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What does the customer experience mean for manufacturers?

20 Mar 2014

Competitive pressures and a desire for more meaningful customer relationships is driving manufacturers to reconsider what customer experience means within a B2B context.

That’s according to a new IDC report, “Perspective: Customer Experience – What Does IT Mean for Manufacturers,”, that offers a closer look at a topic of increased interest to manufacturers today, across manufacturing value chains.

The study says customer experience (CX) is increasingly being viewed by manufacturers as a necessary element of business-to-business (B2B) transactions, one that is enabled by the 3rd Platform, specifically social, mobile, cloud, and big data analytics.

CX for B2B can be framed by the customer journey and involves supporting customers as they explore, evaluate, purchase, and receive service for manufactured products.

“Competitive pressures and the desire for more meaningful relationships with customers are driving manufacturers to reconsider what customer experience means within a B2B context,” says Heather Ashton, research manager, IDC Manufacturing Insights.

“A major catalyst is the expectation of business users for the same level of rich interaction and capabilities in their business transactions that characterise their personal transactions.”

As a result, Ashton believes this new Perspective will help manufacturers:

• Realise the implications of applying a customer experience lens to relationships with channel partners and end customers.

• Understand how some manufacturing leaders in the various value chains are applying a customer engagement approach.

• Identify some of the technologies available for enhancing customer experience.

For manufacturers however, the customer is varied and complex.

"Customer" could mean the wholesaler that takes a manufacturer's product to its distribution channels or the licensed dealer network for automakers.

For consumer products manufacturers, Ashton also claims customer can mean the big-box retailers where their product is prominently displayed or the end consumer who has come to know and love their brand and wants a more direct relationship.

IDC Retail Insights initially identified the "5i" customers: instrumented, interconnected, informed, in-place, and immediate. Since then, the 5i profile has spread beyond retail.

The implications of this for a manufacturer are that the customers, whether they are distributors, resellers, or consumers of its products, expect to have an experience with the manufacturer that is digitally executed and enriched by 3rd Platform capabilities throughout the customer journey.

The new report also highlights the role social, mobile, and big data play throughout the 5i customer journey. These expectations are driving many manufacturers to consider how to integrate the tenants of customer experience into B2B processes and transactions.

While the approaches to this vary widely among manufacturers, there are several key considerations including:

• Understand What Your "Customer" Wants from the Experience

• Appreciate the Importance of a Unified Brand Experience

• Identify Where Customer Experience Will Have the Greatest Impact on Business Drivers

Customer experience is becoming an area for manufacturers to differentiate from competitors and find new ways to achieve business goals.

Identifying which customer to target with a specific CX undertaking is an essential first step for manufacturers. Manufacturers should tie a CX project with their top business drivers and choose tools and applications that support these efforts.

In many cases, this is an entirely new way for manufacturers to consider their customer, and it is important to establish the intended outcome of a CX initiative.

IDC Manufacturing Insights recommends that manufacturers address any potential channel conflicts up front and work with their partners to establish the highest levels of brand and customer loyalty that will mutually benefit them.