The rise of the connected customer


This is the age of the connected customer, with customer expectations increasing exponentially because of their constant electronic interaction with suppliers, contacts and various online platforms.

Until recently this was mainly an issue in the B2C business-to-consumer market, where consumers expect to summon a taxi or a meal with a few clicks.

However in this ultra-connected, service-driven world, organisations that are business-to-business are facing the same challenges. These B2B businesses are becoming B2C - where the C stands for consumer.

As the phenomenon of personalised customer experience begins to pervade all industries, the B2B mindset is changing. The Royal Navy commissioning a flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, or the Australian mining company ordering heavy excavation machinery, are both seeing the benefit of a service offering in addition to buying a product, just as much as the individual consumer who streams music instead of buying CDs.

At the heart of this is servitization, a process through which companies develop the capabilities they need to provide services and solutions that supplement and extend their traditional product-based offerings.

Antony Bourne, Vice President of Global Industry Sales at IFS, said: “Servitization is transforming the customer relationship. To remain competitive it is no longer enough for organisations to simply keep pace with the constant upward shift in customer demand and expectation. They need to be ahead of their customers, anticipating their needs and responding rapidly and in an increasingly personalised way.”

The customers typically served by IFS are service providers themselves, for example, delivering services to manufacturers, retailers and distributors in the food and beverage supply chain. Beverage manufacturing and distribution company Heaven Hill Distilleries brought its IT system into the 21st century with IFS software that enabled big cuts to lead times on customer orders.

Then there are the customers in the defence industry that make battleships and fighter jets and have a heavily service-orientated customer relationship.

Mark Brewer, IFS Global Industry Director, Service Management said: “Defence contractors that are producing multi-billion pound ships and aircraft are very much ahead in terms of the product-as-a-service offering, and have been delivering on service-based contracts for many years. With heavy assets like these the progression to deployment based on a service contract was inevitable.

“Airlines typically don’t buy airplanes; they lease them. Commercial aviation manufacturers are effectively selling service contracts, enhanced by software systems like ours, and delivering them through a leasing arrangement.”

Other customers in the business-to-customer model include providers of field services. Sky UK’s field engineers, for example, not only install, repair and upgrade equipment  but can relocate systems for customers who move house and service products in the home - all underpinned by software that streamlines the service life cycle and can deliver a market-leading customer experience.

Companies in the retail and financial sectors rely heavily on contact centres to deliver customer engagement and satisfaction as added-value to consumers.

A powerful omnichannel contact centre solution simplifies the role of the contact centre agent by amalgamating customer information from every channel — telephone, email, instant messaging and social media — into one screen and single customer view. Where they previously had to search multiple places for data, agents can locate information and answer customer enquiries much faster and, where needed, assign service engineers more effectively to provide a better, differentiated, customer experience.

Organisations that have a wealth of experience in servitization, commoditization and the move from product- to service-based relationships within the commercial aviation, defence, and energy industries understand the relationship between exceptional service quality and engaged, connected customers and its value to business. They are already applying their proven customer service strategies to other industries.

Mark Brewer of IFS said: “Regardless of whether an organisation defines itself as B2C or B2B, they need to recognise that the connected customer will play an increasingly key role in the shaping of strategy and innovation, and ensure that they exceed the expectations and, ultimately, stay ahead of their customers’ demands.”

IFS is already connecting industries for real business value. Click here to see what’s next