Manufacturing and CX: Innovating and improving customer experiences along with your products

By Paula Courtney,
CEO, The Verde Group.

Consider this: for one leading manufacturer of electronic goods, 83% of customers experienced at least one problem during their last transaction.

Make no mistake, data shows that friction in customer experiences – from the B2B level down to B2C and across every vertical – is a big challenge, one that damages customer relationships, loyalty and repurchasing intent for manufacturers.

So, what can be done about? How can manufacturers decrease friction and build more solid, long-lasting and profitable relationships with their customers?

Let’s start with what manufacturers are doing right. Many focus on product innovation and improvement — and that’s a good thing. Emphasis on the product has often led to success. The question is are these innovations and improvements sustainable and can growth be accelerated by exploring improvements to their customers’ experiences as well?

Here’s another number to consider – one that reveals some of the challenges manufacturers face when they focus on CX: our studies find that, on average, over 60% of customers experienced at least one problem during their last interaction with their manufacturing partners. But the manufacturer ecosystem is vast and complex, of course, serving multiple constituents, like wholesalers and dealers before reaching product end-users. So any successful attempt at reducing friction will need to take into account these realities.

There is hope, however. Verde Group research suggests customer experience is a rich territory for manufacturers to invest more of their efforts – in CX strategy, measurement and improvements. It’s not necessarily an easy road but it’s one that can pay enormous dividends. Here are three key suggestions manufacturers ought to consider to ensure the success of their own CX journey:

    Invest in understanding the problems that truly matter — problem frequency does not always equal importance to your financial success. Don’t be fooled by simple listening posts or social media data. Take the time to unearth the critical few problems from the trivial many.

    Encourage customers to tell you when they experience a problem. One out of four customers initiate contact when they have an issue. So open up the lines of communication. Make it easy for customers to contact you and when they do, listen to what they say then work on reducing the friction. Encourage the remaining three in four who don’t put up their hand because it’s too much trouble to do so, and do so immediately. The reality is, manufacturers invest heavily on making the sale but, when things go wrong, it may be difficult for customers to get the answers they need, return merchandise or even ask a technical question. Consider an organization like USAA Insurance, which treats its customer care center as a relationship building tool, rather than restricting talk time or measuring the speed of resolving a problem. In doing so, the company immediately convert problems into profitable experiences.

    Manufacturing and CX Chart

    Invest in strong service recovery efforts and operating procedures by empowering front line staff to make things right, right away. There’s a clear relationship between the number of times it takes to resolve a problem and decreased loyalty. A 2020 study we discussed here found that loyalty isn’t only restored but actually improves when customers are completely satisfied with the outcome of their issue. Giving customer-facing employees the right skills, tools and authority to resolve issues can have a profound impact on customer experience and loyalty.

CX strategies and tactics such as these are by no means quick fixes. They require investments – in dollars, in time and in cultural shift – as well as a commitment from the organization’s leadership on down. But innovating and improving customer experience, along with products, can reap lasting benefits for manufacturers and their bottom line.