Manufacturers have placed a major emphasis on using technology to improve operational efficiencies, increase production, streamline workflows, and maximize machine capacity – and rightly so; addressing these needs is a critical element of profitability. However, trimming production costs and increasing output can actually be a detriment and lead to excess inventory if there isn’t a steady and loyal stream of customers to purchase those products.
With the ability for manufacturers to produce more, they inevitably need to sell more, stressing the importance of not just managing customer relationships, but engaging and serving them beyond traditional models. Customers today have far more resources available to them to research suppliers, grow their knowledge, and obtain peer reviews of products and services. Standing out among a sea of competitors takes more than simply getting a part through the production line faster than the next guy. Building and nurturing deep relationships with customers throughout the sales process and providing personalized service at a high level is critical.
As with operations, technology, such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, can improve and maintain customer relationships. Most manufacturers already have some form of CRM in place to assist their sales force, but about one-third of manufacturers indicated that their CRM was implemented 5–10 years ago. As far as technology goes, a 5-year-old system is practically a relic. A lot has changed since then.
The Difference Between Traditional CRM and the Latest CRM Technology
Traditionally, CRM has served as a tool for sales — a system for tracking customer data and communication tasks such as phone calls, emails, and meetings. It also provided metrics and sales reports to improve customer experiences and manage higher quality leads.
The latest CRM technology has evolved beyond serving as only a sales tool and now helps improve all points of the customer experience. Today’s CRM offers a more dynamic and user-friendly way to integrate customer service, marketing, social engagement, and collaboration across departments. With the advent of cloud services and mobile-friendly systems, field service technicians can now access data instantly to resolve issues faster and with more accuracy and, yes, sales continues to benefit with improved insights into customer experiences, easy reporting and can access information while on client visits or on the road. Let’s dive deeper into some of the added benefits of modern CRM solutions.
Faster and More Accurate Quotes
Because modern CRM offers web access from mobile devices, your sales force can spend less time managing a system and more time managing customer relationships by getting out from behind the desk and meeting face-to-face. A CRM system integrates with other departments to record quoted items or products sold. Sales can quickly view customer accounts, meeting notes, open issues, and more to help guide conversations and often provide answers and accurate quotes on-the-spot.
Improved Customer Service
Service after the sale can be a differentiator. Offering customer service reps and service technicians easy access to customer data, past orders, notes on previous issues, and other information allows them to address customer needs quickly. The customer can be assigned to a specific person for resolution so they don’t have to deal with a different service rep each time they call, building familiarity, rapport, and removing the need to start from scratch each time to explain an issue. Field service technicians can also quickly access information once dispatched to handle issues more efficiently.
Data to Drive Marketing Strategies
A robust CRM can be integrated with marketing automation software to provide valuable insights and data for more targeted campaigns that take customer behaviors into consideration. Marketing can see trends in buying decisions to know which products are more successful, not only from a financial standpoint but from a customer satisfaction standpoint, and they can strategically nurture prospects and promote products on various platforms including web, social media, email, and more. Information about customers can also reveal prime candidates for case studies, testimonials, or other marketing efforts.
Ongoing Fulfillment and Aftermarket Revenue
Reducing customer churn is arguably one of the most important factors impacting profitability. The cost and effort to attract new customers far outweighs that of keeping existing customers satisfied. If a customer needs immediate assistance and finds the experience unsatisfactory or untimely, they may turn elsewhere for a solution, and the chances of getting them back are slim. In addition to quick response times, a CRM can provide insights into each customer’s experience with a product, how old it is, its performance, and location. These insights allow a manufacturer to proactively issue bulletins or updates and schedule routine maintenance to prevent unnecessary repairs, saving labor costs down the road and demonstrating your ability to stay on top of a customer’s needs. The system can leverage data to identify customer trends and buying patterns, related products, peak order times and down times and use that information to generate upselling and cross-selling opportunities, driving customer retention, and additional aftermarket revenue.
A truly effective CRM will not only improve your sales force experience and that of other departments but, most importantly, improve your customers’ experiences. The benefits of implementing a modern CRM are far greater than can be outlined here and can be realized in a relatively short time. Learn more by contacting the CRM team at Wipfli for a free, no-obligation consultation.