In less critical industries i.e., consumer products, the absence of long-tail connectivity and real-time support between seller and buyer has become acceptable. A great example of this relationship is online purchases whereas the seller hides behind emails and online chats and delivers just enough support to facilitate the sale and thwart product returns. In industry-to-industry relationships however we lean heavily on vendors to deliver strong aftermarket support, so we do not become stuck in slow turn aftermarket solutions with cryptic emails and phone support cul-de-sacs. Three decades ago, our companies were measured by our ability to support the products and services that we offered, now price and availability have become king.
Under the Amazon purchasing Zeitgeist, everything is in stock and ready for delivery. Transparency under product rating allows buyers to purchase products with an incredible dashboard of intel. We can now query the world’s complete inventory of microwave ovens, evaluate product ratings, and have the winning candidate at our doorstep in one day. Although we can expect some level of aftermarket support from online sellers, it is clearly a very different type of support that does not serve those of us in the industrial sector. This is particularly true for critical and regulated industrial machinery such as medical packaging machinery. In short, we cannot use the same mindset for purchasing the latest gadget du jour from an online reseller as we would in our roles as industrial buyers.
The ultimate gold standard for industrial purchases is aftermarket support, yes availability and price need to be aggregated into our final decision however support must remain the star player. In my business (medical device packaging machinery) our customers lean heavily on us for competent, reliable, and available technical support aftermarket. After all, if a medical device packaging machine goes down, no product ships, and therefore one small piece of machinery stops the entire operation upstream and ultimately patient care.
Our medical device manufacturing customers demand not only that we provide prompt machine technical support they also expect regulatory guidance. Because our customers’ demands this high level of support, it has made us better in every corner of our organization. Our customers require accredited calibrations for the medical device validation; So, we responded and became an ISO-17025 accredited calibration laboratory. Our customers asked about machine training we responded with a comprehensive video training and certification program online. There is no doubt we become better companies when we follow the voice of the customer.
The future of industry-to-industry machine sales will be born from the promise and delivery of customer delight. Great tales of a company’s value do not propagate through the industry from stories of low prices, they bloom from the mouths of happy customers that tell their story to all that will listen about their buttery user experience that is worth talking about.
In an article in Harvard business review it states, “ignoring the promise of after-sales services is imprudent, to say the least” and to that, I would add “Risky” I for one would be delighted to see this movement towards total customer care move back into the retail realm once again at one point, but for now I will continue to expand the aftermarket customer support movement through my own company as I understand that at its core, it is just simply the right thing to do.
Sure, get your customers attention through competitive pricing, but keep them coming back for more with stellar levels of customer care and aftermarket support. With all the noise of low price and fast delivery following a business model of what Seth Godin called “a race to the bottom” instead, be a maverick and dare to delight…