03 May Shifting manufacturing focus from product to customer
by Tom Lovell, David Rivas
Manufacturing customers complete over half of the buyer’s journey completely online before even engaging directly with a company. Because of this and many other increasingly digital trends, manufacturers are turning to more customer-centric strategies. Operations and technology that support these leading manufacturers include tools for rebate management, B2B relationship management, field service, and self-service portals. But to succeed with any of these technologies, your organization first has to clearly understand the shift from a product focus to customer focus on a cultural level.
In this blog, we’ll take some time to review three key solutions manufacturers are after when they shift to a customer-focused approach. Thought leadership and training sessions that explain the importance of these solution areas are crucial for manufacturers making major technological changes and transforming the way business has always been done. Once the value of these solutions is understood by everyone, adoption and successful results are just one implementation project away.
Unified processes across front and back offices
Crucial to becoming a truly customer-centric organization is ensuring your front- and back-office processes are in sync. Manufacturers with the systems, operations, and employee buy-in to support this harmonization are flexible and able to quickly adapt when new ways of buying products or services come about. In our own experience, we’ve worked with manufacturing clients who established more flexible contracting processes in part because their front and back offices were on the same page more than ever before. All of this is made possible by ensuring your data model is unified across the front and back offices and your products/services are structured in a way that allows for flexible contracting and selling.
Sharing and working off of the same information, front-office departments like sales and customer service can update account and contact information without worrying about the same information getting lost on its way to back-office finance or billing departments. Better yet, the customer quickly notices how easy and seamless these interactions are with the company, building long-term loyalty and years of repeating revenue. Additionally, when back-office departments have changes to product structures or contracting terms, these changes will be updated in real-time allowing the front-office to move full speed ahead with always-current information as the SSOT.
Technology that makes it possible: multifaceted integration layers and new ways to order through Manufacturing Cloud or B2B Commerce Cloud.
Technical support for the omnichannel experience
Traditionally, manufacturing customers would call up their go-to sales rep or deal desk contact and place an order after some back and forth negotiating and collaboration. And sure, this still happens today—but nowhere near on the scale it used to. The majority of customers are seeking out omnichannel experiences that give them the power to self-serve as much as possible and then work with a rep or field technician as needed. The more information and choice you can put at the fingertips of your buyers, the better. That’s why the manufacturers gaining a competitive edge are those getting out in front of this trend with their own holistic experiences for configuring, planning, purchasing, servicing, and maintenance of products.
Consider replacing your deal desk and associated support system with a self-service model that connects to customer touchpoints on all channels: social media, SMS, organic search, live chat, phone, email. Give your customers the ability to engage in a completely digital experience with your brand through mobile or desktop. This customer hub can also double as your customer community for further retention with knowledge articles, self-service tutorials, and potential subscription offerings.
Technology that makes it possible: Service Cloud, Community Cloud, Field Service Lightning
Change management for distributors and partners
Finally, the previous solution areas are only as good as the support and adoption you have from your partners: distributors, contractors, wholesalers, etc. Anyone who is involved in getting your products from factory to final customer. Investing in the time and resources to properly train your partners gives you a chance to not only set up the implementation of omnichannel self-service portals or harmonized processes but also show partners how to use them optimally. New interfaces can be intimidating and prevent adoption, so create a strategy to get your partners on board and ready to play their part in the self-service chain.
An added benefit of this is that you’ll develop a stronger relationship with partners by saving the time previously spent on tedious tasks and, together, have more time to innovate on new product ideas and collaboration opportunities. This is one of the repeating benefits we’ve seen in our clients as they transition to self-service portals and bring their partners along with them. By becoming more customer-centric in their processes, manufacturers make more time to revolutionize their product offerings.
Technology that makes it possible: partner enablement training sessions and organizational change management with expert consultants at Simplus.
Shifting your entire manufacturing company from a product quality-based mindset to a customer-experience-driven one is no small task. But equipped with a strong foundation and understanding of the value customer-centric strategies offer, any size company can shift to the new way of doing things and unlock incredible opportunities for building business in the modern era. Get started with our team today for more guidance customized to your specific needs.
Tom is VP, Manufacturing CoE here at Simplus. For over 15 years, Tom has helped companies implement data and process-driven strategies to bridge the gap between business and IT. These strategies have improved patient outcomes, reduced financial risk, and improved operational efficiency in healthcare organizations while bringing to bear streamlined costs, reduced risk, and improved revenue at manufacturers. His passion is architecting and sharing practical solutions that deliver valuable results for customers.
David has been working in the Salesforce platform ecosystem for over eight years and cloud computing for 18 years. David provides program guidance and Salesforce-specific subject matter expertise, facilitates client project planning, and Salesforce solutions addressing complex business problems in the front office. He is specialized in enabling high-growth, go-to-market strategies that drive top-line revenue and competitive differentiation. As SME, he helps drive consistency with Salesforce leading practices. and brings overall program success.