Sales & MarketingServiceExpert Information - 25.07.17

Excellent Service Is Not Rocket Science

What does it take to offer excellent service?

Excellent service is a unique selling point for many manufacturing companies today. If products only differ slightly from a technical point of view, a company's service portfolio will greatly influence a customer's buying decision. But what does "excellent service" actually mean today? Companies having the edge over their competitors offer the services described in this article.

There were times when service technicians had to know just a handful of products because new models were put on the market every few years only. Today, companies offer a wide range of products which have very short life cycles. The daily business of back office and field service has become much more challenging.

Customers place higher demands on service, too. They expect to receive fast, first-class support, from root cause analysis to the swift processing of their request, be it a repair, the replacement of a spare part or a return. But how can companies succeed in offering excellent service despite ever higher demands?

Web Portals Perfectly Suit Customers' Needs

Studies show that customers prefer to search for solutions themselves. Only if they do not find what they want do they contact the manufacturer.First-class service therefore starts with supporting customers in identifying and fixing errors. Web portals perfectly suit this purpose. Besides detailed information about frequently asked questions and intuitive search functions, they should feature contact details so that customers can make their request by e-mail or phone.

First Impressions Count

When customers contact a manufacturer's service department by phone, it is crucial that relevant customer data such as contracts and assembly instructions are readily available on the service employees' screens. Service employees also need an overview of previous calls by the customer to have related background information at hand. Predefined text blocks for e-mails and letters support them in dealing with current requests. They allow them, for example, to send an e-mail containing a form or an instruction for replacing a part when still talking to the customer.

If a call has to be processed by another department, workflows help transfer it to the employees responsible. To-do lists sending reminders are key here. They ensure that no request is lost and that every customer gets the support they need.

Service Calls Require Precise Planning

If back office could not resolve an issue by means of remote support, it has to be fixed by a service technician on site. Customers expect that such service calls are scheduled precisely and completed by skilled service technicians. Service calls can be optimally prepared with advanced resource planning. Service technicians might have to bring special devices, tools or vehicles.All these resources have to be reliably planned.

Mobile Solutions Create Seamless Information Flows

On site, field service employees need access to web portals to be able to retrieve relevant information fast, such as the latest documentation, which helps them identifying and fixing errors. Contactless identification of parts by means of RFID, QR codes and barcodes allows them to find the respective manuals quickly so that they can complete service calls faster. To that end, product information and customer data have to be integrated in the calls, like in the comprehensive ERP solution proALPHA. This boosts efficiency and helps both customers and manufacturers save time. Mobile devices enable field service employees to check the availability and delivery times of spare parts so that the next steps can be discussed with the customer in detail. Moreover, mobile devices speed up the reporting and billing of service calls.

Spare Parts Management Is Key

Efficient spare parts management is one of the pillars of excellent service. Manufacturers have to plan ahead to ensure that parts are available on time. This is also the prerequisite for optimizing warehouse locations and reducing safety stock. Both field service and the repairs department of a company benefit from optimized spare parts management that has been integrated in the ERP system. If goods are returned, they are to be repaired and sent back to the customer as fast as possible. RMA documents (return material authorization), which are created when a call comes in, significantly speed up related processes. When the goods returned are received, their return number has to be entered in the call.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Customer service is best if it is not needed at all: If the right maintenance tasks are scheduled for the right time, production downtimes can be reduced to a minimum. Manufacturers who complete maintenance and repair work during the idle times of machines generate added value for their customers.However, this can only be achieved if companies dispense with regular maintenance intervals and offer customized service based on predictive maintenance instead. In this case, appropriate measures can be taken in advance to avoid unexpected downtimes. For example, spare parts can be replaced early on if they wear out fast due to intensive use. The same applies if sensors detect a slow increase in operating temperatures. Not only manufacturers of large-scale plants or machinery benefit from predictive maintenance. Manufacturers of consumer goods such as cars and washing machines can take advantage of it, too.

Analysis Provides New Insights

The analysis of calls is crucial to offering top quality and achieving high customer satisfaction. On the one hand, it provides information about the employees' performance. On the other hand, it helps detect and isolate problems fast if all parts and lots installed are fully traced. It is also possible to avoid problems in the first place by recalling products.
Systematic analysis of calls also helps identify potential for improvement of processes and products. Moreover, it can give companies an idea for new service products, for example, offering specific services as a maintenance package.

For many manufacturing companies today, excellent service is the only way they can set themselves apart from their competitors. Many of them struggle to achieve this goal. One reason might be that they are engineering companies by nature and mainly focus on their products.However, offering excellent service is not rocket science. It is day-to-day work like processing materials.

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