Delivering competitive difference via the service supply chain

By Sven Boddington Vice President Global Marketing & Client Solutions at Teleplan International

It’s fair to say that the service supply chain has traditionally been viewed as a ‘behind the scene’ necessity, a functional part of the business process for manufacturers.  However, in a recent survey we found that the perception of the service supply chain’s primary role has shifted and it is now being recognised as an essential tool for competitive differentiation and a key part of customer satisfaction.

In no industry is this more accurate than within the high-tech sector where downtime is critical to end-customer satisfaction. But just how do businesses ensure that their service supply chain is hitting tight turnaround times, remaining reliable and ensuring customers are happy and loyal?

Keeping devices out of the supply chain

Often the best kind of service is one that doesn’t need to take place to begin with. Consumers, particularly millennials, increasingly expect to be able to resolve technical issues with their devices themselves.

Self-help portals are popular with individuals who want to figure out the problem quickly in order to maximise device downtime. Increasingly, live technical support is an essential service tool that is utilised by these customers. Our own experience shows us that over 30% of smartphone related queries can be resolved within minutes through live technical support, preventing unnecessary returns and reducing no fault found (NFF) rates by a factor of four. In fact, this service can help increase customer satisfaction rates to more than 85% so developing a good returns avoidance strategy can be a sound investment as well as a visible competitive differentiator.

Simplicity and visibility of process

Where returns are essential, the simplicity and convenience of the process is crucial. Consumers are demanding a process that fits to their lifestyle and schedule. No longer can we rely on a one-size fits all approach to returns. While some customers require to pick up and drop off items at a central depot in order to fit in with their schedules, others require a home pick up and drop off in increasingly short pre-arranged windows.

Manufacturers must have access to a strong logistics partner network to service consumers in a place, and at a time, that suits them. Moreover, when we’re dealing with electronic goods such as smartphones and tablets which users rely on so heavily, enabling visibility of the device’s progress throughout the repair process and providing updates on the estimated time of return is absolutely critical to give users reassurance that they are being looked after properly.

Fast screening and diagnostics

A fast and accurate diagnostic process not only improves the overall efficiency of the service supply chain, it also reduces the likelihood of your customers getting back a faulty product. IDC reported, in its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, that all phones in many of the world’s most developed economies will be smartphones by the end of 2017.

From our own experience we estimate 150 million smartphones are now being returned for service and repair every year across the globe. Automated accurate testing capabilities can reduce the testing and diagnosis time by around five minutes per device, a significant time saving to be able to pass on to customers.

Efficient repair

Once a fault has been identified, an efficient, high quality repair is essential.  From software related issues to highly technical board and “cleanroom” repairs, manufacturers need to be sure that their devices are being restored to a usable state by subject matter experts.

Not only do repairs require experts, but they should be carried out in accordance with the defined functional repair standards of manufacturers, in order to ensure brand reputation is maintained.

Return to sender

The final stage of the supply process is often the least considered. It matters how a customer receives their product.  For example, do you return the product packaged as new, or return it in the packaging it arrived in to demonstrate environmental responsibility? By focusing on returns as an important part of the service supply chain solution, manufacturers can really differentiate themselves from their competitors.

It is encouraging to see more and more manufacturers embrace the importance of the service supply chain and ensure that they are working with a proactive partner who can deliver on all these areas to unlock more of this hidden value. The industry is increasingly dealing with products that consumers rely on for their daily lives and as a result, having a process that works quickly, efficiently and with visibility can make the difference between having a good customer service record and having the best.

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