Knowledge is power, and with power comes strength.
The ancient empires – Roman, Greek, Egyptian and others – drew their might not only from military strength but also from gathered intelligence. Leaders leveraged their knowledge to facilitate trade and spread their influence and culture.
Modern corporate organizations similarly rely on information gathering; the company that knows its market has a good chance of growing and keeping market share.
However, even when abiding by the assumption that “knowledge is power”, many companies fail to put their hard-won insights to good use. After all, how often have consumers been subjected to the “customer shuffle” after phoning for assistance? A simple call might stretch on for over an hour as representatives pass the caller from customer service to billing to technical service and back to customer service.
The frustrating disconnect between knowledge and action has a simple explanation: data silos. While a company might possess the customer’s information, representatives may not be able to access it if that data information is scattered across departments. Rather than solving an issue at the first customer contact point, multiple employees must become involved.
The same concept applies to manufacturers. While manufacturing clients may not be retail consumers, they still want to have their questions answered or their problems solved by the first person they contact.
Thankfully, consumer-facing companies are getting better at avoiding such scenarios — and immediately accessible, centralized data may facilitate a permanent solution.
The “Customer Shuffle” Poses a Service Problem in Manufacturing
For manufacturers today, the so-called “customer shuffle” presents a significant service problem. Like B2C companies, manufacturers’ information systems are often not aligned to empower frontline service teams to access all of a customer’s information in a few clicks.
One of the weakest links in a siloed information system occurs when an employee who has dealt with Customer A leaves, creating an information vacuum in his or her wake. Whoever takes over Customer A may face a long uphill learning curve — while the customer shoulders the inconvenience cost of that education.
It’s critical to remember that the person who responds to a customer, regardless of the medium at hand – email, phone, web contact, Twitter – is a brand ambassador. Good marketers understand that first impressions are often lasting ones; a manufacturing customer’s impression comes not from a sweeping view of the entire organization but from their initial point of contact.
Data-Driven CRMs Enable Responsive Service and Efficient Supply Chain Management
Today’s information systems are powered by a technology so sweeping that it can lead to increased sales, customer retention rates, and profits — all in one. Data-driven Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms empower manufacturers to be as agile and responsive to a customer as possible.
Customers might have any number of reasons for reaching out: an invoicing inquiry, an order delivery date issue, a quality control problem, questions about manufacturer’s samples, etc. Consumers don't care who picks up the phone or connects online or responds to a tweet; they just want their questions answered quickly and concisely.
Modern CRMs like Salesforce centralize consumer information so every representative can, at a moment’s notice, access real-time data about a consumer’s account, needs, and past brand interactions. This “one ear, one voice” functionality empowers manufacturers to deal with consumers efficiently and — even more importantly — provide a satisfying customer experience.
The benefit provided by “one ear, one voice” isn’t limited to service applications, either. Manufacturers, of course, don’t work in isolation; they’re part of one or more supply chains that ensure a steady flow of raw materials and parts.
A supply chain that literally talks to itself — i.e., when every component company has a full view of what the other component firms are doing at any time — is a supply chain that responds to a crisis before it’s a crisis, solves a problem before it becomes an issue for the entire chain, and makes it possible for an uninterrupted manufacturing process to exist.
Lean Management Provides a Good Start, But Not a Final Solution
Countless manufacturers have leveraged Lean management techniques to reduce operational waste and improve production flows. However, Lean alone cannot optimize operations. Keeping in mind that knowledge is power, a manufacturer can discover a world of opportunity by making contact with a firm experienced and specialized in CRM systems and ERP integrations.
Gerent is a Salesforce partner company known for having some of the best project managers and solution architects in the business. Our team is highly regarded within the Salesforce organization for our manufacturing-centric technology implementations — to the point that Salesforce selected Gerent to beta test its new Manufacturing Cloud platform.
Interested in implementing CRM benefits at your organization? We invite you to contact us to discuss your needs.