5 Ways To Enhance the Customer Experience in Manufacturing

OPINION / 31st January 2019

Customer experience matters, regardless of whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment.

Until recently, manufacturers were able to differentiate themselves by having the latest technology or the most advanced products to stay ahead of the competition.

Yet today, manufacturers compete on service, meeting the rising expectations of digitally empowered customers, who want the same ease, transparency and service levels as consumers.

This means manufacturers now need to pivot strategically, adopting a customer-first approach. Empowering sales and marketing teams to deliver a best-in-class customer experience, rather than solely focusing on sales.

Manufacturers have already invested heavily in digitising their operations on the factory floor, installing robotics and AI to make their systems and process as efficient as possible.

Yet, they have largely ignored another huge area of digital transformation: customer experience. But in 2019 this is set to change.

Why focus on customer experience?

A recent report by Accenture has highlighted the stark reality for businesses in this sector. It found that more than 80% of manufacturers’ customers are becoming more “knowledgeable, self-directed and informed buyers”, and are seeking access to a more ‘relevant and tailored’ experience.

Like with other sectors, manufacturers will have to adopt notions of ‘self-service’, ‘personalisation’ and ‘omni-channel customer-experience’, to stay competitive.

This can be a hard pill to swallow for CEOs of manufacturing businesses, who are reluctant to spend money on cost-centres like marketing. But they need to take comfort in the recent McKinsey findings that showed by optimising the customer experience, businesses can typically achieve revenue growth of 5% to 10% and cost reductions of between 15% to 25%, within just two or three years.

Moreover, the report said companies who 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.

Win. Win.

So, what should manufacturers do to enhance the customer experience?

Here we’ve outlined our recommendations:

  1. Collect customer data: Compelling customer experiences are born out of a deep understanding of the customer journey lifecycle. Manufacturers should collect data along every touchpoint of a customer journey (from pre-sales to delivery) to create a 360° view of their customer.
  2. Switch from a product-centric to customer-centred business model: Operating a business in distinct silos will no longer cut it in the digital era. In order to create a seamless customer experience, product divisions need to connect and collaborate closely with sales and marketing teams.
  3. Focus on creating an omnichannel experience: Information across all channels, including off-line, relevant, up-to-date and available in real-time in order to provide a consistent experience for the customer.
  4. Engage all stakeholders: Everyone in the business, including those in the supply chain, needs to be on board with improving the customer experience.
  5. Lead from the top: Adopting a customer-first approach has to come from the board and senior management team to encourage the acceptance of new digitised processes and tools, and to foster collaboration. This involves finding the right talent to help you achieve your goals and establishing a new governance model to drive digital change within the business.

ORM’s view 

While Industry 4.0 is transforming the manufacturing landscape, we can’t forget the importance of customer experience. Customers’ expectations are constantly rising as companies across industries put customer experience above all else. Challenger banks in the UK like Monzo compete almost entirely on great customer experience, and shopping staples like Amazon have raised customers’ expectations of digital services. Staying competitive is more than just optimising production and services.

At ORM we have extensive experience in creating rich, best in class customer experiences across sectors and touchpoints. We marry digital strategies with technology to dramatically improve not only the end customer experience for our clients’ customers but also their operational efficiency, which in turn leads to increased revenue too.

Come and talk to us about how we can use digital as an enabler to improve your customer experience and future-proof your business.

Lizzie Lawson Lizzie Lawson Senior Strategist Lizzie Lawson