The delivery of services and products today has changed beyond recognition, whether a consumer or a business user. The internet has created new ways of engaging with customers, with social media continuing to rise in stature as a customer support platform. Such changes have created new heights in customer expectation levels across the whole supply chain.
The key to retaining the loyalty of a customer depends not only on the initial buying experience, but with after sales support this is equally as critical, if not more so.
Perception of after sales support
In many cases after sales support is seen as a cost to a manufacturer rather than the forefront of the customer experience. Such businesses therefore spend as little capital as possible to support any product failures within a warranty period, much to the anger of the consumer.
Such issues increase in severity when failures occur after the product warranty has expired, Manufacturers who don’t value the importance of after sales service absolve themselves of all responsibility, despite the fact that it’s their branding.
This approach to after sales support is unacceptable as the requirement of the customer is disregarded as meaningless, which in turn negatively affects brand recognition as word of such poor customer care spreads among the target audience.
This is of course the traditional way that manufacturers have set up after sales support for their products; a disparate, siloed service supply chain created as an afterthought, to support this limited process.
Setting an example
There are of course brands which are marvels at customer service, offering after sales support even once a warranty has expired, refusing to leave their valued customers out of pocket.
These customers often become advocates even when their product breaks based purely on their experience with a business’ after sales support and repair process. Companies that rely on hardware to offer services could risk losing clients if they are without machines for a lengthy time period so efficient resolution is a necessity.
However, examples of such exceptional after sales support are sadly few and far between, with many businesses simply outsourcing the repair service to a third party; washing their hands of the customer at the first possible opportunity.
Using this approach creates an assumptive supply chain where multiple suppliers rely on other businesses performing the action they are contracted to do. Each part of this siloed approach has no real affinity or connection to a customer, it is simply a process.
This is a perfect example of the small-minded attitude some companies have towards after sales support. Businesses now look only for a low cost, rapid solution without considering how customer experience and harm to brand reputation can last years beyond the product warranty.
The time to modernise is now
It is clear that traditional thinking within the services supply chain is flawed and must be challenged. Simply outsourcing after sales support to numerous third parties doesn’t take customer satisfaction into account. This is unacceptable.
The solution therefore is to streamline after sales service, eradicating the disparate elements of after sales support and offering a customer first, demand driven service. I see this as the future of after sales; guaranteeing correctly skilled field engineers with the required parts to resolve any issues will be on site within the service level agreement.
Like all concepts, traditionalist resistance will be ferocious, but inevitably futile. The current system is not fit for purpose and I challenge anyone to demonstrate it is.
Customers will profit from such an evolving service supply chain moving away from the cost process mentality, which has impaired customer satisfaction, towards a whole lifecycle product support strategy.
No longer will consumers find themselves forced to replace broken hardware once its warranty has expired. An innovative, forward thinking structure within the service supply chain should offer lifetime support.
Modernisation is long overdue and businesses must change the way they approach after sales support, or risk being left behind by companies willing to accept that the traditional service supply chain continues to fail on all counts.