While Technology Might Make Sale No. 1, the End-to-End Journey Matters MostOctober 1, 2015
I recently had the pleasure of touring northern Italy for a week-long survey of that country’s metalforming and fabricating landscape. My account of that editorial mission, made alongside MetalForming publisher Andy Flando and including visits with five machine-tool manufacturers and several stamping and fabrication shops, appears in next-month’s issue.
While preparing my Italian metalforming-technology expose, I harked back to one insightful quote uttered by an executive with fiber-laser-cutting-machine manufacturer CY Laser. Said general manager Federico Campana:
“We say that the first machine is sold based on our technology and by the work of our agents. Then, future sales are made by our technicians based on how they handle the customer’s journey, from equipment installation to startup.”
In other words, to develop ongoing sales relationships with customers, attention must be paid to the customer’s end-to-end journey. That means, in the case of new capital equipment, ensuring that activities such as installation, startup and training run as smoothly as possible.
Keep this in mind as you visit FABTECH this November. Touring the show, you’ll be dazzled by the new technology on display. But be sure to leverage the opportunities to visit with exhibitor personnel at all levels—technicians, engineers and even executives—to get a feel for how an end-to-end journey with that company might go.
The concept of the end-to-end customer journey applies similarly to metalformers. You might dazzle a prospect with your latest-greatest shop-floor capabilities. And even during new-job startup, you may receive high marks handling any pesky customer complaints. Customer-service experts call these moments of customer interaction “touchpoints,” and most metalformers I talk to base their customer-satisfaction ratings on how they perform at these touchpoints.
However, such a narrow focus on customer satisfaction can “create a distorted picture, suggesting that customers are happier with the company than they actually are,” according to a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on customer satisfaction. What’s more critical is the big-picture end-to-end customer journey.
Strategies for optimizing the customer end-to-end journey include creating active feedback loops with wide-open communication channels to address root causes of issues. Such open communication builds confidence among customers that you’re driven to improve and enhance customer satisfaction.
As noted in HBR, new-customer onboarding typically lasts three months or so, including numerous phone calls and e-mails and a handful of site visits. During this period suppliers must focus not just on individual touchpoint actions—how your shop handles last-minute changes to part designs, for example—but also on the customer end-to-end journey.
Define what the ideal customer experience should be. Examine the policies in place to ensure that customer “asks” are handled professionally. Ensure wide-open lines of communication.
The HBR-article authors, from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., suggest that suppliers adjust their customer-satisfaction metrics to support their customers’ end-to-end journeys, not just touchpoints. That’s how you’ll keep the customers that you worked so hard to capture, and for whom you invested so much in new metalforming and fabricating technology.
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