By making and delivering customised products—whether through mass customisation or other make-to-order (MTO) processes—manufacturers may feel shielded from another prevalent market trend: the so-called Amazon effect. After all, if you’re manufacturing precisely the personalised product that buyers want, why would they go elsewhere?
The truth of the matter is, however, that business buyers increasingly expect a purchasing experience that’s as close as possible to that of a consumer—one that’s based around ‘me’ and ‘now’. This is a bi-product of our ‘have it all now’ culture of instant messaging and one-day, or even one-hour, deliveries.
Buyers want to be able to research, order and configure items online—with no need to phone up or exchange emails. Then, once the order has been placed, they want to be able to track its status online—and receive it by the promised delivery date.
Easy to do business with
No matter how specialised or customised the products an MTO manufacturer makes, that may no longer be enough to retain customers. The additional challenge is to be as easy as possible to do business with.
That means having the agility to react quickly to new customer requests and orders. Improving day-to-day processes—such as increasing productivity through better matching required resources with demand and developing a more responsive supplier network—can deliver meaningful improvements in production scheduling that translate to shorter delivery timeframes.
Above all, it means giving customers the buying experience they want, to drive customer loyalty and win new business. A study from Salesforce found that 81 percent of business buyers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Three quarters (77 percent) are ready to share good customer experiences with others; and 74 percent will actually pay more to get a better customer experience.
Capitalise on the Amazon effect
MTO manufacturers looking to capitalise on the Amazon effect to boost business should consider:
- Providing online capabilities for customers to design and configure products, as well as place and track orders
- Ensuring teams can respond quickly to customer queries at any time
One way to make great strides is to implement a manufacturing-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that’s designed to help you provide customers with Amazon-like self-service capabilities.
Rainier Industries, a manufacturer of custom-made display, shade and shelter products, relies on Epicor ERP to automate customer orders and improve the customer experience by accelerating time-to-delivery. Rapid growth meant it could not hire new customer service team members at the same rate that new orders were being placed. This left many employees not doing their intended job of offering customer service, but instead being inundated with order entry requests. The company can now process online orders helping to increase sales and drive revenue growth.
ERP has the power to incorporate eCommerce functionality and create configurator portals, as well as empower teams to answer customers’ queries at any time, from any location. Furthermore, customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities provide a 360-degree view of each customer relationship that puts customers at the center of a business’s objectives—just as they expect.
By Mr Vincent Tang, Regional Vice President, Asia, Epicor
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