Do you remember the last truly exceptional meal you ate at a restaurant? If it stands out in your memory, it probably wasn’t solely because of the perfectly seared steak or sublime glass of wine. Your server was not just polite but engaged in creating a special dining experience undeniably personalized just for you.
Now that you’ve had time to digest, ask yourself: are you offering this exceptional experience for your customers?
We are all in the service business. No matter what the industry. Every business transaction with a customer begins a potentially lifelong relationship. Just as a rude server can ruin a delicious meal and keep you from ever returning to a restaurant, every product you sell creates a contract of perceived customer expectations about its use. Even if someone else is responsible for fixing a piece of equipment manufactured by your company, for example, guess who will be named by a customer in a frustrated social media post. Hint: it’s not the nameless service contractor.
Research has shown customer experience is directly tied to profitability, a primary concern for all businesses. And now, big data can help.
Manufacturers are mastering device intelligence
When talking about the Internet of Things (IoT), many people still picture scenes from The Jetsons or, my personal favorite, Star Trek. For companies that manufacture sophisticated equipment and capital assets, that more-advanced future is now.
A recent report by Aberdeen showed that manufacturers far outpace other industries in their adoption and leveraging of the benefits of IoT. The increased connectivity of devices and richness of available data has enabled them to maximize operational efficiencies in a number of ways. Rather than a binary “broken” or “working” message, they can see whether a seasoned technician needs to be dispatched to a site for a major repair, or whether a courier can deliver a part for the customer to easily replace themselves.
Can data solve your service problem?
The standard bearers for great customer experiences are increasingly disruptive companies and applications that ostensibly don’t have a service component at all. It’s unlikely customers ever have human-to-human interaction with anyone at Netflix or Amazon, but these companies have turned customer data into incredible recommendation engines that keep these customers coming back and spending more.
In manufacturing, operations are now increasingly tasked with providing uptime rather than just a working product to be replaced every few years. Because of their leading adoption of IoT, they are uniquely positioned to take advantage of data already being collected to transform customer experiences with their products. To build the right foundation for data-driven customer service, identify existing sources and inputs and look for ways they can be augmented with additional sources; invest in a data scientist or outside resources to conduct meaningful analysis; and set appropriate KPIs and reporting practices that enable a continuous review of data, trends and actionable insights for your business. It’s time to move beyond what’s breaking and needs fixing or what’s about to break. Rich customer data can tell manufacturers a more interesting story about how customers use their product, what’s working for them, what isn’t, and how you might design an even better next generation.
Manufacturers have already demonstrated mastery in using data to guarantee uptime and meet or exceed aggressive service level agreements. Now they have to consider how to feed new kinds of information into their product design and user experience management. Aside from investing in the right teams and technology to enable this, service and operations teams need to work with marketing to ensure the shift is effective.
Services will save the product business
Today, we are living in an experience economy, with customers craving more utility and meaning from their purchases. By focusing on service and experience as integral to a successful product and sale, businesses can still compete for a sophisticated and demanding customer base. The customer experience advantage might begin with the point of sale, but it can earn a lifetime of loyalty. Let customer data light the way to an intimate understanding of their usage of and relationship with your products, and then deliver experiences your competition won’t be able to replicate.