Your customer is king. And he should remain so as long as the purchased product is in use! This is exactly where digital after-sales comes into play.
By having purchased products, machines, or special components for the manufacturing industry registered online in a customer portal, manufacturers remain closely connected with their customers. This creates a long-lasting after-sales relationship that benefits all sides.
After-sales is one of the cornerstones in business growth and profitability for manufacturers nowadays. Getting this critical area digitized means changing (often smoothly running) but complex processes, taking down silos, integrating IT-systems and overcoming the channel conflict. If manufacturers are up to that, a lot of potential is available.
This article shares 5 tips on how manufacturers can leverage the after-sales phase:
- Digital After-Sales with apps
- Predictive Maintenance as constant revenue stream in after-sales
- Personalized after-sales products and content
- After-Sales services
- Up- and cross-sell opportunities in after-sales
After-sales is a critical phase in the B2B customer lifecycle
The after-sales business, such as selling spare parts, consumables and services, often more than double the value of the initial investment of the machine. Besides that after-sales revenue is a major part of a company's profitability.
The after-sales is oftentimes the starting point for the purchase of a new machine as well, because the old one is repaired one last time or no longer suits all the business needs. If manufacturers are aware of what their customers are planning in their future, after-sales is a tool to boost customer loyalty by optimized customer experience and essential to maximizing customer lifetime value.
There is a clear 5-step path on how manufacturers can provide their customers with such an after-sales portal: “The digital channel always starts with an information portal, for example, a homepage with product information. Extend it later with commerce functionality, which then profits from precise digital product data. To really step up, you can evolve this into an information, ordering and service portal, which is personalized to each customer after login. The future could be a smart portal with intelligent services, that run proactively or predictive.“
Once established, such a digital after-sales portal should provide real-time information of all installed machines and their status. The machine operator would easily find support for the issue without knowing internal processes of the underlying supply chain – from having a detailed list of spare parts for exactly that machine to the status of wearables or the booking of a service technician.
This is how manufacturers can benefit from digital after-sales:
Digital after-sales with apps
Manufacturers can provide customers with an app to support them in their daily tasks. This way, they can receive proactive push notifications, e.g. when the next inspection is due or when the stock of a material falls below a certain limit. The required items can then be reordered directly via the app.
Predictive maintenance as constant revenue stream in after-sales
Acquired customer data can be linked with real-time sensor data provided by the machines (these are mostly physical data such as acoustics, vibration, coil speed, energy consumption and temperature) and process data (number of pieces, thickness, location). From here it's only a small step to predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance is transforming the spare parts market. Machines automatically order the required parts from their suppliers. This means that spare parts can always be kept in stock just as they are needed. For your customers, this reduces inventory costs as expensive parts and materials no longer have to be kept in stock for long. For the manufacturer, such a subscription is a constant stream of revenue as well as a strengthening of the customer loyalty.
Personalized after-sales products and content
Manufacturers usually sell specialized machines or components. In a digital after-sales portal, customers can register their machines and keep track of customizations or add-ons. As digital twins, they see them at a glance and order the right spare parts as needed. In the best case, specific user roles are defined so that only authorized persons can place and approve orders.
Also, a different production batch or customization of a machine may result in one spare part fitting and another not, making the exact installed base essential. So, when purchasing a spare part for service or repair, customers need to be provided with exact aftermarket information.
The after-sales portal is also a place to offer your customers additional material to their machines, such as security bulletins, manuals, video tutorials or brochures of new products.
Digital after-sales services
If components or machines are linked to various departments, suppliers, service agents in a digital after-sales portal, your customers are enabled to prepare or complete many tasks on their own.
Typical B2B after-sales services are:
- Online incident management (error on delivery, defective item …)
- Online return management
- Delivery tracking
- Online follow-up of inquiries (sales team, customer service …)
- Online booking of maintenance service
- Checkup of machine health
Up- and cross-sell opportunities in after-sales
Digital after-sales not only maintains and improves customer satisfaction. It's an excellent way to bring additional offers of new and complementary products into play or to offer own services. This way, manufacturers have an additional, permanent revenue channel even long after the actual product sale.
With up-selling, manufacturers offer higher-level products than the one the customer has selected. This an be done by (pop-up) banners in the shopping basket or on the product detail pages of articles that have newer versions.
Cross-selling, on the other hand, is a typical after-sales strategy, for you offer additional products the customer should be interested in. With those additional products you can strengthen the already established customer relationship. Think about branded protective gear, product bundles, maintenance services, or a subscription to consumables the chosen machine doesn't run without.
How can the aftermarket be digitalized?
When purchasing a spare part for service or repair, customers need to be provided with accurate aftermarket information. We have a whitepaper that discusses the importance of a tight integration of an aftermarket PIM and a digital customer portal with personalization strategies. Download now!