But what does this really mean for manufacturers?
Your customer’s expectations of your products are changing…almost as fast as their demands on how you are offering them.
The buzz around customer centricity is mounting. It’s almost impossible to open a trade magazine these days without coming across articles about customer centric business models and why we should all implement one.
What does it actually take to move away from tried and tested sales strategies? Strategies built on direct and indirect sales channels, where it’s all down to a knowledgeable sales force, often dependent on design or engineering specialists for support.
There are many ways in which companies approach this. Some simply make more product information available on their web site; allowing customers to also place or start orders online. Others choose to implement a basic sales configurator in an effort to support their sales reps. Although these steps are in the right direction, they don’t come close to delivering the benefits and value that a true customer centric business model will bring.
So what does it take to become customer centric?
As with everything worthwhile, it takes a big effort to get it right. Transforming an organization towards a customer centric model involves a significant amount of change that touches nearly every aspect of the business (from marketing and how we engage with customers, to product design, engineering and the supporting technologies we use.)
Here I have tried to share some of the most important aspects of this work.
It sounds cliché, but good internal and external communication deserves to top the list. Manufacturers of technically advanced products need to move away from a product-focused approach and start speaking the customer’s language. Not just when talking to customers, but throughout the entire organization.
Real customer centricity typically requires a change to the corporate DNA to ensure everyone is on board with the strategy and understands its importance
Meet your customers where they are- the way that they want to be met
To be customer centric, you must allow prospects and customers to engage with your company and products in the way they want to. Physical sales channels are still in demand, but with the rise of the savvy, self-guided buyer, a 24×7 online option is required. Needs-based product configuration technology is central to help translate customer needs into the optimal product configuration. By offering a needs-based interface, served up in a logical and visually intuitive way, we can tie the customer closer to our brand. Look for key capabilities such as visual configuration, non-sequential configuration and instant conflict resolution.
Equip your sales force
Your sales team will always be important, but to ensure they offer customers what they really want, sales reps across all channels must be armed with tools that help translate customer needs into the right product offering.
Your configurator is key. It must be able to model the interface between customer requirements and the complex engineering and technology that underpins your products. With the right solution, quoting becomes much faster, more accurate, and always the optimal solution.
Design for configuration
Product design and modelling must go hand in hand. When products are designed with customer business requirements in mind, you end up with products that are intuitive to model, configure, and most importantly, for the customer to buy.
It’s not just about sales
To build a truly customer centric organization, the entire company needs to be on board. All quotes, whether generated online or by a sales rep, must be technically correct and possible to fulfil in an efficient manner that leaves you with sufficient margins. This means a CPQ system must be synchronized with the latest product information and factory situation. If not, you risk ending up with a situation where sales reps keep selling what they know, not what is best for the customer. With comprehensive integration to PDM/PLM and manufacturing systems, you ensure that you always position your strongest products and proposals.
Find the right partner
Last but not least, if you’re serious about transforming your business into a customer centric model, you will need a partner that understands what it takes. Look for a CPQ provider that can demonstrate real experience from challenging manufacturing environments. One that can provide both the insights and the tools required to do the job, not just parts of it. Take your time to find the right partner. As with all projects involving change, open and trusting relationships with your software vendor and service providers are critical – just like they are with your own customers.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a customer centric business, check out the Bürkert customer success story to learn how a CPQ solution helps them get closer to their customers.