Leaders of manufacturing companies agree that product value is defined, today, more by how well the products meets the customer needs and priorities and less by price, performance, and brand. A KPMG survey of manufacturers found that keeping close to customers is directly related to innovation, thought leadership, and profitability.
With 49% percent of manufacturing CEOs who responded to the study agreeing that their business will change dramatically over the next three years, it’s smart to pay close attention to your customers. Your customers wants, needs, and desires will lead the way to your next best-selling product and important innovation.
Moving from Product-Centered to Customer-Centered
It can be difficult for some manufacturers to shift from a product-centered mindset to a customer-focused mindset. Product-centered comes naturally to some businesses. It focuses on “We have a product, now go find customers to buy it” mentality.
Customer-centric methods mean assessing what the customers need and what they will pay for it, then building and selling it. This means more involvement and investment in R&D, central customer databases and ERP and business intelligence systems to access important data, and less emphasis on sales. With the right products, the sales and marketing team won’t have to push so hard to close a sale. Money that was once invested in selling moribund or stagnant products can be put into research and development.
Open Up Direct Communications with Customers
New communications channels have made it possible for manufacturers to bypass or leapfrog right over dealer networks to communicate directly with customers. Although you may choose to maintain a dealer network or a dealer network may be an integral part of your business and industry model, the ability to meet with and learn from customers directly can now be shared among both dealers and manufacturers. It’s less of a dealer monopoly and more of a democracy among all who seek to serve customers.
3 Ways to Gain Long-Term Success
For a customer-centric model to build long-term success, the following considerations should be kept in mind.
- Be everything to someone: When your products are so important to customers that they can’t live without them, they’ll seek them out despite higher prices or other differences. If your products are indistinguishable from others in the market, they will seek the lowest price. A closer match between customer needs and product features, including unique features that set your product apart, are the key to long-term competitive advantages and financial success.
- Enable direct customer input: Manufacturers who are used to letting their dealers handle customer service will be left behind as technology changes how people communicate. Direct access to the creators, inventors, and product engineers will be something customers demand. Dealers may continue to be important but true customer-centric businesses both welcome and value direct customer input.
- Focus on Better Customer service: Customer service can become a competitive advantage in a customer-centric business model. The better the service, the more customers will return to your company. Manufacturers today may not be equipped to interact with customers directly as they shift from product-centered manufacturing to customer-centric manufacturing. But, paying attention to service will set you up for long-term success in this new business environment.
The manufacturing industry has gone through many upheavals over the years and weathered them all. We will always need manufacturers to produce vital parts and goods. Now, however, those manufacturers likely to succeed in the future are those willing to meet the customer halfway, listen, and respond accordingly.
ASI Helps Manufacturers Become Customer-Focused
Accounting Systems Incorporated (ASI) provides ERP, accounting, and other software and systems to help your company become customer-focused. We help small to mid-sized companies improve operational efficiencies through the power of software and technology. Software such as Sage 100 and Acumatica ERP can provide the business intelligence you need to grow your company. For more information, visit our website, or call us at 803-252-6154.