By Samir Gulati, ServicePower
The needs of the modern consumer are evolving, as ready access to options makes tech-savvy customers more prone to churn and less likely to express brand loyalty. Every step along the way, from the initial purchase to a successful service appointment, is equally important to the overall experience – from the manufacturer, to the third-party contractor, to the technician and the consumer. How companies leverage technology to support, connect, and inform these parties will dictate overall customer experience and ultimately affect brand loyalty.
Contracting for service on a home appliance or entertainment system is often frustrating for consumers, and social media buzzes with angry posts. What consumers don’t realize, however, is that much of the work they believe is contracted through a manufacturer is done by third parties, many of whom are dispatched using outdated systems that offer little control over the outcome and the consumer experience. From asking consumers to order their own replacement parts to taking multiple visits to resolve a minor issue, manufacturers risk further erosion of brand loyalty every time a customer requests service. But this needn’t be the case: technology exists to better manage the process, including easy-to-deploy software that extends the mission and value proposition of the brand to third-party service providers.
Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are adopting digital infrastructures that power a “blended workforce” of technicians that combine factory technicians and third-party providers. To do this, they deploy tools such as Smart Scheduling modules, which enable real-time optimization of service schedules that increase job visibility and make the process smoother for providers. These solutions also allow technicians to be more informed before arriving on-site, enabling them to be more attuned to the consumer’s needs. A more engaged workforce has greater value on the frontlines.
However, workforce management is only one step in the process. Brands increasingly realize they must close the information loop, connecting services companies and technicians to consumers. Electrolux is among those OEMs investing in technology, including customer self-service portals, to improve the experience for customers and streamline communications.
In a recent webinar, Steve Zannos, senior director of service delivery for Electrolux, described the importance of closing that information loop: “Not frustrating customers by asking them to keep providing the same information to different people throughout the process is better for the customer and the brand.”
Manufacturers also can use portals to reduce consumer frustration by giving them real-time visibility into projected technician arrival times that are narrower than the traditional four-hour and eight-hour windows. Portals put customer engagement at the forefront, making it easy for consumers to see the overall progress of a service incident and communicate directly with technicians. Consumers can even use the portal to pay for services.
Centricity is leveraging consumer portals to help achieve this, increasing collaboration with third-party providers while engaging consumers. Consumers now prefer and expect advanced self-service capabilities – creating a real-time, up-to-date information loop that supports customer self-service when needed and an extended services network will give consumers more control and enable companies to deliver a more consistent experience. Customer portals have been proven to increase Net Promoter Score (NPS), a significant variable considering that 81 percent of marketing professionals rate customer experience as the biggest factor in differentiating from the competition.
Gaining these capabilities is critical because consumers are more engaged with brands than ever, and brands face increasing scrutiny when they fail to deliver a seamless user experience. With so much riding on customer service, it’s no surprise that brands and their warranty partners are taking a closer look at their services infrastructures and investing in disrupting the status quo. Smart companies must employ solutions that are people-focused and technology-enabled – service organizations of the future will continue to be technician-centric, but modern technicians will be equipped to work more collaboratively, and they will need to be more engaged.
Ultimately, the goal of smart companies is to leverage technology that allows the technician and consumer experience with a brand to be seamless, transparent, and highly consistent. To create a more positive experience for everyone along the life cycle of a service, better connection among parties is essential. Everyone benefits from an open and consistent flow of information – and employing technologies that enable that connection is key in positive consumer outcomes and encouraging the elusive brand loyalty.
About The Author
Appointed Chief Marketing and Product Officer at ServicePower in 2017, Samir is responsible for all aspects of Marketing and Product Management, including market strategy, product roadmaps, demand generation, product marketing, and corporate marketing. Samir brings over 25 years of experience in global product and marketing leadership roles in technology companies.