Neil Hammerton, CEO and co-founder, Natterbox explains that manufacturers must connect with their customers if they wish to succeed

The manufacturing industry is amid a tectonic shift, largely due to emerging technology transforming its processes. Manufacturers are looking to embrace bold new production and design techniques. From robotics to 3D-printing, there are several innovations helping to revolutionise the production line.
Added to this is increased consumer demand, meaning manufacturers can’t afford to stand still. Whether it is the end consumer, who has an ever-growing expectation of the speed and quality at which a product is delivered, or the next stage in the supply chain demanding just-in-time (JIT) deliveries – customers are putting growing pressure on production cycles.

There are several ways that delivering a positive service can materialise, for example creating a sales platform (website, app etc.) that is less of a catalogue and more a guide on how buying the product will improve the customer’s life. Regardless of the channel, the sales journey must be seamless. It should be linked and integrated with a buyer’s account, contracts and other services and be fully end-to-end, with no inconsistency.

In a challenging market, companies must go beyond the product and connect with their customers in entirely new ways if they want to succeed.

Building personalised service at scale
Manufacturers increasingly view customer experience as their competitive differentiator, with almost half competing on that basis. The companies that stand out from the crowd will be those that grasp the power of personalisation – which can only be achieved by having complete insight into customer data. When it comes to engaging with customers, data is a commodity that many do not use to its full potential. When integrated with the right CRM tools, data can empower employees to deliver better services. Combined with completely integrated telephony, manufacturers can offer whatever customers need, across the channels they prefer, in a consistent, seamless experience.

Research shows that 70 per cent of B2B buyers have already fully defined their needs before engaging with a sales representative. This means that potential customers are likely to conduct a great deal of research before making initial contact with a possible supplier. By capturing and storing data from online platforms in one centralised location, every sales rep can deliver smarter, more personalised experiences due to instant access to, and background knowledge of, previous interactions, contracts and other data.

That same information can also be used to engage customers via preferred lines of communication, rather than forcing them to use anonymous contact numbers or addresses.

Forging a platform for partnership
Most manufacturers rely on a mix of dealers, distributors and partners to attract, acquire and serve end customers. Once, this meant an arm’s length relationship, but now, consumers want to speak to the people that can have an impact as quickly as possible – they do not want to speak to someone that has to speak to someone else, and ultimately become a part of a never-ending chain.

Managing the partner network is therefore key to delivering satisfactory customer service for any manufacturing organisation. This requires collaboration, and constant and secure sharing of accurate data between parties so that the customer receives a consistent level of service, regardless of who they contact.

A connected future
Cumbersome, antiquated systems and processes will not help meet increasing customer demands – what’s required are tools that help build the experiences that customers want.

Connecting customer data with automation and adopting technology like artificial intelligence is key to future proofing the business in unifying and personalising the customer experience across every touchpoint and channel. Not only do these connected journeys better serve the customer, they drive new opportunities for manufacturers to grow revenue and stay competitive.