More OEM vendors now realize that good customer service involves far more than providing a friendly phone voice to field questions and answer complaints.
"Customer service has now evolved more to providing value and knowledge," notes James Cashman, president and CEO of ANSYS, Inc., the Pittsburgh area developer of design analysis and simulation software.
OEM suppliers, adds Cashman, need to move from offering generic products to being able to adapt and customize products to meet the unique needs and processes of customers. This is particularly important for companies that sell complex products. ANSYS, for example, has introduced a software framework that allows customization experts to bring complex simulation capabilities to design engineers with minimal training.
"Our consultants have worked with customers to integrate their proprietary in-house software with the broad range of simulation tools from ANSYS, as well as its software partners," says Cashman. An open architecture helps make this possible.
The Web also has become a prime tool for better customer relations. ANSYS uses its website to introduce new products, discuss upgrades on existing products, and give customers training on demand. When customers encounter a problem with the software or need application help, they can do a key word search to access a constantly expanding searchable database, which is based on input from in-house experts, customers, and distributers around the world. "This is not just frequently-asked questions," notes Cashman. "Customers are able to access success stories of others and learn about best practices."
ANSYS routinely builds customized web portals for its customers to keep various divisions of a corporation in close communication. Among other web services, ANSYS can moderate chat groups, provide technical mentors, and offer automatic engineering report generators. It also enlists its software partners as needed. For customers who lack the computing power to perform highly complex simulation, ANSYS offers web-based services to get the job done.
Says Cashman: "We believe these programs offer a much richer experience for our customers. And because we are pro-active in answering their needs, we can actually save costs ourselves, which we can then roll back into additional services."