Manufacturers can serve as a valuable resource to their customers by implementing digital strategies. It makes doing business simpler, which is another excellent growth strategy. Customer experience is at the heart of acquisition and retention, but until now seemed to be only a strategy for B2C.
However, B2B companies have discovered that their customers are just like any other. And this discovery is changing how the customer experience is shifting in manufacturing. Understanding and implementing digital strategies are but one part of the new customer experience.
Defining the Digital Customer Experience
The digital customer experience includes all the interactions a prospect has with a brand in the digital space. Total interactions include visits to a company’s website, digital profile, inbound email campaigns, interactions with customer support through a chat application, and downloading and applying digital product data and models.
Businesses need to consider where prospects are engaging with their brand and which device those prospects are using. All digital experiences must provide high-quality interactions with a smooth transition from one device to another.
The manufacturing industry sees the expanding role of online engagement, just as retailing and services have. The buyer’s journey has moved online due to many factors, COVID-19 restrictions among them. Companies must meet the prospects where they are. These days, they are online more than ever before.
Now, manufacturers must add value through content and personalized experiences to make it to the shortlist, including:
- An effortlessly engaging web structure
- Intuitive navigation
- A marketing automation platform
- Content targeted to each buyer persona in the buyer’s journey
The digital experience expands its importance as more companies move to use artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and data analytics to optimize production.
Top Manufacturing Service Trends
The following are some of the top manufacturing service trends affected by the changing customer experience in manufacturing.
More businesses are using performance-based contracts as customers become less concerned about purchasing equipment. They are more concerned about the ROI of their purchase. For equipment manufacturers, that can translate into more rentals and fewer sales, and the need for usage-based pricing. Renting equipment allows companies to lock in long-term contracts, making up and possibly surpassing revenue from sales.
XaaS, where X indicates a product or service, is becoming an industry-wide business model.
Connecting Through AI and IoT
Manufacturers leverage the extensive connectivity of the IoT environment, especially in augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). Industry demand and applications for AI continue to rise as companies race to find operational efficiencies and provide a more hands-on field service capability.
When a pandemic requires physical distancing, the ability to be there while not being there is a crucial piece of the customer experience. Also, technologies such as virtual reality allow field technicians to guide customers collaboratively in solving problems on-site.
Prioritizing Different Customer Service Metrics
Many businesses are shifting away from metrics that measure how support agents process complaints to those measuring “customer happiness” and “customer success.” Instead, they are aligning key performance indicators (KPIs) with those of their customers, such as:
- Equipment uptime
- Production output
- Quality and failure metrics
- Time to market for new products
Customer retention improves when manufacturers and service providers show they understand customer needs and match them as closely as possible.
Prioritizing and measuring the effectiveness of customer success means asking questions. For example:
- How well do manufacturers bring a “how can I help” mindset?
- How flexible are they in responding to changes in the customer’s circumstances?
- Do they make an extra effort to understand the customer’s business objectives?
- Do companies help customers achieve their business goals?
Without the appropriate measurement, there is no way to discern improvement or gain feedback.
Going Digital for Customers’ Sake
Manufacturing may seem behind the curve for technology adoption, but it’s not hard to catch up.
By following some simple rules for the online customer experience, any company can guarantee success.
Create an FAQ Page or Knowledge Base
The average B2B buyer selects from a multitude of complicated components, configurations, and materials. Manufacturers that establish an online knowledge database allow buyers to research the right solutions on their own time.
Here’s an example of a CNC Machining Guide that customers might find by searching CNC machining or CNC machining services.
An online FAQ or database also allows companies to engage buyers early in the process and enable prospects to approach at their own pace. Such website features also save customer service agents a lot of time by eliminating repetitive calls.
Display Product Data in Customer-Friendly Formats
According to HubSpot, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases from companies offering an excellent customer service experience. Part of that success comes from delivering products in a format the customer expects.
Manufacturers earn new business by providing downloadable CAD/BIM files with performance data and sales platforms compared to companies that don’t offer these materials.
Centralize Access to Product Design Data
Help engineers get their jobs done faster with easy digital access to the most up-to-date bill-of-materials (BOM) information. They avoid delays and errors involved in tracking changes manually. Informational guides on the website, tagged to make them easy to find, can maximize product usage. Add a customer portal where they can find all the information related to their order, including status and customized pricing maintenance schedules.
Automatic notifications related to maintenance also remove friction from the buyer’s journey and the customer’s engagement.
Add a ChatBot to the Website
A chatbot gives prospects and customers immediate 24/7 access to customer support and service. It can answer basic questions, direct users to relevant content, and potentially persuade them to make a faster decision.
With a chatbot, a manufacturer also gains access to data from the interactions, steering sales, and support in personalizing interactions with customers and providing feedback for new product development. Salesforce.com reports that 68% of businesses using chatbots find their customer support teams see reduced call times because the chatbot helps reduce wait times.
Improve Overall Customer Experience
Difficult navigation causes 76% of industrial buyers to leave a website without buying. Create a modern, updated website and build an effective digital strategy along with IoT and AI connectivity, performance-based contracts, and appropriate metrics to leave competitors in the dust.
The customer experience is too significant to ignore. Be the resource that keeps customers coming back.