The rise in customer centricity across manufacturers is having a direct impact on the methods and level of aftermarket services that are available to customers of equipment ranging from in-home appliances to plant equipment or construction vehicles. Determining the right balance of visibility and service levels is a critical success factor in customer satisfaction levels and business goals.
The customer has become a focal point for manufacturers, from the boardroom out to the field, as companies seek to capture greater lifetime value of the customer amidst dynamic market conditions. Our recent IDC Manufacturing Insights Product and Service Innovation Survey (subscribers can click here for a link to the summary report) highlighted this reality by identifying that "Improving service to customers" is second only to "Increased competition" as a primary business concern. Manufacturers want to keep the customers they have and make them happy in the face of even more competition from the global market.
So, how exactly are manufacturers going about this? Technology is a great enabler here, and we are seeing some very creative uses of technology to drive greater customer satisfaction through superior service. Manufacturers are arming their customer-facing roles, from call center to field services, with technology that can support better customer engagement. Mobile devices are the perfect conduit for this enhanced experience. For the field service workforce in manufacturing, there is an increasing expectation that the mobile device will provide actionable insight related to everything from customer accounts to product information to repair procedures
In addition to mobile, increasingly we are seeing the use of video to support the field service worker. There are several applications of video, including providing a library of video resources on specific repair processes that the technicians have at their fingertips when on-site in the midst of a customer call. Additionally, live video provides an enriched means of communication between the field service technician and service engineers back at the call center or headquarters for guided repair when needed.
In the manufacturing sector, from high tech to industrial, much of the focus to date has been on equipping the field service technicians with the types of technologies above to enable faster, more precise, repairs that can also leverage experts who may not be physically with the equipment in need of repair. But, what about the other part of customer satisfaction, namely visibility into the status of a scheduled repair or site visit? Turning to the consumer segment highlights a rising trend that is moving into the B2B market as well.
Recently, two of the major pay-TV providers in the US, Comcast and Dish Networks, added a mobile app that enables customers waiting for a service visit to track the progress of the field technician. Customers can track the progress and ETA of field technicians scheduled for a visit from their mobile device. The goal is to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the cost of waiting, which some surveys have priced in the billions of US dollars in economic impact.
Granted, in B2B environments, the employee is often being compensated during their wait for equipment to be repaired, so that is not the true cost. As many lean manufacturing frameworks attempt to calculate, the "True Downtime Cost" to a company incorporates direct and indirect labor, equipment cost, and downtime costs like lost productivity. Scheduling maintenance-related service calls should correlate to the lowest impact on downtime costs, and certainly timing a visit at the optimal time for the customer, in this case a company, requires visibility.
Manufacturers are investing in field workforce management, service scheduling, and customer service applications that include the ability to track the progress of a service technician and pinpoint when they will be on-site to begin a maintenance or repair event at the customer's. This improves customer satisfaction while also helping to reduce their downtime costs. Given that the lifetime value of a customer can range from 3x to 20x the initial product purchase price, manufacturers are giving customer centricity the attention it deserves, and finding creative ways to enhance customer experience through field service best practices.