- 13 September 2017
Your manufacturing business may have counted on customer loyalty in the past, but the modern landscape reveals fragile customer relationships and a struggle for manufacturers to retain a solid client base.
The level of service your customers receive means everything — it can be the difference between placing their next order with you or shopping around with your competitors.
The solution manufacturers already turn to for streamlining internal processes, production, and inventory can actually help with client retention, as well. ERP, hailed as an efficiency champion in the manufacturing world, isn’t just beneficial to your internal teams. ERP can have a breakthrough role in streamlining and radically improving your customer service.
Customers demand full satisfaction throughout every interaction with a manufacturer. Your ERP program, which integrates with your processes from beginning to end, can help your business deliver an excellent customer experience at every point.
What Makes Customer Service Challenging for Manufacturers?
When we consider what makes a specific business successful, we might think first of high product quality, or a top-performing sales team. But customer service deserves a high place on the list, due to growing evidence that it plays a significant – if poorly understood – role in the purchasing process. In order to reduce costs while battling competition, manufacturers may keep customer-facing operations to a minimum, actively creating a slim customer service department that may not have the resources or wherewithal to deliver outstanding experiences.
Although more companies have recognized the critical role customer service plays in reducing costs and improving profitability, few are adequately prepared to take steps to improve the customer experience. The majority of manufacturers operate under a reactive model of customer service: they are eager to match prices or features in order to please a customer, but they are slow to implement strategies to establish an overall service-minded culture that could prevent customer complaints in the first place.
Customer service includes more than just high-quality goods and competitive prices — it encompasses punctual delivery, reliability, willingness to help, and a general ease and pleasure in doing business.
When pressed with reasons why an organization is floundering in customer service, most businesses cite the following:
- An inability to integrate with suppliers
- A lack of usable data
- Organizational silos that stifle collaboration
- Ineffective IT systems
- A general inability for quality, adaptable decision-making
These issues can all be addressed with a high-quality, integrated ERP system.
How ERP Can Boost Your Customer Service
Full integration of ERP systems – front-office, back-office, and everywhere in between – is highly correlated with successful customer service and retention. Modern ERP systems contain customer-facing applications including warranty management, CRMs, and field service.
Great customer service relies on the ability for customer service representatives to find accurate information quickly in order to respond to client questions and requests. By connecting internal processes under a single system where all data is stored, ERP allows customer service teams to access client information, including the status of an order, production changes or roadblocks, shipments and deliveries, and more. With a centralized system, it becomes simple for customer-facing teams to find and understand information from your production or warehouse teams, allowing them to meet customer needs in a timely fashion.
The boost ERP provides in inventory management and resource planning also passes on benefits to your customer experience. With streamlined inventory and appropriate planning for all production orders, your company is better positioned to meet client needs and deliver high quality goods and services on time — preventing the likelihood of customer dissatisfaction due to late deliveries, unavailability of goods, or production errors.
In a study of more than 460 enterprises, 75% of large manufacturers (5,000 or more employees) said ERP was vital to their customer experience by connecting front operations with back-end needs. Yet, nearly two out of every five small-to-medium sized manufacturers (100-1,000 employees) have minimal or no ERP system — causing data backup and an inability to influence customers at even a fundamental level.
Though the upfront cost might give pause to some managers, today’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP systems are less pricey than other software and reduce the costs of IT management; some are as affordable as a monthly electric bill.
ERP Supports a Cycle of Success, From Company to Customer and Back
The ability to provide operational visibility across the entire supply chain enables customer service teams to better communicate with and assist the customer — which in turn, helps the organization improve profitability, allowing it to provide better value back to the customer. It’s a cycle of success.
Manufacturers benefit immediately from improved customer service, by growing revenue and profits through new and existing clients, while reducing costs related to client turnover. More importantly are the long-term benefits: the retention of those new clients, improved efficiency and effectiveness in the sales team, and the ability to stand out in a crowded, competitive field.
Creative Technology & Design implements ERP solutions designed to help our clients effectively meet the needs of theirs. Get in touch with us today to learn more.