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Customer service

Single-Touch Point, Speedy Customer Care Essential in B2B

Jan. 27, 2020
Complexity in B2B necessitates specialization.

The disparity of customer service quality in business-to-consumer vs. business-to-business is becoming more noticeable. The customer service experience must evolve to match the level of customer service in the business-to-consumer world.

OEMs must address the need for speed and single-point customer care in responding to clients’ most demanding situations. This is what we are focusing on at Emerson Assembly Technologies because the approach is essential in today’s environment, especially as customer expectations have been molded by major online retailers where the experience is seamless. Speed within customer service and response times drive customer loyalty, and ultimately, growth. We are working on elevating our performance, especially in serving clients on a global scale.

One of the trends affecting this is the generational shift. As Millennials assume senior management roles, their expectations for response times have been formed by their business-to-consumer experiences. Shortened response times and a proactive approach rather than reactive become paramount. Client loyalty and brand reputation depend on it.

Clients who depend on machinery and equipment to run their businesses often have deep, long-term relationships with their OEMs. When it comes to winning new partners in the global landscape, it is necessary to create an environment where that relationship can take root and grow. Capital equipment purchases involve transactions in the five- to seven-digit range, and sometimes even higher. Companies must justify their ROIs on such purchases; it therefore becomes much more important that customer care is a seamless process. Having a hands-on, specialized, and personalized approach that considers the gravity and size of these decisions ensures loyalty.

Consider the complexity of B2B transactions vs. business-to-consumer. Our clients have problems that are complex and unique to them, stretching across several continents and time zones. Solving their issues often requires multiple teams and considerable time and effort compared to a business-to-consumer issue. Emerson is simplifying this need for speed in service via a single touch point. Helping clients realize operational efficiencies is goal number one. Single-point customer care will enable this, but it must be done through use of technology such as a unified client experience.

In any manufacturing environment, it is critical to avoid a “line down” situation. OEMs must maintain any necessary inventory and responsiveness to address it when it arises for their customers. To achieve this reality, OEMs will need to streamline customer care and ensure departments such as supply chain, aftermarket repair, quality, product development, engineering, and IT seamlessly integrate. At Emerson, we’re targeting reducing quoting times to hours and exploring how to significantly compress response times to mere hours for any client incidents.

We also are looking at how we focus on serving clients who have equipment they purchased in North America, but is installed at their factory continents away. With time zone differences, how do we focus on a customer service experience from a 24-hour time cycle? We’re using worldwide resources, including multiple customer care teams based in North America, Southeast Asia, and Europe, plus we’re getting innovative with how we use our call centers. We must be able to serve a broad variety of client needs. We can individualize how we communicate with these clients. Some people want to call and get an immediate response. They may simply want to type in a number to find out where their order is shipping from. Some people want to talk to a real-live person while others prefer e-mail or chatting online.

Our vision means that a client can be routed to a person who understands their needs. What if a client has an issue where a critical spare part is needed to repair a piece of equipment or machinery? Clients do not want to purchase a lot of spare parts, but they want their spare parts into their factory as quickly as possible. The goal is to address that specific need with speed and in one point of contact so that their operations incur little to no disruption. We are committed to working with our customers to develop the appropriate mission-critical spare parts inventory and sharing this responsibility in maintaining productivity of their equipment.

In this speed-to-market global environment, we must not overlook that humans still are driving buying decisions. There still is a person behind that computer screen, overseeing that factory or factories, and their need for quick and accurate customer service is critical. We must make that personal connection. The experience that a company provides is increasingly important.

The customer care experience in B2B has a lot of room for improvement. Next time you are buying a consumer product on an ecommerce site, think about how that experience differs from a B2B transaction. The overall ease, simplicity, and responsiveness is sorely lacking. Ecommerce anticipates consumers’ needs. Now apply that to B2B and imagine doing that for a client who needs replacement part B for equipment model C in the next five to seven days. The experience must be redesigned and elevated to meet those needs, or B2B relationships and transactions will suffer.

Chris Hartlage is director of global business development and customer service for Assembly Technologies at Emerson.

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