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How manufacturers can cut service costs with AI and automation

See how leading manufacturers are using artificial intelligence to stay ahead of the competition.

Af Aaron Schilke, Vice President of Enterprise

Senest opdateret June 29, 2023

It’s fair to say the manufacturing industry is on the fast track to digital transformation. The pandemic exposed the fragility of our global supply chains, resulting in shortages on shelves and overstocks in warehouses. Meanwhile, as the pandemic subsides, inflation is driving up the cost of goods and logistics, putting the squeeze on companies still recovering from the aftermath of the past few years. It’s no surprise that manufacturers are looking for ways to cut costs while still maintaining quality.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can unlock savings and create better CX. Here are four ways manufacturers are using AI in customer support and seeing big results.

1. Implementing intelligent bots

AI bots can assist customers quickly, 24/7 by answering low-value customer questions (like where an order is and when it is expected to arrive) or surfacing relevant product documentation that a customer has questions about. Bots are also able to collect information from customers if needed, for agent escalation.

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, 60 percent of manufacturers say intelligent bots help reduce the number of customer interactions they have by deflecting simple questions. What’s more, 66 percent agree that AI/bots have driven large cost savings over the past year.

Impossible Foods is a manufacturer best known for its Impossible Burger. The company used AI-powered bots to quickly scale support when a new partnership with Burger King introduced the Impossible Whopper and brought in a landslide of new customer communications.

“We needed to step back and figure out how we could scale our team,” said Gabrielle McCobin, senior manager of customer advocacy at Impossible Foods.

After the Burger King launch, Impossible Foods focused heavily on ticket deflection initiatives and introduced Zendesk bots. The results? 50 percent of ticket volume was deflected through the help center, ticket forms, and bot.

2. Remote troubleshooting

When something breaks, customers want someone to help them resolve the issue. In the old days, this would inevitably mean sending a technician to fix things on-site. But now, AI can often troubleshoot without the need for human intervention. When your data, systems, and corrective actions are all documented and connected, machine learning can offer quick solutions to common problems.

Customers are eager for this kind of intelligent service. Zendesk research shows 69 percent of consumers think service agents should have the ability to help solve problems remotely, and 61 percent of manufacturing leaders say the number of in-home repair visits has decreased as a result of virtual tools.

AI can also be useful on the production line before work begins. Manufacturers are using AI to train robots in pre-production and to fine-tune for better speed, precision, and efficiency. But IOT connectivity is useful beyond smart factories. Surfacing your customers’ IOT-connected device data into a unified workspace shows your agents what a customer has already tried when a human is needed for remote troubleshooting.

Zendesk helped SMC drive efficiency and quality beyond the production floor. A unified customer view means agents can fulfill and invoice orders more quickly and see improved time-to-cash, meaning happier agents and happier customers.

3. Self-service automation

With the focus on factory efficiency, it can be easy to overlook customer experience. Many manufacturers still manually process new orders or customer claims. Some are even using old-fashioned ledger books or spreadsheets on desktops—this stifles automation and increases the risk of errors. Support agents have a harder time getting the details they need when a customer asks about an order. These manual processes also mean orders and claims could be accidentally missed because the data isn’t connected. Beyond that, it makes self-service nearly impossible—without connected data, customers can’t find their own answers. It’s a frustrating experience for everyone.

Offering an AI-powered self-service portal for customers eliminates a lot of this manual work, which boosts efficiency and customer satisfaction. A simple form submission can collect all the necessary information, including uploaded photos, to automatically kick off the backend ordering or claims process. Self-service portals can also give customers an easy place to get answers to common questions without the need for human intervention. This efficiency is key for manufacturers who want to scale up their CX operations to drive loyalty and long-term growth.

4. AI-powered knowledge management

Man holding power tool working on an automobile

Customer-facing teams spend too much time sorting through thousands of product documents to find the right information on parts and machines. This is true for back-office agents responding to emails and service technicians in the field. Old-fashioned processes lead to long wait times for customers who can’t afford to wait and are willing to walk away after a single poor experience with your company.

A knowledge management system can turn your most frequently used product documents into help center articles that empower customers to troubleshoot on their own. This saves everyone time, and as the saying goes, time is money.

Ingersoll Rand overhauled its support processes and implemented a searchable knowledge base to better serve customers. This was especially important, as the manufacturer builds its products to last—Ingersoll Rand still services some products that are 50 years old.

Old-fashioned processes lead to long wait times for customers who can’t afford to wait and are willing to walk away after a single poor experience with your company.

“We didn’t have a central repository where everything was housed. You’d go to a filing cabinet and pull out this flimsy little microfiche, and have to put it in this big machine to read or print,” says Kelly Dees, VP of global customer experience at Ingersoll Rand.

Needless to say, this became a resource drain and created backlogs of service requests. The company implemented an AI-powered help center that houses a library of searchable digital manuals so customers can help themselves. It also gives agents contextual information on customers who reach out for support.

Building better relationships

Creating top-notch customer service can be a challenge when budgets are under pressure. The good news is that there are intelligent solutions available today. Manufacturers have the ability to shape the future through data—optimizing operations, creating innovative products, and improving customer experience. Deploying AI-powered tools can supercharge your CX without adding excessive complexity or overhead.

This post was originally published on Nasdaq.com

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