Taking Care of Business
The options for kiosk service and maintenance
With the news that mailing solutions giant Pitney Bowes is entering the kiosk and digital signage servicing market, we take a look at three different companies' after-care offerings.
A self-service project doesn’t just end after the last unit is installed. After what can be years of decisions, pilot schemes, extensions to smaller roll-outs and re-configuring of team members,the fact remains that your nice new self-service checkout or kiosk will need some maintenance and updating. So who will do that for you? Do you buy your equipment from a company who offers it as an addition to the package,or outsource the contract to a company purely offering technical services?
One such company that has just entered the servicing market from an outsourcing perspective is Pitney Bowes. Historically known for being a stalwart in the franking machine and communications technology business, the company now offers vendor-independent servicing and maintenance.
KE: Why have you decided to diversify your service offerings?
DH: Whilst Pitney Bowes may be traditionally associated with the franking machine, our company has evolved over recent years to offer our customers far more diverse technology and solutions. We realised that pan-European service coverage is something that customers are interested in, so it’s another solution that we can offer.
If you look at Pitney Bowes’ traditional businesses across Europe one of our key strengths is our service organisation where we have highly skilled and trained engineers who install and repair communication technology. By diversifying our service offerings we are leveraging the service knowledge and experience that the company already has. In addition, customers are drawn by the history and credibility of the Pitney Bowes brand – it’s a recognised name that they know they can trust.
KE: What made you choose the kiosk market?
DH: We hired an external consultant and showed him our multi-vendor services business in the US, now worth $119M, which started predominately with the servicing of print equipment. The US has diversified into servicing other equipment, but we decided that we wanted to look at the European market to see if we could find something that was niche for us. After the best part of a year of carrying out extensive market research, we decided that the kiosk and digital signage markets would be a great fit for our business.
There seemed to be very few pan-European service providers,and, as part of a global company,we already have extensive European reach. If I take both of our service divisions, that’s the mailing division (GMS – Global Mailing Solutions) and our production print and mail solutionsdivision (DMT –Document Messaging Technologies) then we have over 1000 engineers around Europe servicing ourcustomers. We looked at the potential of the self-service kiosk and digital signage marketplace and found a healthy growing market. Also, we felt that our engineers already possessed all the necessary skills: if you think about a franking machine, for example, it’s a mailing kiosk, a mechanical devicewith varying peripherals with a PC in it. It’s electrical, it’s mechanical and sometimes networked – we think it’s a great fit.
KE: What does your service offering actually consist of?
DH: We will do an initial site survey and installation if that’s needed, and then we can offer a breakdown service and preventative maintenance where yourkiosk is checked once or twice a year. We cover the working hours of most vendors, retail or business premises,6am-11pm, plus we provide a Saturday and Sunday service. We offer four-hour, same day and next day guaranteed service levels. We’ve replicated the model that we’ve seen successfully using for the past 90 years with our existing business, but applied it to work in the kiosk and digital signage industries.
KE: Tell us more about your European reach.
DH: Take a look at the whole Pitney Bowes infrastructure: we have call centres in the Nordic regions, Germany,Spain, Italy, France, Portugal plus the U.K and Ireland, so we can converse with our customers in their local language. We already have a huge European spare parts infrastructure and the ability to get components to customers the next day. When you add all these things up I think it’s clear that< we have a great service offering for the self-service industry, and we need to start letting customers know about our abilities.
KE: Are you working with many companies in Europe already?
DH: We are. We have an American organisation right now who is trialling a kiosk project in a large UK supermarket. That trial has been extended. We’ve just partnered with a company in Germany for a fairly large tender in the UK andwe’re also partnering with a French organisation working on an opportunity in the UK too. We’ve also been asked by some of the people that exhibited in Essen if we could help them in the US and of course we have an existing US infrastructure and have put them intouch with our colleagues there to see if we could support any growth that they may have.
KE: How different is the US set-up to the European set-up?
DH: It works exactly the same way but clearly the US set-up is larger. In Europe we have around 1000 engineers in total, whereas the US business has around 2,500. So we’ve just taken the model and right-sized it to fit Europe.
KE: If you were talking to a potential client, how would you sell the service to them?
DH: If I was talking to someone in the UK, I would tell them that the average tenure of our engineers is 19 years andthat we we directly employ all of them;we don’t hire external contractors. Our engineers consistently score 90%+ in customer satisfaction surveys. We have our own contact centres, based in the UK and a logistics infrastructure across the whole of Europe. For example, I can order a part today up until 5pm and have it delivered to the customerby 10am the next morning. We have a service infrastructure that currently handles between 2000 and 3000 calls a day across Europe. This is a company with over 90 years experience, which generates $900,000,000 in pre cash flow every year. We’re a Fortune 500 company with a track record of stability and reliability, which is important if you’re partnering with somebody. Whether you want an opportunity to look after ten kiosks or 10,000, we can right-size our organisation accordingly to be able to deal with everyone from the niche players, right up to people that are looking for a European reach.
KE: So you are dealing with people of all different sizes...
DH: Yes, in fact we’re working with a German kiosk manufacturer right now that has asked us to partner with them in a deal to design a new kiosk and to provide UK installation and service cover. We used our sales infrastructure to write the sales documentation; they gave us all the manufacturing information and we helped them with the installation and service content and we presented the deal to the customer on their behalf. So that’s an example of deal partnership approach. It was win-win for us; there was significant revenue potential for the installation and service and for our partners the potential of selling kiosks into a very large organisation into the UK.
KE: The Pitney Bowes Technical Services team showcased its offerings at this year’s KIOSK EUROPE EXPO in Essen. How did you find the event?
DH: We launched our service offering at this year’s KIOSK EUROPE EXPO and have had a fantastic response so far; we were bowled over. We started this as UK-based opportunity, but after we finished the show in Essen we soon realised that this is a European opportunity. We’ve already made a number of connections with people that were at the event. The most important footfall for us however were the companies exhibiting; they were the key people to make aware of our new offering.
KE: Pitney Bowes also sponsored the evening event, inviting key exhibitors and Pitney Bowes partners. Why did you decide to do that?
DH: I’ve never known anybody turn down a free meal and drink, so that’s one sure-fire way of getting people’s attention! I wanted to give people a face to put to a name, the time to swap business cards and the chance to involve each other in one-to-one discussion. It was a networking event; a chance for everyone to talk and exchange ideas.
Obviously we’re new to this industry, so we want to get to know who the players are. The most important thing I want to stress is that our service offering is for organisations of all sizes. There could be somebody out there with a fantastic selfservice kiosk idea that’s really innovative,but who just cannot afford to penetrate a new country or market – maybe they need pan-European reach or a serviceinfrastructure, and we can certainly help them with that.
The In-House Option
The company’s Dartford-based UK service centre is a hive of activity. Dealing with in the region of 640million ‘events’ each year, with 246,000 of these resulting in an engineer call-out, it’s a slick operation fuelled by both Wincor’s and its customers’ need for maximum availability. Out of this vast number of annual events, many issues are raised and solved without any Wincor input. Equipment, such as ATMs, will automatically issue a warning back to the call centre if they go offline or suffer a ‘missed heartbeat’ and then a series of self-correcting processes will begin. If the machine cannot right itself, then there is still one more stage to try before a ticket is issued and an engineer is involved. This stage is talking to the customer at the end of the line and taking them through some first level maintenance, such as checking for paper jams or dust, which could possibly correct the fault.
Bal Badhan, head of the customer care centre in Dartford, told us that “Autosolve rights about 40% of all logged issues. The other 60% require some sort of intervention from our teams. This suits both us and our customers as the idea of waiting for an engineer to come along simply to blow air into a part or unblock paper isinefficient and further negatively impacts availability for what is deemed a simple fix. We have to look at efficiencies, look to automating as much as possible; the more you automate, the more you can put your people onto something more productive."
So, what if at the first level Autosolve and customer intervention can’t fix the problem? Then the team at the customer care centre really gets to work. The second level support team first assess the problem that has come in and works out how best to solve it – from understanding what is causing the issue through to knowing which of the 260 UK-based engineers to deploy and what parts they may need. Engineers are profiled according to skill set, experience and any official accreditation and are given a score accordingly. Alongside this operationis the logistics team who manage this spare parts distribution carefully. An engineer can gain access to components in several ways. All engineers have what is called a Boot Kit, a set of spares and tools that they need, but sometimes this isn’t sufficient for the job.
In that case they can visit one of Wincor’s 200 Pick Up & Drop Off points, or PUDOs, along the way, enhancing their Boot Kit to make it more suited to the task. Which PUDO the engineer visits is all down to the dispatch team, who carefully manage the workflow and routes that the engineers take, making sure that efficiency is kept to an absolute maximum, and in turn making sure the customer receives a faster response. If one of these points isn’t able to provide the requisite part, then there are also 21 Forwarding Stock Locations (FSLs), varying from 1000 up to 2500 sq ft in size, across the UK, or the option to have a part shipped either on a same or next-day service. Which option the team take all depends on what takes the least amount of time and what frees that engineer up to be getting on with as many jobs as possible. Also, the FSLs are stocked intelligently with parts that are most required by customers in their areas.
The service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between Wincor and the customer, which sets the target of how quickly its machines will be dealt with and back online. For many of Wincor’s major clients this is a four-hour fix,and so, the first and second level teams are looking to clear tickets from their systems within this time. Anything falling outside of this agreed time bracket turns red on the system and becomes an absolute priority. Using a sophisticated reporting suite, the company can see which jobs fell outside of this SLA, which area they were in, which engineer took the call, how long he was on site and if this is a recurring problem. It’s at this point that any potential problems can be identified and resolved. Maybe the FSL point isn’t appropriately stocked, perhaps the engineer needs additional training in some new equipment or maybe there is something impeding the engineer at the customer site which could need resolving with them. “One thing we also focus on is an engineer’s effectiveness and productivity,” added Mr Badhan.
"We can get them out in the field 100% of the time, but what they are doing when they’re out there is important as well. What we look for is the norm, so if a particular problem usually takes around an hour to fix and someone takes significantly longer then we would look intowhy that is happening.”
It’s not all about the SLA however, as Mr Badhan explained, it’s fairly easy to throw engineers and parts at a problem to always meet that figure, but it’s the wider picture that Wincor look at closely. “SLAs are a given, but we’re doing something different. We’re working very heavily on the call reduction programme and also making sure that the team here are working very closely with our customers to find out how we can improve availability. For us, less calls is good but it’s even better for the customer.”
Room to Manoeuvre
SLAs are also flexible and can change according to the customer’s busy periods. So a DIY chain such as B&Q would need extra coverage and shorter down-time around the Easter bank holiday, and a big retailer might shorten its SLAs around the busy Christmas period. Wincor adapts to this and is able to approach the contract with some flexibility. This customer support is also taken to another level should the client need it. Mr Badhan explains, "Our major service customers actually have a customer service manager assigned to the account,supported by the service delivery team either based in Dartford or on site. This team is responsible for the management of the incident, ensuring that the customer is kept informed of any development on tickets. They also provide a single point of contact. We are able to provide detailed management information to our customer working closely with them to continue driving continuous improvements, through detailed analysis of daily performance.”
This operation is replicated throughout the world, with 41 worldwide service locations, 152 service partners in 102 different countries, plus the three main service hubs in Paderborn, Austin and Singapore meaning that pan-European and even Pan-Global customers can benefit from the same level of support. This set-up also benefits the company as a whole as information,updates and ideas can be shared throughout the organisation. “The call management system is the same here as it is in Germany, Poland etc. This is really important as any changes we make, any enhancements to the system, can then be shared throughout the offices and benefit the company as a whole” Mr Badhan concluded.
Business Process Outsourcing in Italy
Bassilichi is a business process outsourcer in the self-service and monetics sectors, meaning that it manages the overall value chain, starting from design and construction up to installation and maintenance, also taking care of the payments systems that areembedded in the totem.
Bassilichi defines itself as a strategic partner rather than pure supplier, because it shares goals with its customers in a transparent way. The client maintains the governance of the outsourcing process in order to control and follow all the steps. Luca Lunghi, strategic marketing manager at Bassilichi: “Companies turn to us because it meansoutsourcing non-core activities, and entrusting them to a single partner able to offer the best solution to suit their needs. This leads to streamlined processes, resulting in cost savings.”
The markets it addresses range from banking to transportation, from mass retailers to tourism, from government to health. Luca Lunghi explained, “At the moment, our focus is Italy, but we are moving towards the European market and the positive feedback we had at KIOSK EUROPE EXPO 2011 in Essen is pushing us further in this direction. In particular, we intend to develop partnerships with local operators, since leveraging local excellence and expertise is in our DNA.”
Lunghi believes that it is the transport sector which is experiencing the highest levels of growth, with the creation of areas devoted to self-service check-in and ticketing. To develop and manufacture the hardware, Bassilichi enlists the services of subsidiary group Alfa Elettronica, which operates a 3,400 square metre factory in Tuscany. The internal Technical Department consists of six engineers fully focused on designing totems and self-service counters according to specific customer requirements. The company employs more than twenty satellitecompanies based around Tuscany to produce individual components, while final assembly is carried out internally.
Friday, October 28, 2011