If you think customer experience is an issue of priority only for customer-facing industries like retail and telecommunications, think again: Statistics show that customer experience affects all industries directly.
Did you know that 86% of buyers across industries will pay more for a better customer experience? Or that surveys show that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020? The key differentiator isn’t quality of product for many consumers—it’s quality of service.
Manufacturers face customer experience challenges today that may not have been as urgent in the past. The reasons are many. Technological innovation reshapes communication between manufacturer, distribution partners, and the end customer. Buyer expectations have also changed as a result of technology and information access.
During this year’s ProMat conference in Chicago, IL, the Cisco Eagle team was able to meet with many of our manufacturing partners to discuss the importance of the customer experience. The objective was to better understand how these manufacturers are prioritizing it for this year – and beyond.
With a slogan like “The customer wants it faster, the customer wants it cheaper, you need the answer … solve for x,” we knew ProMat 2017 would offer up some interesting perspective on what manufacturers need to do to satisfy the needs of their customers.
Let’s take a look:
Kelly Kamlager, Marketing Manager, Ladder Industries
“It’s experience that Wildeck offers, which means we have a history, we have the knowledge, we have the capability to react [to customer specifications, challenges, etc.]. So, our ability to adapt and move forward is a big strength for our organization.
On the digital front, specifically, the speed at which information is being shared is a considerable component to success: customer service and response time, the quality to the exchange of knowledge, creating the appropriate solution. – the idea is that you must have everything moving as quickly as possible.
In other words, the faster you can produce that type of quality of information and get into the hands of the decision-maker, the more quickly they’re able to make a decision and the more satisfied they become with your business.”
About Kelly Kamlager: Kelly is the Marketing Manager at Wildeck and Ladder Industries where she supports all facets of the organization’s marketing programs, from product promotion to meeting with end-user customers.
Mike Twitty, Western Territory Sales Manager, RWM Casters
“For us, customer experience is a top priority. We want to make sure that, throughout the process, customers have a good experience. It goes from customer service to processing the orders to our follow-through on sending acknowledgements as well as the products when and how they arrive etc.
So we’ve actually audited many of our processes in the office. We’ve also invested in tools that allow us to monitor how a lot of those conversations go to look for opportunities of improvement. We use those as educational tools to train our people so that we can have our conversations and we can ask ourselves things like ‘Was this the best way to handle it? Should we make changes moving forward?’
That ultimately gives us the opportunity to improve our customer service and the customer experience as we continue to grow.”
About Mike Twitty: Mike supports the western half of the U.S. for RWM and has over 8 years of dedicated caster & material handling experience in solving unique application needs
Giulio Bassi, Marketing Manager & Stephen Cwiak, Senior VP Interroll
“Right now we’re organizing our sales side of the business into a sales unit, so we’re going to have one interface where all of our customers come to one location, whether it’s a call in, email, you name it.
From there, we will take that information to whomever needs it, whether it’s a product expert, or a particular sales person who has experience in an area. So we’re trying to channel it through one area so that it’s not just a shotgun approach of how customers come and interact with Interroll.
The other thing we have in the works is an initiative to grow our business to have 20% of our business in service. A lot of that depends on how we interact with customers on the back end once our equipment has been implemented and how we help our customers continue to have longevity with our products.”
Cliff Mullis, Director of Systems Integration & Mitch Smith, Director of Product Management Hytrol
“We serve the largest network of distributors (what we refer to as “integration partners”) and end users in the industry. Since order volumes from our Integration Partner Network have grown, we’ve increased the number of Customer Support personnel while also extending available support hours to 24/7, launching May 1.
We’ve also added project management support and product managers to ensure a positive customer experience from initial contact to implementation.”
About Cliff Mullis: Cliff is Hytrol’s director of systems development. As part of the business development team, Mullis is involved with new market growth and penetration, point-of-sale support for Hytrol integration partners and driving end user value.
About Mitch Smith Mitch is Hytrol’s director of product management. He is responsible for leading Hytrol’s product management team and works with the engineering and product development teams to ensure the company continues to bring innovation and reliability to the market.
Dave Broadfoot, Managing Partner & Joe Pelej, Marketing Manager, Lightning Pick
“The philosophy behind what we’ve been delivering has been about the customer experience all along, just thinking about how we can take a few extra steps to get the product from conception to use for our customers. So how do we do that? We keep thinking about different ways to pull more out of the process to get it done faster.
Basically, we keep the process of improving customer experience always flowing. For example, we have customers where product comes off one truck, goes through our system for sortation, and goes down a conveyor and is put on another truck. And so it never hits the inventory location; potentially having a negative impact on the customer. So it’s flow-through process in that regard. We’re always looking at how to make that happen more effectively for the customer.
These days, people’s expectations will only grow, and so you have to ask yourself “What can we do to stand out a little bit, be competitive, and do something that ties back to the whole customer experience?”
In some ways, we’re almost trying to replicate the retail store experience – giving extra customer care to the whole ordering process, for example.
The other thing, too, is many retailers are trying to catch up to the Amazon model, and there’s a lot more third party logistics groups that have become experts in assisting with this. They need that flexibility to handle multiple customers, and that’s where our pick or put systems can accommodate.”
As you can infer, customer experience is and has always been a priority for manufacturers. This is true even though many manufacturers work behind the scenes, supporting distributors and partners in their sales and service efforts.
That said, as the needs of everyone involved in the sales and marketing process change, how manufacturers adapt tactics and programs to improve customer experience also becomes important.
How is your organization adapting to improve customer experience? I’d love to read your comments and many thanks to all of our manufacturers for their insight and partnership.