In a growing economy where competition is fierce among manufacturers, it’s more important than ever to keep customers happy. If a customer has a bad experience with a particular manufacturer, word will spread fast and a solid reputation can be damaged quickly. In this day and age, most manufacturers can’t afford to lose a single customer without an adverse effect on their business.
Customer expectations are high and in order to satisfy them there are often many obstacles to overcome. To limit damage to an organization’s reputation, it’s important to modernize company processes and optimize operations across the business. Without a modernized business, manufacturers lack the ability to have automated, real-time insight into business operations, which can result in poor customer service and responsiveness, a slow quoting process, inaccurate estimates and inadequate production planning.
Want your customers to keep coming back for more (and tell their peers to do the same)? Here are three things small manufacturing businesses should keep in mind.
- Identify problems early. It can happen to anyone: you thought stock levels were higher than they actually are, so you’re short of the materials you need to go ahead and produce the order. Additionally, the original estimate you gave a customer could turn out to be inaccurate — maybe you had to use a different supplier than originally planned and their costs were higher or operations have taken longer than expected. Determine any issues concerning raw material planning, inventory, capacity and delivery before they become a problem so you can always keep your promises — and keep customers content.
- Understand your past history by automating your business processes. Having a comprehensive record online of past history will give you instant access to how long previous projects took to complete, as well as the costs and materials involved. Many manufacturing companies cite losing jobs because they aren’t able to get quotes out fast enough to their customers as a major pain point. Having a true understanding of your business history will put you in a better position to provide faster and more accurate quotes and deadlines for similar projects when negotiating with prospects.
- Be responsive. Don’t leave your customers or your team in the dark about progress. If there is a change in design, supply quantity or due dates, make sure you’re relaying that information to key stakeholders (including customers and suppliers) in real-time so everyone understands the impact of the changes and there are no surprises. Loyalty is critical to your success and if you don’t deliver the best product on time to your customers, they could move on to a competitor and bring their peers with them.
Manufacturing today is a crowded industry, but there are ways to stay ahead of the pack and stand out from competitors. The key to delivering exceptional service is to always stay informed about what’s going on in your business and informing your customers. If you have a holistic view of where everything stands, you’ll be in a much better position to deliver what your customers want and need and, in turn, they’ll be much more likely to recommend you to someone else in the industry. If you own a small manufacturing business, follow these steps and you’ll likely increase the chances of high customer satisfaction, which will build a strong reputation for your business and dramatically increase the chances of word-of-mouth referrals.
Kae Williams is general manager of Exact U.S. Cloud Solutions.