- 9 August 2017
In the engineer-to-order (ETO) industry, client relationships are fragile. Your business needs to be flexible enough to pivot with your customers’ changing needs, while organized to ensure quick and accurate turnarounds on projects. Jimmy Faroh, operations manager at Challenger Door, outlines the unique challenge for ETO manufacturers: “We don’t carry stock. Everything we do is customer-ordered and designed onsite.”
This means the loss of just one customer can result in huge amounts of waste in your existing inventory and production processes. ETO customers know all too well that they have the power to take their business elsewhere if they’re discontent with your service.
If you’ve noticed a decline in your ETO corporation’s workflow or customer retention, it may be the result of simple flaws in operations management or customer service. You’re in luck, because these are relatively easy issues to improve by adopting the right tools and educating employees in how to use them. Modern software systems, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools, bring efficiencies to both operations and customer relations at the same time.
There’s a lot that goes into the delicate art of client relationships, but you need to address these core client needs to start, or else you’re setting yourself up for a high churn rate.
1. Easy & Timely Communication
The quickest way to destroy any relationship — whether business or personal — is with a lack of communication. Effective communication with your consumers makes them feel valued, respected, and connected during the process of producing and delivering their order. No matter how business models evolve, the desire for accessible and timely communication with businesses will always be a core customer need.
Remember the old days? When answering a simple customer question required you to search through multiple databases, inquire with employees working on the project, and cross-reference all physical files pertaining to the client — all while your customer waited on hold. Manufacturing managers had their hands full trying to enhance client satisfaction.
That was before the integration of ERP systems for ETO manufacturers. ERP software integrates all of a company’s systems and information into one easy-to-use database. With access to all relevant data in one organized spot, your manufacturing organization can ensure the highest level of customer service. Challenger Door found that after implementing Epicor ERP, it was easy to deliver purchase orders and other job details, no matter the technology the customer used. At just the click of a button, a representative has access to inventory levels, order histories, returns, pricing, and more. ERP tools give employees instant information that benefits your clients directly – leading to higher levels of productivity, revenue, and customer loyalty.
2. Transparency During Production
In ETO manufacturing, transparency remains the most relevant factor to ensure customer satisfaction, and one of the most nerve wracking for businesses. When a customer calls asking for the current status of a project, the last thing you want is to have your team scrambling to identify where that project lies in the production timeline. It not only reflects poorly on the timely communication your customers seek, but it can also give the impression that your team doesn’t have a well-organized and attentive grasp on all projects. For ETO customers, the ability to understand your production timeline and real time updates/reporting throughout that timeline, increases confidence and trust in your ability to get the job done.
ERP software reduces the need to go from employee to employee, asking around to determine where a specific project sits in its lifecycle. Helpful notifications within your ERP program deliver up-to-date information to all necessary parties, every step of the way. Issues are logged into a database that can be accessed from any terminal, keeping all of your team members in the loop. For Challenger Door, this meant any employee had the ability to answer customer (or internal) questions quickly and accurately. As Farroh explained, “From quote to cash, employees are connected in real time and able to answer queries and research historical data instantaneously.”
3. Business Relationship History
Loyal customers are often the best customers. Consumer retention and loyalty is good for your business for obvious reasons (ongoing revenue, word-of-mouth recommendations), but don’t forget loyalty is also extremely beneficial for the consumer.
Consider why people prefer to go to the same professional mechanic year after year — after a while, you don’t even have to explain the cut you want. You simply go in, and ask for “the usual.” There’s a similar level of comfort, trust, and efficiency in sticking with the same ETO manufacturer. The longer your business relationship continues with any given consumer, the more you learn about their particular preferences, and the better your business is able to meet their exact needs.
Having a record of your business history with a customer can be a huge boost to your relationship with that customer. One of the greatest benefits to integrating to ERP software is the ability to completely immerse oneself in the customer experience. ERP software provides a full 360 degree view of a client’s experience – preferences, profitability and loyalty – instantaneously. This revolutionary feature also allows corporations to refer back to past projects, because all historical data is saved on the server, making it an invaluable benefit to ETO manufacturers.
ERP Gives You the Tools to Meet Your Clients’ Needs
ERP software offers flexible solutions that can be catered to your business to not only improve your internal production, but also enable you to better tend to your valued customers.
One of the greatest impacts ERP has for ETO manufacturing is the ability to efficiently and accurately answer questions and communicate with consumers. Any relevant data pertaining to a customer’s history, production schedules, payments and returns are all entered into the same database to ensure the fastest response times possible. Instead of several logins, teams and permissions needed, there is a central hub for information — saving time and money for all parties involved in communication and transactions.