We’ve all read about the future of tech, buzzwords; on-demand, automation, AI, IoT to name a few, but as some service businesses are realising, the transition to some of the latest ‘tech advances’ can be problematic.
Whilst it’s a fairly safe bet that remote diagnosis of machinery will become more common, that devices will ‘phone home’ automatically sending information directly to service providers and that scheduling will be based on real rather than estimated usage, that true predictive maintenance will optimise uptime and cost. What remains the same is understanding customer’s needs and putting them first. This means that service organisations using the latest tech also need to consider how new system capabilities affect the customer relationship.
It’s fully expected that a more self-serve approach will be prevalent. More customers will no longer want monthly reports and quarterly meetings to discuss performance, instead preferring on-demand, real-time management information available to them whenever they choose to look at it – which let’s face it, will likely be when there’s a problem. But the reality is, this means it’s harder to maintain a customer relationship. Thinking about the whole process before implementing systems is vital for success.
Moreover, it’s likely that your customer base is made up of decision-makers with different attitudes towards technology, so as you implement changes, understanding who wants your ‘service improvements’ and offering choice is the key to success. Some customers will still want the regular face to face time with sales representatives, others won’t and for those in the latter group, the engineers will essentially become the face of your organisation – so you might want to consider who you send to these jobs! If you just stop giving customers some of the service elements they’ve been used to, will they like it or see it as more work for them at the same cost? Will they start to think this service should be cheaper, meanwhile you’re trying to show an ROI for your system investment?
Furthermore, if you don’t get the visit time with customers and they only review the information when there’s a problem, how do you find new ways to build loyalty? This will likely involve lots of new service elements such as providing a short voice recording highlighting the performance summary each month so they still hear from you, but it takes less time, introducing customer training for engineers, or scheduling personal follow-up calls based on device status data received. This and many more new activities will be how leading service providers start to reach higher customer expectations and build relationships differently to maintain loyalty.
Whilst doing this, you’ve got to appreciate some managers may see your so-called ‘improved tech’ as more work for them. They may not want the hassle of logging into yet another system to get their information so just because it’s on offer, it doesn’t mean they want it! Offering choice and accurately capturing costs to serve each type of customer is important to maintain customer satisfaction and profitability, otherwise, you could end up losing customers who just aren’t ready yet.
Whilst we’re always delivering new technology to enhance service management, we try to avoid customers just latching on to the latest new thing. Discussing the commercial benefits and what these changes will mean to the whole service operation generally results in customers choosing a system that’s flexible enough to deliver the current service model alongside the new one, preferring to embrace and deliver new features in stages. Which in the end, always delivers the biggest gains for service providers every time.