What does CX Mean for Manufacturers?

IDC Manufacturing Insights announces a new report, “Perspective: Customer Experience – What Does IT Mean for Manufacturers,” that offers a closer look at a topic of increased interest to manufacturers today, across manufacturing value chains. Customer experience (CX) is increasingly being viewed by manufacturers as a necessary element of business-to-business (B2B) transactions, one that is enabled by the “3rd Platform”, specifically social, mobile, cloud and big data analytics. CX for B2B can be framed by the customer journey and involves supporting customers as they explore, evaluate, purchase and receive service for manufactured products.

According to Heather Ashton, research manager, IDC Manufacturing Insights, “Competitive pressures and the desire for more meaningful relationships with customers are driving manufacturers to reconsider what customer experience means within a B2B context. A major catalyst is the expectation of business users for the same level of rich interaction and capabilities in their business transactions that characterize their personal transactions.”
This engagement/experience theme is receiving a significant amount of interest from manufacturers. This new perspective will help them to:
  • Realize the implications of applying a customer experience lens to relationships with channel partners and end customers.
  • Understand how some manufacturing leaders in the various value chains are applying a customer engagement approach.
  • Identify some of the technologies available for enhancing customer experience. 
For manufacturers, the customer is varied and complex. The word "customer" could refer to the wholesaler that takes a manufacturer's product to its distribution channels or the licensed dealer network for automakers. For consumer products manufacturers, customer can mean the big-box retailers where their product is prominently displayed or the end consumer who has come to know and love their brand and wants a more direct relationship. 

IDC Retail Insights initially identified the "5i" customers: instrumented, interconnected, informed, in-place, and immediate. Since then, the 5i profile has spread beyond retail. The implications of this for a manufacturer are that the customers, whether they are distributors, resellers, or consumers of its products, expect to have an experience with the manufacturer that is digitally executed and enriched by 3rd Platform capabilities throughout the customer journey.

The new report highlights the role social, mobile, and big data play throughout the 5i customer journey. These expectations are driving many manufacturers to consider how to integrate the tenants of customer experience into B2B processes and transactions. While the approaches to this vary widely among manufacturers, there are several key considerations including:
  • Understand What Your "Customer" Wants from the Experience
  • Appreciate the Importance of a Unified Brand Experience
  • Identify Where Customer Experience Will Have the Greatest Impact on Business Drivers.
Customer experience is becoming an area for manufacturers to differentiate from competitors and find new ways to achieve business goals. Identifying which customer to target with a specific CX undertaking is an essential first step for manufacturers. Manufacturers should tie a CX project with their top business drivers and choose tools and applications that support these efforts.

In many cases, this is an entirely new way for manufacturers to consider their customer, and it is important to establish the intended outcome of a CX initiative. IDC Manufacturing Insights recommends that manufacturers address any potential channel conflicts up front and work with their partners to establish the highest levels of brand and customer loyalty that will mutually benefit them.