After-sales services are an important component of customer loyalty in the manufacturing industry. They enable quality assurance of the purchased machines and products through spare parts, maintenance and updates. In addition to user contact, they thus represent an important source of revenue for manufacturing companies. Today, manufacturers of machines, systems and devices offer their users a wide range of information and service via so-called B2B portals.
The customer experience: personalized, digital experiences for different user groups
Digital factory: machinery and assets, installed base management, machine files, maintenance history and documentation
After-sales processes: automation of business and after-sales processes (upgrades and conversions)
Spare parts management: automation of purchase and delivery processes, commerce integration, machine-specific obsolescence analysis and management
Use of IoT data: MindSphere, Azure, AWS and in-house developments
Integration of third-party systems such as SAP, DocWare, CRM (e.g. Salesforce), Commerce, DMS, PLM and Customer Service
In addition, users can usually independently maintain data, download invoices, provide feedback and receive an overview of instruction and training courses as well as further information on product innovations.
Virtual assistants take after-sales portals to a new level
Companies face the challenge of constantly growing user expectations in terms of efficiency, digitization and the customer experience: Offers need to be personalized, enable comfortable access quickly and from anywhere. Static self-service portals do not always meet this requirement – especially in regard to individual services. Users tend to consult Customer Service personally particularly for personal inquiries. This costs time and money not only for the user, but also the company.
Integrated digital chat assistants in B2B aftersales portals, on the other hand, respond precisely to this need and enable an automated proactive approach to users. But not every classic chat is able to interactively enter into dialogue with users and thus intervene in processes. This requires a sophisticated system and artificial intelligence. If the technical requirements for digital assistants have been clarified, manufacturers can save a lot of time and resources. And it opens up new, digital touchpoints with users and thus diverse opportunities in the areas of marketing and support.
Proactive digital customer service thanks to artificial intelligence
How do digital assistants work? Why are they an e-service integration?
First of all to the technical background: Users with their companies as well as the associated data and product information are registered on after-sales portals. The evaluation of this data enables the creation of a user profile on the basis of artificial intelligence. Using algorithms, the purchase and user behavior as well as dialogues that has taken place so far are analyzed and stored in the user profile. Digital assistants integrated in the after-sales platforms take over the individual approach of the user in the form of a chat and respond specifically to the analyzed needs. From a technical point of view, this can result in an automated service and consulting offer.
Now to the practical side of things: How exactly does this automated offer work in practice? An example of this is the proactive approach to necessary maintenance – because the purchase date and maintenance history of machines are already stored. It is also possible to offer instruction and training courses. References to updates or further relevant information are also conceivable. And finally, service can go beyond the mere exchange of information; for example, if users want to receive offers tailored to them personally and request individual information about their machines. Intelligent chat systems can even take over the execution of functions in the dialog; for example, if a user makes a request to book an appointment, the chatbot can book it directly or perform other requests.
Chat assistants optimize the customer experience
How do digital dialogues improve customer experience? The digital assistant recognizes that a specific user is logging in via the respective user ID and retrieves the associated information such as the user’s name, industry, search history or purchases. The chatbot then starts the chat. If the customer responds to the address, a natural dialogue is created in which the bot provides information, recommendations and individual advice to the user or provides simple explanations. This enables a seamless and most comfortable customer experience.
Hybrid forms are also possible: If customers need more specific information, employees are informed by the intelligent chatbot in order to either take over the chat conversation or to contact the user personally. Digital assistants thus map live processes or live interactions and ensure long-term customer loyalty and greater customer proximity.
Virtual assistants in after-sales portals: The benefits at a glance
Customer self-services accelerate and automate business processes through efficient search, consulting and purchase processes. They enable a decisive improvement of daily processes within companies and open up new opportunities for increasing success. Companies can significantly improve the customer experience by the integration of chat assistants and the proactive approach to users: Unlike traditional chatbots, virtual assistants do not only help with questions about the current purchase decision. They provide information – by applying their knowledge of the stored information on the basis of the individual user profile – on other relevant topics and can carry out simple requests directly. You can thus provide a truly customized service. This pays off, also when it comes to ongoing service costs: integrating a self-learning assistant reduces these and is able to continuously acquire a growing level of knowledge.
Located in Stuttgart, Germany, Tim is our local German CEO and CRO for the global Mimacom company. He is a passionate leader with a focus on Sales and Marketing.