These days, the lines are well and truly blurred between products and services. Good service in itself has become the sellable product, especially in the tech industry. What matters most is producing value to your customers.

In America today, more than 70 percent of wealth created comes from providing services, and the shift from goods to services is likely to continue. “Our future prosperity is not going to come from buying more stuff, but from doing more for each other,” says an industry insider. “What we really care about when we purchase a product is not only the thing itself, but the stream of services it can provide us.” This is particular relevant to our IT reseller industry, where good customer service as a reseller and as a supplier or distributor is essential in a fast-paced and highly competitive marketplace.

Good service represents the added value to the product you are selling, and sometimes the choice between similar products will be made based on this reputable and enhanced level of service. Therefore the service also becomes a sellable product.

Like many industries who are experiencing a crossover of sectors, in the tech world the lines are rapidly becoming blurred and we are seeing multiple industry sector crossovers, where Products, Sales, Client Support and Customer Relationship Management become seamless - and valuable and saleable service is key.

David Landsman, Executive Director of Tata, talks about the new value chains being created and enabled by technology innovation. He says that technology in various forms, including big data, is helping to blur the boundaries between manufacturing, products and services, as both the demands of business and the pace of technological change make asset-light models more attractive to both suppliers and customers. This is challenging our perception as to what is a traditional manufacturing company. 'Look no further than Automotive where we see the battle between potential disruptive new entrants, and establish player redefining their business:  So, just as Google aspires to become part of the automotive sector, so companies like Jaguar Land Rover are rapidly becoming part of the IT sector.’

Quoting an article in this regard, he went on to make the case that we have to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by this shift in thinking; we have to change our own paradigm. We are in the midst of a shift that is far more radical and far reaching than an evolutionary process. What we are really talking about is the re-invention of how we perceive manufacturing, production and the role of services.

Businesses need to be agile and adapt to the changing landscape driven by technology, and respond to the ‘on demand’ era – and at the same time take advantage of the new opportunities to stand out from your competitors. This is especially relevant when it comes to the services we provide where they back up the manufacturing and production process, the provision of products and services surrounding these. This is every bit as relevant for big business as it is for any business size. And it doesn’t need to take much to adapt to new technologies available.

INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY & DEEP LEARNING IN PRODUCT AND SERVICES SUPPORT

How can we make a significant leap in our day-to-day business of providing products and services to our customers? With the emergence of deep learning and AI, this is also shaping the way we support our customers on multiple fronts. It is no longer linear, conventional – rather it needs to fit in with their daily lives and it needs to feel immediate and effective. As examples of this, Live chat and chatbots are just two of the technologies available to businesses that are continuously developing as more deep learning takes place.

Live chat

Live chat technology has been around for a while. And while customers increasingly demand immediate attention, businesses have been relatively slow to adopt a live chat strategy.

Nowadays, consumer expectations of customer service have reached new heights—providing support via phone and email has become the default standard for most companies. To differentiate your business and improve the customer experience, it’s important to also give your customers access to on-demand support. “How do you make sure your customers are getting their needs addressed as quickly as possible? Enter: live chat support,” says Zendesk. While chat may seem like yet another complicated channel to install and manage, in reality, implementing live chat software is easy and effective, and beneficial to your customers.

Live chat fills that void, providing an immediate line of communication to get customers’ questions answered without leaving the page or picking up another device. It allows customers to multitask and carry on with other things while waiting for a live chat reply ‘ping’; it provides chat logs for factual recall and transparency, as well as a point of reference in case any future issues arise. It also stores the chat so that the customer doesn’t have to repeat their issue. There is the opportunity of offering customer service and support 24/7, reducing response times and backlogged requests.

Live chat also comes at no cost to your customer, unlike being put on hold for long periods of time when calling a support hotline. It also cost-saving to a business and gives the opportunity to gather important data, giving an additional layer to current data tracking and attributions.

Explore live chat options that will best suit your needs and use it in a creative and beneficial way, both to your customers and for your business and any potential future sales too.

Chatbots

Chatbots are the new frontline for customer service in many industries, reducing the impact and number of human agents, and helping businesses save significant money in the process. “However, experiences with chatbots have so far failed to meet expectations. Often conversations with bots can lack flow, they can feel clunky and they often fail to resolve the central issues at hand,” says one research report.

Making use of chatbots brings with it a good few challenges, and they aren’t always customer-friendly or well received by customers at this stage in their evolution. One of the first challenges is ‘bot-speak’ where there is a distinct lack of personality and conversational flow. When engaging with bots, people don’t need to feel as if they’re interacting with a human, but they do need to feel as if they’re being heard. Even though they know they are engaging with a bot, people still need to feel they are experiencing empathy. So, for those writing code for chatbots, it is to bear this in mind and put themselves in the user’s shoes to try and avoid any frustrations and pain points – and to design to create bots to appear intelligent.

There are ways to overcome the current progress of chatbots’ capability, such as injecting humour to make the user smile, keep it aligned with your brand or company culture, keep the language simple, and build out the personality of your bot with background information. Bots that quickly identify an issue and resolve it are going to be far more useful than those that repeatedly ask qualifying questions.

Build, Refine, Launch, Repeat: “The use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning are keys to success here. For bots to get better, they need to be programmed with the ability to learn from the conversations they’re having with users. The initial bot may be limited in its ability to answer questions and drive a conversation with a customer, but over time it will learn and get better,” says an industry expert.

At this stage, bots can’t yet solve everything, and so the best scenarios are to combine chatbots and humans for a well-rounded experience – let the bots handle common enquiries, and let the human handle the unique requests and specific situations, with a smooth and seamless transition between them so that the customer doesn’t experience any frustration at the delay.

For interest, Mitsuku is an example of a chatbot that can interact in a more humane way and understands the mood of language used:

Live chat and chatbots are just two ways in which you can shore up the communications gap and provide a seamless experience across all aspects of your business dealings with your customers.

“Customer experience is defined as the sum total of conscious events, as a coordinated series of interactions between a customer and a brand or business to accomplish anything. Above all words - a customer experience is defined by the customer, for the customer, at each touch-point, each time,” says Esteban Kolsky, CEO of thinkJar.

Paul Greenberg, author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light and President of The 56 Group, defined customer experience as: ‘How a customer feels about a company over time.’

Adding to the conversation about the blurred lines between manufacturing, products and services, and providing customer services in today’s tech-based world - in a recent article in the Economist, ‘Does Deutchland go Digital’, Trumpf the German based global leader with its roots in metalworking and other hardware, is building a new business purely based on software and data. Its online offering, called Axoom, connects machines built by Trumpf and others, and uses the data it collects from them to help customers organise their production—for instance, to warn them when they are running out of material or to order it directly from the supplier. Much like smartphones, Axoom will be able to run apps from other providers, such as software to schedule workloads, or to predict when machines will need a spare part.

This is service integration that can be emulated across many industries, including IT and technology, and opens up new possibilities and potential for growth - Everything is a Service; Service is Everything.

 

Karin Dubois - for Network Group