It is not uncommon for the use of technology to be seen as a contradiction to the human component. The fear is that with the digital transformation of the customer service the personal competence and the know-how of the service coworkers on the line will remain. However, the use of service portals can create exactly the freedom that employees need to be able to optimally support their customers individually. At the same time, the customer experience can be significantly improved.
Service in the customer experience decisive
Although the term “customer experience” is often associated with digital solutions, it is nothing new. Even offline, these customer experiences have been and still are a constant source of important customer support and service. Anyone who has ever spent a long time in a seemingly endless telephone waiting loop or in the real sales room of a company has waited a perceived eternity to be allowed to bring forward his concerns, knows the problem. Not to mention whether the answer and the solution of the company corresponded to their own ideas.
Especially in the B2B business, this means a waste of precious working hours and thus unproductive costs for your own company. In addition, such experiences cause personal energy losses and negative customer experiences. The customer experience suffers massively.
Service portals avoid pitfalls of the off-roaders
Here, service portals serve as a central touchpoint to the customer. There are no endless waiting loops or queues waiting for the customer, but ideally a customer-oriented usability that consistently aligns with the needs of the customer.
Online forms, warranty claims, material orders, replacement devices – all conceivable cases can be offered in the service portal, compared with your own customer, order and device data and pre-filled for the customer as needed. This results in tremendous time savings both on the supplier side and on the customer side. And that regardless of the day of the week and the time, 24/7. The customers are happy, the customer experience is improving, the customer loyalty and the reputation of the company as a service-oriented, customer-friendly company are strengthened.
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Turnover is increasing with digital service solutions
Implementing a digital service portal requires in the first step an exact time and financial planning. However, this is paying off in particular with regard to cross-selling and up-selling potential, as the Forrester study “Online And Mobile Are Transforming B2B Commerce” shows: out of 353 B2B companies surveyed, 54 percent better help their customers a digital service solution. For the B2B companies, which make more than 25 percent of their turnover online, it is even 78 percent. In addition, digital service portals can increase sales. With a clear and complete list of services, customers are more likely to become aware of other matching products or services (57 percent), buy bundled service packages (50 percent), and order more frequently (54 percent). The willingness to make new purchases or upgrades also increases significantly with a digital service solution (51 percent).
Make customer support tangible at every touchpoint
With the establishment of a digital customer portal, for example, the agricultural machinery manufacturer Horsch was faced with the task of making the success factor customer support a positive customer experience online at every touchpoint on the customer journey.
In the service portal, which is the “entrance to Horsch”, all service-relevant data can be called up according to the dealer. All routine tasks, such as warranty claims, can be performed easily and quickly by the dealers themselves. For this purpose, the service portal was designed on the basis of SAP Commerce and seamlessly integrated into the SAP ERP system. The frontend optimized on HORSCH processes increases the positive user experience here. The transfer of the customer experience was achieved in this way. The portal is well received by the Horsch dealers and thus strengthens customer loyalty in the future as well.
According to a study by the German Customer Service Association, 92 percent of companies expect a huge change in the service model in terms of digitalization as a result of customer feedback and technology trends. This shows that service portals across all industries are an issue for almost all companies. The majority of respondents are increasingly independent of location-based and data-based services. But on the customer side, too, the majority of customers worldwide have already accepted the new digital possibilities. Wholly 70 percent of customers worldwide use at least one digital channel to service after sales services. 41 percent of these customers use mobile devices for access. Currently it is probably much more. However, according to the study, 84 percent of customers attach importance to a preliminary diagnosis by a competent contact person, so that a quick problem solution is guaranteed.
However, this can only succeed with the help of good data foundation and management. This also corresponds to the customer request. Because for 83 percent of the customers an efficient management of their data on the part of the service provider is a clearly expressed wish. Consistent service across all channels, both online and offline, is also assumed by the majority of customers.
More transparency and autonomous data management
Another benefit of digital transformation of customer service is what is needed in the digital world when companies want to build customer confidence: transparency.
A digital customer portal allows customers to view all data stored about them online. All processes become so comprehensible. And if necessary, the customer can make changes to the data themselves. Thus, the customer becomes the autonomous administrator of his own data and at the same time saves the time-consuming search in files or his own digital documents.
The personal address becomes more individual
The question quickly arises as to whether the customer’s personal autonomy, customer-driven service inquiries or automatic reorders will not be the source of personal contact from the company to the customer. The danger exists only if companies do not realize that exempting routine activities such as warranty claims or order acceptance opens up new leeway that should be used to retain customers and attract new customers. The efficiency gains enable the customer service and field service staff to be more attentive to customers and to advise them so that they feel well looked after.
Digitalization always means a change in staffing and a reorganization of job profiles. Personal attributes such as social skills and problem-solving abilities come to the fore again, while the standardized office activities are increasingly being transferred to the algorithms of the service portal. That this will be the trend for the coming years, predicts the current study “21 Marketing Jobs of the Future” of the Center for the Future of Work. The study shows that in addition to technical affinity and technology orientation, empathy will be a salient feature for the marketing jobs of the future.
Job profiles change
For companies, this means less emphasis on saving employees and therefore on costs. Instead, from my point of view, the opportunity should be seized to make better use of employee potential. Through the digital transformation of customer service, careers are enriched and enhanced by new, more sophisticated content. Conversely, this also means that the employees must have the willingness to develop further. Businesses should support and promote this through appropriate training opportunities. All this will ultimately improve the customer experience noticeably. The result is more customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This enables companies to better position themselves on the market and achieve tangible competitive advantages.
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Robert Geppert is Chief Customer Officer (COO) at the SAP consultancy SYBIT based in Radolfzell am Bodensee.