In previous articles in this series about the life of innovative machine manufacturers and their aftermarket (links to the entire series can be found at the bottom), we have described the importance of having a PLM / PIM system, a digital service book, connected machines, and alarm functions. Tools needed to create an effectively managed aftermarket. What happens if you also integrate your business system with the ERP functions?
Then you have actually created a digital salesperson working full time for you at your customer’s location. One who is constantly looking for opportunities for additional sales in your aftermarket. Item prices, discount letters, stock status, previous purchases, and the PLM / PIM system’s images and product information can now also, if you need it, be downloaded in your cloud solution. You don’t need to buy and maintain an external webshop thus you do not have to keep a new source for master data updated.
We have previously identified pitfalls and risks for sales in your aftermarket such as having unnecessarily expensive administration and the threat of your customer starting to buy pirate spare parts. Now you can cover yourself from these risks and help your customers faster and more flawlessly. Here are some tips on how to make your digital sales channel a success.
Make it easy to go from thought to order
With the alarm and trigger functions you have in your cloud solution, you can also give your customers data-driven purchasing suggestions. A level gauge in a tank or a pressure gauge after an air filter has been replaced etc. can alarm that consumables are running out and that the filter needs to be replaced. In the cloud solution’s so-called Event Manager, you can also control the setup and rules for how and to whom the purchase proposals are sent. You can also notify the operator directly or note it on a list with the maintenance manager etc. It all depends on what the customer wishes.
You also need features making it easy to order directly via the service book to create sales in your aftermarket. Especially for points in the maintenance protocols where it is difficult to get a clear answer from a sensor. The condition of a transmission belt, bushing, or gasket can quickly be spotted with the accustomed eye. A less accustomed eye may be able to get sample pictures of what the part looks like if it is in good or bad condition. Ordering a new part should then preferably only be a click away.
A more general ordering feature should also be available. It can be difficult for an inexperienced operator to know exactly what the name of a spare part is when you see that it is worn or damaged. Then it is easy to just be able to take a picture with a mobile phone and write a few lines and send it to the support or service department. They know more about the machine and have access to historic data and can for example answer questions in a form where ordering can be done easily and securely.
It should be easy to make the right order
We have mentioned the costs of sending the wrong spare part by postal service or via a service technician. We again want to emphasize the benefits of having a PLM / PIM system that keeps track of product information and customer-unique customizations. If all information is correctly registered there, there should never be an error when the order is initiated by the connected machine or the service book.
If the customer places a manual order, it must also retrieve data and product information from the same source.
To go through an article directory can be hard enough, especially when it comes to finding the right part for a complex machine. That’s why, in addition to having a good search feature on the parts’ names and article numbers, being able to see previously ordered parts can also provide good help. Many PLM / PIM systems also handle synonyms so if someone is searching for a power cord also finds what is called an electrical cable.
Nowadays it’s technically possible to visualize a physical machine digitally via AR / VR technology, where you through special glasses can see what the machine’s parts are called by pointing to them. So far, this is more of a vision than a reality for the majority of machine manufacturers. But a 3D cutaway with zoom functions linked to PLM / PIM might perhaps be the first step towards a more visual search function.
It should be easy to get a purchase approved
One reason why a user stops the impulse to place an order and you lose sales in your aftermarket is that many purchases have complicated routines and long processing times before you get approval. In your cloud solution, you can simplify purchasing through tailored regulations and workflows. The machine manufacturer may have to order certain types of spare parts and consumables himself, while others will require that a maintenance manager also looks at the wear before the order goes through. Eligibility can be only up to a certain amount. With a more centralized setup, the purchasing department may want aggregated lists of purchasing proposals for coordinating orders.
Regardless of the setup, it should be easy to accept the purchase at all levels with a click or approval of an entire list. Once the invoice reaches the customer, the attestations are already ready, which saves time.
It should be easy to protect yourself against piracy
We have eliminated the risks of losing orders due to phone queues and websites that are difficult to navigate and find the right parts on. Now only a major threat remains. That your customer is tempted to buy substandard spare parts and consumables from a competitor. Or a shameless pirate.
Again, the data-driven service book will be your support. All automatically generated purchase proposals should end up in the official alarm logs.
There are possibilities to link the alarm’s status to the customer’s orders, i.e. the alarm is transferred to the status remedied only when an order number has been created and/or paid for. Which control levels a purchasing alarm should have is entirely up to you and what the customer relationship allows. Most important is that the customer understands the value of having placed orders in the service book.
It should be easy for the customer’s employees to work uninterrupted
Very few of us like to be on a website where reading is disturbed by frequent advertising messages. Excessive sales will take away the feeling of you having good intentions towards your customer. Sales via this channel should focus on making it easier for the customer to operate the machines and support them to have a long and healthy lifespan. Therefore, only truly urgent alarms should be allowed to steal the attention in users’ work views. Minor alarms could best be seen as a view under the “Remedy” tab or similar. If they are not remedied in time, reminders may be displayed more clearly and require reading confirmation when an operator logs on to the system. Alternatively, they can be escalated within the organization, to a supervisor or a maintenance manager.
For pure advertising and promotional offers of the type “Buy 3 air filters, pay for 2”, you can continue to use traditional marketing channels. Target these primarily to new customers. For existing customers with connected machines, however, you should only offer exactly what they need, when they need it – which undoubtedly increases customer satisfaction. So make sure you really care about the good reputation of your digital sales.
The series of articles about innovative machine manufacturers and their place in the aftermarket so far:
- The costs to avoid in your aftermarket
- Why the system support is deficient when it comes to the aftermarket
- How to make money in your aftermarket with connected machines
- How your aftermarket benefits from a data-driven service book
- How to increase sales in your aftermarket with digital sellers (this one)
- How to reach the goal of having great system support for your aftermarket