Many manufacturers today may look at their after-sales strategy and ask, “where does self-service fit in?”
But what we’ve found, through our work with companies in the manufacturing industry, is that self-service should define an after-sales strategy, rather than serve as a component within it.
Market trends causing a shift
In today’s manufacturing market, quality of product and low price points are no longer enough to make companies stand out from the competition.
These crucial metrics are now being overtaken, in terms of importance, by the need for outstanding customer service and experiences with those products, tailored to the needs of the end users. This is evidenced by the revelation that 67% of consumers, and a staggering 74% of business buyers, say they will pay more for a great experience.
Customer service and customer experience are both issues which come into play in the ‘after-sales’ stage of the customer journey, which is a key success factor these days, and should now be a top priority for manufacturers. Here, we’ll explore why…
After-sales refers to the service and support manufacturers provide alongside their products beyond the purchase. This should be handled with a dedicated strategy to ensure customer satisfaction levels are as high as possible, and customer retention occurs much more naturally.
In years gone by, a typical after-sales strategy would include things like support being given to customers by reps in a call centre, engineers having to go out to conduct onsite maintenance, machine operators carrying around large instruction manuals, and other various means of serving customers whenever a problem with their machinery occurs.
Today, with digital trends reshaping the global manufacturing landscape, after-sales has evolved, along with the channels of communication the end users are most comfortable with. The most successful after-sales strategies now put emphasis on manufacturers to embrace technology such as product companion mobile apps, augmented reality, IoT, virtual reality, and similar innovations
Why after-sales is so important
After-sales strategies are crucial because it’s once the manufacturer’s products are in use that the customer’s end user experience really begins, which is when opportunities to establish brand loyalty emerge, which will drive growth of revenue moving forward.
If an operator of a large piece of machinery is able to get their job done seamlessly, with little or no interruptions or complications, they’ll be maximising their productivity and will generally be very satisfied.
However, if something goes wrong with that machinery, it will limit their ability to work, which will in turn have a negative impact. Manufacturers who enable their end users to self-serve when these issues arise and troubleshoot, or even fix problems, without needing support from the customer service teams, are providing a far greater experience with their products after the sale has been made.
But when does an after-sales strategy really begin?
Essentially, anything that takes place once the customer has purchased the product must fall into an organisation’s after-sales strategy. However, proactive steps should be taken towards delivering positive customer experiences in advance of this, and a key way to do that is by enabling self-service at the point of use, to meet the preferred habits of the product operators.
Manufacturers often succumb to the pitfall of thinking of after-sales with self-service as a component inside the strategy, but it should actually be the first thing that is established before all the other components come into play. It demands this higher importance because it’s the way in which everything in the after-sales strategy should be delivered, deflected, or resolved, to keep the users happy.
The current perception of manufacturers must change to appreciate that enabling effective self-service should be the highest priority after the sale of their products, and doing so will allow them to lower costs and increase sales in the long-term.
By using a product companion app, for example, machinery operators no longer need those traditional channels of customer service, as they have seamless access to the necessary information and support ready in the palm of their hands whenever they need it
Maximum value, minimum costs
As discussed, self-service is the primary touch point in the majority of issues or problematic situations for operators these days. That means it will have, if done correctly, the biggest impact both on customer experience and satisfaction, which directly drives future sales and better customer retention. When considering that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits from anywhere between 25% and 95% the value of this strategic initiative to the business becomes much clearer.
Self-service reduces the need for manufacturers to provide services and support themselves in the after-sales process, which lowers costs and removes pressure on staff. Because of this, self-service should be a key driving force within any manufacturer’s after-sales strategy, present in each and every interaction with the end user beyond the sale of the product.
Bringing it all together
It’s crucial to appreciate that self-service is more than just an ordinary component of the after-sales offering. It should be seen as the priority touchpoint to provide the end users, and a key differentiator in the digital age which can deliver significant positive impact on customer satisfaction, customer experience, and customer retention.