Firms sensing an opportunity for new revenue streams have set up expansion plans that involve digitizing aftermarket services.

Industry players already make headway in enhancing aftermarket services, yet some are left asking: Will the usage of such offerings last? Not all customers made the switch to digital—and those who have may backpedal to reduce their reliance on digital once COVID-19 is solidly under control. There is hope to prevent an unfavorable outcome for those educating clients on the value of service digitalization.

Teodora Gaici

Author Teodora Gaici | Copperberg

Photo: Freepik

It took aftermarket players relatively little time to prop up dwindling sales amid the flurry of pandemic-induced factory shutdowns and supply chain disruptions. As firms have made the unavoidable pivot to eCommerce and digital service channels, online aftermarket sales hit a new high.

But some hurdles are potentially still afoot for aftermarket players.

More than a year ago, COVID-19 created a new momentum for aftermarket service improvement driven primarily by digital advancements. Firms have had little choice but to scrap traditional operations and take heed of modern service models that enabled them to offer support through:

  • Immediate access to expert technicians that remotely assisted clients in restricted locations
  • Connected devices used to prevent unwarranted repairs
  • Self-service portals designed for clients looking to solve critical issues without expert guidance

Having made incontestable progress in digital enablement, aftermarket players who capitalized on technology-driven service rapidly won audiences through improved digital offerings.

“In past economic downturns, the aftermarket service business has been a consistent revenue source and profit stabilizer. [Now] digital technologies could be the differentiator for immediate and sustainable success in aftermarket services.” — Deloitte, Transforming Manufacturing in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Aftermarket players encouraged by positive signs of growth are presently planning to expand their digital offerings even further to get in front of more customers and influence retention. Yet perhaps more importantly, prioritizing service digitalization may only be a temporary reality as studies now report that customers expect to use online channels “less frequently once the pandemic ends.”

Cautions about clients even partially backing away from digital channels are causing new ripples of uncertainty across the industry. But curbing a potential customer exodus and getting clients fully on board with using digital services are not far-fetched possibilities. Those who develop a coherent change management plan and prioritize educating customers on the enhanced value of service digitalization can sustain their aftermarket expansion plans, convince more clients into taking on online services, and stabilize revenue streams.

The Pathway to Digital Aftermarket Service Adoption

Aftermarket players took a substantial leap forward in securing sustainable growth with the advent of digital service delivery. But getting a sense of all the implications this transformation presents for the firm and its customers is difficult without relying on a solid change management plan. Merely introducing new digital services to enhance aftermarket offerings is not enough to spur change or counter the hesitation some may have about digital operations.

Real change rests on the firm’s willingness to invest its time and resources in a robust strategy that helps with:

  • Having a thorough understanding of digital change in the aftermarket
  • Gaining precise insight into customer behavior and demand
  • Transforming machine-generated data into value-added services
  • Communicating digital service change and educating customers on its value
  • Maintaining a strategic focus on new aftermarket service trends to provide relevant offerings
  • Measuring the external and internal impact of digital change efforts

Going into change blindly is likely to lead to suboptimal results. Firms best positioned to bring clients along on a digital aftermarket service journey build their efforts on a stable foundation of knowledge, value-focused thinking, and efficient communication.

Many Hurdles of Digital Service Adoption Clear Through Customer Education

Firms have to diligently work on improving trust in digital services to keep clients from shifting their focus back to physical products. More significantly, previous research suggests that higher levels of customer education strengthen client trust in an organization and provide an excellent opportunity for service differentiation.

Two approaches fundamentally lead the way in helping clients realize the full potential of digital aftermarket services and encouraging adoption:

1. Delivering Educational Content Focused Largely on Value

Industry players may carry forward steadily with their aftermarket service expansion plans as customers better understand the need for change. It is then useful to put together relevant information focused on the added value clients can expect from expanded service offerings.

Multiple ways to provide educational content to customers are on the table. Hosting webinars is a widely used method to interact more closely with customers and prospects while offering impactful insight into new offerings. Others, however, may find case studies to be more beneficial as they present practical experiences with modernizing aftermarket services and demonstrate the firm’s expertise on the matter.

Firms have to show a continued commitment to customer education. It is essential to put forth constant efforts in delivering informative materials on aftermarket service modernization to help clients understand the unique value of responding to these offerings.

2. Ramping Up Self-Service Offerings

Self-service is now a near-ubiquitous offering for firms willing to enrich engagement and build customer trust. More aftermarket players are, therefore, driven by an attempt to offer differentiated services in an effort to improve the competitive standing of their company.

Many entertain the idea of personalized self-service offerings and invest in advanced technologies that store customer records and historical information to help with:

  • Maintaining the context of client-specific problems
  • Serving up content tailored to the context of customer activity and common requests

A self-service portal will let clients educate themselves on the value of digitization in aftermarket operations—increasing reliance on digital service and shoring up retention.

A Turning Point in the Right Direction

A new era has begun for aftermarket services in the wake of COVID-19. Much of the conversation now centers on prioritizing digitalization in aftermarket service—a move aimed at setting firms up for consistent revenue.

Quite often, customers tend to be skeptical of change as they wrongly assume the value of a new offering. It is then fundamental to lay out a carefully planned approach that centers on educating clients on the true value of expanding into digital aftermarket service; sustainable and consistent revenue growth will depend on it.

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