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3 ways manufacturers can build stronger customer relationships

Sep 10, 2018

The manufacturing sector is in a period of major disruption and change, fueled by new technologies and changing customer needs and expectations. Manufacturers must respond to stay competitive and keep pace. But how?

It’s time to embrace innovation and rethink business strategies and processes — and to prioritize efforts that deepen customer relationships. Customer relations will be essential to growth and success in manufacturing. That includes all the processes and tools you use to connect, interact and communicate with customers.

The risk of a bad relationship

If customers aren’t satisfied with your service or support, the whole business may be at risk.

Customers judge other aspects of the company — including quality — based on how they feel about your business. If they perceive that service is bad or you don’t care about customers, they disregard your marketing and sales efforts. Or worse, they avoid coming to you for help with issues and “jump ship” to a competitor.

Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to preserve and improve customer relationships. Once you build a solid infrastructure and consistent, streamlined processes, customers will be happy to work with you. They’ll start productive conversations about problems they’re experiencing and include you in the solution — leading to greater satisfaction overall.

Worth the effort

Possible doesn’t mean easy. In some ways, fostering personal relationships is more difficult than ever before. More business is conducted online, and there are fewer opportunities to connect face-to-face with customers. And there are more distractions and channels to break through.

Luckily, every challenge bears opportunity. Companies that build and manage strong customer relationships are rewarded with high retention rates, new business referrals and competitive positioning.

3 ways to build relationships

Companies can deepen their relationships with customers by addressing their three biggest needs: knowledge, support and value-adding services.

1. Knowledge

Knowledge is king — and it comes in many forms. Consistently follow up with customers to make sure they have all the information they need to use your product to its greatest extent.

You could create a user-friendly manual for every product you sell, create detailed Q&As online, or moderate a help forum on your website where customers can explore issues and resolutions. Figure out what information customers need, then serve it up through the channels they prefer.

Customers also need to know when you have new products and services. Tailor your communications to their interests and provide education opportunities as soon as the relationship starts — before any problems or dissatisfaction creep in.

2. Support

If customers can’t get help when they need it, they leave. Create a thorough support plan for your products and services and clearly lay out all the options for customers. For example, you could offer a 24/7 support desk or on-site service technicians to solve problems — and make them easily accessible through your website or a closely monitored email address.

You’ll need infrastructure and workflows to respond to customers in a timely manner. Support processes also need to be consistent across the company, so customers receive the same quality experience for every encounter.

3. Value-adding services

Exceptional products aren’t enough anymore. To close the deal and win over customers — and keep them happy — you need to provide additional, value-added services. Those are easier to find when you have good, deep relationships with customers. So, start the conversation.

Ask customers what they need and really listen. Look for opportunities to integrate your products and services to satisfy more of your customers’ needs. You may even find chances to develop new products or partner with other organizations to build more comprehensive solutions. And that all leads to deeper loyalty and more business from existing customers.

Pick the right tool for the job

Customers expect you to be reliable and responsive when they have a question or issue. The right tools can help you streamline your efforts so that interactions with customers are organized, consistent and efficient.

Modern customer relationship management (CRM) tools pool all your customer information into one place, so your sales and support teams can coordinate on accounts. They also limit frustrating hand-offs between departments.

There are many CRMs to choose from. When you find a tool that matches your business requirements, plan ahead to make sure it’s successfully adopted — not just implemented. Change management techniques such as training and certification (and tracking both) will increase adoption. Include everyone in the company that could interact with customers: inside and outside salespeople, customer service representatives and service technicians. Get buy-in for new processes and tools.

Relationship goals

Before you invest in tools or strategies to deepen customer relationships, set a baseline. You need to reflect on your current situation, as well as your long-term strategic goals. What are your objectives? What needs to change or improve? And how can you use technology to deepen ties with your best customers?

How Wipfli can Help

At Wipfli, we help clients select software — and we know how to implement, train staff and customize many of the solutions, too. We’ve also developed complementary solutions that tie into mission-critical software to make their jobs easier. Clients can approach us for help on a wide range of technology issues — and they do.

We want you to win and keep more customers. Our team is ready to explore your current customer relationship processes, technologies and strategies — and move them to the next level. Learn how we can help you build the infrastructure and skills you need to earn customer loyalty.

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Wipfli Editorial Team