Guest blog part 4: How ready are you for the future of making things? Extending customer experience beyond the physical store

Written by: Asif Moghal | Published:

As the manufacturing landscape continues to evolve and competitive pressure mounts, companies need to transform the way they do business. In the fourth of this five-part series, I discuss how manufacturers can get closer to their customers and develop solutions that have them at the centre.

I recently walked into a coffee shop and witnessed a pattern of interaction between the barista and her customers. It started with, “What can I get you?” then, “Small, medium or large?” followed by, “Any pastries to go with that?” then, “bottle of water for your journey?” rounding off with, “Contactless payment?” and finally, “Do you have a loyalty card?”

She followed that pattern to every customer in the line, and, without fail, the customers’ responses were equally monotone and monosyllabic. When it came to my turn, I decided to break the pattern, and jumped in with, "Hi there, I’m fully hydrated, wouldn’t like a pastry, but will take a medium hot chocolate with soya milk, which I'll pay for with cash, thank you." This left the barista with no choice but to abandon the script she’d been following and instead engage with me as an individual, changing both of our experiences.

Starbucks recently released an app that enables their customers to pre-order and pay for items, and collect then from a store of their choosing. This type of click-and-collect model is being used by many retail outlets –proof that businesses of all shapes and sizes are looking at new ways to enhance their customers’ experience of their brand and move away from offering a fixed experience. Apps like this can help a company understand the behaviours of their customers and tailor their offerings in a way that suits their lifestyle, location and preferences, creating an experience they can engage in before and after they are in store.

What does this mean for manufacturers?

The opportunity to enrich the customer experience applies to just about anything we make, and I challenge any manufacturer to think of a part of their business where this could not apply.

If you engage in two-way conversation with your customers, you get to know them better and learn what’s most important to them. Many brands have started to explore this through platforms, which enable them to interact immediately with their target audience and learn what’s most important to them. If we think about what Starbucks is doing, it has recognised that convenience on the go is important to its customers. As a result, its app gives people on the move a great experience of the brand, and personalises their experience; which more often than not, they’ll be willing to pay a premium for.

I wonder how many manufacturing businesses realise how easy it is to step into this world of enriched experience?

  • Every customer has values which, once identified, can be the basis of a nurture-based relationship. Start by understanding the communication preferences of your customers, and rank them in order of most digital to least digital in nature. Select the first one and explore how your company might engage in those conversations, and what information you can glean from them to enhance your customer strategy.
  • Once established, your customer strategy can be used to enhance focus on the areas of greatest value to them. Start looking for patterns in customer behaviours and compare what level of focus your business is currently putting into addressing those needs. This helps to align your products and services with your customers’ expectations.
  • Once a strong communication platform has been established and the needs of your customers are understood, open feedback loops can easily be introduced. Start by identifying various opportunities to seek instant feedback from your customers digitally at key points before, during and after their purchase of your products or services. Use these points to test out some of the behaviours that you’ve identified and validate potential opportunities to improve your relationship, improve your products or offer new features and services tailored to that customer. This transitions your business to a model where your enhanced customer experience strengthens your competitive advantage.

By engaging more intimately with customers to genuinely understand their core values, manufacturers can design and make products that enables those values to be experienced on a much deeper level. In turn, this will help them to bring the customer closer to the brand and strengthen their competitive advantage in the market.

Look out for the fifth and final piece in this series, where I’ll be exploring how manufacturers are making the shift towards offering a Product-as-a-Service business model.

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