New research from ORM and Acquia has identified customer experience as a “top priority” for the manufacturing sector in 2019. But how will changing focus from products to customers actually improve your manufacturing business?
Until recently, manufacturers were able to stay ahead of the competition by having the latest technology or the most advanced products, but B2B customers, accustomed to frictionless Uber and Amazon shopping experiences, are increasingly basing buying decisions on convenience.
This means that manufacturers need to pivot strategically to adopt a customer-first approach and invest in tools that empower their sales and marketing teams rather than just machines on the factory floor.
With almost three-quarters of the manufacturers we recently surveyed planning to adopt a customer-centric business model this year, here’s what this change could mean for your business.
Your costs will go down
Whether you sell through distributors or directly, you probably employ highly trained technical staff in your customer support department. And chances are good that they spend most of their time providing the same, basic product data over and over to different customers.
If you make product information available digitally (on your website or web portal) your staff can spend more time dealing with complex queries and building customer relationships.
Similarly, if your website includes content and tools to support lead generation, potential customers’ details will automatically be added to your database and your sales team will spend less time prospecting.
Your customers will be more loyal
In a market saturated with competitive products, convenience has become the key to customer loyalty. The easier you make it for your customers to find product information, place orders and get after-sales support, the more likely they are to be loyal to your brand.
Instead of providing product catalogues or CDs that are outdated before they’re delivered, or making customers call your support department for simple product information, you can provide always-up-to-date information by hosting these documents online.
The added benefit of making maintenance guides and calculation tools available via a simple internet search is that your products are more likely to perform as-intended and meet the customers’ expectations, which also increases customer loyalty.
Your products will improve
You’ll be able to develop better products if you understand your customers better. Improving your customer experience can open up opportunities for you to sell directly rather than through distributors, which will give you access to a wealth of customer data and product feedback.
But even if your clients are distributors, you can improve account management with digital CRM that tracks all client interactions, purchases and problems so that all feedback is tracked, and any member of your team can support any customer.
Adding feedback forms and tracking website traffic can also provide useful data to inform product development.
New customers will find you
Industry 4.0 is all about making existing processes more efficient to increase your margins, but real business growth is achieved by increasing your revenue.
Improving your customer experience makes your current clients more loyal and therefore more likely to place repeat orders, and the improved digital presence that you’ve created as a result of optimising the customer experience is also likely to improve your brand visibility and attract new customers.
Don’t just take our word for it, McKinsey recently found that businesses can typically achieve revenue growth of up to 10% and cost reductions of between 15% and 25%, within two to three years just by improving the customer experience.
Those that offer an exceptional customer experience can exceed the gross margins of their competitors by more than 26%, while making their employees happier and simplifying their end-to-end operations.