Businesses must always be on the lookout for changing customer expectations. A market shift – whether spurred by a competitor move or by external events – can quickly make a perennially successful product undesirable. Competitors are then in a position to pounce, adjusting pricing, delivery, and service to gain market share.
To strengthen and deepen customer relationships, businesses must take full advantage of all customer data insights and deliver consistently across every touchpoint. Below are some examples of opportunities across the organization.
Improving the sales process
Sales management leads much of the customer satisfaction effort. Sales teams typically have a large amount of data on customers’ buying activities, but they also need real-time access to the order-to-cash process, starting with estimates and quotations. An integrated cloud ERP system provides this information, as well as important service, supply chain, and financial details. Armed with this additional insight, the sales team can pursue renewals, upgrades, and cross-selling opportunities. At the same time, visibility into customer problems – past or present – provides the context that sales professionals need to manage their interactions.
Sales teams need reliable product and service costing so that they can price and discount accurately. When they are quoting deliveries, they need real-time available-to-promise (ATP) information, available in a modern cloud ERP, to provide solid ship dates.
Sales managers also have a wide variety of information that is helpful to other parts of the business such as:
- Win/loss feedback to determine why customers did or did not buy
- Competitor sales, pricing, and discounting activities
- Reasons for returns
Delivering a better customer experience
In some markets, delivering an innovative customer experience is essential just to compete. As competitors up the ante, customer demands rise in tandem. For example, the combination of e-commerce and retail services – for shopping, showrooms, services, returns, and repairs – was once a new idea, but is now expected.
Business customers often want access to secure Web sites with current information about their product and service configurations, specifications, contracts, pricing, discounting, orders, and shipments. This information must also be available to your sales, customer service, and management teams – all relying on a single source of the truth.
When all the members of your organization have access to customer information, there is improved teamwork and service levels. Customers do not have to repeat the details of an issue as it goes through departments with siloed systems since the details are captured, recorded, and available company wide. With full information, your staff can also add value by helping customers get the most value from your products and services.
Supporting project, product, and supply management
Today, many customers undertake large, complex projects. When estimating and managing those efforts, access to inventory, purchasing, manufacturing, and service information simplifies project management and improves service.
On a strategic basis, a “big picture” view of customer needs and competition helps identify product and service improvements. Companies can use customer feedback for developing additional service packages, kitting, and packaging, or even designing major engineering upgrades.
For forecasting and demand planning, visibility across multiple lines of business and locations is essential. Companies must balance supply and demand if they are to prevent stock shortages that damage customer relationships, without carrying expensive inventory surpluses.
Providing more responsive customer service
Customer support, call center, and other departments track metrics on their operations as well as products, services, deliveries, returns, warranty claims, and service history. These are critical to understanding overall customer satisfaction, and they provide important details beyond high-level trends such as net promoter scores.
In many cases, legacy systems limit access to this information. With a modern cloud ERP system, the information becomes readily accessible for prioritizing customer needs, responding immediately in specific cases, recognizing trends in product and service field use, and capturing a wide range of business metrics. For example, an engineering department can gain insights for improving product design and usability.
Facilitating two-way information sharing with field services
Many firms deploy service teams in the field for consulting, repair, warranty, and other tasks. These teams can often resolve customer and product issues before they escalate into company problems.
These teams may work on a residential air conditioning system, for example, or they may provide a range of services for a large office complex. When they go on-site, they must be armed with customer history and a variety of other details. Conversely, when a field engineering team goes to a customer site to evaluate a new project, they might learn of equipment issues that had not been previously identified. Intelligence from the field is highly valuable, and that data is also stored in a modern cloud ERP system where it is made available to other departments.
Empowering strategic management
Data visibility is key to the strategic management of a business. When executives are planning, they need to see high-level opportunities and changes – as well as the details behind them.
An integrated ERP system provides dashboards and KPIs, with the ability to drill down to transactions, contracts, product specifications, and customer sales and service information. A single business intelligence and analytics system can support enterprise-wide planning requirements and can also incorporate data from external sources.
With insights in hand, management can identify business areas that need repair. They can launch digital transformation initiatives that might allow them to leapfrog ahead of even their most innovative competitors. And they can harness the power of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which capitalize on ERP data.