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Customers have changed in ways that are impossible to ignore. With several buying choices available at a touch of a button, they expect a personalized, relevant, and hassle-free experience. Even in B2B, buyers are now acting more like consumers. They expect the same level of personalization and convenience that they experience in their personal lives. This adds a new layer of complexity for manufacturers, who must adapt to meet these evolving expectations.

In this blog, we look at:

•    How customer experience in manufacturing is shifting 
•    Why CX initiatives must be aligned with organizational change management
•    The role of data in improving manufacturing customer experience

How customer experience in manufacturing is shifting

Customers aren't satisfied with the traditional experience anymore; they’re after something extra. Just one bad experience can lead them to turn their backs on your brand for good. That’s why having a solid CX strategy in place is crucial for creating an impactful and memorable buyer-centric journey that keep customers coming back. A more efficient CX approach is also key to maximizing business value and gaining a strategic advantage over competitors.

In our recent report ‘The State of CXE in Manufacturing,’ produced in collaboration with Copperberg, our findings revealed that improving CX is a top priority among manufacturers (63.73%). Over half (54.90%) emphasized the primary objective of CX in their business is to broaden revenue streams from existing customers through value-added services. Survey respondents also strongly agreed (74.51%) that having a clear CX strategy is essential for achieving their business objectives.

Around a third of customers (34.31%) now expect optimized online CX and seamless integration between online and offline channels. Interestingly, about a quarter of buyers (25.49%) also expressed a desire for manufacturers to better understand them when they request a particular service.

By adopting new technologies, manufacturers can deliver not only higher quality products but also exceptional CX to meet today's heightened customer expectations. For instance, analytics and business intelligence solutions enable manufacturers to access crucial customer data, providing real-time insights that deepen their understanding of customer behavior. The more data collected, the more patterns emerge, enabling manufacturers to anticipate their customers' needs (and preferred channels) even before the customers themselves realize them.

Take Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solutions (WMFTS) for example, a prominent pump manufacturer and supplier, who was struggling with poor pipeline visibility, impeding efficiency for its 270 sales engineers on the road. Crucial data was scattered across several locations such as Excel and Outlook, making it difficult for sales engineers to know which customer information was the most recent and up to date. Marketing efforts were also disjointed, with campaigns and social media managed separately, leading to challenges in gauging the true return on investment (ROI) for each campaign.

As a result, Watson-Marlow prioritized implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system. With CRM, Watson-Marlow has developed a dynamic sales process (DSP) that’s seamlessly integrated into their CRM system. This integration has enabled sales teams to navigate the sales process smoothly into their daily operations.
The company’s outside sales team can now quickly and easily access the critical information they need. Watson-Marlow now has greater visibility and control over territory planning and opportunity management, ensuring its salespeople can focus on high-priority tasks without the burden of manual tracking.

The marketing team are also now able to create and manage campaigns effectively. By consolidating lead generation data and tracking conversions, the team has gained valuable insights into campaign performance, enabling informed decision-making and resource allocation for future marketing efforts.

However, it's not just about technology — you also need the right plan in place for user adoption and to get your people on board with any organizational changes. Watson-Marlow also realized this and went through this process, laying a strong foundation for the successful CRM implementation. We'll cover this in more detail in the next section.

Why CX initiatives must be aligned with organizational change management

With new innovations always on the horizon, manufacturers are amongst the businesses most susceptible to change. This was highlighted in a recent report from The Manufacturer, which found 56% of manufacturing firms rate themselves “highly” or “extremely” agile, up from 47% the year before.

However, despite this modest 9% increase in agility, 74% of manufacturers considered themselves "highly" or "extremely" agile in 2021, indicating there's still much work to be done to meet customer expectations better. Additionally, a recent study of 850 organizations found that only 35% of digital transformation efforts are successful. 65% fall short.

To succeed with CX initiatives, manufacturers must consistently clarify the outcomes and value they expect to generate. Then, pair this with a holistic approach with the people's side of transformation at the centre, not the technology.

Remember, people and their motivations are typically the root cause of failure. Introducing a new process, technique, or system can cause disruption, confusion and even fear for your employees. It’s crucial to get your entire organization on board with the project, not just the IT team. Spending time up-front to ensure buy-in will pay off in delivering value later on. This includes addressing the “what’s in it for me?” question.

Working with a partner can help you focus on people and deliver value while avoiding the pitfalls that often come during a transformation journey. They can help you break down the journey into smaller, more manageable projects, so can deliver value early and incrementally.

A partner can help you with your strategy in the following ways:

  • Define your vision and assess where the value is
  • Prioritize identified initiatives in terms of value delivery
  • Build the roadmap
  • Develop a change management strategy
  • Map user journeys to ensure you always keep people at the heart of the project from planning through to go-live and beyond

Before diving headfirst into a full-scale CRM project, Watson-Marlow recognized the need to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and challenges. It wasn’t just about implementing technology – but embracing business transformation. Watson-Marlow decided to run a three-month explore project with Columbus that would lay the groundwork for the subsequent main project.

The main steps of the explore project included:

  • Involving 60 key Watson-Marlow stakeholders, 12 workshops were conducted to pinpoint value and identify necessary organizational changes
  • Continuous engagement and communication were prioritized to ensure every member felt engaged and involved in the transformation process
  • Development of a value dependency network allowed Watson-Marlow to gauge the success of guiding individuals through each phase of change
  • Prioritizing engagement and empathy, Watson-Marlow recognized that change is about people and emotions
  • The explore project laid a strong foundation for successful CRM implementation, fostering collaboration, understanding, and alignment across the organization, delivering tangible value

Andrew Jones, Head of Sales Excellence & Governance, Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solution, emphasized the value of the explore project and its important role in ensuring a successful CRM implementation, “Change is all about people, and the only way you can start that change journey is if you've got that strong relationship with the partner that’s going to help you to work through that change. Without completing the explore project, or engaging change management and transformation within the project, none of our achievements would have been possible. We would have simply designed and implemented a CRM system without reaping any benefits."

Find out more about our delivery methodology by clicking here.

The role of data in improving manufacturing customer experience

Improving customer experience in manufacturing depends on leveraging the right data to understand customer behavior and tailor personalized campaigns. According to The Manufacturer’s Manufacturing Agility Assessment, enhanced data analytics and data-led decision-making rank among the top benefits organizations aim to achieve from their digital strategies in the next 12-24 months.

However, despite the recognized importance of data, only 33% of executives feel comfortable questioning business KPIs and metrics, indicating significant disparities between desired and actual data capabilities.

To become a data-driven company, several barriers must be overcome:

  • Recognizing bad data – inability to identify and address inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and incompleteness in data sets can hinder decision-making processes and potentially lead to suboptimal outcomes
  • Viewing data consolidation as solely a technology problem – many manufacturers struggle to see data consolidation as more than just a technological challenge, overlooking the strategic planning and organizational alignment required for successful integration across systems.
  • Lack of short-term business benefits – failure to realize immediate returns on investments made in data-driven initiatives can dampen enthusiasm and support for long-term data projects
  • Not providing end-users with necessary self-service tools – a lack of user-friendly and self-service platforms can result in overdependence on IT departments for data requests and slow down decision-making processes
  • Excluding end-users from the development process – many manufacturers overlook the importance of involving end-users in the development process, resulting in solutions that fail to address key pain points or deliver desired outcomes
  • General lack of trust – skepticism or distrust towards data quality, security, and governance impedes the adoption of data-driven decision-making, leading to reluctance in using data for informed decision-making.

To ensure successful data integration, businesses must foster a culture of data sharing and collaboration. This involves integrating data silos, reconciling duplicate data, eliminating bad data, and establishing data governance.

Watson-Marlow provides an excellent example in this regard. They've seen improvements in customer data and sales teams while addressing operational efficiency issues. CRM deployment across supply sites has streamlined communication and collaboration between sales and supply teams, leading to improved planning and forecasting. Enhanced visibility into pipeline data and opportunity information has facilitated better demand planning and resource allocation.

“Our people now have a system they can see value from,” says Andrew Jones, Head of Sales Excellence & Governance at Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solutions. "Having the CRM in the business benefits everyone, from sales engineers to the managing director. It provides individual-level visibility and a clearer, bigger picture for informed decision-making based on facts."

Building a better customer experience in manufacturing

Our research with Copperberg reveals that the manufacturers who will see the greatest success are those that prioritize CXE at the center of their operations. A well-tailored CXE strategy allows manufacturers to rise above individual customer expectations and nurture long-term relationships.

Data is also a significant issue for manufacturers who aspire to be more data-driven but currently lack the necessary infrastructure. Leveraging new technologies enables manufacturers to implement tools that help them better understand customer behaviors and create seamless, frictionless customer experiences. These technologies also help build a robust data infrastructure, integrating data across the business, and enabling better visibility and decision-making across all departments. Data becomes easily accessible by everyone in the organization, streamlining data-related processes and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

However, technology alone can’t solve all your problems. Getting your team on board with any change you make is essential. This increases buy-in and enables you to maximize the value you’re after. Manufacturers like Watson-Marlow understood the significance of this and have positioned their business for success. Despite undergoing a significant culture change, having a strong relationship with their partner helped them through the change management process, drawing on key information such as insights from past implementations to drive progress.

Find out more about the current state of customer experience in manufacturing by downloading our report below.Download the Report


Alternatively, if you’d like more help on how we can help your business, from better data management to preparing your organization for change, please feel free to contact us today.


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