The industrial sector, in particular the discrete manufacturing industry, is currently undergoing a major transformation. In an intensified international competition, companies from Asia are increasingly gaining market share. At the same time, profit streams are shifting: The focus is no longer on the product; instead, the shares are distributed relatively evenly among the product itself, software (digital services for extended use) and customer service.
Strong focus on customer service
It is becoming more and more difficult for companies to differentiate themselves exclusively through the product. On a global scale, quality is converging rapidly. As a result, customer service is becoming the focus of interest – as a factor of differentiating oneself from the competition. Especially medium-sized companies from Germany have considerable potential here, as their processes have not been able to keep pace with the rapid market growth of the recent years. They often do not have enough resources to cover customer service request throughout their region.
Long waiting times lead to frustrated customers. In case it is not possible for enterprises to find enough resources in the short and medium term, companies must use existing resources more efficiently and ensure their success through a higher degree of automation. Digital technologies not only ensure satisfied employees and loyal customers, but also can generate a revenue growth from 3% to 10% and an increased margin by 4% to 9%.
Automate and optimize processes
Some value drivers in service can be identified, which serve as parameters when adapting processes and ensuring economic success. Cloud-based technologies such as a CRM system or a customer portal automate and optimize processes while revenue growth is driven by new business models.
Improvements in efficiency and automation can be achieved with a CRM system across almost the entire service value chain - from support requests to invoicing. It enables omni-channel communication in a way that customers can address service requests through multiple channels. In the system, requests are centralized and standardized via tickets. Based on specific information such as the product number, they are automatically assigned to internal structures and responsibilities. The fact that the entire communication process is documented prevents loss of information.
Optimally planned assignments of technicians
If a support request requires the assignment of a technician, the service agent can use the CRM system to plan the on-site visit. In the resource planner with a real-time dashboard, the service agent is able to see at a glance who is available and can assign the tickets to the technicians by using drag-and-drop mechanisms. Not only the capacities and location, but also the required skill level have to be taken into account. Effective, dynamic Workforce & Dispatch Management increases productivity in resource planning by 10 to 20%.
A mobile app provided by the CRM system supports the technician with the necessary tools for on-site deployment. For example, it includes route-planning, access to customer data, process checklists and material availability as well as offline synchronization. This relieves the technician from unnecessary tasks and allows him to concentrate on the repair.
The mean time to repair can be reduced by 10 to 25% by providing the technician with helpful information in some sort of a digital toolbox. This includes dynamic checklists, access to knowledge databases and digital repair instructions based on augmented reality. In addition, it is possible that the technician will create the invoice for the services rendered on site and the customer will pay directly by EC card in order to avoid long payment periods.
Service portal as central point of contact
While the CRM system optimizes the internal processes of companies, a service portal is the interface to the customer. It prevents requests from being received via too many different channels and acts as a central point of contact. Customers have the option of creating their own tickets. By defining certain details as mandatory fields, companies can immediately obtain all the information they need to process the ticket. The fact that the customer can view the current processing status at any time ensures transparency. Simple requests can be processed automatically by chatbots. Another option is the integration of an online shop so that customers can order spare parts or retrieve certain digital services.
A future factor for increasing efficiency and establishing new business models is a proactive customer service. Based on the data transmitted by connected machines via the Internet of Things problems can be identified before they occur and lead to production downtime. Predictive maintenance also means that service technician assignments can be planned in a more targeted and long-term manner. The goal of a proactive service is often formulated as reducing failure rates to near zero.
Conclusion: Step by step towards operational excellence
It is recommended that companies take a step-by-step approach to customer service digitization and take simple steps to benefit from quick wins. The path to operational excellence is via a CRM system and a customer portal, as they align the process structure with standardization and automation and optimize existing processes.
While setting up a CRM system is a reasonable first step, a service portal canalizes customer requests and frees capacities of service employees for more complicated cases. The expansion of the portal to a digital platform as a final step offers additional attractive possibilities, such as the integration of third-party providers and the placement of technicians from other companies and freelancers.