Distributors are at various stages of automating their service operations and using technology accelerators to enhance internal processes and automate communications to the customer and within their organizations.
At the 2012 Annual Convention three MHEDA members, John Maybury, President of Maybury Material Handling, Jerry Weidmann, President of Wisconsin Lift Truck and Al Boston, CEO of AK Material Handling Systems, will discuss the roles that customer service automation plays in providing the “perfect” customer experience, as well as the goals they have for their technology plan.
Maybury, Boston and Weidman have experience in both the industrial truck and storage and handling industry segments, and are using various technologies and tools to automate and more efficiently communicate their service status.
The MHEDA Journal asked these members to share more about their plans for customer service automation, to share their goals and experiences with you.
The MHEDA Journal: What are your strategic goals for customer service in your distributorship?
Boston: Our 2012 goal is to automate two processes. First is to send an email of the order acknowledgement at the time the order is entered. This will give the customer a chance to catch any obvious error like wrong color. Second is to tighten up our receiving on the iPads so that we communicate exactly when product arrives for an order that is waiting to ship. We are reducing hours or a day to minutes by better automatic communication.
The MHEDA Journal: If you could create the “perfect customer experience” with your dealership, what would it look like?
Weidmann: A “perfect customer experience” is when the customer receives more than what they expect, faster than required, exceeding their requirements yielding 100 percent satisfaction. A perfect customer experience leads to loyalty to our company, and advocacy for our company to their peers.
Boston: “Say what we are going to do and do it.” In addition to that simple statement, communicate to the customer before they need to call or check on their order status. The only way to separate yourself is by adding value to the equation. Customers feel their time is very valuable.
The MHEDA Journal: What role do you believe customer service automation plays in providing the “perfect” customer experience?
Weidmann: Every system we implement is reviewed for its impact on customer service. There are many technologies that are impactful when serving a customer. We view automation as supporting three key elements of customer service; information, communication, and execution.
Maybury: As we deploy Customer Service Automation we continue to take waste out of the process, improve communication both in the amount of detail available or defined summary information. The timeliness of the information is invaluable and we continue to enhance a transparent relationship with our customers. This allows both Maybury and our customers to spend more time focusing our energy on the most important tasks to meet our respective goals.
The MHEDA Journal: Do you have a technology plan for your dealership? How does customer service fit in your technology plan?
Boston: Our plan is to keep it simple. We operate on all Mac computers, iPads, and iPhones. These products are the easiest to use and quickest to learn how to provide customer service. By having our adjoining buildings under one WiFi we can communicate with everyone all the time. Although over the years some of the software available was lacking, we went ahead and pretty much modified a program to do exactly what we wanted. Now we can use that software to push our iPads and iPhones in ways that are amazing.
The MHEDA Journal: What technologies/systems have you implemented or are you planning to implement to assist your sales staff with servicing their customers?
Maybury: We have a Back Office solution for data storage using a SQL Database. We deliver real time information from that database to our associates and customers via the Internet, an Intranet and an Extranet. We utilize dual screen desktop computers, remote tablet PCs and iPads, Blackberries and other Smart Phones.
Boston: All of our outside sales use company-provided iPhones and iPads. These products combine robust contact, calendar, photo, maps, sales literature/drawings in iBook, email, and text capabilities. Along with these features we all use apps that will help us automate, whether it’s measurements to photos or annotating pdfs. Inside sales representatives all have iPads and are given current affairs sales training books to read and discuss. This technology also allows everyone to easily keep up with social networking.
The MHEDA Journal: What technologies/systems have you implemented or are you planning to implement in your service department?
Weidmann: Cell phones for technicians; laptops and diagnostic software; laptops, air cards and software to allow lead technicians to log into another technicians computer to assist in trouble shooting; GPS to enable more efficient dispatching and to assist technicians and drivers in routing. We are planning on implementing tablet PCs with invoicing capability.
Maybury: We have removed paper service orders and traditional service manuals from our process completely. We deliver real time information to our technicians via tablet computers. Technicians use their tablets for their daily activities of service support, parts ordering and service order documentation. Customers electronically sign off on service calls and we offer the documents to our customers in paper form or the preferred method of an electronic PDF document.
The MHEDA Journal: What technologies/systems have you implemented or are you planning to implement in your parts department?
Weidmann: Automated storage and retrieval systems to automate stock putaway and order picking. We are integrating our AS/RS units with our new business system to further automate order picking. We are implementing bar coding to improve receiving and shipping accuracy and to automate inputting into our business system.
Maybury: In the parts department Maybury uses the SQL Database information to deliver many different screenshots, graphs, charts and individual goal measurements to keep the focus on the items that need the most attention during the day. The use of this technology has dramatically increased throughput and customer satisfaction. Gone are the days of multiple clipboards and post it notes.
The MHEDA Journal: What technologies/systems have you implemented or are you planning to implement in your rental department?
Maybury: Maybury has extended the Tablet PC deployment to include our rental department including the delivery vehicles. Our drivers have the ability to use the electronic documents and signature capture on a tablet or can print documents from the printer located in the vehicle. This allows us to create or modify the necessary documents during the day on the road.
The MHEDA Journal: What would your recommendation be to a distributor in planning their customer service programs and the technology that supports them?
Weidmann: It is my recommendation that customer service and technology be integrated into the distributor’s strategic planning process. The goal of all strategic planning must center on customer service. For each segment of your business customer profiles should be developed. A segmentation of the customers should be made to identify their unique requirements. Once the customers are identified, the “perfect customer experience” should be defined for each segment. Based on the “perfect customer experience,” strategies and enabling technologies should be developed and the strategic roadmap to accomplish them defined. A strategic plan that is based on fulfilling the needs of the customer will include those technologies that support the vision. Successfully implementing a customer centric strategic plan is the foundation of business success.
Maybury: We believe strongly in the need to apply technology as an accelerator to a well-defined process. Technology deployed without a well-defined process will actually be a decelerator or in fact increase waste in the process.