Epicor Software Corporation, a global leader in business software solutions for manufacturing, distribution, retail and services organizations, today issued a call to action for metal fabrication manufacturers to prioritize initiatives focused on providing a superior customer experience and the important role modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions play in supporting a mature, customer-centric approach to business. A new IDC Manufacturing Insight report recently revealed that there is a big gap between companies with a mature or immature customer experience strategy, which directly influences their competitiveness.
The report highlights that while the majority of metal fabrication manufacturers agree that improved customer experience is increasingly important to generating growth and higher profitability, they do not have a clear understanding of how to enhance their overall customer experience, the critical business benefits it can deliver, and the central role technology can play in providing a superior customer experience.
“Many metal fabrication manufacturers are now moving away from producing standard, catalogue-based items to instead manufacture items to custom orders,” said Pierfrancesco Manenti, head of IDC Manufacturing Insights research practice in Europe, Middle East & Africa. “This suddenly means that no order is the same and customer service becomes absolutely paramount. A manufacturer’s ability to deal with prospects and customers more efficiently, from product design to configuration and production, becomes essential to beating the competition and creating long term customer loyalty.”
He added, “Surprisingly, however, our survey revealed that nearly 16%, which is double the rate in other industries, still believe that the single most critical factor for their customers to continue buying from them is only related to meeting their price expectations. They don’t clearly understand the link between operational excellence and its impact on the customer.”
The influence of this approach will clearly remain for a while, but leading metal fabrication manufacturers need to understand that factors such as concerns around supply reliability, poor product quality and long lead time, impact the customer experience negatively. Epicor urges these manufacturers to work on improving their customer and market insight and address these critical operational factors head-on in order to grow their businesses.
“There is a clear call to action for all metal fabrication manufacturers from this study,” said John Hiraoka, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Epicor. “We believe that they have a great opportunity to gain competitive advantage by taking a more mature approach to customer experience. With nearly twice as many metal fabricators than in any other industry still believing that price is the main influence to customer loyalty, the gap is widening between the mature and immature companies. There is a significant opportunity for those that take the leap to differentiate from their competitors, sell value-added services and increase market share. An open and modern ERP platform that leverages mobile technology and provides more collaborative and customer-facing capabilities including quality, service and warranty management and CRM is central to creating a superior customer experience which can improve competitiveness. We urge all metal fabrication manufacturers to assess their maturity level around customer experience and to look at how modern, next-generation ERP capabilities can help them achieve a more customer focused strategy.”
Key points from the survey:
- Nearly 16% of metal fabrication manufacturers -- nearly double the rate in other industries -- still believe that the single most critical factor for their customers to continue purchasing from them is merely related to meeting their price expectations.
- Metal fabrication manufacturers are ready to invest in adapting their IT to react to and serve the customer better (46.4%).
- The main barrier to creating greater customer experience is essentially related to a lack of funds to implement the required changes, as selected by more than 47% of respondents.
- Nearly 28% of metal fabrication manufacturers believe that ERP is vital as the platform that connects the back office and front office and streamlines business interaction with suppliers and customers.
- However, unlike other industries, a high percentage of respondents (nearly 35%) believe the impact on customer experience of their current ERP is still limited.
- 23% of respondents in this sector have a homegrown system and 17% have no ERP at all.
- Most find that traditional ERP systems don't support the provision of service to clients or the need to further improve collaboration across business functions well.
- New 3D virtualization technologies rank high when asked about their expected impact on customers and how they review and collaborate on product design and quality.
- Metal fabrication manufacturers are unclear about the benefits of new social and mobile applications. Integrated with ERP, these applications can increase the flow of information across the business, as well as to customers and suppliers, giving staff better access to more accurate, real-time data and ultimately improving customer responsiveness.
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