Last updated: Overcoming the challenges and economic fallout of COVID-19

Overcoming the challenges and economic fallout of COVID-19


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It’s clear that 2020 is shaping up to be the most difficult year many businesses have faced. From colleagues to competitors, everyone is scrambling when it comes to business enterprises and COVID-19.

We all want to stay ahead of the challenges posed by the pandemic and its economic fallout. My suggestion: focus on delivering an excellent customer experience, working from your internal teams out to your customers.

My employer, Robert Bosch Power Tools, is well known for its focus on innovation. We design and sell corded and cordless power tools, measuring tools, accessories, and garden tools for professionals and DIY users. Our engineering teams are responsible for creating industry-leading batteries, internet connectivity, brushless motors, and interactive displays.

These innovations helped our division achieve sales of €4.8 billion in fiscal year 2019 and a leading position in the power tools market. Much of our success, however, comes from our commitment to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

Many roads to customer insights

Whether they are tradespeople or homeowners, our customers expect us to understand their requirements. For professional users, high performance is essential. DIY customers are more interested in tools that are easy to use.

About 85% of our sales occur outside of Germany, and customer expectations vary by region. In some markets, corded tools are still very popular, but in others, cordless is becoming more important.

All customers want high-quality, reliable tools that simplify work and make their projects a success. But they also need services that identify which product best matches their requirements, provide support throughout the product lifecycle, and offer help from us on demand.

Communicating with these customers is challenging, though. On the B2B side of our business, dealers can use our commerce platforms to send service requests 24×7. On the B2C side, our DIY users typically use e-mail or phone, which requires a high degree of organizational flexibility to ensure proper service levels.

To really enhance the customer experience, we needed to get in touch with our “B2B2B” customers – consumers who buy our tools through dealers.

In the past, our focus on the dealer relationship left us with little contact information for customers. Now we’re beginning to work on that communication, so we can get customer feedback on product quality, reliability, and new features.

Necessity is the mother of invention – especially when it comes to business enterprises and COVID-19

Fortunately, Bosch is quite advanced in terms of our digitalization initiatives. The power tools division was one of the first to embrace digital transformation several years ago, and our organizational commitment is strong. So when COVID-19 began disrupting business around the world, we didn’t have to make too many adjustments to keep everyone working and getting products out to customers.

In fact, the pandemic made us realize that we could do more – by extending our digitalization effort to our new customer services. As digital channels become more important to customers, we want to further personalize customer communication. We’re creating an omnichannel experience that allows customers to reach us using the channel they prefer, at the time right for them.

The pandemic also underscored the importance of online commerce, a key sales channel. We already have powerful B2B e-commerce platforms running all over the world, but now we’re looking for ways to improve our online offerings for DIY users.

One possibility is to make better use of our 360-degree customer data. Our sales, service, and marketing solutions are enriched by customer data from our e-commerce platforms, but we wanted to do more. By analyzing the huge volumes of data gathered from other areas of the company, we hope to add to our business knowledge and share insight within the organization.

For example, our sales, marketing, and service teams all have a clear focus on their activities, but little knowledge about what the other teams do or need. Access to customer insight would help everyone serve customers better.

Let’s say a customer calls our service center. Assuming we have secured the required customer consent to collect the data, information from sales should be available to service teams, allowing agents to see which products the caller already owns. With that insight, the agent could focus in on the problem faster and offer a solution that would ensure a positive customer experience.

We’ve always known that linking all of these areas together would help all of those teams. The events of 2020 just accelerated our plans.

Lessons learned from 2020 – so far

We’re under pressure to deliver service improvements faster than ever before. Customers expect that from us and we’re determined to meet their needs.

The availability of data is becoming increasingly important because so much of our customer experience is related to online requests. Customers would like to be able to see product pricing and availability online – in an easy, highly accessible way.

Part of the challenge lies in connecting that data and making it widely available to our team members. To identify a customer, we need to be able to pinpoint all of the processes touched – beyond simple marketing contacts to sales, service, and operational processes. And we must do this while complying with all of the relevant data privacy requirements. Our sales, service, marketing, and commerce solutions combined with our ERP application helps us address these issues throughout our end-to-end processes.

Finally, we need more sophisticated ways to hear and respond to customers. We have a dedicated team that searches for customer reviews and comments across the internet. By bundling the various streams into a single social media platform, we could create a single transparent view of customer sentiment – and respond to requests that much faster.

To meet this need, we’re investing in process automation. Using technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can bring a customer’s specific request to the right people in our organization instantly.

Enterprises and COVID-19: Three keys to a better customer experience

None of these improvements can happen by dictate. We need our employees to buy into these initiatives and really commit to their success, so we must drive change from the inside out. Here are three key takeaways from our experience:

  1. Focus on your customer every day. Understanding customer objectives, strategic goals, and processes is essential to figuring out how to best meet customer requirements. It’s important to use this insight not just externally, so we can sell more products, but also internally – so our team members know why we’re taking these steps. We consult with our internal teams to let them know how each new process or change helps us meet customers’ strategic goals.
  2. Ensure new tools help workers deliver the best experience. When service agents are provided with intuitive, powerful tools that help them do a good job, the customer experience improves. If our tools fail to offer a great experience to employees, it will be much more difficult for them to support customers. The employee experience must be a priority when we enhance our tools and processes.
  3. Choose IT tools and technology that advance your business goals. IT provides great new technology solutions and process optimization ideas. But the tools are a means to an end. While trying to bring together our sales, marketing, and service teams, we found that some groups didn’t understand how digitalization could help the company succeed. Sales reps, for example, didn’t want to take time to maintain data that could help the marketing organization, because it reduced the time they were selling products and thus, their earnings. We had to help each team understand how these tools would benefit both themselves and our company.

Enterprises and COVID-19 are on a collision course, and keeping the business growing and improving during these unprecedented times is a challenge.

As leaders, our role is not just to be responsible for delivering new technology tools. To enable a better customer experience, we also must provide inspiration to the business units and help employees best use new tools. That’s true whether we’re competing in normal times or in the most difficult months of a pandemic.

Enterprises and COVID-19: 
Align within to conquer the future.
Learn more HERE.

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