Elements that create an improved customer experience can and should be integrated into your standard business processes.
By Henrik Reif Andersen, chief strategy officer, Configit
While the concept of customer experience has traditionally been seen as more of a business-to-consumer (B2C) concern than one for the business-to-business (B2B) sector, that’s rapidly changing. More and more customers are starting to demand experiences on the business-to-business front that parallel what they’re getting on the consumer side. In other words, they’re looking for sleek interfaces, instantaneous feedback and increased customization.
And with the proliferation of online reviews, consumer e-commerce sites and social networks, B2B companies need to pay closer attention to the customer experience they’re providing. For an industry like manufacturing, products tend to come at a high price, and the buying decision often involves stakeholders from multiple functional areas – often with competing concerns. This sets the stage for a complex customer experience – and you likely only have one chance to get it right.
Creating a more consumer-like experience
One way that the manufacturing industry can start to improve their customer experience and provide a more consumer-like experience is through the use of technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – getting prospects more engaged through visual experiences. This includes elements like 3D versions of the product so the customers can engage with it themselves in a virtual showroom and try to explore a product before reaching out to a vendor and starting the sales process.
As mentioned, we’re seeing something of a spillover from the consumer side, with customers of manufacturing companies and similar sectors now wanting experiences more similar to what they receive from B2C businesses. Fortunately, this type of technology is becoming more viable, both from a maturity standpoint and a cost standpoint.
When some of the first manufacturing companies were implementing 3D experiences years ago, it was almost as a marketing stunt due to its novelty. But now the technology is far more accessible and can be used in a more meaningful way. And as the pandemic ushered in shutdowns and the widescale shift to remote work, it also prompted a quicker shift in the need for robust and engaging online sales channels.
Fostering a better customer experience
Elements that create an improved customer experience can and should be integrated into your standard business processes. With the right combination of technologies, it’s possible for manufacturers to provide customers with an immersive experience – bringing complicated, configurable items to life (anything from industrial equipment to processing machinery to electronics and more) through rapid innovation, 3D visualization and decreased iteration time.
Keys to success
Creating a positive customer experience sounds all well and good, but what does it take to achieve it? Traditionally, many of the needed technologies were complicated and difficult to implement. Since that’s no longer the case, the first step for many companies is overcoming that mindset.
Excelling at customer experiences in this era of smart, connected products is not only entirely possible but necessary. Products can provide real-time updates on their health, usage and whether they are satisfying customer expectations thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Manufacturers may now produce a real-time, comprehensive data stream of consumer input that they can act on right away to improve the customer experience.
There are countless possibilities for improving services and creating next-generation products, as well as re-architecting sales and service channels. Manufacturers are in a great position to continually deliver satisfying customer experiences thanks to the amount of real-time data flowing in from smart, connected products.
Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) is the framework that scales and directs the intelligence that manufacturers are putting into digital transformation. Every customer’s experience may be digitally transformed by taking the brave step of thinking about product configuration from their perspective first and removing every delay, roadblock or system that impedes the achievement of that goal.
Maintaining a great customer experience throughout the product’s lifecycle is crucial. You’ll have numerous opportunities to engage with your customer if you have strong, consistent touchpoints from sales to service. Increasing brand loyalty, providing possibilities for upgrades and shielding your organization from competitors are just a few of the advantages. With a CLM approach, configuration data is seamlessly connected across your business, ensuring that your customers only see accurate, up-to-date product information.
When dealing with multi-national manufacturers producing complex products, the challenge for manufacturers is to provide and maintain a positive customer experience throughout the lifecycle of the products. Customer expectations for customization are high, so you must meet those expectations or risk losing customers to a competitor who can. Configuration lifecycle management can play an important role in helping better meet customer expectations and take greater advantage of the new technologies out there. It streamlines the design, order, sales and manufacturing processes that creates lifelong customers who will tell others about the excellent customer experience you’ve created for them.
About the Author
Henrik Reif Andersen is the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Configit, the global leader in Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions and a supplier of business-critical software for the configuration of complex products. He holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Aarhus and has more than 25 years of experience in IT development and research.