, since deploying Astea Alliance service management software, the company has successfully expanded across the United States, fulfilling its goal of transforming itself from a regional provider, to a leading national presence in our targeted industry segment.

By the beginning of 2004, the TecServ network had grown to 130 offices, more than 200 individual locations, 620 trained and experienced floor-care technicians, and over 400 service vehicles - all empowered by the Astea Alliance solution (Figure 5). Presently, more than 300,000 calls are handled annually, and this number will grow as we increase our customer and equipment base. Management promises continuing expansion in the foreseeable future, and the beauty of our new system is that it grow along with us.

Today, TecServ still employs the same number of dispatchers as it did as a regional company - only now managed from one centralized location, and supporting customers nationwide. The company also employs the same number of billing clerks as before expansion, although the accuracy, timeliness - and volume - has increased appreciably. Management believes that there is also an enhanced sense of accountability realized through the system that the company had never previously the capabilities to enforce.

Even more important, Astea Alliance has provided the company with an effective, scalable solution that may be used to grow the business at its own pace. Management is now able to measure its ROI directly from the system in terms of competitive differentiation, customer value and much higher business volume at disproportionately low operating costs. In addition to improving service delivery processes with Astea Alliance, TecServ also effectively utilizes the system's capabilities as part of its service packaging, as well as to the advantage of its customers' financial, operational and risk management.

The main benefit is that Astea Alliance allows TecServ to grow because we are not restricted by our service management system. All that we need to start a new service affiliate is Internet access for connection to the Astea system. For nearly 30 years, our business processes confined us to six Northeast states. Within two years of implementing Astea Alliance, we were in every major market nationwide. With Astea Alliance, we've been able to dramatically increase our volume and that has dramatically increased our sales revenue. And by centralizing our dispatching and contract management, we have also dramatically lowered our operational costs.

While the initial challenge was somewhat daunting, the solution - provided through Astea Alliance - was surprisingly easy, and has provided our organization with all of the tools and capabilities it needs to attain our goals for becoming a "world class" player in our national industry segment. Our goal was to transform ourselves from a regional to a national service organization, and Astea Alliance enabled us to do just that in less than two years - from conceptualization to reality.


Mike Davis is Director of Internal Operations for TecServ (a Castle Rock company), a leading national provider of floor care equipment service and support. Mike may be reached at 856-228-1800 or via e-mail at mike.davis@castlerockind.com. The TecServ website is accessible at www.tecservco.com.


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