“The gains in productivity will be staggering for those countries, companies and individuals who can absorb the new technological tools.”
Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat
Advancements in technology have profoundly changed business processes across the manufacturing world. For service organizations in particular, technology has eliminated many barriers to collaboration and communication and fueled customer expectations for “on-demand” service. No longer are customers willing to wait for what they need. Instead, they demand instant issue resolution and access to information from anywhere in the world.
Manufacturers are finding that they must work harder and smarter to exceed customer expectations. It’s not enough to simply sell the next great product. Instead, they must embrace new technology solutions to consistently deliver real-time service excellence.
Turning Customers into Advocates
A survey by American Express concluded that 66% of customer are willing to spend more money with firms that provide excellent service. In an industry where margins can be tight, increasing revenue is critically important. But how can manufacturers meet, or even exceed, the high expectations of today’s digitally connected customers? The answer is to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of customers, resolve problems quickly, and offer additional value at every touch point.
Know Your Customer
The importance of knowing your customer is nothing new. Good old fashion customer service has always revolved around greeting each person by name and knowing their personal preferences. Yet, the benefits of customer knowledge cannot be under estimated. A benchmarking report by SAP found a 7% higher customer satisfaction rate for organization where customer preferences and history are available at the point of interaction.
Unfortunately, in today’s data-intensive, global business environment, providing personalized service can be a challenge. Service representatives and field technicians need access to complete customer profiles at the moment of contact regardless of when or where it takes place. This profile should include data gathered from across the manufacturer’s organization and the Web. Service representatives in the industrial manufacturing environment can use the profiles to engage with customers without wasting time on basic questions.
Faster Issue Resolution
The time it takes to resolve a customer issue has long been a key performance indicator for most call centers. However, solving issues has become more complex. The best run service organization arm employees with access to product information and resources at the time and place they need it most – whether it is in the field, on the manufacturing floor, or during a phone call. They also allow customers to interact with representatives through whatever channel they prefer including phone, e-mail, chat, or social networking sites.
Value Added Services
Finally, one of the best strategies for turning customers into loyal company advocates is to offer unexpected services or products that add value and make the customer’s life a little easier. Examples of value-added benefits include bundled services, proactive maintenance or innovative new offering such as usage-based contracts. Regardless of the offer, proper timing is critical. Service representatives must make the right offer at the right time to get customers to buy.
Using New Technology Tools to Elevate Service
Technology innovations are helping organizations elevate their quality of service while improving productivity and profitability. Below are just a few of the new technology tools manufacturers are using to empower service representative and field technicians:
- Collaboration tools – Real-time collaboration tools such as instant messaging or chat rooms give customer-facing employees access to the resources needed to resolve issues or answer questions faster than ever before.
- Data analytics – Manufacturers are using data to identify trends and take action at the right time. For example, analyzing data from equipment sensors can help identify the time for proactive maintenance to avoid down-time or contract analytics can help service representatives know when to engage in effective cross-selling or up selling activities.
- Mobile technologies – Mobile technologies provide information to employees regardless of location, helping to drive process efficiencies such as on-site repairs, scheduling, warranty claims and returns.
- Cloud computing – Storing and accessing information within cloud-based systems helps manufacturers find relevant, current information within seconds. Also, cloud solutions can help field service technicians manage travel logistics and expenses.
Keeping up with new technologies is both difficult and exciting. Ten years ago, the technology didn’t exist to streamline service operations in a way that both improves customer satisfaction and increases service profitability. Now, manufactures are using data to identify trends and take action, giving them distinct competitive advantages and allowing them to capitalize on new revenue opportunities. With real-time access to informative data, manufacturers are realizing unprecedented levels of productivity and are just beginning to understand how to leverage newly available information to generate new revenue.
For more information, visit SAP Aftermarket Service for Industrial Machinery and Components
Dave Parrish is the Senior Global Marketing Director for Industrial Machinery & Components at SAP. Based in Denver, Dave has been with SAP for 8 years. Prior to joining SAP, Dave spent 6 years with other technology firms and 15 years working for manufacturing companies.