Developing a positive experience for customers can be akin to climbing Mount Everest — it’s a journey filled with peaks (customer wins) and valleys (customer complaints or indifference), and it’s rare that you can reach the top.
For manufacturers, that summit is typically reached when “an overall experience … stands apart from any the customer is used to receiving,” as described by Gary Johnson in his book, “Wowed! Using the Principles of Wow to Create Incredible Customer Service.”
Regardless of whether your customer is distributors, warehouses, retailers, end users or other intermediaries — or all of the above — the creation and maintenance of a superb customer experience can translate into genuine benefits. McKinsey cites revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent and cost reductions of 15 to 25 percent over a two- to three-year-period, as one example.
Trekking through the customer journey
Conversely, a poor CX can have severe ramifications that strike quickly. About two years ago, United Airlines had a crisis in which almost a $1 billion of its value was wiped out overnight after a passenger’s experience went viral on social media. As a result, companies are beginning to understand how CX fits into their model.
Forbes indicates that 89 percent of companies compete on the basis of CX. Eight or nine years ago, that figure was somewhere around 36 percent.
The CX process typically involves the development of key personas, mapping of the customer journey, designing and optimizing internal and external interactions and “delivering innovative products, services and experiences,” says consultant Gartner, to match customer requirements and exceed expectations.
There are even technologies available to manage the CX process. Qualtrics produces a customer experience management software solution to gather data and predict which actions will produce the best results over time.
For manufacturers looking to start small, however, the process of whiteboarding your customer’s journey can be enough to understand weak areas, inconsistencies as well as what is working for your customers — and how you can leverage those successes across the entire journey.
Stepping through this process can be eye-opening on many fronts, not only how your business collaborates with your customers but how your suppliers and partners treat you as a customer. Prepare to have your expectations raised.
As an organization embarking on its CX initiatives, we’re learning more and more about what our customers know they want, just as much as what they don’t know yet. For us, it’s an ongoing expedition in which we may never summit but, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
Eric D. Miller is president of Miller Fabrication Solutions, a strategic supply chain partner offering metal part manufacturing and value-added solutions for global OEMs across oil and gas, mining, material handling, construction equipment and other heavy equipment industries. Eric represents the third generation of family leadership for the Brookville, Pennsylvania-based business.