Manufacturing is a parts and product driven industry. Manufacturer A needs parts from Manufacturer B to send its machine off to the end market. Within this transactional framework, concepts like “customer experience” (CX) are not tossed around as frequently as in other industries.
Sure, it’s important to keep customers happy. You still work hard to hit your quotas, quality check every part and problem solve any issues that do arise. Yet, the follow-up to see if the customer experience is working is left up to sales, marketing or support teams, right? Why do plant managers or production leaders need to worry about their company’s CX strategy?
The answer is simple: The world is changing, and the manufacturing industry is changing with it. Customers are looking for value at every step of the customer journey, and the companies that actively seek to deliver that value have a major competitive advantage. The more a manufacturer breaks down the silos between departments, allowing better communication along the customer journey, the better.
While production may track if parts are shipped on time and if the customer accepted or rejected them, they don’t have insight into customer feedback from surveys the support team sends out. You don’t want your plant manager walking into an audit with a long-time customer not knowing they are also reaching out to the support team with a complaint about another part.
By developing a strong CX strategy, manufacturers can meet — or even exceed — customer expectations. They can rapidly adapt and refine products based on customer feedback, supply chain changes, and even IoT (internet of things) usage data. Manufacturers can even use their CX strategy to drive prospecting and sales, increase conversion rates, boost product ratings, and improve customer retention.
To understand how a CX strategy can deliver results in manufacturing, it helps to split the customer experience into three core elements:
What is it like to be a customer working with your company? How easy is it to order products, provide product feedback, or learn more about your products? How difficult is it to resolve product or ordering issues?
How does your company use customer data? How much of a role does customer and IoT data play in decision making? Is critical decision-driving data readily available, or is it hidden away in data silos?
Is your company’s technology optimized to streamline processes? Does your technology make it easier to be a customer? Does it provide meaningful insights for product design, order management, customer satisfaction, marketing, and sales? Is there an ongoing investment in new technology?
All three of these elements play a role in developing a strong CX strategy. The most obvious connection between them is the customer journey. By examining the company culture, it’s possible to identify underlying problems in customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention. When a company addresses disconnects and gaps in process, it can reclaim extremely valuable insights into customer frustrations, expectations, and purchasing priorities. By investing in technology improvements, the company can substantially streamline operations, remove barriers to entry, and develop better products based on actual customer needs.
These CX strategy improvements benefit more than just the customer. A well-designed and implemented CX strategy can also yield serious benefits for distribution partners, retailers, suppliers, and even internal teams. The benefits are felt throughout the entire business network, including the end customers.
This approach to CX strategy can also provide a greater degree of flexibility and freedom for manufacturers. By updating your approach to the customer journey, it becomes less daunting to develop targeted plans to improve customer acquisition, build strong cross-channel marketing, or improve social media and online visibility. Your company no longer needs to rely on on retailers and partners to provide your company with customer insights and product feedback. You now gather that information as a direct result of a comprehensive CX strategy.
A great example of this concept in action would be the incorporation of IoT data into your product designs. When applicable, IoT data can provide your company with clear information about how customers are using your parts or products, and where they fall short of expectations. This information can then be used to improve not only the part or product itself, but also the customer experience of using it. This same CX data can inform everything from pricing to content marketing priorities.
No two companies are the same. CX strategies need to be crafted individually, focusing on what works for their market and customers. However, there are some general concepts that apply broadly to every CX strategy:
Today’s customers have higher expectations, and retention of these customers is becoming more of a challenge. What always worked in the past may not work anymore. An effective CX strategy helps you keep your customers. How? Because it easier to become a customer, and stay a customer. It establishes a strong relationship between the manufacturer and customer, allowing customers to provide feedback that improves the parts or products that they purchase. Feeling like they have a say in their needs makes customers more likely to stay with a manufacturer over a competitor.
Make use of your product and customer data. Use this as an opportunity to liberate your data from department-level silos in customer service, sales, product development, and marketing. Use that data to inform your planning, and to gain a clearer understanding of customer needs. When possible integrate those insights into other parts of the business, like your product development, online customer experience, and even marketing.
Improving the customer experience starts with the ability to measure and analyze data from every corner of your business. Much of this data is already available through your CRM, ERP, support desk, and other business solutions, but other important pieces may require additional investment and development. IoT, marketing automation, website analytics, and even supply chain data can also play a role in CX optimization. Bringing all these elements together is an important investment, and it’s not the time to start cutting corners on the budget.
It’s important to remember that implementing a CX strategy isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process of refinement that involves every step of the customer journey. Progress needs to be measured, scoured for new insights, and then used to inform further strategy and planning. It’s something that deserves a dedicated line item in your budget, and constantly revisited with ROI in mind.
To be effective, a strategy needs to be focused on achieving a specific outcome. In the case of CX strategies, the structure should be arranged with a clearly defined goal in mind. A CX strategy for customer retention will have a different set of priorities than one aimed at acquisition. Establish a methodology for measuring progress, and be willing to adjust and refine those methods over time to progress toward your goals.
With the right CX strategy in place, manufacturers become more resilient to the ever-changing nature of the business. Data-driven decision making allows for better planning, and avoiding needless risks. Improving the customer experience makes it possible to improve every aspect of the customer relationship, from loyalty to part or product ratings. By streamlining operations with CX in mind, manufacturers can even become more agile, responsive, and competitive.
Curious about CX strategy for manufacturers? Faye can help. Contact us today for a no-risk consultation.