Blog Category: Digital Transformation

Achieve Your Lean Manufacturing Goals with CPQ

Lean Manufacturing and CPQ

It’s 2020 and buying has fundamentally changed from the buyer perspective. B2B customers demand speed in their buying journey, no more waiting. That’s why manufacturers need to focus on speeding up processes and adding value to every aspect of the customer journey. 

We’re not talking about your typical waste that comes with manufacturing, but any inefficient process that doesn’t add to the customer journey. This new trend of improving operations for your customers is called Lean Manufacturing.  

A quick definition 

Originating in Japan, Lean Manufacturing attempts to reduce waste within a manufacturing operation by getting rid of the inefficient processes for ones that save time and money. Doing this isn’t a quick or easy process but using the right solutions can go a long way to increase operational efficiencies.  

A common acronym to describe the issues Lean Manufacturing attempts to address is DOWNTIMEThis stands for defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and extraprocessing 

The waiting is the hardest part 

With DOWNTIME in mind let’s focus on the parts that most likely harm your customer experience. Waiting for your teams to get aligned with one another costs the company time and annoys your customers who want their products now. This waiting can come from slow quoting processes between sales and engineering or incorrect product configurations that aren’t up to the specificity of your customer. 

Imagine your customer is ready and willing to buy your product, but your teams aren’t ready to produce a quote because they are waiting on one another for certain items. This leads to frustration from your teams and your customers thinking about taking their buying power elsewhere. This frustration is a common trend in manufacturing. With so many options out there, why would a customer wait around for you? 

Maximize your employees’ output: 

Non-utilized talent is something plagues manufacturing companies who want to get quotes and orders out quickly to their customers. For example, if your engineering team is doing administrative tasks to get data right for your customers instead of focusing on innovation for your company you may be underutilizing their strengths. Cutting down on administrative tasks can take your products to the next level.  

This goes for sales as well, instead of meeting with new leads and selling to existing customers they are stuck doing tasks for one order instead of managing multiple accounts. Your sales teams also are sick of going back and forth between your CRM and quoting system. That’s why having integrations to your CRM systems can aid in your Lean Manufacturing goals.  

Lean Manufacturing and CPQ: 

Remaining competitive means delivering more value to your customers than other businesses.  Keeping your business lean could make all the difference. With lean operations here to stay, it’s important to your goals to adhere to the latest trends. Has your company been looking for new ways to save money and still have the same product output? All of that is possible using CPQ. With CPQ it’s possible to cut down on DOWNTIME.  

Start your journey to Lean Manufacturing goals today and schedule a demo.   

Improve How You Reach Customers with Self-Service

Customer Self-Service

In manufacturing to beat out the competition it’s important to enhance the customer experience in every way possible. One place that customers want to see change is how they get support for their unique issues. With inefficient processes leading the charge for customer issues, it’s important to nail how you support individuals who need help. It is essential to support your customers, so they keep coming back for more purchases.

Customers also want a place where they can configure the products they want to purchase. One way to eliminate these inefficiencies is to offer self-service where customers can find answers while also building their orders.  67% of people prefer self-service over speaking to sales reps, making it important to offer the people what they want.

What is self-service?

Customer self-service is a place where customers can get instant answers and fixes for their issues with your product. Offering self-service can help take the pressure off your support team by offering an alternative to calling or emailing. Self-service can also offer a place to showcase and purchase. Having a great self-service gives your customers a sense of control over the process instead of feeling helpless. Offering a mobile-enabled self-service app will also allow your customers to work out their problems from anywhere, at any time.

Self-service can also be used to sell your products, something that used to be difficult with complex product configuration. Now it’s possible to allow your customers to build their own quote for your custom products. Allowing your customers to build what they want on their own time will keep them engaged with your product.

Online self-service can also be a powerful marketing tool. Having a great self-service will keep customers engaged with your company by enabling a place for support and also products and customer success stories.

What is the problem without Self-Service?

With an estimated 30 billion self-service tickets expected by 2030 (Gartner), it’s critical to enable your customers to work freely with self-service. Customers are more online than they’ve ever been and they want products and answers fast. Having a helpline with limited hours doesn’t help because everyone’s been on hold, leading to frustration. The B2B buyers want convenience, they don’t want to wait on the phone for answers.

Without a self-service option, it makes customers more likely to tie up your support team with questions. With self-service, it’s possible to send customers somewhere that answers are easily and readily available.

Emailing has made it easier to communicate quickly with users, but it takes time that the customer may not have or be willing to sacrifice. Email may also get lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other issues your support team is working on.

If your business only offers the old ways of doing this, you may lose business to the competition that offers an online self-service. Consumers don’t want to rely on someone else, they want to be able to quickly address their issues. Offering an efficient way of supporting your customers without them getting on the phone or sending an email will go a long way in keeping them with your company. This impatience makes it integral to your customer experience to provide a service that allows them to get answers fast.

It’s clear that not having a self-service can cause headaches for your support team and customers. But what goes in the self-service is equally as important as actually having one. Without good information, your self-service will fail to help anyone. Also without a self-service shopping cart, your customers won’t be able to interact with your products.

What things should come with self-service?

Having the right type of features and applications on your self-service can change your customer experience.

    • An online store: A place where your customers can configure, price and quote their own products.
    • Knowledge articles: FAQs, product sheets, how-to articles, blogs and even customer stories can go a long way to helping your customer find a solution on their own, while also showing your additional features quickly and effectively.
    • Demo videos– Offering a visual of common problems can help customers who are more likely to watch a short how-to video instead of reading a long-form problem-solving article.
    • Community forums– This may not be essential to all good self-service, but it’s something worth discussing. Offering a place where your different customers can interact with each other to crowdsource answers to problems can go a long way to solving different issues. These forums may require moderation which may make having this feature be more of a headache.
    • Somewhere to submit a ticket– This would be the last option, allowing your customers to submit an issue that they weren’t able to solve in the self-service. This can help streamline your processes by having one place for all tickets to go through instead of having a long phone call or an email chain.

 

Here at Tacton we recently launched our new Smart Commerce platform to further enable manufacturers to do what they do best, sell their unique products and be on the cutting-edge of innovation. The latest update features a Customer self-service that can change how your company interacts with your customers. These new features come in addition to our classic suite of solutions that include CPQ, 3D Visualization, Augmented Reality, and integrations to any CRM or ERP in our Smart Commerce Platform.

Still interested in learning more about self-service? Check out this infographic or schedule your personal demo today!

 

[Infographic] The Manufacturers’ Guide Part 2: Customer Self-Service

Customers are smarter than ever, and they want to be able to interact with your product online. Tacton now offers customer self-service that allows your customer to configure and quote products seamlessly. Here are three self-service stats you should know about:
Self-Service with Tacton

 

Want to know more about self-service? Check out our Self-Service Product Sheet.

Interested in seeing how Tacton self-service can change your business? Get in touch today and book your personalized demo!

[Infographic] The Manufacturers’ Guide: The New B2B Buying Journey

cpq guide for heavy vehicles

Understanding your customer is critical to the success of your business, so why wouldn’t you go the extra mile to meet them when and where they want? Manufacturers need to learn how their customers are researching their product both online and offline. Check out our 5 big stats about the new B2B buying journey:

 

Is your business doing the best it can to utilize these stats for the perfect customer buying experience? If not, it’s time to schedule a demo with Tacton to discuss how we can help improve your customer’s buying journey!

What does an Omnichannel Manufacturing Experience Look Like?

omnichannel manufacturing

Putting the customer at the heart of the sales process sounds like an easy thing to do right?

Many companies have different ways to reach their buyers but still fail to make successful impressions on them. This is a common occurrence in the manufacturing industry where complex products are sold daily in a mostly in-person setting with a sales executive.  

Now that B2B buyers do most of the research (57% according to Accenture) and purchasing online it’s important to offer them the products where they are buying them and quickly. But offering them products quickly isn’t the most important part of an omnichannel experience. Customers want self-service, they want all the relevant information on hand before they even think about purchasing your products. Your buyers want to see the full range of your offering by using a configurator and visualization technology to see the product they want. 

For all the worried salespeople reading this, don’t worry your job is still critical to manufacturing products, but it’s important for your company to offer ways to eliminate the tedious processes that impede sales. 

In-person selling is a proven way to sell directly to a customer, but with B2B buyers taking more time than ever to weigh their purchases it’s important to find a new way to reach them. This is where manufacturing could take a page out of the retail marketing playbook. 

Once eCommerce became the main way customers bought products many retailers made products available via a website and mobile appsNow more than ever manufacturing companies need to use an omnichannel experience to reach these customers, something that manufacturers who want to be more B2B based need to do to digitize their company.  

What is an omnichannel experience?  

An omnichannel experience offers your customers a seamless way to interact and buy your products across multiple channels at any time, this allows for your business to be in touch with them throughout the buying journey.  

What does an omnichannel manufacturing experience look like?  

This is an important way to sell products in the manufacturing industry but how can it be done with products that are complex and difficult to configure?  

To truly have an omnichannel experience it is necessary to simplify the sales process. As products have become more complex to build the longer the sales cycle has become. From the back and forth between sales and engineering to get orders right to building a unique item it can take a lot of man-hours to sell a product. This slow process needs to change to sell faster and enhance the customer experience 

The first step before a buyer contacts your sales team is researching your product offering. If you don’t have a place to showcase your unique products you will lose business to a company that can.  

This is where it is important to offer items such as a configurator and visualization right on your website. Buyers don’t want to have meetings in their initial stages of buying, they want to see how the product would look and feel. Selling can be easier when you understand the tendencies of your buyer, an omnichannel selling experience allows for you to be with them at every touchpoint along their journey. Adding something like a built-in configurator will be another reason why they’d choose your business over the competition who can’t show them their product on their phone or the comfort of their own home.   

An omnichannel experience for your customer can also help align the goals of your sales and marketing teams. Having an omnichannel presence can bring marketing and sales closer by leveraging the data from your customers into results. Using visualization on your website is a perfect way to drive interest in your products, but more importantly, generate high-quality leads.  

Allowing your customer to reach out to a sales team member at any point is important for several reasons. Understanding which channel, the customer has come from can help your sales and marketing teams engage them with similar content or messaging as the channel they came from. This allows your sales rep to have all the information about the customer before they even walk into the sales meeting, helping them prepare the perfect pitch.  

Bridging the Uncertainty Gap

Buyers journey

How you can help your customers before they contact you.

“57% of the purchase decision is complete online before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)

Let that sink in a little bit more.

If you work in B2B sales this fact should give you goosebumps.

Your customers, by the time they contact you for the first time, have already a pretty good idea of what they want. Whether you believe this or not, there is one thing you can do to ensure that you remain the front runner.

Here’s what you can do about the 57%

It is obvious that you, as a vendor, cannot control exactly what your customers will learn about you. After all, the internet is filled with helpful expert reviews, or even peer review sites that will have an opinion on your product. (BTW: Did you know Tacton was named the Go-to software by Gartner and is also highly ranked on G2Crowd? #shamelessbrag)

The one thing that you CAN control is what they see on your website. More specifically, your entire website should focus on answering “yes” to this question form your customers: Does this company have the product that is going to solve my problem(s)?

Until recently, vendors have tried to answer this question by describing their products and services. However, despite their best efforts, customers still had to do some guesswork or attempt to match these descriptions to their problems. The harder it is for them to figure out if your products are right from them > the more uncertainly > the less eager they will be to contact you.

Describing your product isn’t enough, you must SHOW your products

As we’ve just hinted, uncertainty is one of the things that vendors must try to eliminate. Uncertainly is generated when there is a gap between what the solution that you are offering and the problem they need to solve. The bigger the disconnect, the bigger the uncertainty, the less likely they’ll contact you.

Product descriptions (text, images, and videos) can only get you so far. If you want your customers to be certain that your product is going to solve their problems, you must show them exactly what they need.

 

By describing your product, you are asking your prospects to embrace uncertainty.

 

Man jumping a chasm

Whereas, by “showing” they can see exactly how your products solve their problems.

Crossing with a helping hand

Showing requires some level of interaction. Until recently, it was simply impossible to “show” the product before the customer contacted the vendor.

Showing your products with an online configurator

In B2B, especially for manufacturers of complex solutions, Product Configuration is an indispensable part of the sales process. It wasn’t until the customer saw a customized product that there was certainly in their purchasing decision.

This situation meant that the customer had to engage with the supplier without having certainty that the product would be able to meet their specific needs.

Today, thanks to advancements in configuration technology, vendors have a way for “showing” a configurated product without the need of the vendor’s interaction. We are referring to, as the subtitle suggest, to an online configurator where visitors can configure a complex product to match their specifications.

This means that the customer can have a higher level or certainly by the time they contact the customer.

Some examples of B2B companies using an online configurator to help their customers during the initial 57%

  • Piab – A Swedish manufacturer of air-conveyors, and production machinery. Their online configurator allows the visitor to select the type of use and performance, and the visitor can obtain a 3D image of the product, along with the product’s specifications.
  • Mercedes Benz Trucks – Trucks and other heavy vehicles require a high degree of customization depending on the performance, type of use and lifecycle maintenance that is preferred by the customer. Here the visitor can explore various options and configurations available.

Aside from the ability to eliminate uncertainly, these companies experience an added bonus to having an online configurator. They were able to tap into what is commonly referred to as The Ikea Effect. An unconscious bias that was explained in more detail here.

Conclusion

Currently, 57% of the buyer’s journey is done independently without the vendor’s engagement, a number is likely to increase. B2B companies selling complex products should embrace the fact that consumers today are using the internet to guide them. It is in their best interest to provide ways to not just describe their product, but also to show them that their product is right for them. The goal is to eliminate uncertainty and help them move closer to have them engage with you.

Are showing or merely describing your products?

Tips for Breaking Down Silos in Your Organization

Silo

Your organization is unique for a variety of reasons, but you face many of the same issues as your competitors. One major problem many manufacturing companies face is dealing with organizational silos built up over time and with inefficient processes. Breaking down the silos can be an integral part of your companies digital transformation. 

Breaking down these silos can help your company grow by not only making your teams lives easier but also by accelerating sales and enhancing the customer experienceHow is it possible to tear down the old silos and build something new? Discover how these tips can lead to an efficient process, enhanced customer experience and happier employees: 

Change starts at the top- When the issues are realized and it’s time to start correcting the problem, it’s important to get everyone going in the same direction. This starts with senior leadership accounting for the needs of every employee from oldest to newest. How will a shift affect everyone? Questions like this are hard to answer at the beginning of a process but are important ones to ask 

Hold everyone accountable-This also includes leaders getting on board with the changes by keeping each other accountable when communication silos begin. For example, if your engineering leader and sales leader aren’t in constant communications how can you expect their employees to break the trend and talk freely on needs and wants? This is the most important part of breaking down silos that may have existed for years, recognizing the potential business impacts to break the silos 

Focus on cross-team collaboration- Finding time for your teams to interact and collaborate is a great way to bring everyone together for the collective goal. Joint meetings and lunch-and-learns are just two examples of activities that can help teams achieve operational excellence by teaming up instead of isolating into their specific teams. 

Implementing tools for collaboration such as messaging systems like Microsoft Teams or Slack in addition to emails can offer an informal way to get files and engagement with one another. The more different teams interact with each other the more collaboration will happen while also building trust amongst one another.  

Use the right tools-  Being able to collaborate quickly and easily is a great way to put everyone on the same page at all times. Using the right cloud-based collaborations can make it easier than ever to not only eliminate issues within your team but also offers a great way to enhance your customer experience, which makes it a win-win for your company’s goals. Data can also be easily managed across CRM, ERP and PLM platforms. Tools such as a CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) allow for your sales team to have a centralized area for data instead of scattered across programs and excel sheets. This tool enables your teams to be nimbler in communication with one another and also when they are in sales or engineering meetings.  

Connecting your teams through the data can allow for real-time insights into what is working and what isn’t working. Allowing the data to shape how your teams work together and make smarter decisions. Having the right tools can be half the battle when it comes to creating a collaborative and innovative company culture.  

Set and measure the goal– Whether it’s accelerating sales, improving operational efficiency or enhancing the customer experience- setting goals is key to successful digital transformations. Measuring goals are just as important, seeing what worked and what didn’t work will help grow your company and smash the silo walls that have been built up over the years. 

If your company is facing these unique issues and want to knock down the silos discover how Tacton enables your company to ditch the inefficiencies and focus on what you do best. Check out how we help our longtime partner Swisslog enhance their customer experience daily.