The way manufacturers do business has changed forever. Whether it’s COVID-19, supply chain headaches, or material and human resource issues, you’ve had to bob, weave (and sometimes duck) with speed and agility. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way you engage with and service customers.
We all know customer expectations have changed, and if they don’t like their experience with you, they’ll just move on to a competitor. Customer service is a key differentiator today, says 86% of your fellow manufacturing executives. You may use technology to deliver high-quality products, but if your customer experience is lacking, you should know that 82% of B2B buyers say technology makes it quite easy to take their business somewhere else.
Statistics aside, stellar customer service means more repeat business, process efficiencies, better inventory control, and increased revenue. This all logically stems from giving your customers what they want. We know that they want a B2B buying journey that mirrors the best consumer experience yet is specifically tailored for their needs. It’s time to shift away from the pandemic panic mode and refine your customer service strategy based on these top trends for 2022.
Nothing impresses a customer more than the feeling that you know them and their needs well. What’s involved in a personalized experience? It involves personalized product recommendations and pricing powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It also demands that you provide accurate information about their account-based pricing rules, order statuses, and product availability. But the real goal is deepening your customer relationships, so they see you as their trusted advisor instead of just a supplier.
For equipment manufacturers, it’s predicted that there will be a demand for usage-based pricing and renting or leasing machines instead of outright purchases. This can create an opportunity for longer contracts and marks a shift to an “as-a-service” business model that parallels software-as-a-service.
It’s all about chatbots. While phone, email, and in-person support will remain vital for customer service, chatbots will be increasingly used by manufacturers to help customers get the fastest help while deflecting customer service calls to easy self-service answers. These chatbots are automated, powered by AI, and can reduce the role of humans in the overall experience. They can be used to answer anything from simple product questions to when a customer’s specific shipment will arrive.
In an increasingly hands-off world, AR and VR technologies can be used by field service technicians to collaborate with customers to solve on-site issues.
Omni-channel self-service tools offer customer service through multiple platforms, like email, chat, and phone – whichever channel your customers prefer. It also means a cohesive, unified experience no matter which channel they want to use. What’s especially important here is to know what your customers prefer. That’s where you want to be, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or more traditional communication methods.
When it comes to eCommerce, you hear about self-service often. Face it, some people just want you to get out of the way and let them solve their problems or re-order on their own. This means creating resources like knowledge bases, how-to videos, and a self-service portal where they can accomplish these goals as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible.
Your success depends on your customers’ success, right? So, it makes sense to do whatever you can to foster that. It ties in with hyper-personalization: You know your customer with all the valuable knowledge you’ve gained through your eCommerce site, so use that information to anticipate challenges they may face. Can you anticipate maintenance timeframes from the original purchase date? Reach out with reminders and recommendations. Positioning some service agents as a customer success team with proactive goals can be a great way to reduce churn and boost customer loyalty and satisfaction.
All too often, customers are put on hold while a customer service agent tries to find someone to answer a question or make a decision. There’s a recent trend toward empowering agents, giving them autonomy to make decisions on the spot so they can better meet customer needs. This will involve some training, of course, but your customers will love the speedy assistance.
Traditional feedback surveys aren’t very useful unless they are linked to areas of actual improvement. What’s needed is relevant and contextual feedback from your customers as they go through your customer service experience. You can get more useful information from point-of-contact surveys and informal direct feedback from customers about their specific interactions with your brand and use those insights to continuously improve the customer experience.
Oh, boy. Another KPI to keep track of! But this one is really important: Customer KPIs. What are your customers’ most important KPIs? These could include production output, new product time-to-market, eliminating downtime, or revenue growth, among other things. Once you have this information, you can figure out how to help your customers achieve their KPIs. This will strengthen your relationships and show you can add value over the long term.
Of course, adopting these customer service trends means having the right technology in place, whether it’s new communication channels, a great eCommerce site, or advanced AI, AR, or VR capabilities.
The answers to these questions could help you realize greater value from your business relationships:
– What can you do to make it easier for your customers to talk with you?
– Focusing on your customer service and sales teams: Are there obstacles that stand in the way of providing the very best in customer service experience?
– How do physical distance and remote communication impact your ability to help customers succeed?
– What top three skills do your sales and service teams need so they can be viewed as a trusted partner?
– Does your frontline staff understand your customers’ business objectives so they can help achieve them?
As customer service trends continue to evolve, will you be ready? At Shift7, we have digital experts with deep industry knowledge and experience whose top priority is to help you achieve your business outcomes. Our results-oriented team and prescriptive approach can help you catch up with today’s trends and whatever the future holds. Reach out now and don’t risk getting left behind.
– Customer service is a key differentiator for manufacturers today
– 86% of manufacturing executives say that to ignore customer service means sending current and potential customers straight to their competitors
– There are 10 main trends in manufacturing customer service, including hyper-personalization, omni-channel, and self-service
– Another trend is toward performance-based contracts that have the potential for longer contracts with this shift to an “as-a-service” model
– Proactive customer service marks another trend: Use the customer knowledge gained through your eCommerce site to offer help before there’s an issue
– AI use will become more prominent, and field service customer satisfaction will increase through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality