Manufacturers win when they bake customer obsession into the product development process from beginning to end. This obsession must go beyond any single process, and be baked into an end-to-end ecosystem connecting employees, partners, processes, machines, data, and customers. Plugging into the best technology is only part of the story. Here’s how to get there.
By Saurabh Dawra, Director, Client Leadership
In my 20+ years with manufacturing and automotive clients, I’ve seen a fundamental shift in the industry. Ten years ago, the customer relationship was owned by partners. The focus for manufacturers was on building products. Today, the customer experience (CX) is just as important as the products you create, and needs to be built into how you do business from top to bottom.
In the latest 2021 CIO agenda published by Gartner, the majority of respondents emphasize a need for an even greater focus on CX. There’s a transformational shift happening, a rethinking of what it means to be a manufacturer. Manufacturing is now seen as more than just something that happens on the factory floor, but an end-to-end ecosystem centered on the customer.
As manufacturers look to adapt to the changing landscape, they need to focus on improving business operations to drive a better customer experience—keeping that experience at the center, from product development to after-service support with value-add services. An estimated 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience and greater transparency.
What does “customer experience” really mean for a manufacturer? Traditionally, many companies are organized by function, making it easy for them to perceive great customer experience as something off to the side, in a silo. But employees and teams in siloes can’t see the full picture from the customer perspective. Shifting the focus from siloes to customer journeys make it possible for manufacturers to spot and address customer pain points.
Manufacturers are modernizing their business processes and digitally transforming to solve these problems. This trend was already strong, and COVID is driving up the need for a better online experience even more urgently. Manufacturers are striving to better understand their customers and streamline their operations across sales and services. This necessitates a digital transformation that can be fairly radical, depending on your maturity level. Recently I heard a quote from a CPG (consumer packaged goods) manufacturer with the biggest bakery in North America, and the highest volume croissant producer in the world. They’ve had a revelation about the nature of their business: “We’re a technology company that bakes!”
So how do you become a customer-centric tech company that happens to manufacture products?
True customer-centric strategy requires your entire organization
Look at your current strategy. With the changing landscape, manufacturers are looking to create new top-line revenue growth that extends beyond traditional models. Creating customer-centric journeys means nothing if not embraced by the entire organization. These journeys require buy-in from top-to-bottom and bottom-to-up. Building new ways to engage customers—and exceed their expectations—is not a task of one business function, but of the whole organization. Investing in technology likewise won’t be effective if done in siloes.
Taking that first step
We know this is all a lot easier to say than to do! The journey to build a customer-centric organization takes place one step at a time. We have a lot of practical experience working with other manufacturers and are here to help. Let’s talk about how our partners allow us to do more together.