If someone asked you, “Who is the most important person in your company?,” how would you answer?
Most people would say, “The CEO.” Someone a bit cleverer might add, “The payroll person because they make sure we all get paid!”
Yet, neither answer is correct. The most important person at your company isn’t an employee. It’s your customers. Manufacturers who stay close to their customers, understand their wants and needs, and adjust their business practices to suit their customers, end up coming out on top. Sage ERP software can help companies do this.
A KPMG survey 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 a Product-Centered Mindset to a Customer-Focused Approach
Manufacturers have traditionally featured a product-focused approach to business. Because they rely on the actual creation and production of products, much of their emphasis has been on improving production.
Customer-centric models can feel odd to manufacturers who aren’t used to them, and it may take some adjustment to multiple business practices to put the customer first. Greater emphasis on research and development, databases, software such as Sage 100, Sage 300, and other tools that can help you track and respond to customer demands are all important in a customer-centric environment.
The point of a customer-centric method is to understand what your customers want and need so that you’ll produce more of what they want—and in turn, sell more.
Dealer Networks May Be In—or Out—of the Big Picture
Another hurdle for manufacturers seeking to understand customer needs is the current system for product sales. Dealerships and dealer networks can add a layer between the manufacturer and customer that prevents the free and easy flow of information.
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.
Long-Term Success Considerations
To enact a customer-centric model, consider the following long-term strategies.
- Focus on niches: Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on being everything to someone. In other words, focus on niche customer groups, special needs, or other things that set groups apart. This can help you build out a relationship with customers to help you become indispensable to them. By focusing on a smaller subset of customers, you can get to know them better. Using Sage 100 or Sage 300 to see which customer groups are most profitable for your business is one way to find a niche.
- Adjust business relationship expectations: New technology such as social media has made it easier for customers to contact manufacturers directly. Customers don’t want to work through cumbersome dealer networks to talk to you. They want access today to someone at the manufacturing company to voice concerns, complaints, or suggestions. It’s vital to adjust your expectations for how customer relationships function to take into account this new world of open communications via social media, email, and more.
- Use customer service for competitive advantage: Customer service can set your manufacturing firm apart, and it’s especially important in customer-centric models. Make sure that your service staff is trained to respond quickly and confidently to customer inquiries. Make them easy to reach. If you continue to maintain a dealer network, ensure that the service staff updates and communicates with the dealers so that issues, problems, and resolution information can be shared among all.
The manufacturing industry has gone through many great upheavals over the years and weathered them all. Manufacturers will always be needed to produce valuable goods and services. Now, however, those manufacturers likely to succeed in the future are those willing to meet the customer halfway, listen, and respond accordingly. Software such as Sage 100 or Sage 300 can help you become more competitive. The customer, it seems, is always king in any business—including manufacturing.
Mindover Software provides business software and solutions to companies big and small. We welcome your inquiry and can assist you with your manufacturing software needs. Contact us.