I am putting together a thought leadership piece on the changing landscape of the manufacturing industry. More specifically, customer service within the industry.
Over the years, the manufacturing industry has leveraged technology to impact production by making its processes more efficient, while ultimately decreasing its costs. The analysis of how digitization will impact the manufacturing industry as a whole, as well as how the industry is responding to the needs of the customer is included below.
Before diving into the impact that digitization can have on customer service, we looked at the willingness and readiness of the manufacturing industry to embrace new technologies as a whole. Our research indicates five key trends in the manufacturing industry that would indicate a readiness to embrace new technologies.
In a recent study highlighting digital trends within the manufacturing industry, there were two primary drivers to the implementation of technological solutions; those that impact efficiency and those that impact revenue.
In this study of 209 manufacturing companies, the following trends were identified below. Also included is the percentage of manufacturing firms that have or will be implementing these technologies:
1. Cloud Computing - 85%
2. Connected Sensors (Manufacturing Facilities) - 65%
3. Connected Sensors (Products) -59%
4. 3D Printing - 39%
5. Enhanced Data Analytics - 34%
Trends in cloud computing, connected sensors in products, and enhanced data analytics will provide valuable information that the manufacturing industry can use in its quest to focus on customer service. This focus also primes the manufacturing industry to identify new markets and continually "reinvent themselves."
Although several solutions were identified, the research indicated an underlying theme, specifically in the area of data analytics, whereby a significant amount of data that is generated is not analyzed. Of those firms surveyed, only 20% of the respondents indicated that they analyze more than 60% of the data collected. This is a lost opportunity.
In addition, the manufacturing industry, as a whole, is lagging in the implementation of digitized solutions in its operations. This has been attributed to lack of industry-wide standards and the need for companies to develop a "top-down digitized strategy."
A recent survey of 300 manufacturing professionals found that 71% have become "more focused on creating deeper customer relationships over the past 12–18 months." In the same survey, 86% of respondents indicated that the "customer experience is a key competitive differentiator." 69% of manufacturers plan to increase their service budgets over the next 2 years especially as digitization continues to expand the capabilities of the customer service segment.
Importantly, Clearly, the focus of the manufacturing industry is evolving from the product to the customer.
With the above in mind, how can the manufacturing industry leverage digitization to focus and improve in the areas of customer service? This can be accomplished by focusing on digital solutions provide valuable information about and for the customer, allow for customization, promote the ease of use, and ultimately create value.
Data analytics provide many areas of opportunity for the manufacturing industry. Analytics can provide valuable information about who the customer is and what interests them. This information can be compiled by customer visits to websites and tracking online sales and service requests. Such data can be analyzed for customer interest and future trends.
In addition, valuable analytics that impact the customer can be obtained in other ways such as placing connected sensors in products. These sensors can provide information that become touch-points for a business to interact with a customer if problems are noted or preventative maintenance is required. 73% of buyers expect, by 2020, companies to provide products that self-diagnose issues and order replacement parts.
Factory and departmental integration is also a key aspect for data analytics. Effective and seamless integration between the services and sales department can provide opportunities, such as salespeople can contact customers based on data received through service requests.
In the customer's quest for a business to "know" them, the manufacturing industry can respond with digitization options that allow for customization of products.
Examples of customization include:
1. 3D Printing - This option will allow for greater customization and individualization of products due to its flexibility and low cost of use
2. Design capability - This includes company websites that allow a customer to show products in different colors and options or other digitized options. Framebridge, a picture frame manufacturing company, provides the option for a customer to work with their designers to develop a frame of their choice, which is then manufactured in their facility.
EASE OF USE
Today's customer seeks options that provide real-time information and are easy to use. Research indicates that 80% of business buyers expect that companies will interact and respond real-time.
Customer expectations in this area can be met with digitized options. The following key options are noted below, along with their relative growth rate from 2015 to 2016.
These options allow a customer to access information and report problems easily and in real-time. Companies that provide a knowledge base allow customers the control of researching items themselves.
Other digitization options that influence the ease of use include product sensors and other IoT devices. As mentioned above, these sensors can notify a customer of potential problems or the need for upcoming maintenance.
Ultimately, the manufacturing industry's focus on customer service comes down to perceived value. A digitization strategy should combine the use of data analytics, customization, and ease of use on an integrated platform to maximum customer benefit. Seamless integration of data from the point of sale, between departments, and post-sale support is essential to create the perception of value and impact the customer's experience.
To remain competitive, manufacturing firms must continue to shift their primary focus from product to customer. Digitization solutions in the industry that can positively impact customer service include data analytics, customization, ease of use, and value creation. While the industry is incorporated digitization to increase efficiency, its competitiveness, and better serve its customers, the industry as a whole is still lagging behind with technological solutions.