The Service Differential

— April 10, 2007

Dave Rinker, the consumer services group general manager with Electrolux, spoke with Mobile Enterprise about the company's recent rollout of a solution from Servigistics, which the company hopes will help make it known for its excellent parts management and exemplary customer service, as well as its household-name appliances.

Mobile Enterprise: Service, as you know, is an enormous differentiator in business today. What
is Electrolux's service strategy for outpacing its competition?

Dave Rinker: Service after the sale is a major component in a person's decision to purchase their next product (especially for large ticket items like appliances). Consumers realize that problems can happen with a product, but how that problem is handled by a company is a real differentiator in the marketplace. These problems must be handled with "customer obsession." From the first contact to the final resolution, the customer must believe that we are passionate about them and their experience with our brand so we can earn their loyalty. This belief can only come about if the customer sees concern about their needs and actions that back up that concern.

The decision to deploy the Servigistics solution is just one part of the entire service system needed to handle the customer's call to resolution of their need as quickly as possible.

ME: Can you tell us about the decision to go with a hosted solution?

DR: We reviewed the options available and decided that a hosted solution would provide the best service response time to our requirements and needs. We receive system upgrades as they are released with little or no requirements of our personnel. Our partner, Servigistics, remains involved with our account, ensuring that it does not become a one-time load and then no further support. We have gone this route before, in our warranty processing, and had very good success, which led us to a similar solution.

ME: What major trends are you seeing in the service industry?

DR: The service industry is a complex entity with numerous strategies employed by the OEM manufacturers. I believe that most OEMs are working to take greater control of the service experience from start to finish, and how that is accomplished is the major difference.

ME: How much is mobility a part of keeping pace with those trends, or even helping to set them?

DR: The timeline to resolve a customer's problem has become shorter and shorter. Therefore, communication that's as close to real time as possible is [critical]. Our distribution managers and supervisors are all equipped with BlackBerry devices [for better access to] phone calls and emails while working in the facility.

And the distribution facility network and RF backbone have recently undergone a complete upgrade to ensure speed, reliability and compatibility with our RF handhelds and personal laptop computers. This mobility allows leadership the capability to take their laptops with them to anywhere in the building. RF handheld units are no longer limited to single access points to receive a signal, which provides greater flexibility.

ME: Are there best business practices you would pass on to companies new to the service/repair industry?

DR: Focus on the customers' needs is the best practice for any business and even more so in the service/repair industry. The customer is already upset that their product is not working. Setting an expectation and then meeting that expectation is a rare commodity and the companies that can, will win! The other key is to understand that change is constant. Embracing and leading change helps to prevent companies from failing to stay focused on the customer and becoming obsolete.

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