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. This blog takes a closer look at the topic of CX through the manufacturing lens.
Customer Experience for B2B can be framed by the customer journey and involves supporting customers as they explore, evaluate, purchase, and receive service for manufactured products (see diagram below). For manufacturers, the customer is both varied and complex. "Customer" could mean 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. For each, the customer journey follows a different path, and manufacturers are being called on to enhance each with a variety of CX technologies.
Competitive pressures and the desire for more meaningful relationships with customers are driving manufacturers to reconsider what customer experience means within a B2B context. Given that we are all living in a digitally infused world, where we experience unprecedented technology capabilities throughout our personal lives, this expectation is now saturating the business realm. Business users are coming to expect the same level of rich interaction.
Our IDC Retail Insights counterparts initially identified the "5i" customers in 2012: they are instrumented, interconnected, informed, in-place, and immediate. Since then, the 5i profile has spread beyond retail and permeates all aspects of life, so that we are all 5i, at work and at play. 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.
What does this mean for manufacturers? I recently read an intriguing book on how technology forces are shaping the future of personal and business life. Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy, by Rob Scoble and Shel Israel, seeks to share with a wide audience how mobile, social media, big data, sensors and location-based technologies are driving us to an unprecedented future state of context awareness across our normal activities. The poster child for this near-future state of context-immersion is Google Glass. But what about the business applications of context? The book offers several examples, from cars that can tweet status updates to their drivers to jet engines that provide newsfeeds for service teams on mobile devices to help reduce maintenance costs and increase engine lifespan. The possibilities are endless, and we are only beginning to see real-world applications in B2B situations.
Considering this new age of context in relation to customer experience is valuable for manufacturers, because it exposes some very tangible opportunities for manufacturers to enrich their interactions with their "customers," keeping in mind the context of each customer category. Many technologies are currently available to help manufacturers enhance the customer experience, including community management tools, social channel response systems, socialytics tools and applications, content marketing tools, and process automation and guided selling applications. Each plays a role in supporting an enriched interaction between manufacturers and their channel partners and end consumers.
Understanding where customer experience can have the greatest impact on business drivers provides a good entry point for manufacturers that are interested in starting a CX project. I recently wrote a report that delves into customer experience in manufacturing, which subscribers of the IDC Manufacturing Commerce Strategies service can read here (#MI247040). It offers a closer look at how manufacturers are applying CX to their businesses, and expands on some of the technologies available and considerations for launching a CX project.
What does customer experience mean for your organization? I encourage you to share your thoughts on this with the community.