5 tips for data-driven after-sales management

Published: 2022-05-09 Updated: 2022-08-30
Subject: Manufacturers Identify spare parts Order spare parts Sell spare parts

Monetizing data in after-sales is a major challenge - but one that also brings major benefits for the machinery and plant engineering industry. Data is the stabilizer for sales and ensures an all-around positive customer experience.

Tip 1: Get an overview

Data can only be monetized if it is visible and available. Before machine builders develop new business models, they must first analyze the old ones. So take a close look at your processes:

  • Where in the company does data occur and where is it stored?
  • What types of data are generated?
  • Who works with the data?
  • How has the data been used so far?
  • What data has been evaluated and used in after-sales to date?
  • Which data brings benefits for customers?

Once the status quo has been analyzed, you can think ahead: What data is still missing and how can this data be obtained (for example, using sensors in machines and systems)? And the most important question: Where should the data converge in the future so that everyone in the company can draw insights from it?

Tip 2: Prepare your processes

By monetizing data, manufacturers want to increase their revenue. To ensure that growth isn't eaten up by rising costs, the processes around your data need to be as lean as possible.

This has several advantages:

  • The leaner a process is, the smoother and faster it works - which not only reduces costs, but also increases customer satisfaction. After all, the more efficiently their problems are solved, the better their processes run.
  • Smooth processes and clear data make life easier for service technicians. They can immediately find all the spare parts and information they are looking for and often only have to visit a customer's plant once to rectify faults or carry out maintenance.
  • Well-functioning after-sales processes ensure that customers get answers to their questions more quickly. This relieves the burden on your service hotline. This gives after-sales staff more time to offer customers even better service. Both the stress of your employees and internal costs are significantly reduced.

Tip 3: Help customers help themselves

If your internal processes are structured and data-based, you can consider an after-sales portal. This is a service portal where plant operators can view the data you prepare themselves.

In this way, customers can quickly find relevant information without your service staff having to invest time. Combined with e-commerce functions, this creates a 24/7 sales channel through which your products sell almost by themselves.

Example: Spare parts are an important factor for increased sales in after-sales. In a digital service information system, a plant operator can easily identify the right spare part himself. 3D or 2D visualizations, an extensive text search, or QR codes on the machine help the customer in his search. In addition, he can find suitable additional information directly for each spare part, for example from maintenance and operating instructions. In combination with a store, the customer can order the required part with just a few clicks - around the clock and from anywhere.

Tip 4: Think outside the box

When setting up data-driven after-sales management, machine and plant manufacturers should not forget their employees and partners.

  • Every process that is internally enriched with data or newly set up must always be viewed from the perspective of customers and partners.
  • If new processes are not compatible with old partners, solutions must be found so as not to jeopardize cooperation.
  • The shift to digital services in mechanical engineering means an enormous change for many stakeholders. Therefore, communicate both internally and externally why the monetization of data will become part of the corporate strategy in the future.
  • Talk to employees and partners about fears and expectations so that digitization in after-sales becomes a joint task and not a spectre.

Tip 5: Start small

The transformation from after-sales service to digitized after-sales management cannot happen overnight, nor should it turn your entire workflows upside down. Instead, focus on pilot projects and identify the early adopters with an affinity for digital among your customers. With them, you can gain initial experience and then continue to digitize your after-sales step by step.

Summary - this is how digitization succeeds in after-sales management:

  • Identify relevant data and define goals and key performance indicators
  • develop a data strategy that is embedded in the after-sales strategy
  • Think from the customer's point of view - data can only be monetized if it offers added value for customers
  • Select tools that harness data and optimize processes
  • Get all internal and external stakeholders and all departments involved.

Why should machine builders leverage the competitive factor of data now?

An IIoT study found that new technologies have rarely been used in machine building to create new business models. Predictive maintenance, for example, is only used by around 27% of respondents to build new services for customers.

The situation is even more meager when it comes to monetizing the company's own data, which only 25% are currently implementing. Product-as-a-service models, such as the self-service portals described above, exist in only 22% of companies.

The reason for this is that data-based business models in mechanical engineering and all other industries require a lot of time and good planning. It is therefore all the more important for machine and plant manufacturers to start early. Otherwise, you'll have to watch your competitors overtake you and snatch sales from under your nose.

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