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Eight Ways Manufacturers Can Attract & Retain Customers–Part 2

Plastics processors excel at using automation to overcome process and product-related challenges, but when it comes to customer relationships, those skills need to be balanced with empathy. Customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, and customer success applications can help augment short-staffed teams in cultivating customer relationships, but they cannot become a substitute for first-hand engagement.

The good news is that plastics processors have an edge in understanding how processes work and what’s needed to improve them. This process expertise is a critical skill for attracting new customers, retaining existing ones, and growing customer lifetime value (CLV).

Let’s look at three ways to bridge customer empathy and process in this second of three posts on how to attract and retain customers:

  1. Use a CRM System to Organize New Prospects and Customer Upsell Efforts: Knowing how each marketing campaign performs, identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and having a running history of every customer are just a few of the many benefits of a CRM system. There are reporting options to track sales funnels, propensity models that can identify the best possible upgrade paths for existing customers, and reporting modules that can report CLV, and other key metrics of how customer relationships are going. The most effective use of the CRM system is to gain insights into a customer’s preferences, priorities and concerns, so teams can personalize their customer interactions.
  1. Become a Customer of Yourself Once a Month: From company founders to the CEOs of well-known plastics processors, it is becoming a common practice to try placing an order once a month or even weekly. In this way, they can literally put themselves in the customer’s shoes and test how easy (or difficult) it is to do business with the company. Jeff Bezos was famous for calling customer support to see how long it would take to get help. During one senior staff meeting, he did this and was on hold for several minutes. The entire customer service organization changed that day. 
  2. Monitor Your Customers’ Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction Levels Regularly: Business-to-business (B2B) companies, including manufacturers, have some of the lowest scores when it comes to the customer experience. McKinsey & Company found that B2B companies average less than 50% on customer experience scores compared to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies whose scores ranged from 65% to 85%. Just as production yields and quality rely on hard, empirical data, it’s time for manufacturers to be just as serious about measuring customer satisfaction. Using SurveyMonkey or comparable online survey platforms, manufacturers can create customer satisfaction surveys that are easy to edit and customize for each segment of customers served.

Studies show that manufactures have some of the lowest scores in the areas of customer experience.

By applying these three practices, plastics processors can get a more complete understanding of customers and how to optimize their experiences.

Part 3 of this series will look at ways to attract customers through sustainability efforts, provide transparency on quality data, and differentiate on short-notice production runs.

About the Author: Louis Columbus is principal of DELMIAWorks. Previous positions include product management at Ingram Cloud, product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. He’s also a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. Professional experience includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. He teaches MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research. Contact: @LouisColumbus on Twitter.

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