Hi everyone, welcome back to the Digital Supply Chain podcast! Today, I had the privilege of speaking with Michael Israel, Head of Field Service Evangelism at Zuper. In our conversation, Michael shared with me the story of Zuper and how they are transforming the field service industry.
Zuper is a field service management platform that helps organizations streamline their operations and improve the overall customer experience. Michael walked me through some of the key features of Zuper, including dispatch, scheduling, and real-time tracking. He also shared some of the company's biggest success stories, including IKEA and Amway.
In addition to discussing the technical aspects of Zuper, Michael also shared the company's vision for growth and expansion. Zuper has already grown three times year over year and has plans to continue to scale, with a focus on improving the customer experience through new features and functionality.
One of the most exciting things about Zuper is the wealth of data that is captured about the customer's experience. Michael shared with me how Zuper is able to provide insights into the customer's history and how that data can be used to drive improvements.
Finally, Michael discussed the importance of the philosophy of completed service work and how it's being incorporated into the Zuper platform. The idea is to anticipate the customer's next need and address it proactively, without being asked.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast. If you'd like to know more about Zuper or connect with Michael, be sure to visit their website at zuper.co or connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
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What we're encouraging is that when you're done with the job that's been assigned to you, think about what's next. Anticipate what the customer's next need might be. Anticipate if they have a question, anticipate if they need more training. Anticipate if maybe there's an upgrade for the product that you could suggest to them that might make the product run more efficiently. And take proactive action to address those things before the customer asksTom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 295 of the Digital Supply Chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery, and I'm thrilled to be here with you today sharing the latest insights and trends in supply chain. Before we dive into today's show. I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to all of our amazing supporters. Your support has been instrumental in keeping this podcast going. And I'm truly grateful for each and every one of you. If you're not already a supporter, I'd like to encourage you to consider joining our community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about supply chain. By becoming a supporter you'll not only be helping me continue delivering high quality content. But you'll also be part of something truly special. Supporting this podcast is easy and affordable. With option starting as low as just three euros. That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee. And your support will make a huge difference in keeping the show going strong. To become a supporter. Simply click on the link in the show notes of this episode or visit tiny url.com/d S C pod. Now without further ado, I'd like to introduce my special guest, Michael. Michael welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?Michael Israel:
Oh, sure. Thank you very much, Tom, for having me. This is a, a real pleasure. My name is Michael Israel. And I am the, um, Head of Field Service Evangelism at a company called, Zuper. And Zuper is a creator of field service software that is software for managing the activities of field service technicians that install, maintain, and repair a, wide variety of equipment across many, many industries.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And Michael, how long has Zuper been in operation?Michael Israel:
Zuper has been in operation since about 2016. It was originally started in India. It is now uh, based in Seattle, Washington in the United States, although we still maintain a rather large staff of developers and engineers in Chennai, India.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And what can you tell me about the origin story of Zuper?Michael Israel:
Well, it's interesting, the founder of Zuper always likes to tell the story that he had bought a new refrigerator and the new refrigerator apparently wasn't working within a couple of weeks. So he called of course, customer support, and they dispatched the technician and the technician was not able to repair the device and they had to re-dispatch another technician. He tells the story that after eight visits by a field service technician, the refrigerator was finally working properly.Tom Raftery:
So he said there's gotta be a better way to do this. And he decided to found Zuper and he's got a very, very strong technical background and he spent many, many years with Microsoft and was actually head of a product at Microsoft so, he is very, very, very, very experienced in this SaaS marketplace and he has founded of, up to this point a very, very successful company, which I am proud to be part of. I should add.Tom Raftery:
Nice. Nice. And you mentioned you're Head of Field Service Evangelism. So as a, as a former evangelist myself, I worked for SAP for six years as an EvangelistMichael Israel:
a bit of evangelism even before that. Tell me a little bit about your background. How'd you get to be Head of Field Service Evangelism for Zuper?Michael Israel:
Yeah. Thank you so much for asking. My entire life has been spent in field service in one fashion or another. I started working for IBM Field Engineering division when I was 19 years old and still going to school. And I started out as a night dispatcher and and a parts room clerk. And from there I, I went on and became responsible for budgeting for the entire field service organization for the Pacific Northwest. For manpower planning. I then went on to another company, a CAD CAM company, and managed field service staffs and technical support centers, parts room operations, dispatch, operations, et cetera. And then after about 20 years in actual field service operations, I went into field service software. So I have worked in the field service software space for the last 20, 25 plus years. I've worked for some of the major vendors, so I know the field service software space very, very well. And I've also been a field service analyst at some of the uh, premier, consulting firms that specialize in field service. So having that background both in operations and in software and as an analyst, the uh, title of the evangelist seems to fit pretty well. And basically what I do is I help out sales, I help out product development. I help out customer onboarding. I help out Zuper wherever my expertise and experience can add value.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic. And you know, because this podcast, the Digital Supply Chain podcast covers a broad swathe of supply chain topics. Everything from planning and engineering and manufacturing right the way through to logistics and field service management. For people who might be unaware, can you tell us what you define as field service management, given that you are the Field Service Evangelist for Zuper?Michael Israel:
Yeah, it's a very, very interesting question and it comes up a lot when a lot of times when I'll tell people what I do and they'll ask me who I work for and I'll say, I work for a company that does field service software than that frequently. The question is, what is field service? And my answer is, field service is ubiquitous. It surrounds you all the time. So if you think about things in your house, for example, your refrigerator, we talked about that a moment ago. You're heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system, your lawn sprinkler system. If you think about . Office buildings where there's air quality control systems where there are servers and networks connecting computers. If you think about hospitals where there are operating rooms that are using robotic equipment and everything in between, all of those pieces of equipment, whether it's low tech, like a sprinkler system in a yard or a robotic arm in a surgery center. All of those items have to be number one installed. Then they have to be maintained. They have to be repaired when they break, and sometimes they have to be replaced with newer equipment. All of that work is done by field service people. Field service engineers, so plumbers, H V A C, technicians, technicians that install computer devices. Field service engineers that install very sophisticated medical equipment and on and on. All of that is field service. So the next time you see a van driving down the road, chances are that's a field service person going somewhere to fix something. That's why I say field service is, is ubiquitous. It's around us all the time. We just never think about it.Tom Raftery:
Right. Okay. And what does field service management software do?Michael Israel:
Sure. Excellent question. Thank you very much. Field service management software in a nutshell helps the organization that's providing service manage the field service force, and the field service operations. So it does such things as, assign technicians to a job who have the right skills and are in the right geography and have the right shift at the right time available. It routes the technicians to jobs in the most logical fashion so that they're not driving from one end of the city to the other end of the city and then back again for a third job. It will automatically develop the most optimal route that the tech field service engineers field service technicians can take to get to their assigned jobs. It keeps track of the costs for delivering service. It invoices the customers according to the work that was delivered for them. It allows organizations to define service contracts. For example, when you go into Best Buy and buy a new printer, for example, what's the first thing they ask you for when you check out? And that is, do you wanna buy a service contract? So field service software keeps track of service contracts or maintenance contracts that allow organizations to automatically schedule regular preventive maintenance inspections on equipment that's installed at customers. It allows organizations to invoice for those maintenance contracts and then keep track of the costs versus the revenue that is being generated by the maintenance contracts, for profit and loss and analytical purposes of course. So field service software basically manages the entire process of providing field service to your customers.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And you mentioned preventative maintenance so, I have to imagine that with the likes of IoT and connected devices, the whole world of maintenance is being, upended now instead of, you know, you having scheduled maintenance for devices, the devices are going, Hey, I need to be maintained or not.Michael Israel:
Yeah, that's certainly true in, in some industries. And IoT has been around for quite a while and it's going to continue to expand. There's no question that IoT enhances the ability for organizations to maintain the equipment when maintenance is needed and not waste time and money when maintenance is not needed. Nonetheless, there are many, many industries and many types of equipment that still will require routine maintenance. Even if it's only once a year or once every six months. For example, in my house I have two heaters and both of those heaters and my air conditioning system, I, I have a contract with my service provider that they come out twice a year. They come in the, they come at the start of winter to check the, the heating systems. They come at the start of spring to check the H V A C systems, and that is to prevent the likelihood or the probability of any problems occurring during the season when I really need them to work. So, yes, IoT is very, very good at defining when a piece of equipment needs maintenance or, or not, as you said. but there are other types of equipment there will always need, or maybe I should say, always should have some routine inspection and maintenance.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And you mentioned how the software is great at managing the field service engineers and routing them to jobs intelligently and so on. Does it also interact with the customers? So if I'm a customer and I have a fridge that's on the fritz, for example to use that example, will that software then ping me and say, okay, Tom, the engineer is 20 minutes away. Or, you know, so that I'm not sitting there going, is the engineer coming now? Is the engineer coming now? Is the ? That kind of thing.Michael Israel:
Yeah. Yeah. A absolutely. We have very sophisticated notification capabilities b built into our software. So that the customer can be automatically notified when a technician has been assigned. When a technician is leaving to drive to your site, when the technician is leaving one customer, he's just finished up a job and he's on his way now to your site. Customers can also, we, we have a brand new portal coming out in our next release in the first quarter of this year. Customers will be able to log onto that portal. Request a technician for a repair job, for example, they'll be able to book the appointment time, say a one or two hour time slot, do that all online without having to pick up the phone and call someone. And then of course we can also, when a job is done, the software will print out a report for a customer showing exactly what was done. That can be either emailed to the customer or texted to the customer can also print out and create invoices for the work that was done and have those, sent to the customer as well, or integrated with whatever financial system the service provider is using. So, for example, we have integrations with, several other SaaS-based solutions, Including some financial solutions like QuickBooks, where for example, we can keep track of the amount of time and the cost for the materials that should be invoiced to the customers, and we can either create the invoice ourselves and then send that record over to QuickBooks, or we can send the data over to QuickBooks so that QuickBooks can create the invoice. In total, we have more than 60 integrations with other SaaS products. So the answer, long-winded answer to your question, but yes, there's many ways to communicate automatically with the customer.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And I gotta think as well, the whole world of field service management has to have been revolutionized by the advent of smartphones. I know this is nothing new. Smartphones have been around 10 years, at least at this point, or almost 15 I guess now at this point. But I see now when I have someone come to my house to do some work, They work on the phone, you know what I mean? They, they, they work on whatever it is they're working on, but they're also working on their phone. They're making notes of everything they've done and they're taking photographs. And then at the end, they put up the screen for me to sign with my finger, which never looks like my signature. But that'sMichael Israel:
Of courseTom Raftery:
That's a whole nother, that's a whole nother topic, but.Michael Israel:
Yeah. Even an X we will do today. Yeah. Yeah.Tom Raftery:
but it, it, I mean, like I said, they're, they're photographing and documenting everything now with the phone. I mean, how has that changed field service management?Michael Israel:
Oh my gosh. In my career in field service, it's just completely revolutionary. When I first started, as I mentioned earlier, with I B M, there was a dispatch center with several women sitting around a round table and they had a spinning wheel in front of the bus slots, and they would put a card in there whenever a, there, there was a service call and that card indicated who the technician was that was working on it when the technician was done with the work. He or she picked up the phone and called the dispatch center and they pulled the card and they wrote the information on the card. Today, obviously all of that is way in the past and today, technicians receive notifications about what jobs have been assigned to them on their mobile devices, whether it's a iPhone, an Android phone, or a tablet of some kind. They can accept a job, they can reject a job. They can then use that phone also to communicate directly with the customer. They can have a notification sent from the phone that says, I'm on my way. They can chat with other people in the organization. So if they need to have some technical support from another engineer that may have some knowledge that a person on site needs, they can use a chat to chat with that person. They can record all of the time that they work on the customer's problem. They can record all the parts that are used. They can record comments. They can record voice recordings, and attach those. They can attach documents. They can attach pictures. They can fill out an, A checklist. A checklist that tells them, okay, for this type of equipment, do these five things. And oh, by the way, when you do item number four, you also have to do these other things. So, the, advent of mobile devices has been absolutely revolutionary for the field service industry. There's no question about it, and I don't know of any company. Take it back. I've had a few companies come to my house to do some work, and one or two of them are still using pieces of paper, which really surprises me because it's very, very rare today. It's, it's pretty it's pretty widely adopted.Tom Raftery:
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you, can you tell me, Michael, of any big customer success stories. You, you can talk toMichael Israel:
Sure Ikea. Everybody knows ikea.Tom Raftery:
heard of them.Michael Israel:
Ikea was one of our first customers actually in in India and in Europe and Ikea now uses our product all over the world because in countries outside of the United States, consumers that buy from ikea, they don't want to assemble the products themselves. They want somebody to come and do it for them. So there are several countries, in both Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe and Canada now, I believe, where IKEA is using Zuper to assign and dispatch people to go to the buyer's home and assemble products.Tom Raftery:
Yeah, big name. Another widely recognized name would be Amway Amway in Southeast Asia is using Zuper for similar similar activities.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Okay. And where to next for Zuper? I mean, what are your big five and 10 year plans for Global Domination?Michael Israel:
I don't think we've gotten quite that egotistical yet, but we do, we do certainly have plans to grow. We grew three times year over year from 2022 to 2021, we expect to go three to grow again three times or slightly more than three times from 2022 to 2023 we've grown our staff to over a hundred people. And in 2022, for example, we have tripled the number of customers and the number of users on the product. So we have some very solid and sound investors. We've raised more than 20 million dollars in our first rounds of funding. And we're expecting to raise more later on this year. And so we have significant plans to grow the company and to serve the field service community even better than we have been able to in the past. One of the things that I wanna mention about Zuper specifically compared to some of the other companies that I worked for is that the Zuper engineering team, the Zuper product design team, responds to customer requests for new features and functionality in an extraordinarily rapid way. I, I've never seen it before. Any place else that I've worked. We've been able to add, new functionality, new capabilities to the product really, really quickly for our customers and for all of our future customers as well. That's really been encouraging to me and is one of the reasons why I'm really happy and proud to be part of Zuper.Tom Raftery:
Okay, great, great. And in terms of functionality, is there any functionality that you think is not there yet within Zuper that will be there in the next year, two years, three years, something that's coming down the road that you know, will add phenomenally to your, your customer's experience?Michael Israel:
Well, I don't think that I can see a year or two years down the road. I know that we have a pretty aggressive roadmap for 2023. I mentioned earlier the customer portal that is coming. So that's a very, very significant enhancement that's being added to the product and that'll be available late in Q1 of this year, so not, not not too far down the road, perhaps as the latest it would be, would be early q2, but we're targeting q1. We're adding some additional functionality to the mobile device, which will make it much more easy for the field service technicians to use, they'll be able to use the product when they're in an offline mode as opposed to needing to be connected. So that's coming very, very soon too. Also in Q1. And then we're doing a complete revamp of the web application. That is the application that the people use in the back office, the, the managers and the dispatchers, et cetera. Totally rewriting that complete new user experience that is coming also in the first half of this year. And I already mentioned that we're doing a revamp of the mobile app as well. That's coming, in the same timeframe actually, earlier late Q1. So those are the things that are happening this year and early this year that it will be very significant additions and enhancements to our product.Tom Raftery:
Okay, speaking of the backend, if I am a Zuper customer and I am using your backend, what kind of data am I getting to see, you know, what kind of analytics can I expect to find and how, how can I work with that to improve my customer's customer service experience?Michael Israel:
Yeah, that's a really, really great question, and that's one of the values that Zuper really adds for our customers because we're capturing a huge amount of data about the customer's experience. So we know information about the customer themselves, not, you know, the basic information, like their contact information, their address, et cetera. We know what equipment is installed at the customer site. We know what the serial numbers are, we know what the components of that equipment is. We know whether or not the equipment is under warranty or if warranty's about to expire. We know if the equipment has been serviced recently. We, we have the complete service history for when the equipment was installed and every time it was repaired or every time it needed preventive maintenance. We know how much time was spent on each one of those service events. We know how, what the cost was, we know what parts and materials were used, we know what components were replaced. We know whether or not a, a piece of equipment itself was replaced with a new piece of equipment. And we know what what we've billed the customer for all the services. We know what we're billing them for the maintenance contract, if they have a maintenance contract. So we, we have a wealth of data that can be used to analyze not only the history of the customer but also the history of the products. How reliable are the products? Are there products out there that are breaking down more frequently than others? And if so, do we need to let engineering and manufacturing know that may be a engineering change is needed. We know whether or not the service contracts are profitable or not. And if they're not profitable, we can drill down into why. Is there one particular, field service engineer that's, that's taking too much time to do the work versus the rest. So maybe that field service engineer needs more training. There's just so much analysis that can be done by the customer for themselves, but also for their customers using the data that's captured with the Zuper product.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic. Great.Michael Israel:
We are coming towards the end of the podcast now, Michael, is there any question that I have not asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of?Michael Israel:
Yeah, I wanna mention a kind of a philosophy that we're trying to promote. It's the philosophy and culture of completed service work. And I've written about this and I've spoken on other podcasts about this. Completed service work means anticipating the customer's next need and addressing it without being asked. So for example, if I'm a field service engineer and I'm working in a factory on a C N C controlled lathe machine, for example, I'm doing my preventative maintenance. Or maybe it's had a problem that I needed to repair. When I'm done fixing that I'm not really done yet. What we're encouraging is that when you're done with the job that's been assigned to you, think about what's next. Anticipate what the customer's next need might be. Anticipate if they have a question, anticipate if they need more training. Anticipate if maybe there's an upgrade for the product that you could suggest to them that might make the product run more efficiently. And take proactive action to address those things before the customer asks. So that's what we're referring to as completed service work. When you're done with your work, you're not quite done yet. Anticipate a question and answer it. Anticipate a safety need and provide some advice. Those kinds of things. That's what we define as completed service work, and we're encouraging all the organizations that we work with to kind of adopt that philosophy and that culture. And make it part of their operations, it'll benefit them and it'll benefit their customers bothTom Raftery:
and are you building that into the Zuper product as well?Michael Israel:
The capabilities are absolutely built into the product because we can define what I referred to earlier as checklists, and the checklists can be things like, okay, I've finished my work. Now let's do these other things on behalf of the customer. Let's make sure that we clean up around the machine or the equipment. Let's make sure that we recommend to them an upgrade that might be beneficial for them and help the equipment run more smoothly or more efficiently. Those kinds of things. So we can build any type of questions at all and recommendations into the checklist. Yeah, that, that was a very good question. Thanks for asking.Tom Raftery:
Sure. Okay, Michael, if people would like to know more about yourself or Zuper or any of the things we discussed on the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?Michael Israel:
I would direct them to our, website of course, that's zuper.co, not not.com, it's zuper.co. And I can always be found on LinkedIn too. I wouldn't necessarily claim that I'm on page one, but you'll find me within the first couple of pages. I think the person that's at the top of the list on page one is an artist actually. Named Michael Israel as well. But yeah. And Nate, you can also find a link to me on on the Zuper website also.Tom Raftery:
Sure, and I'll, I'll put links in the show notes anyway to the Zuper website and to your LinkedIn profile to make it easier for people.Michael Israel:
Yeah, that'd be great. I appreciate that. Thank you.Tom Raftery:
No problem. Michael, that's been fantastic. Really interesting. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.Michael Israel:
Oh, believe me, it's my pleasure. It's really great to be part of this and thank you very much for having me.Tom Raftery:
Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, simply drop me an email to TomRaftery@outlook.com If you like the show, please don't forget to click Follow on it in your podcast application of choice to be sure to get new episodes as soon as they're published Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find a show. Thanks, catch you all next time.