Most manufacturers and distributors don’t place enough focus on driving customer loyalty. Sure, if you are a manufacturer, you want repeat business, but where customers get the most frustrated is the same area that often isn’t very profitable for you. The service department!

The key to creating more customer loyalty is to make your service department beneficial to both you and your customers.

#1. Make your services calls more proactive.

If you wait for your customers to call you, it is highly likely they are also going to call 2 or 3 other service providers to compare costs and timing to get a service rep out on site. Right out of the gate, you’ve put yourself in a competitive spot when you don’t need to be.

If you are servicing a business account, your customer is also highly likely to be frustrated by the impact they’re experiencing on production, productivity and profitability.
Instead, you can increase customer loyalty by offering regularly scheduled service calls (like visiting the dentist every 6 months) or by using sensors to determine when equipment needs maintenance. By being proactive, you can avoid competitive bidding and you can help reduce customer and employee stress associated with last minute fire drills which can increase productivity and profitability for both you and your client.

#2. Turn your services “cost center” into a “profit center” by adding more value.

As a manufacturer, you are often obligated to fix and maintain the equipment you sell. The question is: How can you make money on your services while adding value to your customers? The answer may be to offer your customers Service Level Agreements. Traditional SLAs provide an uptime and response time guarantee for a set recurring fee…but that’s just a starting point. Modern SLA’s go beyond that by providing tremendous value to your customers, while creating a differentiator for your business – and a new revenue stream for your services.

Using IoT (Internet of Things) and modern field service software, you can build remote monitoring into your SLA services. By combining remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and proactive asset management, your customers will see greater uptime and be able to extend the life of their machinery. You move from reactive to proactive, which gives you the ability to optimize your resource scheduling and improve overall utilization. Plus, you get predictable, repeatable revenue. Your customer is happy, and you add more value than ever. It’s a win-win!

#3. Differentiate using customer service & field service technology.

Internet of Things. Big Data. Mobile. Technology is advancing rapidly, and the advantage goes to the companies who embrace it.

Let’s go back to the last point about adding value. The key to offering more value at lower cost is allowing technology to do the heavy lifting. Your Internet of Things devices can tell you when a machine is overheating. Your predictive analytics / big data analysis will tell you the average number of run hours until a machine needs maintenance. Your mobile field service solution will enable field workers to pull up a customer record and see the entire customer history and exactly what level of service they are entitled to receive. Without technology, the effort is too time-consuming and error-prone.

If you’re still running your business on Excel spreadsheets and paper (and we see lots of manufacturers who still are!), ask yourself what it’s costing you to save the expense. Are you churning through customers? Missing revenue opportunities? And/or losing customer loyalty? Almost all of the next points in this list can be done with or without technology – but the customer experience will be far superior and more consistent when you leverage a service management solution like those included in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service.

#4. Keep the customer informed.

Almost everyone has experienced this in their personal life. The cable guy says he’ll come at 10a.m…. and it’s 2:00 p.m. and he’s still not there. You’ve got a million things to do at work, yet you’re stuck at home, waiting…That’s frustrating!

Now imagine how your customer must feel when they are waiting to receive parts or a critical repair on a machine so they can start assembly. If you aren’t keeping them informed on shipping and delivery dates – or on service windows – they don’t know the best way to proceed.

Customer expectations have risen dramatically over the last decade – and they continue to rise. Everyone expects to have a Fedex type of experience, knowing exactly where their package is along the route – even when they aren’t paying Fedex prices.

Create business procedures and systems, such as customer portals and mobile apps, that can be used to send customers alerts or give them easy access to information when they need. Ask customers their preference of how they would like to receive alerts. Do they want an email or a text? Automate the process as much as possible so your customer is always in the know.

#5. Know the history. Come prepared.

Scheduling parts, people and resources can be a complicated, time-consuming process…but it doesn’t have to be. Technology can help put the right people and parts on the right job. You can make sure the technician is properly credentialed and that the truck has the right parts. You can even optimize routing based on urgency and geography. If forms can be accessed from a mobile device, you’ll never again have to worry about not bringing the right paperwork.

Use a system like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service and be sure everyone in your company knows all customer interactions. Access this information from the web or from mobile device apps online or offline and save loads of time searching for information. Has this customer been calling repeatedly and complaining? Do they have a large outstanding balance in accounting? Have they had 5 service reps out there before you? Or have they been working with a sales rep to make a large purchase? Knowing this information will guide how your field staff engage with the customer.

Seize the opportunity

Many manufacturers have fallen behind in adopting technology and building customer loyalty. This gives you, as an evolved manufacturer who embraces technology, a golden opportunity to seize market share.

Written By: Will Moseley

Adam Jenkins

Author Adam Jenkins

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