It’s Time to Move Your Focus to the Field

ron palinkas national field service ron palinkas national field serviceWe’re all customers and have increasing expectations around the service we expect, both in our personal and work lives. For service organisations these expectations bring increased pressure to get it right.  Field service management software is part of the answer and has been around since the late 1970s.  Highly complex, it was originally designed as on premise, server-based scheduling solutions and was very much focused on enabling the work of the back office. Work orders were dispatched, but technicians had only limited access to job and customer information due to the cost and performance limitations of the devices and networks.

“With the advancements in field service management software going hand-in-hand with the mobile evolution, the focus in service operations is now firmly on the field worker themselves…”

With the advancements in field service management software going hand-in-hand with the mobile evolution, the focus in service operations is now firmly on the field worker themselves.  And this is quite right – the technician has long been the company face and often the only direct contact a customer will have. The customer experience they are able to deliver counts for a great deal. Complete knowledge of the job is often fundamental in the delivery of this service excellence and turning up to site with this information at hand or having access to it, delivers an improved customer experience.

The technician needs a mobile solution which helps them to do their job in the best possible way.  The workflow to and from the back office has to be seamless as this quick and easy access to information enables better decision-making and ultimately improved resolution.  So how can an organisation manage this shift to focus on the field without losing sight of the importance of back office operations?

Taking the back office into the field

While back office processes remain essential components of any service operation, we’re seeing far more return from putting the focus on the field where greater value can be derived. The right mobility solution gives the whole organisation the ability to manage the workflow seamlessly and keeps all operational elements connected.  The right mobility solution gives the whole organisation the ability to manage the workflow seamlessly and keeps all operational elements connected.  There is visibility of the work and the day’s performance and the mobile piece allows decisions to be based on real-time activity and updates. For the back office, a mobile solution which easily integrates into existing systems is critical, as often a mix of best of breed solutions are used due to the niche nature of the work.

This can mean that systems are used in isolation and data from one system doesn’t always assimilate with another. Integrated mobility means that the two-way flow of data is captured, just once, and in a consistent and efficient way. It means that no data is left unused or delayed while waiting on paperwork or downloads and an audit trail is in place reducing the chance of any missing information.  The result of the right mobility solution is extending the work of the back office out into the field in a robust and reliable way, connecting the operational workflow and ultimately ensuring service objectives are met.

Focus on the right mobility solution

So, whether you are looking at developing your mobility strategy or introducing mobility for the first time, how do you choose the right software for your business with the many solutions on offer today?  From working with a range of companies, we’ve found that there are some common principals.  Ease of integration is key. You don’t need to have to think about changing your whole field service solution. Extending the life of your current systems is important, so look at mobile solutions which will leverage and expand their use.

“Implementation needs to be as quick and straightforward as possible. A lengthy implementation process will defeat its objective…”

Implementation needs to be as quick and straightforward as possible. A lengthy implementation process will defeat its objective. So being up and running in days, not months, should be the realistic goal – delivering a much faster ROI.  Any mobility solution should be easy to use. Overly-complicated systems will be bypassed and worked around or ignored all together.The easier to use, the quicker the adoption and the better the ROI.

All mobility software needs to be agile and able to move with the next generation of mobility.  Developments are moving fast so it is important that your provider is keeping up to speed.  It is crucial for any mobility solution to work across mixed digital devices, especially with the growth of BYOD and the rise in the use of contractor workforces. The apps will need to work across different operating systems too.

Essentially, mobility is about the anytime, anywhere access to and sharing of information that makes it the vital, valuable next step a service organisation can take.


Originally posted at

Zendesk and Reviews


ron palinkas zendesk ron palinkas zendeskCustomer service software company Zendesk today announced that companies using its platform can now reach more customers on what it calls “nontraditional platforms.” The new function automatically generates Zendesk customer service tickets when a company receives a message or is mentioned in a review or comment online.  Zendesk believes collecting tickets from multiple channels into a single place creates an opportunity to turn reviews into a conversation.  The latest integrations in this effort come from messaging platform WeChat and online review website Trustpilot. There are more than 360 companies in the Zendesk Apps Marketplace, according to the senior vice president of product development at Zendesk, Adrian McDermott.

“We no longer have to be the means of production for every integration that we want in Zendesk,” McDermott said. “By building this as a channel we’re going to learn from that as much as we did from our APIs or our apps.”  The new integration gives companies the ability to gather all online conversations or comments about their company, open a dialogue with customers, and learn from the wisdom of the crowd.  “What we see is our customers and our market building ticket channels and adding channels in Zendesk to create tickets for almost anything,” said McDermott.

The company worked with partners ahead of the launch of this effort, such as a Zendesk customer in Kenya who built the WeChat integration, and Danish review site Trustpilot, which created the Trustpilot integration.  “Anywhere you’re trying to engage in a two-way dialogue with your customers, you can put [that] into Zendesk,” McDermott said. “We don’t have to be the creators and validators for every integration. More than 40 percent of our business is outside the U.S., and there are these incredible use cases out there in pockets and in languages we do not read or understand.”

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Field Service Management Software

ron palinkas field service managementWhat is Field Service Management Software?

Field service management software (FSM software, service software) is a system that helps companies deliver effective onsite service by tracking requests, managing personnel, and maintaining visibility into operations. Common features include work order management, inventory, fleet tracking, and reporting.

Successful field service management operations play a critical role in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Fifty-seven percent of organizations indicate that poor first-time resolution or a total inability to resolve issues is the top reason for customer complaints regarding field service work.1

Three main pain points exist for field service management companies: disjointed communications, over-scheduled resources, and under-skilled technicians. The technology covered in this guide, when utilized properly, can address all of these issues. This guide provides a full field service management software comparison, including a close look at the overall market, benefits and functionality every FSM solution should offer, and leading FSM software case studies for organizations of any type.

Vendor Analysis

Field Service Management Software Comparison

Enterprise SMB Fleet Management
ServiceNow Jobber Fleetmatics
ClickSoftware ServiceFusion Synchroteam
ServicePower mHelpDesk Fleetio
FieldOne RazorSync ServiceBridge
ServiceMax Kickserv Collective Data

The FSM Market

The global FSM market is forecast to grow from approximately $1.58 billion in 2014 to $3.52 billion by 2019, or a compound annual growth rate of 17.3 percent.2 However, since many privately-held software vendors do not disclose sales of dispatch and workforce management software applications or modules, market penetration can only be estimated. North America is expected to comprise the largest market segment, while the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions are also expected to grow, albeit somewhat more slowly.

The FSM software market is highly fragmented.3 Sometimes referred to as field service automation (FSA), the vendor landscape for these systems includes:

  • Best-of-breed vendors that offer standalone field service management solutions for field workforce optimization, dispatch, or fleet management processes.
  • Vendors that provide most of an end-to-end FSM suite (although all components are not necessarily best-in-class).
  • Niche vendors offering add-on field mobility solutions to enterprises, or platforms focused primarily on a single industry, or on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).

The cause of this fragmentation is twofold. Historically, CRM and ERP solutions have failed to address the explicit needs of the field service industry:

  • Complex scheduling and dispatch
  • Remote inventory management
  • Customer and work order management
  • Tracking and performance

Out of necessity, FSM technology was created to help automate field service operations to improve both efficiency and visibility. Rapid adoption from businesses of every type and size is fueling FSM software market growth.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this rapid growth, FSM software vendors have struggled to keep pace with consumer mobility trends and customer expectations— until recently. Now, rapid business technology advancements and economical Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment options are fueling FSM software market growth. Companies now demand real-time tracking, strong collaboration between office and field workers, and other tools and enhancements that allow technicians to accomplish their tasks without any delay or interruption— all at an affordable price.

The Best Field Service Management Software

FSM systems aren’t limited to companies who need to manage installations, services, or repairs of systems and equipment. Though telecommunications and cable service providers, utility engineers and inspectors, and HVAC workers are most commonly associated with field service work, the industry is much broader. Healthcare companies that provide mobile nurses, or any other business with field workers — plumbers, maid services, pest control, window cleaners — all need tools tailored to the unique challenges field work presents.

Field service management requires continuously balancing critical tickets, upset customers, and dynamic service routes and schedules. Furthermore, the addition of vehicles brings safety and driver concerns, as well as fuel and maintenance costs. Specialized software that automates and streamlines tasks enables executives to focus on growing the business, not managing minutiae.

Simply put, FSM software combines many functions into one unified solution that helps schedule and track field operations. At minimum, a field service management system must be able to receive service requests, schedule and assign a skilled technician, enable technician mobility, and provide real-time visibility into job status. A good FSM system provides tools for:

  • customer appointments, trouble ticketing, order management
  • complex scheduling and routing optimization
  • managing worker activity (driver logs, time tracking, job status updates)
  • automatically locating vehicles and ensuring driver safety
  • integrating with inventory, accounting, and other back-office systems

Advanced programs will offer complex document management, automated customer appointment reminders, and project management or CRM tools. Some solutions may focus more heavily on one function— like dispatch — while other systems will offer customer portals, fleet management, or call center management. A company’s goals and needs will ultimately determine which features are essential and what type of solution is best.

How to Compare Field Service Management Software

Since systems vary significantly from vendor to vendor, it’s important to understand your needs before you conduct a** field service management software comparison**. By identifying pain points at the outset, you can decide which features are non-negotiable for your FSM system. Vetting vendors is a difficult process, and many solutions begin to blur together when evaluating options. After you’ve identified your features requirements, it’s important to examine the following key factors when selecting FSM software:


In order to determine your budget for FSM, it’s important to understand the possible pricing models. Cost can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Number of users, admins, or “seats”
  • Company size (multiple locations or franchises)
  • Pay-per-employee / field worker
  • Business needs
  • Training, setup fees, data storage needs, technical support
  • System customizations
  • Deployment type

It’s best to estimate costs a few different ways so you’re prepared to compare pricing and avoid surprises. Depending on pricing structure, costs can range between $75-$2,000 per month. However, pricing could be higher for enterprises or businesses with complex processes that require customized systems, or in some cases lower for a business simply looking to automate dispatch. When determining a budget, it’s helpful to have a range in mind, rather than a firm number.


Software can be deployed on-premise, hosted through a web browser as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or a hybrid of the two. The proliferation of mobile technology and demand for affordable solutions for small businesses has fueled SaaS adoption. SaaS solutions are not only attractive to SMBs looking for their first system, but also enterprises ready to upgrade their existing methods. Data access, customizations, long term total cost of ownership, and the need to integrate with existing software— like CRM or HR systems — can help determine which solution is best for your business.


Mobility is a critical requirement for the field service management industry. In a 2014 Gartner FSM survey, 85 percent of businesses surveyed are already using mobile field service apps or plan to use them within 24 months.4 Additionally, mobility was a top-three feature criteria for more than 60 percent of respondents. Companies have started using mobility to:

  • Improve communication and provide real-time analysis of mobile work status
  • Analyze technician skillset and location to send the closest capable worker and increase first-time-fix rate and enhance customer service and loyalty
  • Reduce overhead or administration costs associated with paper-based process and data entry
  • Increase productivity, streamline workflow, and shorten billing cycles

Though most FSM vendors offer some degree of mobile access, more advanced systems that offer offline access, geolocation, etc., are becoming commonplace.

3 Tiers of FSM Software

I. Enterprise

For large organizations, increasing visibility between the field and office is paramount. A field service management system that integrates with existing CRM or ERP systems is critical, as information that is captured in the field often needs to be available across several departments. Enterprises, especially those with multiple fleets, should focus on integrating information across all business units.

Mobile field workers should be able to access back-office systems or information outside the office. Technicians with mobile devices can easily view jobs, service history, and customer information. Additionally, workers in the field should be able to request additional time on a jobsite, record asset details and parts usage, view manuals, and instantly chat or collaborate with dispatchers, managers, and nearby colleagues.

In the office, FSM software allows dispatchers to automatically build service schedules based on technician skillsets, location, and historical job duration data. It should also include travel optimization that factors in traffic to find the shortest route. Customers should be able to choose a service time that is convenient to them, as well as receive notifications on their technicians’ scheduled time to reduce no-shows.

Case Study: Electrolux5

With 56,000 employees and over $13 billion in revenue, Electrolux is one of the world’s largest appliance companies. Headquartered in Sweden, Electrolux is a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, and freezers under the names of AEG, Electrolux, Eureka, Frigidaire, and Zanussi.

Electrolux Brazil was managing 900 service partners and 1,800 technicians through multiple systems, using phone calls, emails, and sticky notes. These fragmented organizational methods resulted in challenges such as:

  • Information that was lost or never captured.
  • No visibility into partner performance against SLAs
  • Customer satisfaction rates for service were lower than desired
  • Cost was impacted due to inaccurate warranty information

Electrolux Brazil looked at ServiceMax as a complete field service management solution because of its relationship with Electrolux needed integration with their existing on-premise ERP solution, financials, inventory, and production planning systems, as well as internationalization into Brazilian Portuguese. Along with a rich database containing technician territory coverage, product expertise, and work schedules, they also required a partner portal to provide visibility into inventory and manage performance against SLAs.

ServiceMax met all of Electrolux’s requirements, and the results after implementation included:

  • Streamlined service processes and increased service partner efficiency.
  • Technicians scheduled based on skills needed to complete service request thanks to
  • SLAs consistently met for higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased revenue due to accurate warranty renewal information and alerts.
  • Increased volume of service request closed per week to over 15,000

II. Third-Party Field Services

Businesses that rely on outside contractors or third-party service providers for field work require the same functionality as enterprise businesses, but client details and visibility are even more important. Outsourcing field services, whether partially or in full, can help companies reduce labor costs and expand operations. However, these benefits often come at the risk of customer service.

After a job is assigned to a contractor, many companies have no way to know when a service is delivered, how long it took, or even if the issue was resolved— until complaints from customers are received. FSM software for outsourced services provides visibility into contractor service delivery and makes third-party technicians indistinguishable from an organization’s internal workforce.

This is done through third-party vendor portals used to manage contracted work and related administrative tasks. Just like with traditional field workers, contractors need the same real-time access to work order information and parts availability, as well as the ability to report back quickly on service delivery and submit claims. Customer calls that require a technician on site can be dispatched by a company to its own technicians or to a local service partner.

Providing two-way interaction with outside employees allows service companies to issue last-minute schedule changes to the contractors, provide updates to customers about technician arrival times, monitor work orders to ensure SLA compliance, and even create opportunities for optimized scheduling and planning.

Case Study: Gaz Metro Plus6

Gaz Metro serves approximately 150,000 customers in Quebec and has a presence in the northwestern United States. Their subsidiary, Gaz Metro Plus, provides maintenance and repair services on gas appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters, and fireplaces. Gaz Metro Plus answers 75,000 calls annually and provides on-site services to 45,000 customers per year.

When Gaz Metro Plus took over field service dispatching, they had to build a workforce model from scratch. The company required an efficient way to improve customer service while keeping operational costs in check. They required “a system that automatically selects the right technician for each service incident, not just a Gantt chart that instructs a dispatcher on how to make the decision.6” They also required integration with their existing CRM software.

After implementing ClickSoftware, the company experienced:

  • Increased Productivity: Gaz Metro Plus increased the average number of preventative maintenance visits nearly 50 percent— from approximately 4.5 to 6.5 per day.
  • Cost Savings: The simple and efficient solution helped Gaz Metro Plus proceed on a strategic plan to outsource its entire dispatch function. The new dispatch model will save the company close to $1 million annually.
  • Improved Mobility: Seamlessly integration with mobile devices provides field technicians tools to access schedules directly, improving efficiency.

III. Small Business

Growing small-to-medium businesses with mobile employees need automated processes and tools to efficiently manage field workers, increase productivity, and increase visibility. Though smaller companies may only require dispatch software or fleet management at first, cloud-based solutions offer scalability and can bring robust functionality to SMBs at an affordable price. For SMBs, ease of use and scalability are important factors.

SMBs have no shortage of vendors from which they can choose. Many niche companies offer solutions specifically designed for non-enterprise businesses, and many enterprise FSM software vendors have launched their own FSM product lines tailored to SMBs.

Functionality for SMB field service management software is very similar to enterprise software, though advanced scheduling, analytics, and technical support may be limited or only offered as add-ons. SMBs can still find great systems that automate processes, let customers book appointments, schedule and dispatch workers, and track time and location.

Case Study: AVID Ink7

AVID Ink is one of the world’s leading sublimation printing companies. When the company’s drivers started making up to 60 deliveries a day, managing and coordinating the mobile workforce became a challenge. The breaking point came when the company reached 1,500 pickups a month. Drivers would make notes and then email or call in to communicate their status. Sixty percent of the deliveries were unscheduled, and drivers were using Excel spreadsheets to coordinate more than 60 stops each day. Additionally, drivers had to rely

on memory to meet their delivery deadlines.

AVID Ink chose to implement Trimble as their fleet and work management solution to ensure deliveries were more efficient and on time. Now, a central dashboard helps with scheduling and monitors activities throughout the day, optimizing routing and sequencing deliveries according to geography, driver locations, and other business’ operating hours. In addition to not missing a delivery or pickup since implementation, AVID has experienced:

  • 30 percent increase in overall company efficiency
  • 99 percent on-time delivery record
  • 98 percent job completion rate
  • Reduced fuel costs and overtime, as well as improved vehicle maintenance

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Beyond Break-and-Fix

ron palinkas ronpalinkasWhile the core function of field service management will always be about helping customers solve problems, we’ve gone far beyond the idea of “fix and repair.” It’s no longer enough to send technicians into the field with one responsibility.It’s time to shift your Field Service Organization (FSO) and its people to think more strategically about how you serve customers in order to continually add value and stay competitive. Getting everyone at your organization to move toward the same big picture goals requires defined processes and clear expectations.

But where to begin?

Going beyond the day-to-day

As your FSO grows and customer expectations continue to evolve, it’s easy to rush into billable client work without further defining rules and processes. When this happens, everyone is playing by a different set of rules, and efficiency tanks.  Likely, you’re already aware that having too many cooks in the kitchen causes problems, and you’ve made efforts to create processes to keep everyone in your organization on the same page. How much is too much, though?

ron palinkasA study by Kathleen Eisenhardt, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Engineering, looked at how simplicity makes people and companies more effective. [1] She found that companies with complicated product development processes were really good at delivering products no one wanted, while companies with no rules or defined processes got little to nothing done.  However, those companies with a handful of simple rules to define processes (things like who’s in charge of what, analyzing customer feedback, etc.) were most effective.

Her research team found it only took four or five rules to constrain what people did, while allowing enough flexibility to innovate within their roles. According to Eisenhardt, this sweet spot of four to five rules is the key to growth.

She suggests a three-step process for defining processes:

  1. Clearly identify business objectives/goals
  2. Identify where current bottlenecks exist
  3. Look at past successes and failures to help define steps

As you and your employees begin to evaluate existing processes (or the lack thereof), it will be essential to do so for each function outside of simple fix and repair. If you’re like most FSOs, there will be a number of functions to consider:

Having a handful of defined rules to guide how employees function within each of these areas will not only streamline your FSO, but will result in faster growth, happier customers, and increased revenue.

The way to implement

Once you and your team have identified the essential processes expected for each role beyond fix and repair, it’s time to integrate them into daily practice. There’s no better way to do this than to use field service management software, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service.

Field service software tools are the best way to make sure everyone is focused and executing core business functions. Integrating a single system for scheduling, dispatching, inventory, and communication with technicians will be the best way to track how well processes are followed and identify areas for continuous improvement.

Not only will your FSO have clarity about processes and expectations, but they’ll have software to help them integrate key processes into their daily workflows for more consistent and measurable results.


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Teamwork Makes You Stronger

ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager


I have been thinking about teamwork quite a bit lately.  A few months ago i was asked to join an inter-disciplinary team.  The team is made up of members from a wide variety of areas–Technical Services, Research and Development, Manufacturing, Quality, and many others.  The team size fluctuated throughout the project as areas of expertise were added and subtracted as needed.



ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager


It was a very professionally satisfying experience.  The knowledge I gained, the relationships I built with other members of the team, helped minimize the challenge in our area of focus, but have also opened me up to a greater understanding of our company’s capabilities and expertise.  Along the way I learned quite a bit myself and am reminded of the tremendous value and potential value that exists in a collaborative team.



ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager


On a recent family trip to St. Louis, I came across a sculpture that I felt highlighted the value of teamwork.  Small figurines support a plexiglass piece that can support the weight of five adults.  I thought the theme for the figurines was an excellent choice by the artist, and make the piece present very powerfully.




ron palinkas ron palinkas national service manager



“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie

Why CFOs Should Care About Field Service

Alexis Della Costa stands Friday in front of the 18-ton housing for a giant wind turbine inside the Wind Turbine Technician Academy training lab at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The lab is inside KVCCs Michigan Technical Education Center in Texas Township.

Field service can be a strong and modern revenue generator for companies of all sizes.  In fact, an efficient, outcomes-focused and technology-driven field service department can differentiate your company from the competition.  It can also open the door to new sales opportunities, boost positive customer feedback and help build global networks.  Industry CFOs should take note and consider tapping into the latest technologies to streamline and build out field service operations with benefits that reach across the entire company.

Field Service as a differentiator

Customer requests need to be answered with efficiency and quality in order to establish the value of your service in a crowded field. The industry is no longer limited to legacy manufacturing and emergency-driven maintenance. For CFOs, this means finding the right formula for a budget and financial strategy that mixes a team of experienced field technicians, streamlined operational processes and technology that improves the measurable quality of customer service. A strong field service strategy matched with the latest operational technology can set a company apart from others in the market, especially those offering a similar services and resources to their customers.

Field service as a customer success machine

Field service can play a significant role in building customer trust and a company’s reputation. Customer trust can lead to referrals and real business growth. Tapping into technology that offers proactive reporting of operational, incident and maintenance data can present technicians with the information they need to meet and exceed customer needs. This expanded and elevated level of service can translate directly into new sales opportunities and more chances to deliver quality service to existing customers.  The success of any consumer-facing company relies on interaction between employees and customers. Being able to quantify customer success can boost business visibility and enables CFOs to make the case to higher-ups for the modernization of operations across the company. The main benefactor in this equation is the customer, but the right approach can be a serious driver of broader company growth.

Field service as a CFO priority

Companies looking for strategic corporate partnerships often point to reputation as a key component of their vetting process. A well-run field service department offers tangible and clear evidence of a company’s operational efficiency and focus on customer success.CFOs looking to build the case for mutually beneficial corporate partnerships should turn to amplifying field service operations and technology that reflects commitment to the speed and quality of delivery.

As Mike Vaughan, CFO of Liftech Equipment Companies, puts it:

There is tangible value in streamlining and innovating our service organization. By leveraging technology to meet our customers’ needs and retain our workforce, we can be seen as a preferred service company to work for.

The ability to keep highly-skilled talent is where our competitive advantage comes in and, with our average revenue per technician up by 5%, what serves as the connection to our company’s broader commercial success.

Tactically, [field service] gives us the capability to leverage more revenue through our existing structure by giving the technician the ability to access relevant and important installed product repair history data. This access enables the field service technician to be more self sufficient and less reliant on branch support personnel.

The transformation from cost center to revenue generator requires strategic financial leadership. It also calls for scaling the company’s operations in line with business and customer goals.  A well-built field service department can provide the foundation for increasing sales operations that support growing revenue streams and attract new customers. It can also prove instrumental in building global partnerships with leading companies that complement or enhance customer programs.

If you’re the CFO of a customer-facing company with installation, maintenance and upgrade operations, look to technology-driven field service for results and real business growth opportunities.

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Creating Value Through Services

When talking about service, we often hear senior managers asking the question, ’But where do you start?’

It would be lovely to call out, ‘At the beginning!’, but most of us know that is a bit simplistic. The thing is that successful service companies align all aspects of their business to their goal. But business is complex and to address change on a wide front is costly and risky.  Instead business leaders understand where their priorities are, address these first and then move on to the next part of the puzzle. Effective decision making means defining priorities within the context of an overall vision or blue print of how their services business should operate.

We thought it would be worthwhile sharing a series of blog articles based on real life experiences to help paint this picture. The blogs will illustrate 4 key areas to get right!

  1. Understand the Value you can deliver to the customer and your own business
  2. An effective GO-TO Market strategy that defines what service offerings you need to develop and how to sell them
  3. Efficient  Service Delivery to ensure profitability
  4. Have a Plan

Lets first look at a good way to improve your understanding of Value by analysing your Customer’s Journey to your services. We are not just talking about how they came to choose your product. We start way before that activity and move all the way through to the touch points of the service delivery model.

Many of you will recognise the customer journey map below as being similar for the lifecycle of your equipment.  It is a high level summary of just one part of a customer journey scenario that was mapped out for the premier manufacturer of injection moulding systems, Husky SA. It shows how a customer perceives the brand at different stages through the product life cycle within different touch-points and activities.

NF1Customer Journey

But why bother mapping out what seems intuitively obvious. In this case it allowed cross functional teams from Husky Service & Sales to understand what were the critical points in the products lifecycle at which they:

a)    Had to work together: For example in the selling process, especially where negotiations revolved around total cost of ownership commitments.

b)    Where the service organisation could have a significant impact on the customer satisfaction and loyalty. For example by reacting quickly to start up issues, a difficult situation for the customer could be turned around to be a positive experience, if solved quickly and professionally.

c)     Where the use of 3rd party contractors for providing the service might be appropriate.

d)    To identify systems that could be targeted for different refurbishment and upgrades, so as to maximise revenues through the product lifecycle.

Detail can be added to this high level journey. For example Husky decided that all calls for all technologies should come into the same call centre. By drilling down into more detail at the call centre level and looking at how the customer journey through the organisation changed for different customers, the organisation was able to design a more effective process, to communicate appropriately with its customers and ensure the correct level of training for its employees.

From these examples we can see that being intimate with your customer’s journey is so important to understanding the value they might be seeking from us. Why not look at for more ideas and discussions on the Customer Journey.

In our next blog in this series, we will look a how service change dramatically slows, when we make the wrong decisions in the profit centre / cost centre debate, because we have not understood how are business wants to make money.


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“Dignified Transfers”– Bringing Them Back

The Mortuary Affairs Operation Center at Dover and the Dignified Transfer of the Fallen


The Air Force, your Air Force, operates an Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center (MOAC) at Dover AFB, known as the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. The Carson Center was opened in October 2003, replacing a 1948 facility. We’ll take a
closer look at it in a moment.

At a top level, its job is to receive the remains of a Fallen member, identify those remains, prepare them and transport them to their final destination. Under most circumstances, a family member directs the disposition of the remains. Identification of those family members has a priority order; e.g., surviving spouse if not divorced, then children over 18, then father or mother if not divorced etc.


Charles C. Carson served as a civilian mortician with the USAF in 1958. He was the deputy mortuary officer at TanSon Nhut Air Base, Republic ofVietnam and Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines from 1964 to 1970. He covered mortuary affairs in Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and administered mortuary contracts in New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. Mr. Carson had supervised mortuary preparation of remains in every major disaster involving American military and civilian personnel since 1971.

He was assigned to Dover Air Force Base August of 1970 as a mortuary inspector and was promoted to Chief Port Mortuary Officer a year later. He handled a number of disasters, including the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the Jonestown cult mass suicide in Guyana. He also supervised the processing of the remains of victims in the NASA Challenger mission and Desert Storm as well as the air plane disaster that claimed the life of then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. He retired in 1996 and died August 8, 2002.

Back in 2003, Meg Falk, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy, said this about Carson:

“He was revered in the mortuary community. Not only for his extensive knowledge but for his total dedication to treating every single casualty with the utmost dignity and respect. He was constantly seeking improvements to apply new and better processing to mortuary operations.”

I want to talk about the MAOC and address the Dignified Transfer process. I should say up front that officially, the Dignified Transfer process occurs only at Dover. Unofficially, the process of removing a Fallen from the battlefield or hospital through the system is a dignified transfer start to finish so far as I am concerned.

I should present the Air Force’s description of what the official Dignified Transfer process is:

“A dignified transfer is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of Fallen military members are transferred from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the Fallen member’s respective service. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the Fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.

“The sequence of the dignified transfer starts with the Fallen being returned to Dover by the most expedient means possible, which may mean a direct flight from theater, or a flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and then to Dover. It is the Department of Defense’s policy, and AFMAO’s mission, to return America’s Fallen to their loved ones as quickly as possible. Once the aircraft lands at Dover, service-specific carry teams remove the transfer cases individually from the aircraft and move them to a waiting mortuary transport vehicle. Once all of the transfer cases have been taken to the transport vehicles, they are then taken to the port mortuary.”

Let’s take a closer look at the Dover MAOC. The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs is a 70,000 square foot facility. It is a joint military facility, with people from all services working there, often from the Reserves and Guard. It’s mission is this:

“It is the center’s mission and privilege to fulfill the nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to the Fallen and care, service, and support to their families.”

This is a Google Earth view of most of the Dover AFB. The base is located in east central Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula close to Delaware Bay. It is the home of the 436th Airlift Wing, the “EagleWing” and the 512th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve Associate, the “Liberty Wing.” The Eagle Wing is subordinate to the 18th Air Force located with the HQ, Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Missouri. The yellow arrow points to the location of the MAOC at Dover, on the south side of the base. It’s worth noting that it is very close to the taxiway west of the main runway.

This is a closer view. You can see it is a substantial facility. You can note the driveway straight to the taxiway, a location where transport aircraft carrying the Fallen can park for the Dignified Transfer.

I want to show you more of the facility. I am using magnificent photography presented by crypto me eyeball series on the web.

The Wall of Fallen Heroes greets each visitor as they come through the front entry. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

Entry foyer, MAOC. This view is looking from the foyer area out to the entry door. Note the curved wall in the center. The first photo showed the other side. USAFphoto.


The fingerprinting area. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.






Full body X-ray unit. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.


Autopsy stations. There are 23 such stations. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

This facility houses everything needed to properly dress the Fallen. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

With the new Gates policy on the press covering the arriving Fallen, the following is to happen once they arrive at Dover:

“The primary next of kin will make the family’s decision regarding media access to dignified transfer operations atDover;

“Families of deceased service members will be briefed on the option to allow media coverage of the dignified transfer at the time of notification of the member’s death or as soon as possible thereafter;

“If the primary next of kin permits media access atDover, reporters will be given the name, rank, military service and hometown of the ‘believed to be’ casualty. Amore complete identification of the deceased service member, including unit, place, date and circumstances of death, will be released following the confirmation of the casualty’s identity at the Dover mortuary, and then only24 hours after the last of the deceased’s next of kin have been notified of the loss; and

“Primary next of kin and two other family members may travel to Dover at department expense to observe the dignified transfer operation. The services may fund the travel of additional family members on a case-by-case basis.”

This new policy was implemented effective April 6, 2009. Whitman has described the policy this way:

“The core of the policy is built around the desires of the family members, and it will be the families that decide whether or not media have access to any of these dignified transfers.”

My purpose here is to describe the dignified transfer operation. I want to underline, underscore, and highlight the seriousness with which our military forces treat the Fallen during the dignified transfer.

I am reminded of two stories I’ve done associated with this subject to which you may some day wish to refer.

Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fire against terrorists operating in Fallujah, Iraq April 7, 2004. Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi, presented by Defend America

The first was done as part of my description of the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004. I wrote the story, “Battle for Fallujah, our warfighters towered in maturity and guts,” and added a section at the end of this report entitled, “’Major Zarnik, these are my Marines, and I am giving them to you.’ A concluding story.” This was a story about how Major Zarnik and his USAF KC-135R tanker crew were on their way to Spain after refueling some F-16 fighters in the area of Turkey. Zarnik was abruptly turned around to go to Kuwait City. His mission was to retrieve the first 22 American military forces killed in the Battle of Fallujah. Major Zarnik tells the story of what he and his crew did to bring these men home. It’s at once a heartbreaker and an injection of enormous pride.

The chief places the uniform blouse inside the casket. The chief lays the uniform blouse carefully inside the casket, over the remains, which are wrapped in a blanket below He then places the lieutenant’s uniform pants in the casket, placed properly under the blouse. Credit: Photo clip drawn from the video, “An Ocean Away,” produced by Arrowhead Film & Video and commissioned by the Discovery Channel.

The second story was published in February 2006, entitled, “The reality is, no other country does this: Bringing America’s missing
home.” This is the story of the return of US Marine Lt. Donald Matocha’s remains from Vietnam to Smithville, Texas many years after the war ended. I assembled a photo gallery that demonstrates the respect and honor given the remains of our returning military by those associated with the US Joint POW-MIA Accounting Commandin Hawaii, the JPAC.

For the current two wars our sons and daughters are fighting, Dover is the first stop in the US for those deceased military members returning home. The men and women at this center have not changed a thing since their actions have been made open to the public. Everything they do now, they did when the photographers were not there.


An example of a dignified transfer conducted once the aircraft arrives at Dover AFB is the case of Spc. Israel Candelaria Mejias, USA, 1-66th Armor,killed in action (KIA) by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq on April 5, 2009. He is shown here.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from the 14th Airlift Squadron was on crew rest at Spangdahlem AB, Germany when alerted that it would fly a dignified transfer mission from Ramstein AB, Germany to Dover. It has been reported that the crew remained silent while
riding the bus from Spangdahlem to Ramstein to get their aircraft — “Unspoken Silence.”

This is a 14th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III which in the photo was in Jordan. Its worth remarking that these transport aircraft, in a time of war, are scarce and heavily used. But by hook or by crook they are available for the dignified transfer.

TSgt. Erin Manley commented this way as the crew approached their aircraft:

“You go out to the jet and reality sets in.”

About the flight, SrA Airman Stephen Adams, a loadmaster, commented:

“It taxes on your emotions. We have a lot of time to reflect about the sacrifice of the individual.”

TSgt. Manley said this:

“With as much grief as they are feeling, you hope they can see the care and the attention to detail; there is more sense of pride, the jet’s clean, the flag’s on straight. There’s nothing you want to go wrong, because this guy deserves everything.”

Adams added:

“It’s pretty emotional. We try to return our military service members with honor, and that’s what we did.”

The aircraft landed at Dover, taxied and parked. The aircrew must run through its shut down checklist and then prepare for the dignified transfer of the remains from the aircraft to the mortuary center. The family was present at Dover when the aircraft landed.

About an hour after landing, an eight member Carry Team from theArmy’s Old Guard in Washington, arrived.

OldGuardA OldGuardB
The Old Guard is the the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, the 3rdInfantry. It is the oldest active-duty infantry unit, serving our nation since 1784. It is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and the escort for the president. In short, it is the Army’s official Honor Guard. It has two companies, the 1st and the 4th, the 1/3 and the 1/4 Infantries. The1/4 provides the Fife and Drum Corps. Both companies guard theTomb of the Unknown Soldier and conduct burials at Arlington National Cemetery. It should be noted that infantry is infantry — the 3rd Infantry is a combat organization which has received 50 combat streamers from the Battle of Fallen Timbers of 1794 that is considered the final battle of the Northwest Indian War through WWII. In addition to its ceremonial roles, it is presently tasked to provide security for Washington, D.C. in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

Back to Spc. Mejias’s return to the US.



Army and Air Force troops stand guard around the body of Spc. Israel Candelaria Mejias at Dover Air Force Base on nighttime arrival. Photo credits: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes.

By the time the Old Guard Carry Team arrived at the C-17 carrying Mejias, the aircrew that brought him home and an Army colonel and captain had the ramp down, and placed his case near the aircraft ramp exit. They are standing at parade rest, awaiting the Carry Team.

The Old Guard’s “Carry Team,” in uniform fatigues, wearing white gloves, marched in formation up the ramp and into the cargo hold. Photo credit: Susan Walsh, AP


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes.
Three from the Carry Team stood at attention on one side of the casket, the other three on the other side. You cannot see him in this photo, but there is a seventh Old Guard, the ranking member, standing at the head of the case. The case bore the American flag draped over it, the field of stars over his left shoulder, his feet pointed to the outside, the flag tied down to the case.

Once in place, three officers arrived and marched in unison up the ramp. They included Army Brigadier General Walter Davis, director of Army Aviation; Air Force Colonel Robert Edmondson, commander of mortuary affairs operations; and Chaplain Major Klavens Noel. Chaplain Noel said a prayer.

A senior ranking officer (SRO) of the Fallen member’s service always presides over each dignified transfer. It is my understanding that in most circumstances, the SRO is a general or flag officer.


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Following this, the Carry Team picked up the case in unison.


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
With precision, the Carry Team carried Spc. Mejas down the ramp to a waiting vehicle. As it started, in a quiet tone, the order was given to those remaining on the aircraft, “present arms” — salute. They popped to attention and saluted as Mejas made his way down the ramp. The family was at the bottom of the ramp waiting.

I want to show what happens at the vehicle waiting to take Mejas to the Mortuary.

This photo is of a Carry Team taking Pfc. Nicholas H.J. Gideon, 1/40Cavalry to a waiting mortuary truck, taken on July 8, 2009. Photo
credit to Jason Minto, USAF.


In this photo, an Army Carry Team transfers the remains of Army Spc. Issac L. Johnson, July 8, 2009. Spc. Johnson was assigned to the1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, Georgia Army National Guard. Photo credit
to Jason Minto, USAF.

In this photo, you see airmen transferring the remains of Air Force SSgt. Phillip A. Myers, April 5, 2009. I wanted to point out that the vehicle driver is standing by, shooting a salute until the Fallen is completely in place and the Carry Team is finished.

Once the Carry Team has loaded the Fallen aboard the mortuary vehicle, it braces at attention and salutes the Fallen, in this case, Lance Corporal Blaise A. Oleski, USMC, April 9, 2009. Photo credit: Tim Shaffer, Reuters.

An airman closes the door on a transport vehicle with the transfer case containing the body of Spc Mejias. Photo credit: Tim Shaffer, Reuters

Once all souls are aboard the vehicle, the driver shuts the doors securely, with dignity and respect, and drives to the nearby Dover mortuary. How long does this all take? As an example, the Dignified Transfer for Spc. Mejias took about 12 minutes from the time the transfer case is placed at the ramp to the time it is loaded aboard the vehicle.

To my knowledge, the media is not allowed to see what goes on in the mortuary, even to this day. The morticians and staff must go through a very careful, methodical, and scientific process. Their number one task, among many, is to be sure they have an 100 percent positive identification of the remains. They employ DNA, dental and fingerprint analysis and autopsy the remains to determine the cause of death. They then prepare the Fallen member for transport to the family.

Allow me to pause for a moment to address the identification process.Interestingly, people well trained in anthropology can play a major role.


The famous “dog tags” are important to the identification process, but there is sufficient concern about how they were issued and worn that they alone do not do the job. The military member does not always wear them, either forgetting or deliberately leaving them behind because of an exceedingly dangerous mission. Some soldiers exchange their tags before a mission — why is hard to ascertain. There have been times when the enemy has exchanged them to confuse us, or to be simply mean. Finally, the tags must be found on the Fallen and must remain with him through the process for them to carry any validity. While a bit gruesome, one must recognize that the tags are often pushed into the body as the result of an explosion or the like. Sometimes, they are hard to find, they are missed, or they are destroyed beyond recognition.

Hollywood often shows men tearing the tags off their Fallen — they are not to do this for reasons outlined above.

Wallets, photos, keys, rings, watches and other such items also helpthe identification process.

The skull and jaw are among the most important means of identification.


This is a CT scan of a skull showing multiple skull and facial bone fractures resulting from fatal blunt trauma to the head. In this case, it was a car collision, but you get the idea.

Dental and facial features provide good leads.

Often, when a Fallen’s body is beaten up badly, the morticians will layout the bones to create a “biological profile” which can help identify sex, age, race, and manner of death. Sometimes, the mortician will find duplicates, which then says he-she is dealing with two individuals.

If the Fallen is recovered by his comrades and medevacs quickly after battle, the flesh will probably be in tact and fingerprints can be taken. This can be a very complicated process. The photo presented is an FBI photo. I do not know whether the Dover people use this kind of technology, though I do know it is state-of-the-art. But I wanted to show this to you to affirm in your minds that new technologies are employed for identification purposes. This happens to be a spectral imaging technology that uses infrared spectral responses plotted over an area to produce images. On the left you see the fingerprint. Photo B is an expanded area of one portion of the fingerprint. Photo C is a spectra of the components.

Finally, lately DNA analysis has been of great value. Both nuclear and mitochondrial analyses are used.

It should be said that the data base of identifications and along with the empirical and analyses supporting those identifications have played an important role. The mortuary team can do a lot of crosschecking in more complicated cases. Furthermore, many advanced computer technologies are now available to help in the broad spectrum of identification approaches employed.

The identification process is often as certain as certain can be. That said, mistakes are made. Families have the right to challenge the findings. Most often, an explanation of the process alleviates their fears. Sometimes not.

One thing is for certain: the men and women assigned to this center at Dover are serious people who take their jobs very seriously.

I’d like to introduce you to some of them. Prior to doing that, I wanted to point out that the morticians do not get the Fallen untilothers have had a chance to get organized to receive the Fallen from the mortician. Several activities occur as soon as the remains are
brought into the mortuary, before the work begins on the remains.

You will recall that the remains were transferred in a body bag that was placed in an ice lined transfer case. The body bag and body are removed from the transfer case. The body is removed from the bag and placed on a metal table and digitally photographed and archived. If the Fallen arrives in parts, each is barcoded.

The Personal Effects Team takes custody of any personal items. This team takes the personal effects to their section and inventories, photographs, barcodes each item, and cleans them. If an item cannot be pinned down to the Fallen member, it goes to the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

This is a good chance to introduce you to some of those who work at the Center and provide you a sense for how seriously they take their jobs.


TSgt. Latersa Frazier, a personal effects supervisor in the Air Force Mortuary AffairsOperations Center polishes a watch April 1, 2009 to demonstrate the cleaning process used on personal effects during preparation of remains, part of the dignified transfer process. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

The cleaning process is very important. They clean all the items, and prepare them to be returned to the family. TSgt. Latersa Frazier is the personal effects supervisor and has said:

“We’ll try our best to clean them the best we can so they can go back with the escort to their families. Our goal is to make them look better than brand new … I could be working on a broken watch for hours, but it may still have the smell of cologne, and I know that I can get it back to the families. It could be the one item a child has to remind him of his father or mother. That means everything to me.”

Frazier said she spent a day and a half on a belt buckle:

“It was from a crash and was pretty charred. When I finally finished it, it was a bronze gold color; really beautiful. We still talk about that belt buckle … We put in the extra work when dealing with personal effects because we want to be able to give back to the family just a little something for their loss. If this was my love done, I would want the person working on my items to do the best job they can … My motivation is this person who has served our country, who paid the ultimate sacrifice. This is something I can do for them because they sacrificed their lives for us. Just cleaning a simple dog tag, even if I had to stand here half the day to clean it to get it back to the family, I would do that. Not only is the service member making that sacrifice, but also the families, the loved ones, and the children. They are as well. Being able to support that person — that family – it’s
an amazing feeling.”


A1C Rontera Powell works is a personal effects specialist. She is shown here in her dress uniform as an USAF honor guard, a position I might add, of distinction. She has said:

“Every case has touched me in some way. When you work in my section, you stop seeing them as remains, and you start seeing them as people who had personalities. And even though these people are no longer here in body, they’re still here in spirit through their effects.”

SSgt. John Cabral, USAF, closes the door of a transfer vehicle containing a transfercase containing the remains of Shawn D. Sykes Friday, May 8, 2009.

Another personal effects specialist, SSgt. John Cabral, said this:

“I remember my first case. He was only 19. When I saw him in triage, he was pretty messed up. Once I started looking through his personal effects to clean them up, I saw photos of him and his girlfriend; pictures of how he looked. It was just very hard for me. It takes a strong person to be able to do the job and put your emotional feelings to the side. It affects you.”

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jimmy Toro steam cleans the uniform of a Fallen solider during preparation of the dignified transfer of remains process March 31,2009. Sgt. Toro is on his third year-long voluntary deployment assisting the Air ForceMortuary Affairs Operations Center. Sergeant Toro is deployed from the U.S. ArmyReserve, 311th Quartermaster Company in Puerto Rico. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

As soon as the Fallen member arrives at the mortuary, the men and women from the uniforms section are there. SFC Jimmy Toro, USA, said their job is to take measurements:

“We get sizes as soon as (the Fallen heroes) arrive in the building. We put together their uniforms and take (the items) to the alterations shop, getting the patches and stripes sewn on the uniform. We verify the proper awards and decorations for that (service member), and we put it together.”

These uniforms are meant to be the final uniform the Fallen member will wear.

SSgt. Charles Bell walks through rows of military service dress uniforms that are stored there for every rank and size. Sgt. Bell is the Air Force noncommissioned officer in charge of logistics and oversees ordering and stocking service dress uniforms and items for dignified transfer of remains. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

This section stocks the uniforms, rank insignias, ribbons, patches, everything that is to be worn by each Fallen member. SSgt. Charles Anthony Bell has been a mortuary technician with the center since June 2008. He has said:

“I want everything to be as perfect as possible. Even though the shirts are covered by the jackets, we still take the time to clip the strings on all of the buttons, around the collars and the pockets, making sure there are no strings. We polish the devices on the ribbons, making sure they’re equally nice and shiny. We check every detail, making sure the uniform is 100 percent correct.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Van Orden irons a U.S. Navy uniform March 31,2009 for a Fallen sailor. Van Orden is the Navy and Marine Corps liaison for the uniform section of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. Service liaisons prepare uniforms for Fallen heroes and work with military escorts for the dignified transfer-of-remains process. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

PO2 Danielle Van Orden is a hospital corpsman and adds:

“Everybody, everybody is treated with respect, dignity and honor. We know that when the uniform leaves here, it has our stamp of approval, our name on it. We know that people are going to be viewing their loved ones at funerals. When they open that casket, they see the military creases; they see that we took our time.”

I should comment here that the mortuary works as hard to get their work done as professionally and quickly as possible. There is no time to dally about. Teams often work around the clock.

Lance Corporal Adam Knebler, Marine liaison for uniforms section, hangs Marine service dress uniforms into inventory. The uniform section of the Charles C. CarsonCenter for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del., prepares uniforms for remains and works with military escorts for the dignified transfer of remains process.Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

LCpl. Adam Knebler, USMC, has commented this way:

“Everyone is taken care of here to the 100 percent-levelof everyone’s ability. Sometimes I’m here 12 to 14 hours. I don’t want to leave until the mission’s accomplished. Istay until the mission’s done. The mission is first here for everybody.”

Toro adds:

“This is an honor for me, having this opportunity to serve those (service members) who have given their lives in combat. That’s my satisfaction. I will do it for as long as I can. It’s the best job I’ve ever had in the Army, serving these past two years at Dover. I feel I’m doing something for service members and their families who await the return of their Fallen heroes back home.”

Specialist Xavier Gonzalez polishes the decorations of a Fallen soldier. Specialist Gonzalez is deployed from the Army Reserve, 311th Quartermaster Company, PuertoRico. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

Spc. Xavier Gonzales feels the same, even though he had only been at the mortuary for four months when he said this:

“I’m here for a reason, for the mission. This mission is the most respectful thing I can do for a service member who’s died in combat. It’s an honor. I’ve got to do something for the United States; they always do something for us in Puerto Rico; it’s important for Puerto
Rico. Most importantly, it’s important for the families of the Fallen.”

Once the measurements are taken, the alterations made, the ribbon racks assembled correctly, everything ironed and steamed, the team then dresses the Fallen.

Of course, the morticians must prepare the remains prior to putting on the uniform. I have already covered this.

Among their most important tasks is to prepare the American flag.

TSgt. Millard Rico feeds a U.S. flag into a pressing machine March 3, 2009 at theCharles C. Carson Center. The press irons the flags wrinkle free that will be placed over caskets during the dignified transfer of remains. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J.

They remove the flag from its packaging, unfold them, and feed them through an industrial steamer to be pressed. The flags are 5×9 ft. The machine has been designed to be sure the flag never touches the ground in the process. They then drape the flags over a rack until needed.


SSgt. Star Samuel’s, shown here hanging up a freshly pressed flag, has said:

“We’re taking care of someone’s child, mother, father, husband, wife. They passed away protecting this country; we try to make everything perfect to give them and their families the utmost respect … I have so much respect for my Fallen heroes. These heroes have families, loved ones, who could’ve talked to them just a couple of hours ago. Just one mistake, one trip down the road, anything can happen. I take nothing for granted.”

Shipping Specialists SSgt. Star Samuel’s (front) and TSgt. Willard Rico place a U.S. flag over a casket March 31, 2009 during a dry run of shipping process procedures for the dignified transfer of remains at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. Sergeant Samuel’s is deployed from the 43rd Force Support Squadron at PopeAFB, North Carolina. Sergeant Rico is deployed from the 60th FSS, Travis AFB, California. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

Once a casket is ready for the flag, each airman stands on either side of the casket, they slowly pull the flag off the rack and onto the casket. One airman stands at the foot, the other at the head. They work silently but in harmony, coordinating through eye contact, to drape the flag over the casket. They work slowly and in silent synchronization. They watch everything on the casket to be sure the flag is draped over it correctly.

They draw the flag taut. The Fallen is ready for burial and transportation home.

TSgt. Willard Rico, USAF, shown above with SSgt. Samuels placing the flag over a casket, has said:

“These men and women who gave their lives for their country for the sake of freedom deserve the utmost dignity, honor and respect … We’re here for the families. I’m privileged to be working here, giving dignity, honor and respect to the Fallen for their families. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever done so far in my career.”

Both Rico and Samuels are shipping specialists, their Air Force specialty code descriptor. But they are far more than people working in a freight and shipping center. They are part of the final process for Fallen military prior to their beginning their trip home. Mortuary staff prepare the remains. People such as Rico and Samuels inspect the caskets, and perform the final checks to be sure the dog tags, ribbons and flag are correct and up to standards. They get the final look before sending the deceased home. Samuels has commented:

“We make sure everything is perfect. Our mission is to send them out the way they’re remembered, not how they came in.”

The 2007 National Defense Appropriations Act directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide military or military-contracted air transport for all military people who die in a combat theater of operations. This means the US has taken responsibility for transporting the Fallen directly from Dover AFB to the nearest airport of the Fallen’s final destination.

This law also requires that an honor guard escort the Fallen to their final resting place. A family can ask that the honor guard be excused from this duty, and can request commercial air. This might be done when the closest airport to the family is a small one where USAF aircraft cannot go.

Note that the carton, with the casket inside, rests on a wooden pallet as it is loaded aboard the commercial jet. Ground-crews are trained to handle such human remainswith extreme and respectful care. Credit: Photo clip drawn from the video, “An Ocean Away,” produced by Arrowhead Film & Video and commissioned by the Discovery Channel.

The military requires that each coffin has an honor cover, a reinforced cardboard cover that fits on top of the airline industry’s standard air tray for coffins. The cover is embossed with an American flag and the Defense Department seal at both ends. These covers are used only once. They are treated to be waterproof.

The more stories I do about our men and women at war, the more I have come to appreciate the military’s chaplains. In this case, the toll on those in the families of the Fallen and those in the mortuary affairs center can be high in terms of emotions. This is where the chaplains step forward.

SparksDavid Ortiz NoelKlavens
Left to right, Lt Col. Sparks, Lt. Col Ortiz-Guzman and Maj. Klavens Noel

At this writing, mortuary chaplain staff consists of retired Lt. Col. David Sparks, Lt. Col. George Ortiz-Guzman, Maj. Klavens Noel,
and chaplain’s assistant Master Sgt. Timothy Polling. They provide counsel to the families throughout the dignified transfer. They must provide the same to the mortuary staff and the escorts.

Chaplain (Lt. Col., ret.) David Sparks counsels a fellow Port Mortuary team memberat Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. Chaplain Sparks believes achaplain goes through three stages once he assumes Port Mortuary duty: the horrorstage, sadness stage, and focus stage. Photo credit: TSgt. Kevin Wallace, USAF

Most of us can imagine the grief of the families. But we must not forget the emotions of those working in the mortuary. They can be constantly exposed to Fallen heroes coming home. Many thoughts run through their minds. Sadness can be on onerous burden. Furthermore, many of the Fallen come home in bad shape, and they can only wonder what their deaths must have been like. The chaplain must help them deal with their emotions and at the same time, hold themselves together.

Chaplain Ortiz-Guzman has said:

“Remaining strong and sane for the sake of the mission isa defense mechanism humans use to perform amongst all that horror. But, we try to be as real as we can with our troops. They know when you are ‘snowballing’ them. We cry with them and laugh with them. We are part of the team and they all know it.”

The chaplains themselves must often seek counsel from other chaplains, and let their emotions burst out in private.

Chaplain Sparks has said:

“Port mortuary troops have various, but certainly significant stress issues. We are where they are. I’ve been out at bars at midnight, drinking a cola and talking things through with team members. This is the duty of a chaplain. We are there when they need us, not when it is convenient … With the constant human toll in front of us, the mortuary staff feeling the stress of this work and an increase in the number of grieving families, a sustainable focus is the only way a person can function here.”

It’s worth noting that chaplains must train for the Dignified Transfer.

In this photo, Army Chap. (Capt.) Joseph Odell salutes as a U.S. flag draped transfer case is prepared to be carried aboard a C-17 Globemaster III by Charleston Air Force Base honor guard members on the flight line during training for dignified transfers of human remains July 14, 2009, at Charleston AFB, S.C. More than 170 Army chaplain candidates traveled to Charleston AFB from Fort Jackson, S.C., to take part in the the training. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. DanielBowles, USAF. Army Chap. (Maj.) Robert Hart has commented:

“Imagine if you’d never done one of these before, The very first one I got tasked with, I had never done before and I was in Iraq. They said, ‘Chaplain, we took losses, and we want to do the right thing.'”

At the time, Hart said the Army did not have standards for them to follow. He also added:

“Many times there will be a formation of people who were close to the (individual). It’s a great opportunity to minister to those who might be grieving.”


Colonel Edmondson, the commander, holds his chaplains in high esteem:

“I have the greatest admiration for these loyal chaplains. As a commander, I place the highest priority on the safety, health and well being of all those in my charge. For this mission, our chaplains are the sensors, confidants, caregivers, and friends that keep us all safe and healthy and sane. Each member of the AFMAO team bears a very personal and unique responsibility; our mortuary staff and the families of the Fallen depend on these dedicated chaplains for their mental and spiritual well being.”


Originally Posted

Global Marketing Strategy

What is global strategy? And why is it important?

‘Global Strategy’ is a shortened term that covers three areas: global, multinational and international strategies. Essentially, these three areas refer to those strategies designed to enable an organization to achieve its objective of international expansion.

In developing ‘global strategy’, it is useful to distinguish between three forms of international expansion that arise from a company’s resources, capabilities and current international position. If the company is still mainly focused on its home markets, then its strategies outside its home markets can be seen as international. For example, a dairy company might sell some of its excess milk and cheese supplies outside its home country. But its main strategic focus is still directed to the home market.

Pocara SweatIn South Korea, international and global soft drinks strategy will involve mixing both the global brands like Coke and Sprite  with the local brands like Pocara Sweat (and, no, I don’t know what the brand tastes like!)

ipod-billboardHowever, the Apple iPod was essentially following the same strategy everywhere in the world: in this case, the advertising billboard was in North America but it could have been anywhere.  One of the basic decisions in global strategy begins by considering just how much local variation, if any, there might be for a brand.

Another more basic decision might be whether to undertake any branding at all. Branding is expensive. It might be better to manufacture products for other companies that then undertake the expensive branding. Apple iPods are made in China with the Chinese company manufacturing to the Apple specification. The Chinese company then avoids the expense of building a brand. But faces the strategic problem that Apple could fail to renew its contract with the Chinese company, which might then be in serious financial difficulty.

As international activities have expanded at a company, it may have entered a number of different markets, each of which needs a strategy adapted to each market. Together, these strategies form a multinational strategy. For example, a car company might have one strategy for the USA – specialist cars, higher prices – with another for European markets – smaller cars, fuel efficient – and yet another for developing countries – simple, low priced cars.
For some companies, their international activities have developed to such an extent that they essentially treat the world as one market with very limited variations for each country or world region. This is called a global strategy. For example, the luxury goods company Gucchi sells essentially the same products in every country.

Importantly, global strategy on this website is a shorthand for all three strategies above.

Implications of the three definitions within global strategy:

  • International strategy: the organisation’s objectives relate primarily to the home market. However, we have some objectives with regard to overseas activity and therefore need an international strategy. Importantly, the competitive advantage – important in strategy development – is developed mainly for the home market.
  • Multinational strategy: the organisation is involved in a number of markets beyond its home country. But it needs distinctive strategies for each of these markets because customer demand and, perhaps competition, are different in each country. Importantly, competitive advantage is determined separately for each country.
  • Global strategy: the organisation treats the world as largely one market and one source of supply with little local variation. Importantly, competitive advantage is developed largely on a global basis.

Are there any other forms of global strategy?

In various books and research papers, you may see reference to other forms of ‘global strategy.’ For example, you will see ‘multi-domestic strategies’. These are useful and can be explored in their context. However, the three strategies outlined above cover the main possibilities.

Do we really have (or even want) a ‘global’ strategy?

Companies talk about ‘going global’ when what they really mean is that they are moving internationally, outside their home countries. It is important to clarify precisely what is meant by such wording because the strategic implications are completely different.

The business resources needed to sell internationally might typically include a sales team, brochures of products in various languages and an office team to handle sales orders back in the home country.

The business resources in going global are much greater. Typically, companies need manufacturing plant in various low labour cost countries, global branding and advertising, sales teams in every major country, expensive patent and intellectual property registration in many countries, etc.

So, why ‘go global’ if the required resources are much greater and, incidentally, more complex to manage? Because the business rewards are supposed to be much greater for a global strategy. And so are the risks!

Hence, many companies do not have a ‘global strategy’ in the way that it is defined in international business literature. Even some major multinationals do not have a true global strategy in the sense of completely integrated production, no localized brands, etc.

walkersFor example, the highly successful multinational company PepsiCo dominates savoury snack products around the world. However, it still has local brands like Walkers Crisps in the UK. It does not use its Lays brand name in the UK, but employs Lays in much of tlayshe rest of the world. Why? Historical reasons that began with the PepsiCo acquisition of Walkers, which was already UK market leader.

Even if companies have a global strategy, this takes years to develop and requires substantial resources. It needs many millions of US$ and substantial management time and expertise. For example, Coca Cola took many years to develop its current position in the world soft drinks market.

For most companies, including many smaller companies, it is more realistic to develop an international or multinational strategy.

Why is global strategy important?

There are at least four answers to this question depending on the context:

From a company perspective, international expansion provides the opportunity for new sales and profits. In some cases, it may even be the situation that profitability is so poor in the home market that international expansion may be the only opportunity for profits.

tcl-legrandFor example, poor profitability in the Chinese domestic market was one of the reasons that the Chinese consumer electronics company, TCL decided on a strategy of international expansion. It has then pursued this with new overseas offices, new factories and acquisitions to develop its market position in the two main consumer electronics markets, the USA and the European Union.

In addition to new sales opportunities, there may be other reasons for expansion beyond the home market. For example, oil companies expand in order to secure resources – called resource seeking. Clothing companies expand in order to take advantage of low labour costs in some countries – called efficiency seeking. Some companies acquire foreign companies to enhance their market position versus competitors – called strategic asset seeking. These issues are identified in the film that you will shortly be able to see on the page ‘How do you build a global strategy?’

From a customer perspective, international trade should – in theory at least – lead to lower prices for goods and services because of the economies of scale and scope that will derive from a larger global base. For example, Nike sources its sports shoes from low labour cost countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, some customers like to purchase products and services that have a global image. For example, Disney cartoon characters or ‘Manchester United’ branded soccer shirts.

From the perspective of international governmental organisations – like the World Bank – the recent dominant thinking has been to bring down barriers to world trade while giving some degree of protection to some countries and industries. Thus global strategy is an important aspect of such international negotiations.

From the perspective of some international non-governmental organisations like Oxfam and Medicin sans Frontières, the global strategies of some – but not necessarily all – multinational companies are regarded with some suspicion. Such companies have been accused of exploiting developing countries – for example in terms of their natural mineral resources – in ways that are detrimental to those countries. This important aspect of global strategy is explored in the separate web section on Globalization.

McDonalds economy of scope

What are the benefits of a global strategy? And what are the costs?

Benefits of a global strategy

The business case for achieving a global strategy is based on one or more of the factors set out below – see academic research by Theodore Leavitt, Sumanthra Ghoshal, Kenichi Ohmae, George Yip and others. For the full, detailed references, go to the end of Chapter 19 in either of my books, Corporate Strategy or Strategic Management

  1. Economies of scope: the cost savings developed by a group when it shares activities or transfers capabilities and competencies from one part of the group to another – for example, a biotechnology sales team sells more than one product from the total range.
  2. Economies of scale:the extra cost savings that occur when higher volume production allows unit costs to be reduced – for example, an Arcelor Mittal steel mill that delivers lower steel costs per unit as the size of the mill is increased.
  3. Global brand recognition: the benefit that derives from having a brand that is recognized throughout the world – for example, Disney..
  4. Global customer satisfaction: mulitnational customers who demand the same product, service and quality at various locations around the world – for example, customers of the Sheraton Hotel chain expect and receive the same level of service at all its hotels around the world.
  5. Lowest labour and other input costs: these arise by choosing and switching manufacturers with low(er) labour costs – for example, computer assembly from imported parts in Thailand and Malaysia where labour wages are lower than in countries making some sophisticated computer parts (such as high-end computer chips) in countries like the USA
  6. Recovery of research and development (R&D) costs and other development costs across the maximm number of countries – new models, new drugs and other forms of research often amounting to billions of US dollars. The more countries of the world where the goods can be sold means the greater number of countries that can contribute to such costs. For example, the Airbus Jumbo A380 launched in 2008 where development costs have exceeded US$ 10 billion.
  7. Emergence of new markets: means greater sales from essentially the same products.

Note that Professor George Yip argues that the business case for globalization is strengthened by competitive pressures: the fear of some companies that they will be left behind other companies if they fail to globalize.

The Japanese car company, Toyota, has built itself into the world’s largest car company. It has developed this through a global strategy that includes economies of scale and scope, branding, customer recognition and the recovery of its extensive research and development costs in many markets around the world. Yet it has also been cautious in its global strategy.

For example, its strategy in the People’s Republic of China has been through joint ventures with the local car companies FAW and Guangzhou Auto. Whereas, its main strategies in Europe have been partly through wholly-owned ventures and partly through co-operation with other European car companies on some joint production.

For other models like the Lexus, Toyota still exports directly from its major production plant in Japan. The reason is that it is able to gain the economies of scale for theup-market low-volume  Lexus brand that wouldnot be present if it was to produce in smaller quantities in each world region, like the USA and European Union.

Costs of a global strategy

The costs of operating a global strategy may be greater than the benefits – see academic research from Douglas and Wind, Rugman and Verbaeke, Ghemawat and others. For the full details, go to the end of my chapter 19 in either Corporate Stategy or Strategic Management 5th edition.

Set against these benefits, there are at least six economic costs of international and global strategies:

  1. Lack of sensitivity to local demand: Leavitt argued that people would be prepared to compromise on their individual tastes if the product was cheap enough deriving from economies of scale and scope. Is this really correct? Other writers argued that there could be costs in adapting products to match local tastes, local conditions like the climate and other local factors like special laws on environmental issues.
  2. Transport and logistics costs: if manufacturing takes place in one country, then it will be necessary to transport the finished products to other countries. The costs for some heavy products, like steel bars, may be greater than the economies of scale from centralised production in one country.
  3. Economies of scale benefits may be difficult to obtain in practice: plant takes time to commission, local competitors still using old plant and cheap labour may still be competitive. For an example, see the Tate & Lyle Case in Chapter 19 of Lynch.
  4. Communications costs will be higher: standardisation of products and services needs to be communicated to every country. In virtually every case, it will also be necessary to monitor and control the result. All this is time consuming, expensive and at the mercy of local managers who may have their own agendas and interests.
  5. Management coordination costs: in practice, managers and workers in different countries often need to be consulted, issues need to be explored and discussed, local variations in tax and legal issues need to be addressed. This means that senior managers operating a global strategy need to spend time visiting countries. It cannot all be done on the telephone and worldwide web. This takes a tremendous toll of people personally.
  6. Barriers to trade: taxes and other restrictions on goods and services set by national governments as the goods cross their national borders.
  7. Other costs imposed by national governments to protect their home industries – like special taxes or restrictions on share holdings.

In practice, the business case for a global strategy will vary with the product category. The real issue for many companies is what decisions are treated globally and what locally. This is explored in the separate section on this website: ‘How do you balance global and local?’

Original Post :  by Professor Richard Lynch