A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog post called Customer Relationship Manufacturing. In this blog post, I described the symbiosis between the sales and production departments within a manufacturing company, mentioned some customer relationship management (CRM) vendors that seem to have adapted their products for the manufacturing industry, and I also promised I would get back to you with more information on these products.
Why do Manufacturing Companies Need a Different Kind of CRM?
Manufacturing companies have evolved differently than other types of companies during the last decade and face specific challenges. In other words, manufacturing companies are switching from product-centric to consumer-centric strategies. Not so long ago, a company’s approach would be to make products and then try to sell them to customers. Nowadays, the approach is different: they first try to understand what the customer really needs and then design and create products accordingly. Traditionally, manufacturing business processes do not include the customer in all stages; but this is about to change.
Also, there needs to be an ongoing flow of communication between sales, production, and customers. Usually, enterprise resource planning (ERP) or CRM systems provide reliable collaboration in one direction only: either sales with production (in an ERP product) or sales with customers (in CRM solutions). Both ways, the information from the customer does not get to the shop floor or it gets there garbled. To address this, business software vendors adopted two strategies:
• Integrate ERP and CRM into a single product or suite that will provide all functionality needed by both production and sales. Vendors like Netsuite, Aplicor, and Lawson offer this kind of suite. Other vendors, like Microsoft, Oracle, Sage, Infor, etc. offer separate ERP and CRM products, which can easily be integrated with each other.
• Enhance an existing CRM product and improve the functionalities that will benefit manufacturing companies. CRM for manufacturing does not exist as a stand-alone product, but it is a regular CRM system modified to address manufacturing needs.
Manufacturing companies will select the most appropriate option depending on the size of the company, the number of customers, and the number of business software users.
What Are the CRM Functionalities Specific to Manufacturing?
CRM vendors addressing manufacturing companies’ needs did not create specific functionalities for this industry, but enhanced existing ones. Here are some of them, which can be found in most CRM systems, and are very important for manufacturing companies:
• Customer service allows manufacturing companies to create, assign, escalate, and resolve issues, also called cases or tickets. Valuable information is provided by customers during this process, which can then be used to improve the quality of products and services.
• A customer portal can be a very efficient tool to get feedback from customers about their consumption and usage habits. This information can be gathered into a single data source and then used to determine changes in customer behavior.
• Reporting and analytics will provide both sales and production departments with the information needed to determine the real needs of customers and trends in their demands. Analyzing historical sales will not only allow sales to create customized campaigns, but will also influence future production volume.
• A solutions knowledge base will help customer service representatives solve problems more easily, but will also allow the production department to understand what problems and challenges customers are facing when using the products.
• Project management integration links tasks and processes from both departments, making them collaborate and work more efficiently.
As mentioned in my previous blog on CRM for manufacturing, sales and production need each other to improve the way they work. Sales can learn more about products from production—that is, the more they know about the product, with its advantages and disadvantages, the easier it will be to sell it. Sales will help production learn what the real needs of the customer are and what to expect when buying a product.
What are CRM for Manufacturing Vendors Offering?
Microsoft describes the need for CRM for manufacturers on their Web page, which is dedicated to the manufacturing industry. It’s interesting to note that one of the “Microsoft manufacturing partners” found on that page is Seibel, an Oracle company. The Microsoft Dynamics Web page describes functionalities specific to manufacturing by industry: automotive, chemical, food, high tech, etc.
Empower CRM from iEnterprises is also adapted to manufacturing, with more than 10 years in the field. The functionalities mentioned above are all present, plus the option to use mobile devices, which can be useful for sales people on the road or for field service. The testimonials from manufacturing companies might give you a better idea how Empower CRM for manufacturing works.
Pivotal CRM from CDC Software claims to be a “complete CRM for Manufacturing.” They support this statement by providing a list of functionalities specific to manufacturing, including Pivotal Handheld for manufacturing, a BlackBerry-resident application that allows collaboration between departments and integration between ERP and CRM. This 12-page brochure will also provide valuable information on how Pivotal CRM can help manufacturers.
Besides offering a complete view over a manufacturer’s customers and the functionalities already mentioned (customer service, mobile access, etc), Infor CRM for Manufacturing offers “complete front- and back-office integration.” Interactive selling improves collaboration by sharing product and pricing information and allows users to create multidimensional prices and discounts.
How Can TEC Help you Select a CRM for Manufacturing Product?
Using our decision support engine ebestmatch™ in the CRM Evaluation Center, you can compare CRM products from customer service, analytics, or any other functionality that is important to a manufacturing company.
Among the certified CRM vendors in our database (which include certifications in progress), here are the top five rated for customer service and analytics/reporting:
There are more than 30 CRM vendors in our Showcase and you can use TEC’s Evaluation Center (free for two hours) to compare any of them based on criteria other than customer service and reporting functionalities.
I was wondering whether aspects related to downstream sales and distribution are also covered under the integrated ERP-CRM offerings? typical scenarios linking up the source of sales volume information generated from existing/new customers through contacts/leads into ERP sales order processing/MES?
I am interested in the processes and /or products innovation that well designed and implemented CRM could give as a result of the opportunities to know and analyse what is deserving a change
Manufacturers today are faced with the difficulty of identifying demand and how demand either spikes or falls flat needs to be quickly identified and production plans changed to reflect the new realities. In addition to that, the varying products require different approaches. For example, the Automotive OEM could do with customer “views” click-streams direct from their showrooms funneled into a Demand Analytics engine. A Complex Equipment Manufacturer could do with a Visual Configurator tied to CAD and a CRM to enhance their sales force allowing instantaneous capture of configurations generating quotes. A consumer goods company would benefit from a Retail or B2C based CRM to analyse demand shifts.