While direct to consumer industries such as retail have been abuzz with the need to deliver better customer experience (CX) for a while, it’s not just limited to them anymore. With products becoming commoditized, the CX bug to keep the customer engaged has bitten the manufacturing players too. In fact, 86% manufacturers in a Salesforce surveyi said they believe customer experience to be a key competitive differentiator.
So what has changed? Why is CX suddenly so important?
We see 3 key drivers of this trend:
- The blurring boundaries between products and services - The servitization of products has changed the very nature of the manufacturer-customer relationship. It’s no longer a one-time transaction focused sale. Selling products-as-a-service is necessitating that manufacturers engage with their customers continuously even after a sale. So engaging customers, keeping them informed, creating online marketplaces that enable discovery and self-service, and investing in top-notch post-sale service are areas that have gained strategic importance.
- The changing face of the B2B buyer – The business buyer today wants consumer-like experience. And if customers are unhappy with the experience they have with your brand, today technology has made is super easy to take their business elsewhere. These new expectations from buyers are pushing manufacturers to provide great UX/UI, instant response to service requests, and proactive maintenance and support.
- The need to stay competitive – Customer experience has emerged as the key competitive differentiator over product attributes and brand value. However, the value of delivering a superior experience lies not just in the revenue it can potentially generate. The initiatives that a company takes to deliver on the experience also make its operations more streamlined and efficient. The investments in technology such as automation, analytics, IoT, and AI that are so necessary for a seamless customer journey, also deliver immense productivity gains and save efforts and costs. In fact, customer service is partnering with sales teams to become the new revenue generation engine.
The moving parts of customer experience in manufacturing
Manufacturer customer journeys are complex and often interrupted by several middlemen in the value chain. It was quite normal, until recently, for manufacturers to not know their end customers or how they use their products. That is not an option anymore. To thrive in the new customer-centric paradigm that’s a significant mindset shift for the industry, manufacturers need to play their cards right on several fronts at once.
1. Unlock new opportunities with smart products
Connected products that talk to each other and to the manufacturers systems can provide valuable insights on consumption patterns and product usage. They can be monitored in real time to proactively fix issues or make recommendations to optimize usage. For instance, the Finnish manufacturer Kone has embedded artificial intelligence and IoT in its elevators to give them the ability to converse with Kone’s servers[ii]. The elevators now let Kone know what they are doing at any moment in time and whether they are facing issues. This data is analyzed by Kone to provide predictive maintenance to their customers and prevent outage, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction.
2. Invest in intelligent customer service
Customer service is a definite game changer for manufacturers. However, they need to find a way around the mounting cost of customer support (contact centers, field agents etc.) while improving speed and accuracy. The main pain points in customer service are delays in request resolution and loss of effort and accuracy via manual repetitive tasks.
The need is to redefine the approach at every stage of the customer journey via design-led thinking, process re-imagination, and digital disruptive technologies. Manufacturers are already turning to technologies such as Cloud, AI, Chatbots, IoT, Mobility, and Analytics to anticipate customer needs, improve service management, enable preventive maintenance, reduce cost to serve, and help service agents improve time to serve in the end-to-end request-to-resolve process.
Intelligent customer service has the power to pivot support from being a cost center to a revenue generator by creating a true engagement experience. For instance, UK-based manufacturer Vax used smart customer conversations to increase agent basket conversion by an average of £10 per customer[iii]. They did this by consolidating agent support systems, adopting an omni-channel approach for customer interactions (including self-help, email, social media and live chat), and intelligently tracking and routing customer queries.
Wipro has been enabling several large OEMs with intelligent service management. Over the course of our engagements, we’ve seen this approach improve productivity by up to 30%, increase ‘service to sale’ effectiveness by up to 8%, and reduce helpdesk cost by up to 20%.
3. Harness the power of data
Both connected products and intelligent services generate tremendous volumes of data that can be used to curate experiences, impact business decisions, and guide customer behavior. Relevant and timely data-driven insights enable intent-driven outcomes in a secure, flexible, reliable environment.
For instance, connected cars have become a direct interface between the end consumer and manufacturer. Based on the data that the car sends the manufacturers, they can provide tips and advice to the customer on how to improve the longevity of the car. For example, how managing speed over certain terrain can reduce the wear and tear on tires, or what kind of driving behavior can bring down their insurance premium, or they can send alerts when the car needs maintenance etc. This opens up a whole new relationship with the customer and creates a seamless experience for them. At the same time, based on the car data, manufactures learn valuable things about their product and can launch better versions or more service options in the future.
The new age of manufacturing
The new era of manufacturing is all about customer centricity. There is a massive shift happening in the manufacturing business models – product specifications and price wars are not going to cut it anymore. The winning mantra is to redefine the customer experience journey to drive effortless experiences and gain an unparalleled productivity advantage within the organization.