2021: Customer Experience the Focus of Service Makeovers

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Prioritizing the customer experience is increasing in popularity, but in doing so, vast cultural, technological, and operational changes are essential.

The pandemic has led to a year like no other, accelerating technological advancement and spurring business changes much more quickly than they were ever anticipated. But it was those businesses that showed resilience and an acceptance of change that have been able to revolutionize their service offerings. Thanks to new technologies, companies can now look to compete on providing the best possible service experience to an expectant customer base. Research conducted in lockdown showed more than two-thirds of companies compete predominantly on the basis of customer experience (CX).

Service is evolving. Businesses no longer see service as a cost center, but a means to boost profits as a key brand differentiator. Commodification and technological disruption have already encouraged a shift to service-based strategies, but ultimately, it has been the uncontrollable events of 2020 that have prompted a shift in organizational priorities.  

In the wake of COVID-19, as many as 57 percent of businesses have looked to make service-orientated changes to their business models. But the shift means altering the way in which businesses engage with customers, so I see three emerging ‘hot spots’ for businesses through the rest of the year and beyond:

Prediction #1: Moments of service made possible with robust digital infrastructures   

Businesses have generally fallen into two camps while moving virtual: those who made significant traction in digital transformation and were relieved they had, and those who had lagged behind and lacked the tools that would aid greatly business continuity and decision making. Moments of service, nimble reactions to changing business criteria, and evolving service offeringsthese all rely on a strong, cohesive digital infrastructure, and in 2021, digital innovation and investment will spike.

Data from Gartner, Inc.’s annual global survey of CIO’s 2020 reveals, “Top-performing enterprises are accelerating digital innovation and leveraging emerging technologies to come out stronger on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has arguably been the most significant ‘turn’ in 2020.”

An IFS study of more than 3,000 executives who weighed in on their organization’s plans to invest in technologies, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, and morefound that over 50 percent plan to increase spend on digital transformation initiatives.

Prediction #2: Customer experience demands dominate servitization plans

Servitization, a simple concept—product manufacturers compete on service offerings rather than commoditized productsbut in reality, a monumental and time-consuming shift in how a business thinks, sells, performs, and delivers.

However, COVID has brought together several forces that will make strides toward servitization, including greater customer intimacycompanies have learned more about how customers operate, which inevitably leads to additional opportunities to provide value and address customer needs. Manufacturing companies have seen a heightened interest in service offerings, with customers wanting to maximize the lifespan of their current equipment. As such, they have become increasingly open to subscription models and premier service offerings.

Setting a service example for an improved customer experience

Munters, a global leader in air treatment solutions, is on its own servitization journey. With the help of IoT, AI, and remote assistance to deliver a seamless CX, technicians now use digital tools to collaborate remotely with third-line support and its customers. Not only has this reduced the need for on-site visits, but it improved the quality of service and met the demand for more digital solutions.

Prediction #3: Enhanced connectivity, at the root of success

Remote service capabilities have been the most sought-after for providing business continuity as travel bans, and quarantine restrictions came into place. But in 2021, the concept of field service will be replaced with one of “anywhere service.” As remote service takes hold and becomes the standard first line of defense, we’ll realize that the initial service visit can be done from anywhere.

Leading with a remote-first approach provides far faster response times, increases the odds of the remote resolution, and improves first-time fix rates because of advanced insights. Remote service empowers the customer by engaging them in the service process, and it empowers technicians by eliminating unnecessary trips and travel time, allowing them to better leverage their expertise—a huge leap towards more strategic service.

Customer experience tops the list of future priorities

As service continues to become more strategic, organizations will soon recognize the business potential it holds, including long-lasting customer relationships and amplified revenue streams. Prioritizing CX is increasing in popularity, but in doing so, vast cultural, technological, and operational changes are essential to see the potential thrive. Throughout the rest of the year, we’ll see how navigating the pandemic results in a leap forward to exponentially speed the service evolution in the coming years.

Sarah Nicastro

About Sarah Nicastro

Sarah Nicastro is Field Service Evangelist at IFS and the Future of Field Service. She has extensive experience covering the trends, technologies, and business drivers that significantly impact service-based businesses. Prior to joining IFS to create Future of Field Service, Sarah spent more than a decade as the Editor-in-Chief of Field Technologies Online. Sarah is passionate about helping service leaders share their trials and triumphs through interviews on the Future of Field Service podcast, as well as bringing the IFS customer community together to collaborate, share best practices, and contribute valuable VoC (voice of the customer) back into IFS.

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