As an avid photographer, I'm always ordering equipment to support my hobby — cameras and lenses, filters and flashes, different cases to carry what I need. Each order is followed by a number of emails — confirmations, shipping notices, delivery receipts, and feedback requests. Each message contains some extra information — a suggested filter based on my order history, a link to a tutorial video for my last camera, a thank you message for the review about the case I ordered.
Transactional messages like these are eight times more likely to be opened since the recipients are anticipating them. Automating these communications can save an untold number of hours, allowing employees to focus on value-add activities; they also deliver quality, personalized content that can solidify relationships with customers, vendors, and even internal stakeholders.
Meeting Customer Expectations
According to Accenture, 92 percent of B2B executives “realize that changes in business customers' behaviors and preferences will affect their interactions to some extent.” Customers are calling for greater visibility into the companies they do business with; the step-by-step tracking available with a FedEx delivery or a Domino's pizza order are prime examples in the consumer space. It would be almost overwhelming to manually gather information for every production order at each stage, then calling or emailing each customer. An alert and notification framework, integrated with an ERP and a CRM system can easily compile this data and trigger the appropriate message.
This framework helps set expectations and provides that visibility the customer wants, particularly when complications arise. I believe that customers are more likely to forgive a delay in production or shipping if there is communication. Silence can be perceived as disregard for their needs; even after the situation is resolved, they are more likely to have a negative impression of the company because they were forgotten along the way. A notification framework can provide regular updates to keep customers in the loop. There may be still frustration regarding the issue, but there can be a higher opinion of the company's response to it.
Connecting with Suppliers
Communication is also vital in maintaining supplier relationships. Typically half of manufacturers' revenue is spent on purchased goods and services. Strengthening the connection with suppliers can lead to better pricing and other benefits that can improve a company’s bottom line.
Automated alerts linked to inventory can alert purchasing if a large order is placed, and additional materials need to be requisitioned. By pairing job schedules with order receipts, you can request updates from the supplier on critical orders. Embedded links within the message would allow the supplier to easily update you on the status of your orders. Knowing in advance that key components of the order will be delayed can allow you to make adjustments and inform your customers of any potential delays.
Engaging Internal Stakeholders
There are a number of internal stakeholders who require visibility as well. Accounts Receivable can utilize automated communications linked to outstanding invoices thus streamlining collection efforts. Eliminating paper invoices can provide additional cost saving and contribute to company sustainability initiatives. Account managers need to know if their customers' orders are going to be late so they are not caught off-guard by calls for more information about the delay. If a supplier is regularly behind delivery requirements, purchasing would know to look for another vendor.
Another area where automated communications are invaluable is emergency communications. Every second counts in an emergency; notifications should be delivered to employees across multiple channels to ensure appropriate action is taken as soon as possible. Messages can be customized based on the threat, and recipients can be segmented based on their proximity to the crisis.
Creating a Network for Greater Communication
Consumer applications have created demands for personalized experiences in other arenas. As customer expectations grow, manufacturers need to continually examine what they can do to stand out a little more, be more competitive, and tie everything back to the customer experience. There are numerous touchpoints with customers, suppliers and internal stakeholders; each of these instances is an opportunity for greater communication.
An alert and notification framework can be the workhorse connecting a wide range of systems across the enterprise to make it easy for small and midsize manufacturers to have a sophisticated and interactive presence. You can exploit automation's very specific strengths to enhance your customers' and vendors' experience by encouraging communication with your company. Automation technology can serve as a bridge to connect people, transforming a transactional relationship to a true partnership.