customer experience podcast series

The CX Angle Podcast: Customer Experience and Manufacturing

We are in the midst of a Customer Experience (CX) revolution and customers are demanding an enhanced experience.  In this episode of The CX Angle, NTT DATA Business Solutions Corporate Communication Manager, (Jeremy Cross), and Industry Solution Principal, (Brian Everett), discuss how the manufacturing industry is handling customer experience.

Read the transcript below or listen to the podcast.

(Jeremy Cross) Welcome back to another episode of the CX Angle podcast. My name is Jeremy Cross. I’m actually flying solo today. Ryan is not with me, but I do have a special guest with me here in the office.

My colleague, Brian Everett, is one of our Industry Solution Principals, and Brian’s expertise is manufacturing. And so I had a chance to work with Brian earlier today and said, hey, can we sit down and talk about CX and manufacturing? What is it right now? What is it he’s seeing with CX in the manufacturing space? Brian, thanks for being here.

(Brian Everett) Jeremy, thanks very much. Always a pleasure to speak with you and really talk about what’s going on in the industry.

(Jeremy Cross) So now we have this opportunity to sit down and really look at this. So tell me, what is it that you’re seeing in manufacturing right now? You know, CX is our big buzz right now; everybody’s concerned about customer experience. What is it that you’re seeing in the manufacturing space?

(Brian Everett) Well, you know, I think that we live in a great time, an amazing time. Both, with all of the products that are available out there, the services that can be procured and just the consumer environment that we live in here in North America.

When you look out in the industry, specifically for manufacturing, and you look at what the demands are out there, there is this huge topic of conversation, as you just alluded to, around customer experience. How do we as manufacturing companies and organizations get closer to customers? What does that look like? And, you know, frankly, in my opinion, there’s a lot of thoughts about it, but there’s not really a good strategy or a plan on how to get there right now.

And I think that’s really the struggle and the challenge with businesses realizing, how do we get there? What does this whole customer centricity, this customer focus mean and how do we weave involvement of that information into our product or service offering. And so we’re really embarking upon that conversation. Now, there’s a lot of things that we can talk about there, and certainly we’ll be willing to do so with customers and with you if you would like to go a little further here.

(Jeremy Cross) So, give me any examples that you can think of from recently talking with customers or just even from industry in general. We often think of customer experience as this B2C type of thing, it’s very common in the B2C space. But in a B2B space, or even as we get into what are manufacturers doing to focus on customer experience right now, is that even at the top of their minds?

(Brian Everett) So I think that’s a great question. I think that there’s a couple of things that I would like to raise in terms of a topical conversation here. I think that B2C, even for a B2B-based manufacturer, I think B2C is important. What I mean by that is, I think that it’s important for a manufacturing company to certainly understand that B2B customer experience relationship, but to understand that other B2C relationship that happens from that customer, too, as an end user and consumer.

So B2B2C is really the important part and the topic of conversation I believe that’s out there in the industry. You know, from a B2B perspective, some of the things that I’m talking about in understanding or wanting to get understanding from customers is really, how do we get this customer experience? How do we get this information from our customer in a direct way, which we’re doing very overtly through conversations, through discussions with them, through meetings and those sorts of things. But how do we get that information also indirectly. But doing that with an approach that is non-invasive in nature.

We look at customers that are out there; just one of our customers that manufactures a large product offering, a very large product. They are looking at, yes, manufacturing that product, and the demands of quality require that product be out there for a long time. But they need to get information on how that product is performing out there. So you get into this whole conversation of, how do we introduce sensors into the actual product offering to get some indirect feedback of what’s going on, what information is there, how do we use that as a greater service to that business. We’re basically saying, hey, look, we’re getting information input, here’s some product improvements, or we’re getting as a result of what you’re using or how you’re using our piece of equipment, for example, and what’s being done there. So that’s just an example of how we’re getting closer.

(Jeremy Cross) Okay. So where do you think CX is going to go in the manufacturing space; where do you see it evolving in a manufacturing space? I mean, it seems like we can move forward with it, there’s tons of space to grow. Where do you, in your expertise, see that going?

(Brian Everett) Well, I think that we’re going to — if you look at it just on the application of sensors I gave you in the previous example — I think that sensors are going to get smarter and we’re going to be augmenting that with other capabilities. So, for example, on a piece of equipment if you have sensors that are providing us information to be able to identify when that equipment is being serviced, the next mile in that conversation really is, okay, how do we use that to introduce a machine learning-related concept, to be able to have a product adapt or adjust itself, for example; or being able to have a machine able to integrate that into the product and have a machine do the actual servicing itself without having specific human involvement.

So we’re taking talent that we’ve used through human capital and are being able to use that more efficiently than we have previously, right? So taking away some of those other specific tasks. So that’s kind of the whole aspect in the notion of the sensor conversation.

I think on the customer experience side of things, there is also intelligence that we can get on the actual feedback and the interactivity of the product. So right now you see people interacting with websites and you’re getting information from how they’re consuming information on the website. I think the other part of that is taking that the next mile, if you will, and that’s basically saying, okay, how do you make that experience a little bit more interactive in nature? How do we introduce bots, as they’re called out in industry. How do we introduce that to where they can commonly have interaction to handle specific lower level, routine types of tasks?

So, for example, for customers looking for information on a handbook for a specific piece of equipment that they bought from us, maybe they type that into our conversation into a website and that bot responds back to them about what they need to be looking at, the specific page in the manual that they need to address that specific failure on the equipment. That sends them an email automatically from the bot and at the same time alerts a service technician on our side of things to be able to follow up with that company or organization to be able to service that. I think that’s a good way to be able to show a better experience and not have that customer feel like, well, gosh, that was really an invasive approach to be able to get that information.

(Jeremy Cross) So, I want to go back to the sensors idea. Sensors are not a new thing; we’ve talked about sensors. Are more companies that you’re working with, are you seeing them adopt this idea of sensors, or is this still something that in their minds is this futuristic sort of, we can’t figure out a way to use it? Or is this something that is being utilized? Because I think sensors have been something that Ryan and I, on a past podcast, have brought up.

We were talking about Domino’s Pizza, and he was mentioning Domino’s could put a sensor inside one of those bags and they could monitor temperature, and if the temperature drops to a certain point, that automatically triggers the store to start making a new pizza. They’d send them back. He had this idea of, if you’re getting into technology and what sensors can do, it seems as if we talk about them a lot, but are they actual reality for most companies?

(Brian Everett) I think that there’s an evolution in the sensor conversation or with any specific product offering. I think that — whether this is the right or wrong way to say it — we need to get smart with sensors, right? And I think that we need to do that. When you look at the example just in pizza, for example; so Domino’s has a specific sensor that could be able to do that, the idea around that specific use case is a very, very good one. You know, Pizza Hut, I think, was the other company. They used a sensor in a shoot, order a specific pizza when you’re watching the Super Bowl or some sort of other sporting event to order a pizza.

Well, you may think that might not necessarily be the right and best application for it, but it was a starting point. And one of the important parts of sensors or any sort of technological adaptation that you’re seeing right now in the market is that you have to have those specific types of use cases. They have to be very agile in nature, and you have to be willing to fail.

I think that companies that are out there, sometimes they see this whole notion and topic of conversation around sensors and IoT and all these buzzwords that are out there, and they see it, but they don’t know where to jump in. And they get so worried about how they’re going to jump in, that they don’t jump in at all. And, you know, I think the pizza example is a great one to bring forth and to raise here, because they might not necessarily have the sensors the right way at first, but they’ll get to that eventually and they needed to do those. You need to have those first experiences to be able to fail fast, right? And to be able to do that. And I think that you’re going to get smarter.

So if I just bring it full circle and we go back to the Domino’s example, monitoring the temperature for the person that’s delivering the pizza, if it falls lower than that temperature, go back to the actual store to pick up another pizza and deliver it free of charge. What happens if you have a customer that requests a pizza at a certain temperature or the crust at a specific type of crispness? You know, what about getting in to those sorts of conversations? And I think that Domino’s is starting, and your pizza example is starting to witness part of that, but then the additional discussions that are around that, when you think about it, are how do you personalize that to a customer?

And that gets into experience management — the temperature of the pizza, the crispness of the crust, the amount of cheese on the pizza, the number of pepperoni slices that are on the actual circumference of the pizza, the sauce and how far out in the crust the sauce goes to the border, whether you’re cutting the pizza in a certain way, or if you want it square or round cut. All those sorts of things are, I think, the additional miles, if you will, that will be getting there. So I think it’s a fun and interesting conversation.

But with that example, I hope that you’re learning that, number one, you have to jump in and you have to have a willingness and understand that you’re going to fail and you’re going to fail fast. Number two, you’ve got to be thinking about this as an agile process. And no idea is outlandish, right? I mean, there are some really good ideas, and some idea that you might think is really out there at first might actually be a great idea for something in the future. And third is just being able to continuously evolve that and seeing that the beginning of the journey with the sensor is just the end of the beginning. And, you know, there’s other adaptations and use cases for that technology.

(Jeremy Cross) Interesting. It’s interesting to come back on something we’ve talked about in a previous podcast and for you to take it one step further, because the two of us didn’t get into the conversation about what could have been next or that level of personalization for a company. Would a company get involved at that level, or do you stay away from it; do you stay in your safe zone, or do you say, where is this going to take us? Which is the essence of what you’re saying, jump in somewhere. Know where it’s going to take you, but know that you’re going to fail, fail fast, learn from it and push forward and see where this is going to ultimately take the business.

(Brian Everett) And then the other thing I think is important is that there’s balance, in that the whole conceptual model of these sensors and these ideas need to be very, very quick, but you need to find the right balance on what that modeling looks like, right? And when I say that, I mean two things. Number one, you have to spend some time thinking about that. And there’s something to be said about some mind sharing and some design thinking going through some processes. But at the same time you don’t want that to be so long in the cycle to where you’re paralyzing yourself, and then you don’t do anything. So you’ve got to have that balance there.

The other thing that I would say is that you need to bring in people from all walks of life. I mean, if you’re thinking about sensors for specific pizza delivery or manufacturing that specific product, in the case of manufacturing a piece of equipment, bring in somebody that is totally unrelated to the actual manufacturing process of that product. Bring in somebody from the financial part of the organization, bring in somebody that’s storing the product out in the warehouse that might have some other lens of looking at that product that a consumer is not. That is the other part of customer experience.

You know, customer experience sometimes is talked about and you think, oh, it’s just “customer, customer, customer.” But it’s also the internal employees’ adaptation to their importance in that relationship with the customer, even if it’s direct or indirect with them. So that warehouse quirk that’s pulling that product in this lot-sized segment of one for the customer has just as important a relationship with that person as a salesperson does. And if you have that mindset in business, I think that’s where really manufacturing companies can get to being very successful in differentiating from other companies that don’t do that.

(Jeremy Cross) Well, I appreciate your sitting down and sharing some insight into what you’ve seen with customer experience, not only from a manufacturing point of view, but just in general. So thank you very much.

This has been another episode of the CX Angle podcast. We appreciate you listening and supporting the podcast and hope to see you on our next one. Thanks.

(Brian Everett) Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Jeremy.


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