You know the feeling. Whether it’s a patch of water by your washing machine, or an alert from a failing substation, it’s that sinking certainty that something’s wrong and that you need an expert to fix it. From that moment, everything depends on what happens when you make that first call, or raise the ticket.
On the surface, the whole concept of customer service comes down to that feeling.
Do you want customers to experience a twinge of anxiety and annoyance when they contemplate contacting you? Or just a passing moment of irritation about the problem itself, because they know it will be easy to get it resolved quickly?
In this article, we’ll look at how consumer-facing and industrial organisations can use technology to make service a positive, brand-enhancing experience, that builds customer loyalty, reduces cost and creates profitable extra revenue.
We’ll also explore the idea of servitization, and the fact that, these days, the service is the product. Customers are buying outcomes, not products, and it’s great for your bottom line.
THE SINGLE VIEW: IT’S GETTING PERSONAL
Much is written about the difficulty of getting a single view of the customer, when they can get in touch through your website, your contact centre, your twitter feed and so many other channels.
It matters because your customers always have a single view of your organisation.
No matter how they connect, and no matter how the experience looks and feels, customers form an instant judgement of what your organisation stands for as soon as they make contact.
That one-in-a-million moment is your first and best chance to win their hearts and minds or, at least, calm their anxieties. An easy, personalised and effective experience sows a seed of loyalty that can blossom into revenue when they next come to make a purchasing decision.
You may have thousands or even millions of customers, but at any moment the only one that matters is the one entering a ticket on your service portal, or calling your service team.
SERVICE: THE NEW MINDSET
This single view across multiple channels is one of the primary drivers of digital transformation. Organisations are using technology to close the gaps between themselves and their customers.
Ideas around ‘customer focus’ have been around for decades, but there is a renewed momentum behind them now that customers have such high expectations and wield so much immediate power.
Online services such as Amazon and Uber have created simple, rewarding service experiences that customers now expect from almost every organisation, while a single comment, positive or negative, can be amplified in moments across multiple social media channels.
Getting closer to customers requires more than a digital transformation. It calls for a change of culture across the organisation and a deeper understanding of the entire customer journey.
If your structure and processes do not reflect a customer-centric strategy, then you will struggle to deliver the value that you promise.
Any investment in building a customer relationship can be compromised in a moment by a call that is not answered quickly, or a technician who arrives late with the wrong equipment.
In this customer-centric competitive environment, service has become a defining differentiator, creating new opportunities for profitable revenue. Products are increasingly commoditised, with little to choose between them, so it’s the service that comes with them that can be the deciding factor when customers buy.
In some instances, this servitization transcends the product, so that customers pay only for the benefits, rather than the product itself. The operators of Amsterdam Schiphol airport, for example, pay for a guaranteed level of illumination, rather than investing in lighting systems. Philips and their project partners Cofely provide lighting as a service, retaining ownership of the products themselves.
The Schiphol example also highlights the fact that this is not just an issue for consumer-facing organisations. Service is equally critical in business-to-business markets, where failures of critical assets can compromise service level agreements.
This may lead to financial penalties and, worse still, reputational damage that may ultimately lose the contract altogether.
JOINING UP SERVICE
Turning service into a decisive differentiator relies on an end-to-end integration of every aspect of service delivery. Data needs to move freely from the customer endpoint – whether it’s a smartphone app, a chatbot, or any channel – to the back office systems that log the service delivery process.
Artificial intelligence is playing a big part in service optimisation now, with the internet of things helping to automate many routine processes. A sensor on a pump at risk of failure can automatically raise a ticket that schedules a maintenance job and checks the inventory for the right parts. The engineer can arrive on site with everything needed to complete the job in one visit, with minimal need for human intervention in the process.
Customers also want more control, with AI enabling self-service apps and web portals.
Rather than joining a call queue, customers can raise their own tickets and track their progress through to the moment the technician arrives. This also relieves some of the pressure on support center agents, who spend less time on routine calls and more time on more complex cases, which again contributes to great customer experiences.
FIND OUT MORE
IFS is a global leader in field service and contact centre technologies. We advise consumer and industrial organisations on strategy, change management and the implementation of our solutions for a complete, connected service delivery capability.
The modular, open architecture of our solutions allows you to introduce services as you need them, and to integrate them easily with industry-standard applications such as Oracle and SAP. We’ll help you make service a rich source of revenue and growth while boosting efficiency, increasing productivity and reducing costs.
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