Customer Centric vs Customer Service
In increasingly competitive manufacturing markets, why customer centricity is the key to a competitive advantage.
The manufacturing industry, across the globe, is going through one of the most profound changes in history. Call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) or Industry 4.0, it is the biggest disruption the sector has faced in the last half a century.
A lot has been written about how Industry 4.0 is impacting manufacturing processes. Many manufacturers are investing time, effort, and money on the digital transformation of how their products are made, with a well-meaning, yet inward-looking, approach to digitising the warehouse floor, production lines and processes.
However, soon it will not be enough to just manufacture and produce a great product in this new digitally driven era. Afterall your competitor has access to the same technology. Customer Experience will become the new battleground.
To differentiate themselves, organisations need to adopt a customer-centric mindset. But how is that different from providing excellent customer service?
Customer service is an interaction at the front line between someone receiving a product or service, and the business that is providing it, whereas Customer Centricity affects the behaviour of everyone in the organisation. In a Customer-centric organisation, all business decisions are made with the customer’s interests in mind. This implies that customer-centric businesses structure their operations (including culture and philosophy) to meet the needs and maximising value delivered to the customer.
A customer-centric organisation considers the entire customer journey and anticipates customer needs beyond any one transaction.
There is an important distinction worth pointing out. Being Customer-Centric is not the same as being customer-focused or declaring that your customers are what is most important to your business. Customer-Centricity is about transforming your business processes, so they serve the needs of the customer, first and foremost.
Why is Customer-Centricity important for Manufacturers?
In the post-mass production era we now live in, customers are in the position of power, not manufacturers. Customers today have access to unlimited information; they are more resourceful and more in control of their buying journey than ever before. Manufacturers that are not equipped to respond to these new trends will lose potential customers and fail to retain existing ones.
In the past, staff were trained to pay homage to the business’ rules. Often customers’ needs were met if they fit within “the way we’ve always done things”, but this was more of a lucky by-product of the business approach than a conscious plan. Manufacturers can no longer rely on product centricity or engage in race-to-the-bottom-price-wars.
Given the quick advance of connected technologies throughout the industry, evolution is moving from the production floor squarely into the hands of the customer. Consider the following statistics from the Salesforce special report, “Revolutionising Customer Service in Manufacturing”.
86 percent of manufacturing executives say customer experience is a key differentiator.
71 percent of manufacturing services teams are focused on deeper customer relationships.
63 percent say they have increased focus on personalised service interactions over the last year.
What do customer-centric organisations do differently?
Place the customer at the heart of all decisions and actions: They define the customer experience they wish to provide and create policies, frameworks, and procedures to make it happen.
Obsessed over data: Seek out data and use it to improve the customer experience. Watch the market and emerging trends in order to anticipate evolving customer needs.
Communicate effectively: Break down silos. The flow of information between departments and functions has a huge impact on the customer experience.
Seek and encourage staff input: Everyone involved in a specific process or system has an idea of how they might be able to enhance the customer’s experience. Make sure that every individual knows they can take action to impact the customer experience.
Align Behaviour: It is critical that you align everyone on precisely what to do and how to do it, so they know exactly what is expected of them.