Service providers seem to have misconceptions when it comes to contacting them for support. Mistakenly, many companies still believe that their customers mainly like to reach for their phones in this situation. Yet the digital revolution is also in full progress in this industry. Both private individuals and companies have permanent access to new information technologies. The change in communication culture is and remains constant – and is mostly customer-driven. This in turn requires companies to continuously adapt their service offerings.

Those who do not always stay up to date, who rest on statements such as “We have always done it this way" or “Our customers do not use these (communication) channels", do not keep up with the target group and will not remain competitive in the long run.

Furthermore, technical developments in particular present service providers with a multitude of opportunities to position themselves for the future in this area. These include solutions for geo integration, remote and mobile service, interoperability, smart planning features and many others.

Customer self-service and real-time communication

The provision and use of services are increasingly supported by technology. As a result, services are more and more frequently offered in the form of selfservices. These are services that the customer can access without the involvement of a service employee. An important driver of this trend is the customer’s desire to be able to carry out individual service processes autonomously and independently of opening hours.

84 percent of customers worldwide already use self-service offers of companies and 90 percent even expect such an offer.

The most basic self-service features include FAQs, contact forms and a website search function. These and similar features are state of the art today and are already used across the board.

Factors such as quick retrieval of information or easy-to-use applications are no longer considered the benchmark for innovation. Rather, customers, even in the B2B environment, take them for granted. Companies cannot achieve a better perception by customers or even a positive customer experience with these offers.

What customers actually expect today is immediate help from the service team: the majority of customers cannot (and do not want to) put up with long waiting times. Accessibility and speedy handling of processes therefore represent a significant competitive factor. Innovative self-service offers are becoming obligatory rather than optional. Here are a few forward-looking examples that belong in the service portfolio of companies and service providers:

Self-service portals

The B2B customer’s desire for independence and autonomy can be met very well by using self-service portals that are accessible 24/7. These portals, a mixture of service directory, knowledge base and platform for monitoring ongoing and completed processes, offer customers the opportunity to resolve simple queries on their own. The most common options include standardised processes such as changing address and access data or adjusting their own newsletter settings.

These preventive service tools reduce the number of customer enquiries via telephone and email, freeing up valuable time for service staff to focus on other tasks. In addition, a self-service portal can significantly reduce support costs:

According to Accenture, companies can save between one and three million dollars annually by using self-service portals. The success of a selfser- vice portal largely depends on its quality, scope, timeliness and user-friendliness.

Live and video chat, chatbots

Today, every touchpoint counts: every customer prefers a different communication channel. The customers’ expectations of the service department, coupled with the uniqueness of some concerns and cases, require companies to continuously expand their corresponding offerings in order to be able to operate smoothly across all different channels. A new communication channel that is becoming increasingly popular is live or video chat.

Gartner predicts that 20 percent of the 500 largest companies will have introduced video chat for customer service as early as next year. Moreover, this form of communication will also gain in importance among medium-sized companies in the future: The number of those who prefer live chat over traditional dialogue media when it comes to service is high: 45 percent of customers use it regularly. “Especially millennials are considered to be fans. Among this target group, the proportion of those favouring live chat is as high as 63 percent.”

Lukas Kerschbaum, Managing Director in All for One Customer Experience points out: The advantages for service companies from using this technology are quite obvious: perception as a future-oriented company as well as the associated gain in trust and positive word-of-mouth marketing. In addition, these companies pave the way for a positive user experience (UX)”.

It may be the case that a customer wants to be advised personally after doing his own research on the website. However, many customers find it inconvenient to change channels, for example from computer (website) to phone. The live chat provides a solution to this problem. It allows individual issues to be resolved directly via a single device in person and in real time, without the inconvenience of changing channels.

Another step towards a positive user experience is the video chat. Depending on the issue, customers are connected to the relevant staff member. Often, a quick look by a well-trained person is enough to find out where the problem lies and how it can be resolved. Many more customer requests can be dealt with by video consultation from PC to PC than by on-site visits. This renders this method very efficient and cost-effective.

If the request cannot be answered in this way, an on-site service appointment can still be arranged

with the customer – also without changing channels.

A chatbot, i.e. an autonomously acting programme that accepts orders and provides automated answers to questions or requests, also offers advantages for B2B service providers: its flexible 24/7 availability increases the efficiency of their

own service portfolio, company processes can be streamlined, costs can be saved and employees can therefore be deployed in other areas.

In a nutshell, all these technologies offer maximum efficiency = high customer satisfaction = long-term customer loyalty.

Social (media) care

Many companies, especially in B2B, use social media for marketing purposes, if at all. In customer support, social networks still play a rather subordinate role, but this will change in the future. Besides the traditional call centre and e-mail support, social care is becoming another selfservice basic. Currently, this trend is very popular, especially with younger customers; subsequent generations will probably take social care for granted. It is important to reach this young target group in this way, as these are the customers of tomorrow – those who will eventually ensure the future of the company.

With social care, B2B service companies have the opportunity to promote themselves in a very customer-oriented way, which can have a positive effect on potential new customers. Moreover, it additionally strengthens customer loyalty when service requests are dealt with quickly, competently, and transparently in public.

Deutsche Telekom is one of the pioneers in social care. The company has decided, for example, to set up its own social media presence that is exclusively responsible for service cases (Telekom hilft) and offers a point of contact to both B2C and business customers.

Overview of the benefits of customer self-service and real-time communication for b2b service providers

  • increasing brand awareness
  • image as a modern, up-to-date company
  • recommendation marketing of the future
  • increasing customer satisfaction
  • avoiding unnecessary on-site service visits
  • saving resources
  • cost savings
  • quicker findability on the web
  • establishing the company as subject matter expert
  • visualisation of complex service offers
  • positive user experience

Lukas Kerschbaum, Managing Director in All for One Customer Experience

The advantages for service companies from using this technology are quite obvious: perception as a future-oriented company as well as the associated gain in trust and positive word-of-mouth marketing. In addition, these companies pave the way for a positive user experience (UX)

Lukas Kerschbaum

Customer service by the crowd/customer forums/ communities

Lukas Kerschbaum is convinced of the crowd approach: “The new rising star in B2B service and customer service is called crowd service. In the spirit of swarm intelligence, customers as well as experts are active in brand communities and provide quick and easy help with problems and customer issues."

Whether Q&A portals, customer forums or communities: this form of customer self-service (many-to-many instead of one-to-one communication on the phone) is becoming increasingly popular. Users can help each other grouped by topic. First-hand information on services and products is available, and answers to questions come from like-minded people and experts. “Besides saving resources, such brand communities also have other advantages for companies: Not only are the emotional bond and trust of the customer reinforced, but these portals are also an excellent opportunity for companies to position themselves as subject matter experts," says Lukas Kerschbaum

Customer service 4.0

Society has become accustomed to a certain mobile standard; in everyday life, we are surrounded by digital helpers that make our lives easier (apps, wearables, dash buttons…). Customers also often don’t want to do without these conveniences in the business environment. The use of such tools opens enormous advantages and promising options in after-sales for B2B service providers. For example, the unplanned downtime of a production machine can be prevented, which can otherwise threaten a company’s existence due to the costs of production downtime, delayed delivery, and repair.

In B2B customer service, there is enormous potential for optimisation in the digital age. Some  examples:

Service on demand through remote maintenance

Keeping track of all maintenance schedules for a large number of machines is difficult and exhausting.

With remote service, the machine proactively takes over this task itself in conjunction with the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system: All switching on and off processes, running times and other critical measured variables are reported to the CRM system via an internet connection. When a threshold value is reached, the CRM system automatically triggers a maintenance intervention and sends out a service technician.

Simple prevention of service cases

Within the scope of predictive maintenance, the current operating states of machines are regularly sent to the cloud via Wi-Fi and stored there. They can either be actively requested or automatically transmitted to the plant supervisor at regular intervals, e.g. via app with push function. At the same time, the predictive maintenance solution analyses all key parameters regarding use, wear and condition of the machine and compares them with different sources.

If, for example, previously defined threshold values for temperature, voltage and fluid levels are exceeded outside of the maintenance interval, or if other error types are detected, the system supervisor and/or service technician receive a notification immediately. If there is a need for action, a quick reaction is possible. In this way, major service cases (complete machine failure) and the resulting costs (due to production downtime) can be avoided.

Better organisation of (emergency) service calls

Nowadays, no company can afford to keep its customers waiting several hours or even days for help in the event of a malfunction. Organising the service visit via phone is also unnecessarily annoying for the customer. An emergency app, for example, makes things easier. If necessary, the service technician who can solve the case best and fastest due to his technical skills, proximity to the site and/or current workload can be contacted directly. This is based on new technologies such as interactive dispatch boards and geo integration.

Seamless processing of service cases

Good service is fast, flexible and accessible through multiple channels. Less time is lost if service employees have loaded all the information

from the cloud on their device before an on-site appointment (and while he is still finishing another assignment).

This can be customer, product and service contract data, a maintenance and repair overview or information on previous and similar damage cases (Big Data and CRM). Follow-up appointments

as well as additional travel time and costs are eliminated if the staff can call in an expert from the office via video chat in the event of a problem, who supports them in analysing and solving the problem, e.g. also via remote control (multichannel service).

Upselling using the internet of things

Intelligent products will soon increasingly support us effectively and unobtrusively in everyday tasks.

Refrigerators or printer cartridges, for example, will automatically report when they run out of food or have soon to be refilled. Intelligent technology is not only increasingly used in B2C, but also in B2B: Examples of applications are intelligent energy control technology and ordering systems, industrial tools for process control, automation and mainte- nance or infrastructure programmes for communica- tion.

Machines that constantly transmit all relevant data to manufacturers and service providers offer a steady pool of first-hand information. On this basis, not only can existing systems be improved or new ideas developed, but above all offers can be expanded accordingly (up-selling). In this way, companies and service providers are able to secure invaluable advantages in the long term.


Speed – mobility – flexibility – personalisation: Providing service in real time, on all end devices and changing channels, with as much background information as possible, tailored to the personal needs of the customer.

Linking the touchpoints: In the course of the digital revolution, companies are required to offer customer service on more and more channels (multichannel), in order to always be at the cutting edge. However, customers will only get a seamless service experience if they can freely switch back and forth between all channels. This remains a major challenge for many companies. It also makes sense to separate channels from pro- cesses, an order process is mapped across all chan- nels and only communication takes place through them.

Knowledge base: The service business is becoming increasingly complex. In order to master all challenges, it is necessary to build a central knowledge and operating platform, e.g. with the appropriate CRM system and corresponding customised IT infrastructure. For maximum benefit, the data should of course be available for mobile access across departments and locations.

Customer experience management: The interaction of customers and companies in B2B, especially in services, is increasing. This also applies to the associated “experiences". But B2B companies in particular tend to underestimate the impact of these experiences, even though they are of fundamental importance: Viewed objectively, price, quality and performance alone are no longer enough to build customer loyalty. Competition is intensifying and negative experiences quickly lead to a change of provider. Despite very complex relationships (e.g. buying centre instead of individual contact, extended decision-making time frame), customer experience management can help companies to achieve long-term customer loyalty: “It is important to consistently reflect the B2B service provider’s capabilities across all points of interaction and touchpoints by providing the customer with experiences that have a positive connotation. This is especially true in the area of customer support, where the term customer service experience management is often used in this context," Lukas Kerschbaum points out.


No industry is immune to the effects of the ongoing digitalisation. Professional and integrative solutions are needed that optimise and automate processes, improve service and increase profits Digital future issues are also on the agenda of companies in the service sector. This involves the question of how an ever-increasing number of service channels can be managed most effectively. It is also, of course, about the processing and structuring of knowledge, to which both employees and increasingly autonomous customers partially have equal access.

Millennials and subsequent generations, who are the customers of today and especially of tomorrow, demand a much more personalised and flexible service portfolio. Companies that want to be successful in the future will have to reorganise and expand their services accordingly.

On a technical level, it is important for service companies to take the next step in order to become or remain future-ready. Digital developments such as the Internet of Things, chatbots or predictive maintenance are trendsetting, but are certainly only the beginning.

Interoperability through deep integration into the existing system environment, mobile service solutions, intelligent scheduling features, geo integration or automatic maintenance management are just a few aspects that will be a given for the service organisation of the future. As part of the future project Industry 4.0, for example, there is also an opportunity for innovative service providers to develop not only new business models, but also entire business areas based around them – with above-average growth opportunities.

Overall, it can be said that the service industry’s path to the future is like a fine balancing act. On one hand, digitalisation should not happen at the expense of service employees.

This will not be the case in the foreseeable future. According to a study by Gartner, 85 percent of communication in customer service will take place without human interaction in just three years, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence. However, Lukas Kerschbaum notes: “Even if technology allows us to automate certain customer-oriented processes and thus overcome the major, logistical challenges of customer care and customer experience management – we will never be able to completely do without physical employee in customer service."

On the other hand, this automation trend must not be carried out on the backs of the customers: “If the customers of service providers get the feeling that many of these measures are only about cost reduction or profit maximisation, it is certainly not the right path to take.”

Even if you have not yet invested much in addressing the issue of securing the future, it is not too late. Under the current conditions, there will always be market opportunities that are not foreseeable now.