Manufacturing Tomorrow


Improving Customer Retention With Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Oct 29, 2018
By: Michael Wagner
Manufacturing and Distribution

Improving Customer Retention-Main_ERP_and_Customer_support
A single sales cycle for some manufactured goods can span weeks, months or even years. Rightly so, manufacturers place a lot of emphasis and company resources on customer acquisition, including sales staff, lead-generation, print collateral, trade shows and incentives.

But some organizations fail to dedicate similar efforts toward keeping those customers happy once they sign on. It’s no secret that it costs much less time, money and effort to retain current customers than it does to acquire new ones. One of the best ways to improve retention is by leveraging the robust functionality of modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which can help manage an entire enterprise and improve the experience for customers and customer service representatives alike.

Here’s just a glimpse of the many ways an ERP can help.

CRM Interface

While improving the customer experience sounds like a great idea, actual follow-through is often difficult if there’s a lack of transparency into the complete customer life cycle. Your customer relationship management (CRM) platform can interface with your ERP to provide a holistic view of your organization’s relationship, historical interactions and open issues with a customer — from first introductions to their latest order.

Having these insights can help customer service reps determine next steps moving forward, and information can inform business decisions related to products and services. Historic information on each customer is a critical tool in understanding their relationship with your company and resolving issues quickly and accurately.

Issue Resolution

If customers experience problems with their orders, service reps can log their cases into an ERP system. If you utilize an online chat feature, you can choose to directly link the data to the customer or, if customers log in to a customer portal, automatically enter information they provide into their ERP records.

Specific issues can trigger workflows to ensure they are routed to the appropriate resources so that problems can be addressed quickly and you can provide the proper level of case management can. These workflows follow defined processes to ensure nothing gets missed.

Web Portal Access

Many organizations have customer web portals that allow secure access to invoices, an order’s status and more. You can also link customer support tickets to a portal account through an ERP system. Once an issue is generated, authorized customers can log into their accounts to view that issue’s status, what work has been completed thus far to resolve the issue and other pertinent information. This type of transparency enhances customer relationships and keeps them from feeling in the dark.

Document Management and Knowledge Base

Many customers look for answers on their own before reaching out to service reps, so providing easily accessible information can help them find what they need quickly without ever generating a case number. ERPs can manage various types of support documents related to specific issues, making them accessible to both the service reps and customers through an online knowledge base.

Some examples include training or installation manuals, sell sheets, articles, marketing materials and resource collateral. Documents are organized based on topics, products and meta tags, and they can even be linked to customer accounts through their web portal based on purchase history. That way, they’ll only see information directly related to their orders and activities without having to go through extra steps or sifting through a vast library of unrelated content.

Product Improvement

Monitoring issue reports and case logs through an ERP can reveal information for future analysis and identify patterns associated with certain items or lot numbers. This type of data can inform decisions regarding product improvements, redesigns and potential repair kits, or it can be traced back to the production line or supply chain to identify the source.

An ERP dashboard can show trends or patterns to help sales managers pinpoint KPIs for a specific geographic area or based on product seasonality, and production managers can address issues that may be related to a particular machine or product classification. Proactively addressing issues all feeds back into positive customer experiences.

Customer Service Contracts

Maintaining service contracts within an ERP, or interfacing them from a CRM, provides a valuable single source of information. Technicians in the field can log their time and materials on tablets or smartphones, which automatically uploads information to the ERP.

This type of real-time collection of all related service charges or fees provides a comprehensive record of customer activities and related costs, leading to more accurate and timely billing and more consistent revenue streams. Over the course of time, you can see if you’re sinking lots of costs into field service based on how many times a technician visited and what services were provided.

Materials Handling

When service technicians automatically log their activities while in the field rather than waiting to manually enter information when they get back to the office, it decreases the risk of human error. This is especially helpful for maintaining accurate and adequate inventory levels. Real-time entry of parts that were used on a call automatically updates inventory and can trigger reorders as needed so you never run out of parts.

Customer satisfaction is the key to success, no matter your industry, and ensuring positive customer experiences every time they interact with your company is critical. An ERP system is the best way to streamline processes and empower your support reps to provide the best service possible. Reach out to Wipfli to learn the many ways an ERP can transform your business.


Michael Wagner
Senior Consultant
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