Digital transformation is impacting us in multiple ways, be it as an individual or a business and this transformation is accelerating with each passing second.
Gone are the days when the muscle power of big organizations, their hold on channels infrastructure, and their reach would define the market. Customers also were not aware of all the choices that are available to them. For a new entrant, educating prospects about their products was costly. The barriers to entry were high and that helped OEMs to save their market like a mother hen.
Digital Transformation is changing our world
Customers and prospects can access information on the internet very easily. The cost of reaching out to both new manufacturers/competitors and prospects is very less. This is breaking the traditional silos of markets and posing challenges to the current manufacturers.
There is another underlying phenomenon. Salespeople don’t pick up the phone and directly make a call, instead, they prefer to do their own research before they make a decision of whom to contact.
Gartner’s research finds that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of that time meeting with potential suppliers. The ready availability of quality information through digital channels has made it far easier for buyers to gather information independently, meaning sellers have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions.
This means when the customer is on the wild internet, as a manufacturer you need to make your presence felt.
“Manufacturers need to engage their customers proactively with data, information, and relevant insights about the equipment they own. This is an important building block for providing value to your customers, and retain them in the face of increased global competition.”
How should Manufacturers position themselves in a new digitized world?
The question comes back then how as a manufacturer you should position yourselves in this new digitized world. This is what is fuelling the trend for customer portals. Manufacturers want a mechanism through which they can establish easy two-way communication with the customers. However, giving them a portal that can do some eCommerce and they can raise service requests is not super helpful. They are dealing with probably 20-30 major manufacturers across their production ecosystems.
Everything aside, just managing the credentials to each portal is a headache. Who is going to figure out all the machines sitting in the production units across the globe belonging to you and enter the data in the portal! And why would the customer do it in the first place? There is no motivation for this investment. Even you as a manufacturer may not be aware of your long-tail customer base.
So as a manufacturer what can you do to make customer portals acceptable?
This situation needs a further ‘Aha’ moment for the customer to make the customer portal acceptable. Get all of their Installed base data listed as the first thing in the portal. Do remember to include the details of contracts, warranties, and transaction history.
Customer Portals for Manufacturers
But how can manufacturers achieve this? It’s not as hard as it sounds. All the data is sitting in your ERPs, CRMs, and other financial systems. Yes, it looks like a gigantic task as there might be multiple ERPs and CRMs and other systems because of legacy, mergers and acquisitions, and other reasons. The key takeaway is this data is available and you as a manufacturer can get it without even visiting the customer location. The data needs to be pulled from all the systems. It will need cleaning, unifying, enriching, and deduping. However, the return on this investment is manifold. When you will onboard your customer on the customer portal, you can give them a complete view of the Installed Base that you have supplied to them over the years. It will be very easy for customers as well now to point out discrepancies. For example, they are actively looking to replace a machine.
Once the customer has visibility to all the machines on their premises, it opens the gate for you as a manufacturer to enable other sets of services like IoT, audits, and inspections. With higher levels of engagement the possibilities to optimize and modernize IB workflows become unlimited.
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