Which Technologies Really Deliver the Best Consumer Experience for Manufacturers?

Manufacturers that see technology as something that is simply bolted onto existing operations to solve a problem or, worse still, as a panacea for any organisational ill, risk further alienating themselves from their customers and falling further behind their competitors.

Published ·January 28, 2022

Reading time·6 min

As the global economy moves into its third year of the pandemic, one thing has become abundantly clear. Every organisation that has thus far been able to rise to the occasion shares one thing in common. Whether within manufacturing, retail, banking and finance or telecommunications, they are all digital-first businesses.

Brands that pre-pandemic, had already adopted new technologies as part of a wider digital transformation, have been able to flex in the face of COVID-19. They have had the agility and insights to change track, add new functionality, or augment existing operations and processes in line with changing customer needs and a rapidly shifting business landscape.

Unfortunately, these business advantages were being highlighted at a moment in time when, thanks to historical supply chain and customer experience delivery issues alongside operational challenges and business restrictions created by the pandemic, manufacturers were unable to take action and follow suit.

Problems Persist for Manufacturers

While over 90% of the Fortune 1000 experienced an initial, short-lived supply chain issue within the first month of the pandemic, shortages of raw materials and production-critical components persist to this day for manufacturers.

For instance, the ongoing lack of semiconductors cost the automotive industry $210 billion in lost revenues in 2021 alone. Supply is not expected to meet demand until at least June, meaning the industry will witness similar losses at the end of the 2022 financial year.

Yet these losses could have been greater still. The automotive industry is vertically integrated and data-driven, enabling it to shift focus and to prioritise vehicle types and regional markets with the largest profit margins to reduce the size of the financial blow.

Within the wider manufacturing industry, where such levels of integration are the exception, not the rule, this lack of supply chain stability allied to an inability to keep pace with changing customer needs has made traditional means of risk mitigation and forecasting demand obsolete.

A Customer Disconnect

This inability to plan and effectively deploy resources isn’t simply due to traditional tools and processes, or because of the need to keep on-site employees safe and separated. It’s due as much to the fact that many manufacturers have an indirect — if any — connection with their customers.

Some in the industry need to rely on intermediaries for selling their products. Other manufacturers have little if any digital presence. And, in many instances, organisations in the sector can’t offer the levels of customer service and support necessary for direct selling.

But whatever the issue, the result is the same, an incomplete view and therefore understanding of their customer base.

And yet, all of these problems could be solved through access to data. Collecting and analysing available data is the key to improving operational and customer understanding and it is also the key to leveraging technology in the pursuit of improving customer experience. Data regarding customer wants, expectations and behavioural trends should drive every organisation’s decision-making process.

Likewise, gaining access to more and more varied data, more quickly should be the ultimate objective of any CX-focused technology.

Data Is the Key to Choosing the Right CX Technologies

The data captured through CX-focused technology is what fuels further innovation and optimisation. For instance, using technology to automate elements of the typical customer journey can already reduce live contact volumes by as much as 40%. However, without first having access to the right data, it is impossible to build, train and improve just one, standalone chatbot.

Therefore, the best technologies to adopt in the pursuit of improved CX are those that have the greatest potential to deliver actionable insights.

CX Technology 1: Social Listening

Social listening — often also referred to as social media listening — is actively following all discussions across the major social networks and review aggregation sites relating not simply to an organisation’s brand but also to the entire industry in which it operates.

Social listening delivers truly valuable insights regarding how customers feel about a brand’s products and supporting services; how consumer trends or behaviours are evolving and; how wider industry or sector level changes are influencing customer expectations.

All of which makes it the perfect complement to any internal data analysis and as valuable as any Voice of the Customer (VOC) program in terms of actionable insights.

CX Technology 2: Speech and Text Analytics

Social listening provides a frame of reference. It helps a manufacturer understand where it sits within the industry and understand certain characteristics that all potential customers could have in common.

However, combining data from social listening with insights captured from speech and text analytics takes everything further still. Using speech and text analytics to process every interaction every customer has with a live contact centre agent will highlight customer characteristics unique to that organisation’s brand. This helps in regards to audience segmentation and the development of customer personas. However, just as important, it helps to identify actions an organisation can take, in real time, to elevate existing customer experience delivery.

For instance, analysing every conversation conducted within a contact centre will highlight the most common contact drivers. Which are the most commonly asked questions? Are calls being made because other CX touchpoints aren’t working? Are customers reaching out because of a product deficiency? And, crucially, which answers could be provided through self-service so that customers save time and agents have more freedom to focus on interactions relating to more complex, harder-to-resolve issues.

Alongside potential product deficiencies or less-than-optimal touchpoints, speech and text analytics will reveal what customers think about the brand and its offerings — their emotional sentiment. This means that developing an understanding of customer traits synonymous with loyalty and with potential attrition becomes easy.

CX Technology 3: Automation

Do not confuse automation with self-service. Speech and text analytics simplifies the development and maintenance of customer self-service content, However, organisations should offer customers the ability to help themselves by default, whether or not they’re using contact enter analytics — 86% of consumers expect any brand they interact with to have a self-service option.

Insights captured from social listening and speech and text analytics should be employed to enable automation. By developing robust data sets, manufacturers can design, build and develop chatbots or develop rules-based approaches for applying RPA (Robotic Process Automation), for accelerating and guaranteeing the accuracy of back-office processes or of data capture and sharing across the organisation.

Automating labor-intensive yet repetitive processes liberates manufacturers to redeploy their resources in line with the most valuable, complex aspects of customer experience delivery. It also guarantees a consistency of operational performance that eliminates human error and helps to break down internal silos that prevent data from moving freely within an organisation.

Making the Right Decision

For technology to have its intended positive impact on how an organisation engages with consumers, it needs to be focused on increasing convenience and consistency for the customer and unlocking efficiencies for the organisation. Technology can reduce the cost to serve and help add value to each interaction, improve products and ancillary services and empower and continually motivate employees by eliminating the mundane, repetitive aspects of their roles.

However, this is only possible if technology adoption is part of a wider project for ensuring uninhibited access to data across the business. A technology should only be leveraged in order to improve customer experience if it also has the potential to remove an internal silo or eliminate a time-consuming manual process. Access to data is key to informed decision-making, understanding who customers are and, crucially, understanding how their wants and needs are changing.

To learn more about the role technology plays in building a consistent customer experience and how self-service and contact centre analytics can increase brand loyalty while reducing an organisation’s cost to serve, download the latest Foundever Best Practice Guide: Creating a Winning CX Strategy in Manufacturing.