The typical lab environment and operating processes can make it very challenging for instrument and reagent vendors to provide a great experience for their customers. For one, scientists and technicians are performing hands-on experiments and are away from their work computers. To complicate things further, most purchases are done by lab managers or purchasing agents, thereby keeping the scientists and technicians who use the products hidden from CRM and other sales databases.
These constraints make it nearly impossible for product and marketing teams to effectively identify and reach those customers, let alone provide the tools and help they need as they perform their experiments in the lab. One way to get around these barriers is to have sales reps and field specialists walk the labs, engage current customers, and identify new leads. In fact, for many reps, service engineers who make direct contact with instrument users have become a reliable and accurate source of leads. While this approach works, it is hard to scale and to deliver a consistent customer experience.
Some vendors have effectively used mobile apps as a way to reach customers as well as to provide tools such as handbooks and calculators. Mobile is a great channel to reach and engage, but the capabilities and experience currently provided remain rather basic and leave a lot to be desired.
How can companies overcome the hurdles and take customer experience in the lab to the next level? Advances in technology and changes in customer expectations and behavior now make it possible to elevate the customer experience.
The first step in elevating customer experience is establishing a more direct channel for communication and information delivery. Since product/marketing teams cannot always lean on the sales reps to populate CRM systems, there needs to be a more reliable way to accurately identify end users.
Mobile is a great channel not only for getting users to identify themselves but also for delivering personalized information. Empowering users to decide what they want to hear, and delivering well-timed information will entice lab members to download the app and provide their contact information. Mobile apps with a focus on educating users, helping them advance their research, and rewarding them for continued use will ensure the channel remains open.
Product information leaflets and protocols that come with the purchased product are often thrown out or found scattered throughout the lab. When a customer is in the lab and needs to look up information about the product they're using, they either have to step away from their work and take the time to go to the office and do a Google search, or in the best case scenario, they can use their mobile phone to perform a search at the bench. Depending on the product, there can be many listings about slightly different versions of the product with a similar name, versions of information and protocols from previous years, and products from other brands vying for the customer's attention with their similar products.
Now, imagine a technician in the lab being able to scan a product barcode or take a picture of the product with her mobile phone and getting accurate product details. Or, asking a device such as Amazon Echo to get the correct protocol corresponding to the latest version of the product in the lab. Providing this level of convenience and accuracy will not only make the customer more satisfied, but it will also encourage them to become an avid promoter of the company's products.
Current modes of providing support by email or phone have become outdated. To ensure a great customer experience, vendors need to deliver support the way users want to get support in the lab, or on the go. In the age of Twitter news, waiting for an email answer to arrive in days, or even hours, is no longer an option.
Platforms incorporating live chat provide a great avenue for customers to report their issues quickly, and for vendors to have direct access to their consumers. Live chats enable vendors to learn common challenges users are having with their products, and allow for routing of issues to the most appropriate team member, such as Technical Support or Field Application Specialists.
Most vendors today do not have an efficient way to keep customers in the loop with product updates and other relevant scientific information, such as publications. They rely primarily on promotional emails or sales and support teams to relay product information.
Once a direct communication channel is established, product teams can engage and educate customers with regular product updates to ensure they are given proactive support. Why wait for customers to report issues when issues can be avoided with timely updates?
Mobile engagement in the lab is critical not only for instant information access and support but also for maintaining customer loyalty. The scientific community now expects an experience from instrument and reagent vendors that is similar to using real-time communications tools such as Slack and FB Messenger. The technology to make the transition from an email and call-centric customer engagement model to a more engaging and empathetic customer experience is easily available. It is now up to the business leaders to recognize this opportunity for authentic engagement of their users and to take the next steps of empowering their teams to reimagine the lab user experience.