Recent technological innovations have empowered manufacturers to achieve more efficient and effective operations. Chief among these, of course, are data-driven Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms.
Forward-thinking CRM systems like Salesforce use data analytics to generate customer insights; these, in turn, drive greater customer acquisition, satisfaction and retention levels. CRMs also provide much-needed support in areas including (but not limited to) operation flow, CPQ, and sales forecasting.
This aid is often invaluable, as manufacturers face a plethora of internal and external challenges every day — anything that can lighten the load is beneficial.
Eric Satterthwaite, a VP of Sales at Gerent, is very familiar with many of those manufacturing challenges, given that he spends his days talking with manufacturers about their ‘pain points’. From those conversations, Satterthwaite has zeroed in on several problems that tend to bedevil organizations in the manufacturing sector.
Eliminating Silos to Achieve “One Ear, One Voice”
When a customer calls, emails, or texts a manufacturer, it’s crucial that company representatives hear and speak as one. Conversely, if someone in the company’s sales department communicates with the customer, every other representative should identify and align with that outreach.
“If the customer tells their salesperson, ‘hey, this is what we're doing’, that information hits the warehouse, it hits accounting, it hits customer service, it hits whoever it is that needs to see it,” Satterthwaite commented in a recent episode of Gerent’s podcast series, Ahead of the Curve.
That said, the value posed by Satterthwaite’s “One Ear, Once Voice” functionality isn’t limited to client service.
“Internally, it's big, too,” Satterthwaite noted. “‘One Ear, One Voice’ removes the barriers posed by data silos. So even if it isn't client facing, you want to remove those data silos so everyone knows what's happening inside the company.”
Example: “One Ear, One Voice” Provides a Material Benefit in Sample Management
To identify the importance of “One Ear, One Voice”, one can turn to sample management — that is, the process of tracking samples sent out to prospective customers or distributors.
Often, requests for samples are taken by phone or email by one person, who then needs to communicate the details to other employees, track the progress of the sample, make sure it gets sent out to the right prospect or customer and then alert Sales of the incoming lead. Without a proper, centralized system to track such activity, there’s often no way of ensuring all these steps are completed.
“It leads to customer dissatisfaction because if your customer says, ‘Look, every time I call there for a sample, it's hit or miss; it takes too long for me to get what I'm looking for. And half the time, nobody even responds to my request. You know what? I'm going to a competitor’, that’s a problem,” Satterthwaite concluded.
It doesn’t help that samples can be expensive enough to keep accountants and CFOs awake at night. Hard surface materials like granite or marble are costly even from the quarry, so careful tracking of such items is critical to ensure material costs are kept under control. The ‘low-tech’ method of using spreadsheets to track such activity simply doesn’t do the job; according to Satterthwaite, many companies lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in samples that have gone astray.
Sales Forecasting versus Production Planning
If there is one overriding challenge in manufacturing companies, it’s the age-old problem of accurately matching sales forecasts in one year to production schedules in the next. A company may begin its production planning using a sales forecast, order raw material, warehouse it, finance it and begin to produce. But all too often, a nasty surprise occurs midway through production.
“What we've seen a lot is you'll go eight, nine, ten months into the year, and all of a sudden, it's a crisis because now the manufacturer realizes, ‘wow, the customer should have bought significantly more product based on what they said, and now we're sitting here with this product,’” Satterthwaite paraphrased.
“‘How are we going to get rid of it? We're going to lose money. We're now going to have to dump this and sell it at pennies on the dollar to other companies who might want to take it on’.”
What’s The Solution? CRM!
So, how does a company address these challenges as well as others that we haven’t touched on?
There are many solutions offered by Salesforce. Here are several Salesforce CRM solutions designed to solve these problems:
- Track and manage customer communications visible to all
- Store and update multiple documents visible to all
- Manage SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
- Portal-like technology
- Allows customers to self-service remotely
- Work with channel partners or distributors
- Track sample requests by way of Service Cloud and pinpoint their location
Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Cloud
- Effectively track quotes
- Effectively bundle products and services to offer discounts based on previous customer ordering habits
- Pre-programmed quoting rules
If you’d like to listen to the full interview with Eric Satterthwaite, you can stream or download episode 3 of our podcast series, Ahead of the Curve. You can also contact us to learn more about how to make your manufacturing business more efficient, profitable and customer-centric.