Epicor Software Corporation, a global leader in business software solutions for manufacturing, distribution, retail and services organisations, has announced that a new IDC Manufacturing Insights report has uncovered how important a customer-oriented strategy is for successful manufacturers.
The report also discovered just how crucial enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are in helping all manufacturers improve their customer experience, from those that are only just starting out to those that already have a deep customer-oriented culture in place.
In the brand new white paper for manufacturers, entitled “Get Customers Inspired: How Modern ERP Can Support Greater Customer Experience,” IDC Manufacturing Insights surveyed over 460 enterprises across multiple sectors including industrial machinery and equipment, high-tech and metal fabrication, covering 13 countries worldwide.
“The research revealed that many manufacturers have an immature understanding of how a customer-oriented strategy can be implemented within an organisation,” says Pierfrancesco Manenti, head of IDC Manufacturing Insights research practice in Europe, Middle East & Africa.
“Manufacturers need to move along the spectrum for maturity in order to continue to stay competitive. This is especially important in more mature or developed markets where relationships and service levels have now become crucial differentiators.
“We advise manufacturers with less than inspiring customer service to take a good look at how their systems and processes can be improved to better support a customer-oriented strategy.”
Manenti explains, “Many companies continue to describe good customer experience in terms of products or service features and functions rather than the service level that they deliver at any touch point during the entire relationship. This includes, for example, the ability to deliver the perfect order — right quality, quantity, location, and due date — and the range of aftermarket services supporting the initial product.
“An enhanced customer experience paves the way for customer loyalty and longer lasting relationships between supplier and purchasers, a win-win situation for all parties.”
The research also uncovered that manufacturers can improve the customer experience by investing in a modern, fully integrated, flexible and easy to use ERP system that streamlines operational processes and connects back office with front office by offering integrated CRM, warranty and aftermarket functionality.
“We have known for a long time that ERP software can help organisations significantly reduce costs and improve profitability,” says John Hiraoka, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Epicor.
“But the importance of this survey is that it confirms the critical role ERP plays in improving overall customer experience – one of the top business initiatives for manufacturers worldwide. It shows the clear link between successful manufacturers and their understanding and use of ERP as a strategic tool for delivering a superior customer experience.
“The real winners are the businesses that shift their focus from inward to outward: moving beyond better price and availability to improved service levels, reliability and relationships. The most successful manufacturers choose ERP solutions that enable an easy evolution through the customer experience maturity model.
“New levels of agility, flexibility and ease of use in modern ERP systems make it possible for businesses to transition without having to reinvest heavily as needs change and the business grows.”
“Over the next three years, manufacturers have to prioritise initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience as it evolves, or face the consequences,” said Hiraoka. “Competing by lowering costs and increasing product functionality doesn’t hold in the long term.
“Modern businesses have to combine technology and processes with an embedded customer-oriented culture at all levels of the organisation to ensure they stay ahead of the shift, or they may simply not survive. An open and flexible ERP solution is an essential tool to achieve consistently inspiring customer experiences over time that will help the business to flourish and grow both now, and well into the future.”
In companies with 100 to 1 000 employees, over 90% of respondents indicated that their ERP has limited, little or no contribution towards the delivery of a good customer experience. The opposite holds true for larger companies with more than 5 000 employees.
Conversely, better integration seems to be an enabler of an improved customer experience in larger companies where there is a higher instance of single ERP systems. In particular, nearly 75% of large manufacturers with 5 000 employees or more indicated that their ERP is a vital platform for delivering a good customer experience as it connects the back and front office operations.
The reality across the majority of small and midsized enterprises is that they possess numerous home-grown systems (nearly 40% for manufacturers with 100 to 1 000 employees) or no ERP at all. This creates a lack of timely information as data is stored in too many different IT systems that are loosely connected, making it difficult to influence customer satisfaction even at the most basic level.
Only 9% of leading companies have fully realised the importance of creating a customer-oriented culture and process workflows to generate superior customer experience.
Only 30% of respondents indicated continued relationships were influenced by meeting product expectations and only 6,5% based continued business with a supplier on their ability to support and deliver a product.
Conversely, as sellers the focus is less about cost but more about delivering a good product and service to customers. Respondents are working hard to meet product/service features and function expectations (60%) and believe their customer will continue buying if they greatly deliver and support their product and service (29,8%).