Customer Service 4.0 – The Future of B2B Customer Service

Without a functioning crystal ball, looking into the future is a guessing game. Nevertheless, the future of service business in the B2B sector can be predicted with some experience. One thing is for sure: The importance of customer service in the business customer environment continues to grow. At the same time, the service requirements for companies are increasing and are becoming more and more similar to those in the private customer business. Even today, customers are looking for high-quality, individual service offerings tailored to their specific needs.

Customer Service as a Challenge

One of the most important challenges for customer service in the future will be to bundle the numerous service channels that were previously taken for granted, such as telephone, e-mail, fax, online forms, social media or self-service portals, in an efficient and intelligent system. This system should enable the organization of the future service business through uniform processes and a high degree of intelligent automation. Further tasks are the structured collection, administration, evaluation and provision of information for all actors involved in the service process. This is the only way to guarantee the transparency demanded by customers along all process lines.

A flexible and efficient IT infrastructure is indispensable for this project. In the future, competitiveness will depend decisively on the quality of the IT infrastructure used. And this does not only mean the often discussed intelligent production in which workpieces communicate with their production lines. With the right system support, enormous potential can also be exploited in the areas of marketing, sales and service.

The central component of this IT infrastructure to be created is the use of high-performance CRM systems. With the appropriate CRM, which integrates all customer-oriented areas of a company, a common knowledge and working platform can be created across departments, locations and countries. Service organizations will use such a system to cope with the complexity of the service business.

24/7 Self-Service

By establishing highly flexible, interactive and mobile communication technologies, companies are already focusing on the increased integration of self services (see online banking, flight booking or insurance portals). The advantages are obvious: customer satisfaction and loyalty are strengthened by fast, always available and high-quality self-service offers. In addition, there are lower costs, increased efficiency and better control of the quality of the services. Customers benefit from it:

  • availability of services around the clock
  • transparency of ongoing service processes or orders
  • meeting the needs for anonymity, time savings and ease of use
  • elimination of errors in manual processing through automated self-service.

Remote Service of the Future

Another aspect of the future is the direct and active integration of service-relevant products into the process. In future, it will go without saying that devices, vehicles or systems will independently transmit faults and pending maintenance cycles online to the manufacturer. In mechanical engineering this is already known today under the keyword “demand-oriented service via remote maintenance” or “remote service”.

Operating and error data transmitted in this way are not only essential for a highly automated service process, but can also be used excellently in after-sales (i.e. service sales).

Practical example: An elevator reports its running times, the number of trips and door movements online directly to the CRM system. If a certain threshold value is exceeded, the elevator itself generates a maintenance assignment in CRM and delegates it to the responsible technician team. Developments that are described by terms such as “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” already give us an idea today of where we are heading in the future.

On the Way to Service Automation with CRM Systems

CRM systems can already do a great deal today for perfect customer service. Thus, service assignments can be clearly planned using interactive scheduling boards. Using geointegration combined with a radius search, technicians and fitters (e.g. in the event of an accident) can be spontaneously dispatched according to their availability and technical skills.

Knowledge for quick pre-evaluation of operations or fault diagnosis can be automatically retrieved in FAQ and fault code databases. These databases are valuable both for internal service for the optimal processing of helpdesk tickets or the planning of service deployments and for field service employees who inspect the product on site.

Thanks to a mobile CRM connection via tablet, smartphone or notebook, service staff on site also have access to FAQs and error codes, enabling them to find the optimum solution. Customer data, histories, contracts or technical documents are also available at the push of a button. Once an assignment has been completed, the field sales representative can use a signature pad to fill out a feedback form on site and have the customer sign it with a biometric signature. Of course, the signature on an upselling order can also be recorded in this way.

The Bottom Line of the Trends

The customer service of the future can meet the ever more complex service requirements through the correct use of professional CRM software solutions. This starts with the holistic and efficient management of numerous service channels and the structured provision of knowledge for employees and customers.

Customers are not only becoming more autonomous, more selective and more difficult to retain. They demand highly individualized services that should be available anytime and anywhere.

Interoperability through deep integration into the existing system landscape, mobile service solutions, intelligent planning features, geo-integration or automatic maintenance management are just some of the points that will be taken for granted in the service organization of the future.