Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are facing an unprecedented demand for their products. With the outbreak of covid-19, activity has escalated exponentially across the entire supply chain for manufacturing.
Take 3M, one of the leading manufacturers for respiratory masks. They’ve ramped up U.S. production for N95s from 22M per month to 35M with an expected growth of 50M by the end of June. In addition, 3M must factor in transportation and distribution further straining resources to meet the needs of healthcare workers across the nation.
3M is one example of an OEM that caters to both the B2B space, but also for direct consumers in need of respiratory mask protection, mandated by government guidelines. It is especially important that OEM’s create a channel of communication to engage customers of their products with real-time updates.
But one of the major challenges of an already labored OEM is its lack of customer service agents to meet the immense volume of inquiries on a daily basis. The bits and pieces of information range anywhere from eCommerce initial purchases, maintenance and replacement of products and services, and even vendor/investor confidence concerns.
To help facilitate communication for OEMs, a new technology is assisting: chatbots. These virtual assistants are acting as customer service agents through company digital channels and providing a variety of benefits both from the acquisition and retention levels.
Engage Your Customers
Chatbots take on two major forms—voice-based and text-based communication. They operate off artificial intelligence with a natural-language processing (NLP) framework. This allows chatbots to both interpret human language and respond within the context of a conversation.
Add to AI technology the ability to retain information with memory and now you can open up a consistent experience for customers interacting on a variety of different topics over a period of time. For OEMs, this creates a world of possibilities.
Toyota is a multinational automotive manufacturer with thousands of different products. The company engages with customers on a massive scale with many interactions across several layers of their business.
Their company website is a key source of information with pages upon pages for people to scour through. One of the key challenges Toyota might face is that information may be deeply embedded, sometimes 3-5 clicks deep, making it difficult to navigate to the right place quickly.
Customers crave convenience and efficiency now more than ever. A chatbot can filter through those thousands of pages to give a direct answer to an inquiry. Take the following scenarios:
- Investor asks what the current public stock value of the company is.
- Customer asks what the refund policy of a new Camry is.
- Customer requests a replacement part for a broken spark plug.
- Customer wants to schedule an appointment with a dealership for a consultation
- Potential employee asks about opening positions in software engineering
Each inquiry is mapped to an accurate response that solves the stakeholder requests all in one spot. You’ll notice that in the above examples, chatbots don’t just address customer needs, but they help prospective employees too. But that’s a topic for another post!
Under the Hood
So how are chatbots able to report such accurate up-to-date information for their customers? How do chatbots process ecommerce transactions on behalf of the sales team, augmenting and offloading their peak volume? After all, all these activities benefit OEMs with increased lead acquisition and strong customer retention through satisfying experience.
A lot has been attributed to the AI, but there’s the added value of smart integrations with existing OEM systems. Chatbots connect directly with internal systems like inventory management platforms and business automation tools (think RPA), but also with external software including CRMs. Here is one scenario that might play out for a manufacturing firms customer service experience:
The customer orders a part through the chatbot. The chatbot will do the following:
- Collect customer information, forwarding it to the CRM for data retention on future purchases. This also includes a supplied shipping address once the financial transaction is approved.
- Collect customer payment details and process it through the payment gateway system.
- Retrieve a copy of the payment receipt and share it directly with the customer for confirmation. If an email was supplied, will push an email through an email software like Microsoft Outlook.
- Input an inventory request to the factory system. Now the manager monitoring the system can setup a ship time/date for the customer.
There are a couple things at play here. First, information is both pushed and pulled. It’s a two-way communication channel through a conversational interface. The second is that integration is automating communication among several key players in a single transaction. The manufacturer, supplier, customer, sales (and even accounting if you want to go that far) are receiving the benefit of a chatbot.
A Better Way To Meet Demand
Scaling operations to meet customer demand is such an important factor for OEMs that experience immense growth. Chatbot technology is a fundamental ingredient for communication with manufacturing customers. They help manage growth in acquisitions while removing churn through engaging customer problem-solving.
During the current pandemic, major OEMs like toiletry, hand sanitizing and respiratory masks can inherit incredible value to their day-to-day operations with chatbots. One final benefit worth mentioning is the omni-channel mode of communication these AI agents can bring.
Chatbots live not just on your website, but on social media, through text, and as mentioned before—through voice systems. Reach your audience anywhere, anytime, 24/7.
If you are interested in implementing your own chatbot for your OEM business, why don’t you try out Bluefish.AI. It’s an affordable chatbot platform for manufacturers to service their customer needs all in one place. Try our solution for free for the first-90 days.