Gain loyalty with after-sales support

Author Cutting Tool Engineering
August 02,2018 - 03:45am

Effective aftermarket support is an opportunity. If done poorly, it can lead to unnecessarily lengthy downtime—for example, through the slow delivery of replacement parts, which costs both the vendor and customer. Loyalty, money and reputation are all at stake.

It’s been argued that manufacturers are becoming more and more like service companies and any line between the two is becoming harder to draw. Many articles have recommended that manufacturing companies invest in a high-performing customer service team to better meet customers’ needs that previously may have been neglected.

I work in aftermarket support, and in many ways I am now tasked with much of the responsibility of selling our machines, a role that traditionally sat with sales and marketing. I say this because the most effective way to build customer loyalty is by providing excellent aftermarket support—in other words, by being agile and responding quickly to customer requests. When we asked our customers, after-sales support was by far the No. 1 priority.

Wayne Drysdale (second from left), global after-sales manager at ANCA. Image courtesy of ANCA

Technology is transforming how a traditional customer service team operates, with remote diagnostics and preventive maintenance fast becoming the norm. This technology shift has made having a quality service team paramount to customers’ success, ensuring they minimize machine downtime and maximize production efficiencies.

An obvious place to focus on is after-sales service—for example, by providing effective troubleshooting advice, education and training on how to get the most from a purchase or by finding better ways to supply replacement parts if they are needed.

Service offerings at manufacturers can increase revenue, provide differentiation from competitors and increase customer loyalty.

Machine tool buyers increasingly expect things like around-the-clock, unmanned operation and remote diagnostics. A machine breakdown is a critical issue, and around-the-clock responses to such an issue are expected.

As technology enables better use of an asset, it also enables better service when there are challenges. At ANCA, this means offering remote diagnostics and responding to error codes. Remotely logging on to a customer’s machine to explore problems is also possible. But we need to continue to offer face-to-face support to customers as well to “up-skill” them so they get the best use from their investment.

We have an installed base worldwide of more than 6,000 machines, some older than 20 years. Customer service means responding swiftly to issues and involves a lifetime of support for an asset regardless of time zones or remoteness.

For all manufacturing companies, the future brings challenges but also many exciting possibilities. This includes internet-of-things concepts for customer support and, through sophisticated analytics, providing better information to customers about how their assets are being used. The increasing importance of services is likely to continue. Technology will provide new and better ways of solving customers’ problems.

The following are five tips for how to deliver great customer service:

1. Be responsive. It’s important to respond quickly to all inquiries, even if only to say you are looking into the issue and will get back to the customer. There is nothing worse than nonresponsiveness to a customer trying to get help. Customer-support response times can dictate how a client perceives a company and can affect the overall customer experience. Keeping customers informed in a timely manner by answering phone calls and responding to emails within a reasonable time frame is essential to great customer service.

2. Ask for feedback. You may be surprised by what you learn about customers’ needs when you ask them what they think of your business, products and services. Excellent customer service often comes down to consistently checking in with customers and making sure they are happy with your products and services. Just remember to use the feedback you receive to make improvements where needed.

3. Commit to continuous improvement. Ask yourself at the end of the day, “What is one thing I will do tomorrow to make my business better?”

4. Invest in great people. The quality of customer service will never exceed the quality of the people providing it. If you plan to outperform the competition, plan on investing heavily in a team that can deliver. Treat employees well, as there is a distinct correlation between the quality of after-sales service and customer intent to

5. Be a good listener. Take time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Our customers are the reason we are still in business, and our job is to serve them to the best of our ability. Good customer service starts with a genuine desire to delight your

Wayne Drysdale, global after-sales manager  at ANCA Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, Australia