We sit down with our newest member of the team, National Sales Manager, Ben Hartman.

Ben fulfilled senior management roles at leading global companies across Europe, MEA and APAC regions. He is an experienced sales consultant specialising in field service and asset management solutions. Over the years, he has become a specialist in field service management, workforce management (including contingent workforce management), mobility, advanced planning and scheduling, asset management, IoT, contracts management, and supply chain and logistics. 

Using his business acumen and management experience, Ben bridges the gap between complex technical concepts, business requirements and strategic management objectives to receive the business value expected from an industry leader in field service management (FSM).

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved with service management?

It has been a journey, I can tell you that! My professional career started in the Netherlands, using my stint in the Royal Dutch Army as a platform before moving into sales and service in the print and publishing industry with companies such as Heidelberg and Barco. Working with these companies and their clients, I quickly realised the value of service and what it does for customer satisfaction. Before I moved to Australia with my family, I worked for Heidelberg Southern Africa in sales and service roles. Along the journey I have met and worked with a diverse group of companies and wonderful people. Working in Australia I joined Astea, a leader in field service management solutions, which more recently was acquired by IFS.

What was the inspiration for your career in service?

Anyone who has sold capital equipment knows that ‘triple S’ – a term I frequently use to explain the ‘service’, ‘spares’ and ‘supplies’ that follow a sale – is the real bottom line contributor. I have often used this phrase to explain the transition from ‘service cost centre’ to ‘service profit centre’. So, having appropriately trained service technicians, spares and supplies on hand is key to asset uptime and customer satisfaction. The ‘triple S’ applies to all companies that sell equipment, as well as those that provide the associated services.

As a manager at Heidelberg, I knew the importance of asset uptime. When a machine broke down, there was the daunting prospect of a weekly magazine not being printed, combined with all the disastrous after effects of not being able to distribute it on time. Managing the workforce, my spares and supplies inventory became key objectives for me to maintain asset uptime and long-term relationships with my customers.

The pressure to deliver a first-time fix rate was paramount and this influenced my determination to understand superior service management practices. By focusing on the first-time fix, I also wanted to make my service contracts profitable. The question was: how to do this effectively? This awareness led to my drive towards the service industry and software solutions that are needed to deliver a superior service experience.

What were the challenges then and how did you overcome them? Did you make any mistakes and were you able to learn from them?

The biggest challenge to overcome was the huge amount of paperwork involved and the lack of a mobile solution. The transition of going ‘digital’ was also not without its pitfalls. My biggest mistake was to underestimate inventory management and associated logistics processes. I recall flying in spares and supplies at a huge expense! After that, I made sure that I had sufficient stock. This became a huge win for me as subcontractors across the region reached out to me for spares. This in turn gave me an opportunity to sell additional services as well as supplies. Trial and error are tough task masters and from this I have gleaned that patience, coupled with respect and integrity in what you do, takes you a long way in gaining trust and respect from customers and colleagues.

Service business is all around us. It affects our lives in many ways and the industries that need to provide service are realising this more and more. In a sense, we are reliant on it. What is your view on the service industry?

Retriever’s service management software continues to be a strategic growth driver for the company. It has been doing it for over 20 years and is constantly innovating… watch this space! The effect on Retriever’s customers is evident. Developing our own IP locally, being independent, having a vision and being able to constantly evolve with the latest technology, with our own local team of developers, is unique. Our experience, coupled with our agility, is also unique. The end customer benefits from this in many ways.

What I have found is that even the best ERP providers come with restraints – often designing generalist systems meeting the needs of a broad swathe of organisations. While users are typically allowed to make modifications in order to tailor applications to their specific needs, the degree of customisation can be limited. Sometimes a plug-in service module is added, and the customer needs to adhere to a less optimal service process.

This is where Retriever steps in. By applying our experience, expertise and agility to develop and deliver unique field service mobility, we meet the needs of most service organisations. I mentioned that the service industry is constantly evolving. Being ‘smart’ and ‘connected’ are buzzwords and I am predicting that machine learning and the IoT (Internet of Things) are going to play an increasingly important role. By applying service management technology and best practice, we create the best outcomes for customers and their assets.

What are your values regarding your team and your customers, and how do you demonstrate them? How did those values lead to success?

I adopted the RITCH principles – Respect, Integrity, Trust, Communication and Honesty – when I worked at Pentana Solutions. It is so easy to mirror them to yourself and customers when you build relationships. I can already see that Retriever adheres to these values. The internal chatter, customer interaction and the desire to deliver quality outcomes to customers is very evident! This desire to deliver quality outcomes is what underpins Retriever’s success. In addition, I have taken it on myself to discuss the real value we bring to our customers by helping to understand the ROI of our software. By providing a measurable outcome, we add value to our customers’ businesses and their customers. Also, I believe one must love and be passionate about what one does.

In your opinion, what would be the key takeaways to run a successful service business?

The primary objective is to improve the utilisation of your workforce. This can only be done with tools that can schedule technicians, spares and supplies in real time. Contract life cycle management is another. Optimising your inventory and your supply chain another. 

By doing things right – for example, first-time fix – you will improve customer satisfaction, grow your revenue and be able to manage your cash flow more easily. First-time fix helps customers who want assets maintained in a way that is convenient for them. They are not interested in a break/fix scenario!

The service management tools are there. The underlying technologies such as AI, machine learning, predictive maintenance, IoT and a remote-first approach are going to be the future cornerstones of service management. Maintaining the ideal asset uptime is paramount. The goal is to manage costs, be profitable and improve customer satisfaction. The trick is to find a solution provider that can cater to the unique needs of the service provider. And that’s Retriever!

I also see a trend whereby businesses wish to share a service responsibility by offloading responsibility to the service provider, whereby asset uptime is the key driver. Sharing this responsibility comes with risk-sharing. At Retriever we have several innovative commercial concepts to help our customers accommodate these requests. This illustrates our agility and flexibility in our commitment to our customers.

Welcome to the team, Ben. It’s great to have you on board!