Adobe recently published a report based on a survey of over 2,500 marketers and Internet professionals. According to this report, two of the most exciting opportunities in the digital world are found in solutions that improve customer experiences and expand the utility of mobile technology. In this article, I look at these two trends and how they can be combined in the context of Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) to allow organizations to better engage customers once their products have been deployed.

Customer Experience

If you don’t normally follow Adobe’s take on Digital Trends, you might be wondering exactly what they mean by Customer Experience. At first glance, I was thinking about Jakob Nielsen and his take on usability, however there is actually a much broader meaning at play in service life cycles. For this, the Wikipedia definition of “the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with the supplier,” seems like a more appropriate fit.

What’s important here is that a customer’s experience expands well beyond usability of any centralized IT solution for SLM to include every interaction a customer has with a given product or service:

  • Initial awareness
  • Interacting with the company behind the product or service
  • Purchasing
  • Understanding how to best leverage the product or service
  • Advocating and cultivating that product or service

Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” While we all may understand that customers are central to our success, we may not always consider the full “cradle to grave” customer experience.

Manufacturers like Rolls-Royce know that customers rely on approved procedures and quality expertise to manage a jet engine, which may contain over 10,000 individual parts and have a life span of 25 years. In a 2010 executive briefing, Rolls-Royce defines the overall servicing problem as costly as the original purchase price. That cost doesn’t include additional service-related costs such as:

  • Ordering specific parts from trusted manufacturers
  • Disruptions to basic infrastructure in remote locations
  • Additional servicing challenges related to data security and regulatory compliance
  • Loss of revenue while waiting to restore a product or service that is critical to business function

SLM providers help enable a better customer experience. One of the ways they do this is by providing up-to-date information to a worldwide audience using cloud-based and mobile solutions. Using SLM solutions helps customers make better use of a product long after the sales cycle is complete, helping customers reduce or avoid service-related costs.

With the ubiquity of mobile phones, tablets, and similar devices, it’s quite clear that today’s consumers are well equipped to use technology to access content. What’s not as clear is how well different hardware platforms fit specific service organization needs. An everyday iPad may not be the device of choice when trying to review service information on an oil rig in the North Sea or on a helicopter west of Perth. Water, wind, vibration, and questionable Internet service are vastly different than the user experience one has in an office environment.

Organizations implementing a mobile strategy must therefore define what hardware is most productive for specified working environments. The SLM solution must then be configured to work on the hardware platform(s) that have been defined. Yet while this approach may work in environments that only require a single hardware platform, it becomes problematic when SLM solutions must be managed across numerous hardware configurations.

To overcome this challenge, SLM providers are taking advantage of device-agnostic browser-based technology. By delivering information through a web browser hardware requirements can be minimized, allowing organizations to more flexibly establish hardware requirements or to better leverage the hardware they already have in place.

The Online Conundrum

You may be aware of various centralized IT solutions that promise up-to-the-minute data delivered to your service technicians and customers. Some of those may even deliver to a mobile device. But what happens if that device is unable to connect to the Internet? When you’re working in an area where online access is unavailable, a 404 error is not going to improve the customer experience.

The most viable service information solutions include the capability to deliver the latest-available content to your fingertips, wherever and whenever it is needed. If users are working offline, they will still have access to the latest information. When they reconnect, they need to know that their local data will automatically refresh to include everything they need, when they need it.

Solutions that manage content updates in the Cloud and serve the refreshed content to these remote devices help resolve the online conundrum.

Leading Change

The explosion of mobile technology provides significant opportunities for improving customer experiences; yet many organizations are challenged by the requirements it takes to be successful. Fortunately, technical advancements are rapidly evolving to meet the market demand with solutions that blend a mix of social networking, content marketing, and online/mobile technology.

Product manufacturers who embrace these solutions are leading the trend of improving customer experience, thereby putting themselves in a better position to distinguish goods and services from the competition and facilitate:

  • Increased reliability
  • Shorter service cycles
  • More reliable service information