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How GE Digital Energy used IT to take customer experience to the next level
A differentiating customer experience in heavy machinery?
If the concept sounds contradictory, GE Digital Energy is constantly working to overturn the contradiction. Logically, the easier we make it to buy, the more engineers and manufactures will continue to buy from us. That’s why we looked outside our own industry to create an Amazon-like, highly-interactive retail experience. Why not give customers a great commercial and shopping experience, even if they’re buying a turbine or electrical components rather than a book?
An important point to remember is that it’s easy for us to sell the customer the first time because we have a great brand. But if we don’t take care of our customers, selling to them in the future is going to be a major problem. Selling really comes into focus when you put a capable service organization in place. Because if something happens and if you don’t take care of the customer and don’t service them properly, the sales guy will be kicked out when he goes back a second time.
How are we extending the customer experience? Based on insights we gained by doing ride-alongs with Sales, today our reps can come in and truly personalize the e-commerce experience. Our tablet-based software, which we developed in-house and call App Dash, has a catalog of all our products. You can take your iPad and show all the products. There’s a 3D view of each part, so you can pull a product apart while showing the customer what’s inside it. That also means you don’t have to carry a transformer with you to show your customer.
In addition, we can actually configure whatever this product is to the customer’s needs right then and there: on an iPad, and even in an offline mode. And we can generate a work order, and then as soon as the salesperson connects into the GE network, that work order will go directly to the sales rep for confirmation and the customer we get a message that their order has been placed successfully. It’s pretty close to a real-time supply chain. Compare that response time to some of our competitors, who may take six weeks just to generate a proposal for a complex product, versus half an hour for GE.
After the first sale, it should get harder
Once you order a product from GE, our job has just begun, of course. We alert customers when we ship the product and what the ETA is on it. It’s not unlike Domino’s Pizza. From the time you order your pizza, you know whether the dough is being spread or whether it’s baking or whether it’s being packaged or whether it’s on its way to your house. In the same way, we provide customers updates on where this part is or where this product is from the sales or repair standpoint, so they have no surprises. Anytime they like, they can log in see where their part is.
Did we get there overnight? More like two years.
But this customer experience is drawing more companies to us than our competitors. We have mastered a lot of that front-end hand-holding. We are making sure that our customers have a wonderful initial experience and wonderful return experiences. So again, it may be par for the course in other industries, but in our utility industry it’s huge. Every company should try to take their customer experience to the next level this way.
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Venki Rao was named CIO of GE Digital Energy business in December 2010. He is responsible for driving the IT strategy for Digital Energy, synergies, operational efficiencies, key digitization initiatives and enhancing business’ go-to market efforts with their smart-grid solutions. Additionally, he works closely with the Software Solutions business team to grow it and strengthen connections with Utility CIOs. Prior to this role, he was the CIO of Global Application Management Services (GAMS) at GE Energy since March of 2007. In this role, he was responsible for leading GAMS organization, providing continual operational support for production applications while improving performance and availability, and leading the strategy & governance of strategic enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM, PLM & BI to enable business simplification and growth. In this position, Venki also provided strategy & managed GE Energy’s IT outsourcing efforts.