Throughout the economic downturn, companies have been looking to maintain/increase revenues in all areas even as customers defer greenfield projects and brownfield upgrades. When customers have been spending, they are increasingly looking for support particularly in all areas of functional safety.
Recently, the IAC team released a demand-side webcast and supporting research note that emphasized how services can be an important opportunity for industrial automation suppliers. Even so, I believe there should be some caution/restraint taken by suppliers to avoid alienating customers particularly in front of what should be an upturn in business in 2012. I will give you a little background for this opinion which is actually grounded in a consumer experience I had recently.
As part of a kitchen upgrade, my wife and I replaced appliances with higher end stainless steel energy efficient units. Within the warranty, one of the units had a problem and we called the appropriate places to get the repair done. The wait time was over a week. The service person when they did eventually arrive did not have either of the likely parts needed for the repair. There were insinuations made that the problem was likely our fault or the fault of the installer. If this was proven to be the case, we could avoid the charges by buying the extended support package. To make a long story short, we refused to buy anything, the service person ordered the necessary parts and installed them after another week of waiting. Suffice it to say that in the future when my wife and I are making another product purchase we will avoid the offending product manufacturer and channel partner at all cost. I think the following are reasonable takeaways that can be applied to industrial products as well as consumer appliances.
- Do not try to use every customer problem as a new revenue opportunity.
- Minimizing inventory expenses is important but availability of replacement parts is very important for customers. This was in the top 5 business attributes needed in our survey.
- Making sure that service people are prepared and equipped to provide solutions on the first visit will save money for both the suppliers and customers.
- Having an adequate number of service people or channel partners can ensure that service delays are minimized.
As the election year approaches and solutions are found for the European financial problems as well as worldwide employment and consumer confidence, suppliers that have followed these rules will have built up a significant advantage in the eyes of the customers than those that didn't.