By Al Cervero, AEM Senior Vice President of Construction, Mining and Utility

AftermarketPeople say a text message isn’t personable – especially when it’s compared to a phone call.

But in many cases, a text is more efficient. Now consider the digital economy and how it offers the potential to improve your customer relationships. Simply stated, aftermarket digitization is a game-changer when it comes to efficiency.

Developing your processes, services and replacement parts in a planned, digital environment is next to nirvana when it comes to what it offers in terms of profitability, increased revenue and customer satisfaction. Because when you improve customer satisfaction through improved uptime and reduced inefficiency, you foster a long-term partnership.

It’s often said that sales is responsible for selling the first machine, and aftermarket support sells the next one. Then why do we often make the mistake of paying less attention to the aftermarket side of our business than any other area of the company? If profit is to be gained in part sales, then why don’t we make it easier to sell more?

Once upon a time, we used to employ parts marketing folks to work alongside with distribution people to position parts in the showroom, support slow moving parts and conduct inspections. However, why don’t we make it easy for customers to order what they need when they need it? In today’s modern business environment – one defined by an Amazon-led focus on customer satisfaction – why aren’t your parts available on the web?

AEM’s Research on the Customer Journey

Two years ago, AEM partnered with management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. to shed light on the construction market’s understanding of digitization. What we found was that construction lagged behind the vast majority of industries. Now, a couple of years later, AEM and McKinsey have teamed up again to conduct additional research on the customer journey.

What did we find? Simply stated, the customer journey is fraught with dissatisfaction.

Our research found 39 percent of contractors indicate it takes too long to receive a response to a request for support. Responding to a customer’s request is everything. It makes them happy, it keeps the machine churning parts and – most importantly – it drives revenue. With that fact in mind, why does it take so long? Are your machines not connected? Are they not driving data to anticipate when a problem occurs? Is service support not pushing notifications? Are parts not online so customers can serve themselves?

Other key findings from AEM’s research conducted in partnership with McKinsey include:

  • 42 percent of customers say the availability of technicians isn’t fast enough
  • 30 percent of customers say they don’t even know the availability for a technician
  • 40 percent of customers say lack of availability drives them to seek independent sources for support

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Takeaways From AEM’s Research

So where do we go from here? I always look to the future to figure out where to go next. Then I “leapfrog,” so to speak. If I’m behind or not satisfying my customers’ needs today, I figure out how I can satisfy their demands tomorrow. “Putting out fires” is always going to be part of the equation, but I try to determine what I need to do to keep them from flaring up.

What we do know about tomorrow is a new generation of owners is on the horizon. We also know that younger generation is 2.5 times more likely to conduct third-party research and three times more likely to receive repairs through independent channels. Why? Because they are 25 percent more frustrated with time-related issues. Call it the Amazonian syndrome. The younger generation is used to looking for something online, finding what they need, ordering it, and receiving it tomorrow.

All of this begs the following question: How do you make your customers happier with faster service, more transparent information and immediate access to parts and repair data? The answer, I can assure you, is not “That’s the dealer’s job.”

Supporting your dealer and having a presence online with available parts, manuals and repair information are not divergent options. Consider the following scenario: If you order a new pair of gloves from Home Depot or a dress from Banana Republic, the order goes through and you pay for it online, and the product gets to delivered either to you or a store for pickup. Ordering online with transactions and shipment details allow you to credit your distribution and ensure your records are accurate on customer care.

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Looking Ahead

Now… leapfrog!

Are your off-board systems digitized? In other words, are your OEM and dealer service records and parts orders connected, so that every serial-numbered machine has lifetime costs with estimated failure rates by each part? Are you asking your rental company for their records so you can build your knowledge base faster?

If you have the records, you can build the knowledge base by model. You can also be predictive, thereby reducing downtime. By reducing downtime, you can improve your customer satisfaction and build trust.

That’s just the machine off-board side of improving customer satisfaction through better aftermarket support. The machine onboard side, however, holds even more value for both you and your customer. The off-board side must come first, though.

The potential exists to improve customer satisfaction, increase short-term revenue and drive long-term profitability through improved aftermarket support. More information means greater value, but in order to fully reach the benefits available for both you and your customer, it all comes down to how effectively you develop both your on-board and off-board systems.

View the published findings from AEM’s research conducted in partnership with McKinsey and Co. here, and visit aem.org/think to learn more about disruptive trends and technologies poised to impact the equipment manufacturing industry.

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