The case for a Chief Installed Base Officer

The case for a Chief Installed Base Officer

A couple of weeks ago I posted what I thought was a provocative article suggesting that the Aftermarket a.k.a Installed Base is too important to leave in the hands of the Aftermarket team. It turns out that it wasn’t such a controversial point of view, with most of the respondents agreeing with me! 

My point was simple: the value of the Installed base is so extraordinary to the OEM that it behooves the CEO to pay attention to it. In fact, I’d argue that the vitality of an OEM’s business model is dependent on the degree of attention and care paid to the Installed Base. And this is where most industrial OEMs miss the mark.

But an OEM’s installed base is complex. It is not just because the products are complex to maintain and operate (which they are), but because OEMs are involved in an interplay of activities, events and transactions with their Installed Base, delivered by multiple employees belonging to multiple functional areas through multiple channels. 

A typical OEM has up to 9 different touch points with their customers as well as the installed base of equipment: sales, inside-sales, marketing, field service, factory service, technical support, engineering, logistics, finance and executives. And that number is growing with the emergence of IIoT, chatbots, apps, e-commerce, customer portals etc.  This complexity causes inconsistent, incomplete, siloed and uncoordinated interactions with the installed base. 

A typical OEM has up to 9 different touch points with their customers

Here’s the kicker:  In an increasingly digital world, Industrial OEMs are creating and consuming huge amounts of customer data. All of this data resides in siloed and unconnected systems. As a result, there are multiple sources of incomplete customer information, none of which can be trusted to tell the real (comprehensive & accurate) story about the customer, their product usage, and behavior. 

This problem will become more acute post-Covid as customer expectations are changing rapidly – from easy to use applications, to instant resolution of issues, to some form of “self serve, no touch” service. All of these need the same baseline, single source of truth to work well, seamlessly and in an orchestrated fashion. This is only going to get worse as digital interactions become the norm, and analog-first suppliers get phased out.

In the midst of all this chaos sits the Aftermarket team, utterly under-resourced, under-invested and under-respected. How can they even become successful?

Our point of view is that the ideal profile for an Aftermarket leader isn’t one who “takes care of the break-fix and field service teams”; instead it is about having a holistic, customer-first view of the world. One who has a single, complete view of the customer, their product usage/behavior and all touch points to/from. A leader who has the ability, authority and accountability to orchestrate all these activities to drive  higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and lifetime value.

By definition, this becomes one of the most critical roles within an OEM. This is a role that demands strong leadership, customer focus and empathy – and rigorous operational discipline. This is also a digital-first role given the abundance of data available to characterize the customer, installed base, product behavior etc.

This is a role that doesn’t exist in most organizations.

But OEMs don’t have to “start from scratch”. They have talent within the organization, and they can start small. Large scale change and transformation can be risky, so start with what you have in place. 

My humble suggestion is to rebrand, repurpose and rearchitect the Aftermarket leader as the Chief Installed Base Officer. Add a bit more responsibility to their role: scale up slowly, with metrics that can be tracked, implemented and measured. Rinse and repeat.

Rebrand, repurpose and rearchitect the Aftermarket leader as the Chief Installed Base Officer

You would not be the first to implement this. Look at other industries, look at manufacturing, automotive, technology. Each industry is making huge inroads with their customer engagement strategy. Central to that strategy is typically a single individual and a single platform – the Chief Customer Officer and the Customer Data Platform. 

I admit that it takes courage, vision and a willingness to be different. One cannot follow the pack, be late to innovate and still call themselves a leader. 

It is time for Industrials to change the narrative – it’s time for a Chief Installed Base Officer to make her presence felt.

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