Knowledge is power and, with power, comes strength.
The ancient empires – Roman, Greek, Egyptian and others – were not just strong militarily but were also crucibles of knowledge which they leveraged to facilitate trade and spread their influence and culture.
Governments depend on the power of knowledge, whether it’s gathered overtly or covertly.
Organizations are built around knowledge and information gathering, relying on information systems for their strength; the company that knows its market, has a good chance of growing and keeping market share.
Yet, even with the concept that knowledge is power, many companies fail to put their knowledge to good use; how often have consumers been subjected to the “customer shuffle” when calling their telecom provider to alter their cable TV package or upgrade their internet service, for example, and are passed from ‘customer service’ to billing to technical service and back to customer service, a process that might take upwards of an hour?
The reason is likely very simple: the customer’s data is scattered around the telecom’s information gathering system and effectively hidden from each department. Rather than solving the issue at the first customer contact point, multiple employees must become involved.
Consumer-facing companies are getting better at avoiding such scenarios, thankfully, and immediately accessible, centralized data often holds the key.
The same concept applies to manufacturing companies. Their clients may not be retail consumers, per se, but they still want to have their questions answered or their problems solved by the first person they speak to or the first ‘chat bot’ they connect with online.
The Fact Of The Matter Is…
This is where many manufacturers fall down. They may not perform the “customer shuffle” in the same way but their information systems are not aligned to allow their front-line customer service teams, for example, to have ALL the customer’s information at their fingertips.
Further, 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 and the customer is the one paying for the cost of the education.
It’s critical to remember that the person who responds to a customer, no matter what medium is chosen – email, phone, web contact, Twitter – is, first and foremost, a brand ambassador.
Marketers understand that first impressions are often the lasting ones. Many of us heard the same truths from our parents: “always make a good impression because you only get one chance”.
While many things come into and go out of style, this axiom holds true. A manufacturing customer’s impression comes not from a sweeping view of the entire organization but from that single point of contact.
CRM Is Not New – What Powers It Is
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.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are not new – but what drives them now is very much a product of the 21st century.
The heart of CRM is data: how it’s gathered, organized, analyzed and distributed internally. It is software technology that puts a manufacturer in a position to be as agile and responsive to a customer as possible.
That customer can have a number of reasons for reaching out: an invoicing inquiry, an order delivery date issue, a quality control problem, questions about manufacturer’s samples, etc. The customer doesn’t care who picks up the phone or connects online or responds to a Tweet but they do want their questions answered quickly and concisely.
Using “one ear, one voice”, the manufacturer can deal with the customer efficiently and, even more importantly, provide a satisfying customer experience.
Manufacturers are recognizing that they generate enormous amounts of data; but, oftentimes, they’re not sure what to do with it.
To do nothing is not the answer; their competitors have embraced data and are reaping the rewards because they have at their fingertips a methodology that gives them a full, 360 degree view of their clients, no matter who is accessing a customer’s information.
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, in which 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.
Once again, it is data, gathered, analyzed and acted upon, that drives such a supply chain.
This is not a pipe dream; such supply chains exist and more are adopting this kind of digital model.
Lean Management Is A Good Start But Not The End
So many companies have created internal efficiency through lean management techniques designed to reduce operational waste and improve production flows and this is an admirable feat. However, it’s not the end of the journey.
Reaching out to a technology company specializing in “one ear, one voice” is a strong starting point. Keeping in mind that knowledge is power, a manufacturer can discover a world of opportunity by making one call or online contact with a firm experienced and specialized in CRM systems, as well as CRM and ERP integrations.
Gerent is a Salesforce partner company, highly regarded within the Salesforce organization for its innovative technology implementations for manufacturing operations to the point that Salesforce has selected Gerent to beta test its new Manufacturing Cloud platform.
We are known for having some of the best project managers and solution architects in the business and we invite you to contact us to discuss your needs.