Digital-driven customer trends have forced manufacturers to evolve beyond the traditional business model of solely making products, to embrace servitization.
The current market now demands these organisations provide immersive after-sale services and support alongside their products. Here we explain here how innovative technologies such as dedicated mobile apps can help them succeed in doing so.
Mobile is Disrupting Manufacturing
We recently took an in-depth look at today’s need for manufacturers to provide mobile customer service and product support. This is an important step which should be taken if a business hopes to transform from traditional manufacturer to market-leading innovator.
That need for mobile customer service is one of two significant trends currently causing a surge in manufacturers attempting to engage those customers with mobile technology. The second trend is something known as servitization, which is another step manufacturers are taking, to both remain competitive and to bolster profitability.
Servitization is a concept any provider of complex or high-maintenance products will probably be aware of, even if the word itself is an unfamiliar one.
“In recent years, more and more manufacturers are competing through a portfolio of integrated products and services. This is a conscious and explicit strategy for manufacturers, with the provision of product-centric services providing a main differentiating factor in the marketplace. And it’s this which has become known as the servitization of manufacturing.” Dr. Howard Lightfoot, Manager of the Operations Excellence Institute, Cranfield University.
But what does servitization actually look like in practice? Dr. Lightfoot illustrates it in terms of a hierarchy of services. As your organisation moves up through that hierarchy, it takes on more responsibility and increases the risk factor. However, it also allow itself to deliver more value to your customers:
Furthermore, a common, consistent approach to business strategy has been seen in organisations that have evolved through servitization, as identified by Dr. Lightfoot. This approach focuses on pushing performance in these three key areas:
Organisations must combine a detailed knowledge of each customer with operational flexibility, to provide the best possible solution for the customer.
Organisations must command complete control of all processes, to ensure effective delivery of the best total cost to the customer.
Manufacturing, and/or selling, the best product on the market.
The Customers’ Productivity is the Key
Thanks to the changing expectations of today’s highly technology-literature customers, simply manufacturing products has become a limited business model. It’s clear from above that manufacturers are being forced to adapt, and provide customers with services and support directly at the products’ point of use.
Why is this? Because customer productivity is the ultimate goal, and to achieve that goal, customers must be using your organisation’s products however and whenever they need to. Maintaining, and guaranteeing, customer productivity depends on a positive experience with the product, and will result in (among other benefits):
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer loyalty
- Financial success
Those three points are how we at MobileCaddy define the manufacturer’s role beyond the sale of their products. Customers want to be productive, so the after-sale services, including their ability to self-serve when necessary, must be in their pockets and available at all times.
The Role of Mobile Apps
Since the use of manufactured products will almost always be in a ‘deskless’ or mobile context, mobile applications have emerged as the ideal tool for enabling constant customer productivity, because they can provide those anytime, anywhere after-sale services for any product.
For example, if a complex piece of machinery stops working, your customer’s business is at risk. So how can you help that customer to prevent, or minimise, a loss of productivity in those circumstances?
We know employees in all industries are now bringing their mobile expectations from B2C experiences into the workplace, and over 50% of customers typically want to self-serve first. The natural instinct of today’s mobile users is to reach in their pocket and look for the answer on their smartphones. One way or another, they’ll seek interaction with the appropriate service or support channels in the most efficient way possible, as quickly as possible.
In the case of using a piece of machinery or complex product in the workplace, a dedicated mobile app is fast-becoming the optimum tool to allow users to solve a problem or complete a task in those ways.
Mobile apps offer extensive, clear information about the product, its many components, and detailed instructions to resolve a limitless number of scenarios. And beyond that, they also provide customers with a seamless connection to support and service channels if required.
Mobile Apps Must go Hand in Hand with the Product
However, with that in mind, it’s crucial to note that customer productivity will no longer be just aligned to your products. Once introduced, the mobile app itself must also be capable, user-friendly, and, most importantly, reliable.
This puts the onus on finding a mobile solution which can deliver an app with consumer-grade usability, and enterprise-grade performance simultaneously. But why is that so important?
If a piece of machinery or equipment fails, your customer’s productivity will stall. That customer will want to self-serve to fix the machine, but if they are unable to, they’ll turn to more traditional customer service channels, which will often prove frustrating. If those channels are also unavailable or ineffective, the customer’s productivity will suffer significantly, meaning their satisfaction will be lost, and their loyalty will be compromised.
So, manufacturing organisations now see their success becoming dependent on the ability of the customer to self-serve. With that in mind, mobile applications which enable that self-service must also perform to the same level of the product at all times, and always be able to meet customer’s high expectations.
Current manufacturing organisations need this servitisation to stay relevant. Simply buying a product is no longer good enough when customers require a complete, immersive experience in order to remain productive, especially in the B2B space where millions of dollars are potentially on the line if a product fails.
The leading manufacturers today are the ones who are prepared to adapt both their structure, and their processes, to successfully embrace it. That success will come from aligning the product with the related customer service, and more often than not a key component of that will be a dedicated mobile app which can provide support and self-service at the point of use. When mobile apps are introduced, the customer’s productivity which will improve, and that will in turn improve their relationship with the manufacturer.
Once you add to that the element of personalisation – location-based services, individual user preferences, performance history, behavioural patterns, and so on – which is synonymous with mobile technology in the current digital landscape, you have the complete customer experience.
When all this can all be brought together, manufacturers can achieve differentiation from competitors, reduce their costs on service and support, attract a far wider customer base, improve customer retention, and generate higher revenues.