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Customer Experience

Customisation, conversation and manufacturing

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mass production as a competitive advantage is no longer enough. To meet customer expectations, manufacturers need to turn to mass customisation.

In days gone by, manufacturers sold to retailers. Retails sold to customers. In the event of an issue, customers raised it with the retailer who worked with the manufacturer to solve the problem. The conversation was very one-sided. 

But the game has changed.

No longer is an angry letter confined to a PR or complaints department – instead it’s shared with the world on social media channels.

These new ways of communicating mean customer expectations around transparency and engagement in manufacturing is more important than ever, particularly when it comes to building a competitive advantage. The proliferation of choice in the market through new technologies also exacerbates this need.

To avoid competing purely on price, manufacturing companies need to look for new ways to differentiate themselves and build strong relationships with not only the traditional wholesaler and retailer, but also the end customer. 

A warehouse worker uses his phone

The rise of custom-built

The rise of globalisation and eCommerce has brought unlimited choice when it comes to the form and function of almost any product. Combined with a diversification in the ways customers can interact with retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, the manufacturing model has fundamentally shifted towards the customer.

Their experience has become one of the fundamental building blocks of a business strategy. Mass production has shifted to mass customisation, making innovation, flexibility and communication integral.

Demand for co-creation and product customisation and collaboration in the retail supply chain is growing, and agile manufacturers are reaping the benefits. In a 2015 study, Mass Customization in Supply Chain Management Environment: A Review, it’s stated that “increasing flexibility in manufacturing systems and the high speed of information exchange, mass customisation may satisfy the requirements of individual customers with near mass-production efficiency … [This] enables higher profit margins for designers and manufacturers, better and improved customer satisfaction, as well as high-value added business opportunities.”

Underscoring the demand for such services, Telstra’s The Personal Supply Chain showed that 57 per cent of consumers would pay a premium for the ability to customise product requirements online, but only two per cent of SMEs are offering this service. 

Making it happen

So how do manufacturers big and small adopt a strategy of co-creation with their customers? There are a number of ways, but many of them start with technology solutions that are enabling greater visibility of process and inventory, improved communications with suppliers and a proactive after sales service – resulting in a more compelling customer experience.

Services like cloud infrastructure can provide secure access to inventory in real-time, along with security, data backup and recovery to ensure customer data and orders aren’t lost in the event of an emergency, while IP telephony can create time and cost savings in communications between suppliers, retailers and customers.

At its core though, it comes back to finding digital solutions for age-old business products and having the right partners to make it happen. Good customer service never goes out of fashion. Finding efficiencies in business should be an ongoing process. Learning and collaboration should always be encouraged.

More than ever, delivering a quality product that meets customer expectations is fundamental in preserving profit margins and building a reputation that will have customers put their reputations alongside yours through recommendations.

Reputation is forged publicly now

When it comes to reputation, the digital age has meant that the amplification of opinion has exponentially increased compared to previous decades.

And while social media has made the complaints process more transparent, it’s also made the process of sharing a good experience easier than ever, with one HubSpot study showing nearly 40 per cent of people surveyed had complimented a brand on social media in the past month.

By using the right online communication channels to engage your audience and implementing the right technology to fulfil their expectations, manufacturers can place themselves in the best position to reinforce the foundations of their business.

Sustained growth and success will come by connecting more directly with customers and shifting to more of a service focus – the future of manufacturing has the customer at the core of the business strategy. 

Industries all over Australia are feeling the benefits of the latest tech

Read about The Future Of M2M In The Industrial Sector.

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