The manufacturing sector is facing a period of major disruption and change, fueled by technological advancements and evolving customer needs and expectations. To stay competitive and keep pace with the marketplace, manufacturers will need to embrace innovation and rethink many of their current business strategies and processes — including those that drive their customer relationships.
Now and in the future, a strong customer relations approach is essential to the growth and success of your manufacturing business. Customer relations is the process of connecting, interacting and communicating with your customers, and properly managing the relationship you build with them. The right approach can generate valuable results for your business, including:
- Greater customer retention
- More referrals and new customers
- Increased competitive advantage
If your customers aren’t satisfied with your service or support, you risk jeopardizing how they perceive other aspects of your business. For instance, your customers may disregard the communication and marketing efforts you make via email or social media. They may grow dissatisfied entirely and avoid coming to you for help with addressing further issues, opting to “jump ship” to a competitor instead.
Fortunately, you can take proactive steps today to prevent risk, preserve and improve your existing relationships and generate more business. By building a solid infrastructure and a consistent, streamlined service approach, your customers will come to you with issues and initiate productive conversations about how to resolve them — leading to greater satisfaction.
At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that the process of fostering personal customer relationships is more difficult than ever before. Similar to the disruption the manufacturing sector is experiencing, methods of communication have transformed as well — the vast majority of business is done online nowadays, and there are fewer opportunities to make face-to-face connections. But with new challenges come new opportunities. You can further develop or enhance your approach by addressing your customers’ three biggest needs:
In a service environment, knowledge is king — and it comes in many forms. You can offer knowledge through a user manual that comes with a product you sell or within a help forum on your website that customers can search for issues and find solutions. There is also the knowledge of new products that solve additional problems or provide added value for customers.
If you sell a product to a customer and fail to follow up, you risk giving up the relationship to a competitor. Instead, focus on offering the knowledge your customers need in forums or communications that specifically cater to their preferences. For example, share information and facts about your products through a detailed Q&A section on your website. You can also distribute news or updates about your products to customers via email. To make your communications valuable and relevant, the key is to empower your customers with options, tailor your offerings to their interests and provide continual education and knowledge from the get-go.
Customers who can’t get the help they need don’t stay loyal to your business. You need to properly support your products and let your customers know what their options are. For example, provide a 24/7 support desk or on-site service technicians to solve problems, and communicate these options both on your website and through email. Introduce defined workflows for intaking and responding to requests in a timely manner, and make sure your processes are consistent across all of the support options you provide to your customers.
3. Value-Added Services
Your products aren’t the end-all solutions to every challenge or need your customer has — but providing additional value will give you a big leg up over the competition. Leverage opportunities to integrate your products with those of other companies or to develop new products, which will allow you to provide solutions to satisfy more of your customers’ needs. This will also generate more loyalty from your existing customers and help you build more business.
For example: At Wipfli, we help our clients implement Microsoft software such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365. But knowing that technology is crucial to a business’s success, we’ve developed further solutions to assist our clients in choosing, implementing and training on a variety of technologies that help meet their unique needs. Our clients know they can come to us for help with a wide range of technology consulting solutions, from CIO advisory services to web marketing.
The Right Tool Puts You in the Best Position to Succeed
Relationship management is a process, not a set of transactions. The right tools can help you streamline relationship management, keep your business organized and allow you to work more efficiently. From the customer’s perspective, you can leverage these tools to offer greater consistency, reliability and responsiveness when resolving issues or answering questions. Furthermore, a proper customer relationship management (CRM) tool can store crucial customer information that helps your sales force build relationships.
Choosing the right tool all depends on your organization’s processes, goals and requirements. But no matter which tool you choose, ensuring adoption by your organization is paramount. Use change management techniques such as training and certification tracking to make sure your employees — from outside sales, to inside sales, to customer service representatives — understand your company processes and how the tool you’ve selected will be leveraged to support them.
Using Technology to Meet Your Goals
Before you revisit your approach to customer relations, it’s important to reflect on your current situation and long-term, strategic goals. How do you plan to accomplish your objectives? What technology tools are you currently leveraging? What processes will you revisit and improve?
Get the support and resources you need to achieve your goals with Wipfli’s technology consulting professionals. Contact us today for help with choosing the right customer relations tool and ensuring effective adoption by your sales force.