The opportunity to better serve customers is driving greater interest in IIoT remote monitoring and predictive servicing solutions.
In any industry it is a proven fact that customers who are loyal remain with you for longer, spend more on your goods and services, and have less of a cost impact when compared to acquiring new customers.
Yet so many businesses focus on slick sales and marketing activities for customer acquisition, only to lose them once acquired.
If the ideal outcome is years of customer loyalty, how do you breed this in your customer base? One part of the answer is to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience.
A designated customer service champion
Finding faster and smarter ways to pre-empt and address the needs of your customers is a priority. Consultant and Author Joseph Michelli who studied businesses that displayed excellent customer service in his book Prescription for Excellence, identifies that to be successful a business needs “an executive, preferable in the top echelon, overseeing all aspects of the customer experience and ensuring a systematic approach.”
For many smaller companies though, a spare executive may not be on hand to exclusively spearhead the much needed architecting of the customer experience.
But all is not lost. Where a designated “customer service champion” may be lacking in your team, leveraging IIoT technology may be a way forward. While deploying IIoT technology is not a silver bullet, it can help in some specific areas. One such area is the consumables-to-customer sector.
Finding faster and smarter ways to pre-empt and address the needs of your customers is a priority.
Avoiding run-to-empty scenarios that destroy customer loyalty
For companies selling consumables, the worst case scenario is a customer running out of that consumable at a crucial time. The consequences of which could range from an annoying inconvenience (running out of printer ink) to a life threatening situation (heating oil deliveries in Chicago during a Polar Vortex). A “run-to-empty” scenario is massively damaging for your customer and your company alike.
With the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) there is real opportunity for companies that regularly supply consumables to customers to leverage remote monitoring to mitigate this scenario, and to learn more about their customer’s consumption habits.
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Reshaping the idea of customer service
Today, we often associate customer service with picking up the phone to call a company’s service agent. This phone call can take some (considerable) time: first we have to navigate automated screening systems, then spend a frustrating amount of time on hold and when we finally do speak to a human being we don’t always get the issue sorted first time.
But what if the reverse was true? What if you received call from the customer service department informing you that you are running low and declaring an estimated run-to-empty date? Or perhaps just a notification via the app informing you that a delivery has already been dispatched to replenish your supply. This example of predictive customer service is increasingly becoming a reality.
Automated consumables replenishment avoids disappointing your customers and the subsequent damage to your reputation.
The old way
- Replenishment request received from the customer
- Procurement of the item from the warehouse
- Scheduling of delivery and delivery route planning in line with other customer requests
- Customer Delivery
The challenges to business faced by the old way:
- For customers to be aware that they are running low, they need to establish how much of the consumable is remaining. This may require external inspection and the customer finding the time to make this inspection.
- Customers need to understand their consumption habits to estimate how long their remaining supply will last so they can schedule a new delivery. Few, if any will recall the last time they called to with a replenishment request, let alone those in the last 12 months.
- Customers may not be able to raise a replenishment request at an obvious point (e.g. when a tank is half-full) due to capacity and minimum delivery quantities. E.g. Minimum order for a water deliver may be 10,000 liters. Customers with a 15,000 liter tank can’t reorder when half empty as their tank does not have the capacity to accommodate a 10k delivery.
- Unfortunately, some customers don’t realize there are running low until they’re completely out.
- Customers may have meant to make a replenishment request earlier but got distracted, busy or just plain forgot. Delays in making a request further increases run-to-empty risk.
The seamless supply of consumables without the customer needing to pick up the phone is a huge step forward.
Predictive servicing via IIoT remote monitoring leads the way.
- A sensor installed at the customer’s location measures current levels and this is visualized via an app to provide at-a-glance levels to the customer without external inspection.
- The publishing of user data to the Cloud over time builds a picture of the users consumption habits, trends and points of dire need.
- Notifications within the remote monitoring app can alert customers when the consumable falls below a set level, boosting awareness.
- IoT remote monitoring integrates with the consumables supplier’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system so replenishment is automatically procured and scheduled for delivery.
Delivering massive value
Many innovative businesses have already adopted predictive service and replenishment. Service agents monitor the incoming data from customer devices and action replenishment accordingly.
The seamless supply of consumables without the customer needing to pick up the phone is a huge step forward. Imagine: no more phone calls to call centers, no more being left to dangle on hold, no more “you are number 26 in the queue”.
In the eyes of the customer you are delivering huge value by removing the onus normally placed on them and instead are proactively taking care of them, sometimes replenishing before they even realize it is required. Predictive servicing is the new gold standard in customer service. Of course, the customer also does not mind paying a little extra for this peace of mind.