What drives your next purchase?
The quality of the product? The quality of the services you receive around that product? How the product or service makes you feel?
The answer is probably a bit of all of the above.
An IDC global research survey on Product and Service Innovation highlighted that leaders across industries like manufacturing, retail, healthcare, telecommunications, and oil and gas listed a primary business concern of increasing customer satisfaction and delivering successful products/services. When you drill down another layer, these same leaders of strategy from the service business noted that they needed to increase service-related revenues, focus on talent, and improve collaboration across the sales, marketing, engineering, and service functions.
And as noted by The Brookings Institution, in the US and other countries around the world, spend on services is greatly outpacing that of goods. The impact and importance of the service experience on the future viability of organizations can’t be overstated.
At a keynote I participated in last year, one senior service leader remarked “Our sales team can make the initial product sale, but each additional dollar of revenue will come because of exceptional service.” But if service and support are so crucial to revenue, profits, and the customer experience why do they often take a back seat to other business functions or technology investment areas?
In my mind, there are three key pieces of the service and support story that many organizations are missing today which is leading them to miss a major opportunity and a potential differentiator for their businesses:
- Human interactions still matter. The shift to automated services and customer support is nothing new. It has quite a bit of utility in terms of lowering the cost of service and increasing the speed of initial response. But often the move to automation in service puts the organization’s needs in front of the customer. For example, in field service, it is much more expedient to auto-schedule the closest technician with the right parts to execute a work order. But what if the customer prefers to have their favorite, trusted field engineer come out to service the machine and they are willing to wait for them? Organizations have forgotten that more often than not, people buy from people. The field service and customer support teams deliver more than just a response or a fix to a problem, they are the face and brand of the organization to the customer. The field service technician is the person who helps a business customer keep their production line going, the medical equipment engineer ensures that the hospital’s MRI machine is able to keep that patient appointment on time, and the customer service agent is the one on the other end of the line that can keep a sometimes lonely but loyal customer engaged. And this service talent is NOT a commodity it is the lifeblood of the organization.
- The competition is getting better at delivering service too. The service revenue goldmine is no longer a secret. Third-party service organizations are quickly learning how to service and maintain equipment and products that they did not make or install. Regulations, like the Right-to-Repair in the US and the European Data Act, will transform who gets access to product data, who can service or repair products, and what role the customer has in their own service experience. However, despite this opening of the service economy to new entrants, the manufacturer or primary service provider has a jumpstart on the competition based on selling the initial product and initiating the experience through installation or delivery. But this initial glue needs to be shored up and not eroded through the continued delivery of value within the service experience. Each touchpoint, whether mundane like receiving a bill payment or providing a meter read, is an opportunity to deliver wow experiences. Furthermore, this initial bond is a way to better understand what customers value with the service experience earlier on and should inform what future product/service offerings are provided and what types of interactions are enabled.
- Customers should be a part of the service team. We have all done it. Something breaks in your house or isn’t working to spec, so you pull up the web and search for a video on how to fix it or at least diagnose what is the problem. And if the fix is more complex than ‘unplug and plug it back in’, you know you have to reach out to the service provider or manufacturer. But what happens when that provider tells you the next available service technician won’t be able to come out for two weeks. If you’re like me, you are asking yourself why exactly did I buy this product from this company and I most likely won’t make that mistake again. But in some scenarios, organizations are starting to empower their customers to collaboratively resolve issues or at least more accurately diagnose the problem to ensure if a technician needs to go out they will fix the issue on that first visit. Now some people wonder if the customer is solving their own problem would they really be looking to pay a premium for this and is this a differentiable experience. I would say yes! Product and equipment downtime, especially in a B2B world, can be measured in thousands or millions of dollars. Even in the consumer world, your time is definitely valuable, and having an issue resolved quickly is a game changer. Having access to a collaborative support agent is much more valuable than just pulling a potentially inaccurately produced self-help video and trying to the DIY in an unsupported way.
Service is more than a money maker; it is a brand builder. Quality service outcomes are becoming a pathway to building customers for life and not just the moment. Customer service leaders and C-suite executives need to keep the focus on what is the definition of value to the customer and what can’t be easily replicated by the competition. Service outcomes and enhanced service experiences must become the core of the business.
For more information on the Future of Customer Experience, read our blog: