Just think about it! 10 to 20 years ago, if a consumer’s refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, washer or dryer stopped working, they called their product seller (e.g., Sears, or a local appliance dealer, etc.), requested service on the unit, and were told they would have to wait a week or more for a service technician to come to the home to assess the problem. Then, once the technician arrived onsite, he would advise the consumer that they would need to order a part, and reschedule the call once the part comes in. This whole episode would typically take a few weeks or more before the unit was back up and running again.
However, the introduction and proliferation of smart products has completely transformed the traditional services industry. What customers used to tolerate in terms of getting their home appliances or consumer electronics repaired just doesn’t cut it anymore. For consumers, it’s now an entirely different “journey”!
“The servicing of smart products is transforming the Customer Journey.”
Fast forward to today and, for these same types of consumer products and appliances – many of which are now smart – the entire services cycle can conceivably be collapsed from as long as a few weeks, to just a few hours. The advent of smart appliances now allows the services provider to diagnose the problem remotely, determine the appropriate fix, and execute that fix – remotely, if possible – sometimes before the consumer even knows there had been a problem.
When parts are needed, this activity can now easily be performed online directly by the services provider or, in some cases, by the consumer itself. If an onsite service call is still required, the overall cycle time from when the problem was first reported, until the service technician arrives onsite, could also be shortened significantly – again, from weeks, to days.
However, in today’s world, the customer (i.e., typically, the consumer) no longer needs to do all the talking (i.e., making the initial service call, explaining what they think the problem is, scheduling an onsite service call, etc.). It is quickly turning into a world where the appliances or devices now make the call themselves – remotely through sensor-based telematics, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), and communicated over the Web.
Samir Gulati, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at ServicePower, agrees by saying that, “Past generations were more high-touch when it came to customer service. They wanted to pick up the phone and speak to someone. Today, the consumer wants the technology right at their fingertips, and they are taking that into consideration as they start purchasing homes, appliances and consumer electronics.” He goes on to say, “Consumers want to deal with companies that are technology savvy and offer self-service portals and efficient and fast customer service experiences.”
But this scenario only works if the services provider is, itself, empowered through the right mix of Field Service Management (FSM) tools, functionalities, resources and capabilities!
“They may be different verticals – But they still share the same Customer Journey!”
Some industry segments, such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), or Security Systems, have long been in the domain of B2B services organisations; however, the advent of smart systems and devices, powered by the IoT, has created entirely new markets for many services organisations who now find themselves also catering directly to consumers.
As a result, there are both great commonalities – and great differences – between and among each of these individual vertical market segments. In addition, each segment has its own “personality”; key industry players; market size, patterns and growth trends; customer needs and requirements; and competitive landscape.
This is where your services organisation comes in – to serve as the customer’s “tour guide” through the entire Customer Journey – and that means that the FSM solution chosen, must have the tools and functionalities required to make that Journey as seamless as possible – regardless of vertical market segment.
“Services Management has become much more complicated – Is your FSM Solution up to the job?“
As products become inherently smarter, so must the services organisations themselves in order to provide the levels of service and support that their customers demand. However, not only are customers becoming more knowledgeable about what levels of support are potentially available to them, but their expectations for seamless service and support throughout the entire Customer Journey are becoming more demanding as well.
As such, supporting the Customer Journey today involves much more than simply providing maintenance and repair services for the products that consumers buy. It also requires a comprehensive approach to providing them with seamless support throughout every facet of the product lifecycle following the sale – from product registration and warranty support; to onsite, remote and/or self-service support; to preventive maintenance – all the way through product upgrades and add-ons, and end-of-life product replacement and disposal.
According to Gulati, “Choosing the right technology and keeping the customer at the center of it is key. You want it to be not only easy to use, but a tool that helps keep the focus on great outcomes. By implementing a solution that makes the technician’s job smoother, you automatically improve the customer journey because you will have better status tracking, communications directly between the tech and customer, and more first-time fixes. A good FSM tool will not only make an organisation more efficient, but also delight the customer, which is always the end goal.”
Therefore, it is critical to be able to choose the right FSM solution moving forward by making certain that it is powered by the most current technologies, functionalities and technical support capabilities (e.g., the IoT; Artificial Intelligence, or AI; and other emerging high-tech tools and resources).
The historical service and support delivery experience has now transitioned itself into a full-on Customer Journey – one that is predicated on the establishment of a true partnership between the services provider and its customers, evoking feelings that reflect “we’re all in this together – and that we’re equal parties with shared goals”. Delighting the customer is no longer an option.
For the services providers, delivering a seamless Customer Journey is also not an option anymore – it is an imperative. With Business-to-Consumer (B2C) industry giants like Amazon, and Google already attaining close access to their customers, services organisations must also place the customer squarely in the center of their market focus – and be able to use the power and the capabilities of the IoT to deliver exactly what they need, when they need it, and without hesitation.
By leveraging the most effective FSM, Contractor Management and Warranty Management tools into their service delivery model, services organisations can ultimately realize great improvements in key areas including reduced costs, increased revenues, happier customers – as well as an improved bottom line. To be successful at doing this, however, it will be your responsibility to serve as their “tour guide” throughout the entire Customer Journey!