The Schindler Group—a global manufacturing leader with more than 46,000 employees— transports more than 1 billion people each day on its elevator and escalator products. A few years ago, it began a strategic initiative to renew its websites and shift from a company-centric approach to providing a customer-centric web experience. In doing so, Schindler improved its click-through rates and the company’s customer satisfaction scores soared. In fact, more than 60 percent of viewers said they would recommend its websites to friends and colleagues, and 90 percent found the sites more user friendly.
To achieve these results, Schindler adopted a comprehensive digital strategy including a content creation and management tool. Using five templates, it created 60 localized websites in more than 25 different languages for 100 countries. As Schindler’s story illustrates, digital transformation is necessary for innovation and competitive success. It takes a significant organizational effort to identify the best approach and execution path. Proven digital transformation strategies make delivering cutting-edge customer experiences to customers, partners, and distributors a painless process.
Making digital transformation a top priority.
Manufacturing companies face strong economic headwinds that are forcing them to reduce costs, re-examine their business models, build new capabilities and adopt new technology, while focusing on the customer experience.
The need for improved efficiency is why many management teams are turning toward Industry 4.0, the most recent reconstruction of manufacturing. According to market analyst firm PwC, there are three major aspects of the concept:
- Digitization and integration of value chains
- Digitization of product and service offerings
- Digital business models and customer access
While the internal components of Industry 4.0 make things faster, better, and more cost efficient, customers and distributors benefit from these efforts as well. To be competitive now and in the future, you have to wow B2B customers in the same manner you would B2C customers.
In fact, Econsultancy’s 2017 Digital Trends survey found customer experience is the most important differentiation tool for competing in today’s global marketplace, which means personalized and accurate information needs to be available immediately.
Customers, partners, and distributors require information and services throughout the sales cycle, which begins with early-stage research and continues with aftermarket experiences. Experiences can range from technical background information — specs, CAD drawings, reference designs, and software updates — to technical support and maintenance requests. Therefore, it’s imperative to identify your customer’s needs and build a digital transformation strategy to fit your business’ needs.
For example, Henkel Adhesive Technologies — a global manufacturing company with an annual sales of approximately €16.5 million and 47,000 employees — went through a rebranding and digital transformation process more than three years ago. It consolidated its businesses into four main brands and heavily invested in its digital channels. In fact, Henkel now supports more than 90 websites in more than 20 languages. Henkel uses its digital presence to present product information and inspire its customers with project ideas. The company’s digital transformation resulted in a module website approach that balances brand consistency with local customization. Plus, Henkel’s sites are mobile enabled with responsive design. Due to it’s thoughtful digital investment, Henkel now delivers flexible, local, on-demand content.
Seven digital transformation steps.
Any major change in software systems, business processes, and employee responsibilities is a significant undertaking. That’s true for the transformation of your digital experiences, as well. The potential breadth of adoption throughout the organization will need the right
strategy and planning at the beginning. Although no single blueprint will work for everyone, there is a series of seven steps that you can adapt for your organization:
1. Partner identification. Transformation your digital experiences can be complex. Identify potential partners — whether vendors, consultants, or individuals you can hire — who can bring their expertise to your challenge.
Once you have selected the right partners, you’ll need a working relationship between an external expert and your employees to determine structuring procedures, identify primary contacts, and integrate communications. While details can change over time, setting yourself up for success begins with strong partner relationships and communication.
2. Department coordination. Digital experience transformation can and likely should involve many parts of your company — as many have direct or indirect contact with your customers and distributors. You’ll want to add departments and groups as new goals require their involvement.
Still, at the start, identify as best you can all the departments that could be involved in or affected by the digital experience transformation. A basic part of change management is to bring those people into the process through a cross-functional transformation team. Doing so greatly increases the chance that employees will cooperate and support the effort. Develop processes early on that will enable interdepartmental communication and cooperation.
Also consider creating a new customer experience function within your company. Multiple departments will be involved with the transformation effort, but each has an understandable focus on its own operations. Many companies find that a separate group with a mandate to work across departments enables a more effective transformation process.
As part of the departmental coordination, identify upper-level executives from various departments who can and will act as sponsors for the effort. They can direct their employees to cooperate with other parts of the company and make the necessary departmental resources available.
3. Strategy identification and goal analysis. Once partners, departmental coordination, and executive support are in place, begin to identify the overarching strategy and broad goals of the transformation. Experts involved with the effort can help identify common applications of digital experiences that they’ve seen work at other manufacturers. Internal experts can point to weaknesses in processes that directly affect customers and distributors.
It’s important to understand what both customers and distributors find of greatest interest — what experiences they see as most important. Find people in both groups who are willing to share their ideas and begin conducting interviews and surveys to see what they need most. Although your ROI is important, true success will come from a competitive advantage, and that only happens when you satisfy customers and distributors with what they want and need. Beyond surveys and interviews, consider creating advisory councils, which could offer customer and distributor viewpoints and be a source of knowledgeable for people willing to test new experiences and services.
Data analysis of customer choices with current digital experiences can offer insight into what customers and distributors find most valuable. Time on site and time with assets can be particularly telling. They also can indicate when services and assets require too much time for access and use.
Finally, rounds of competitive intelligence will show what your competitors in the same markets are doing. You can learn which types of services and information have become “table stakes” and which might be opportunities for competitive distinction.
4. Tool selection. To some, putting tool selection this late in the process may seem odd. Many organizations that embark on enterprise-level changes choose tools early on. However, those companies run into the potential danger of letting the tool choice drive their strategy.
To create experiences that address your business’ needs, you need a digital foundation that provides a flexible, agile, and scalable platform with the following four parts — which all play an important role in your overall digital foundation.
Analytics: Measuring, managing and analyzing performance to maximize effectiveness and optimize return on investment is essential in order to create the best digital experience.
Content Management System: A content management system is an application used to create and manage digital content. It works in tandem with a DAM to create the actual digital experiences customers, distributors, partners, and employees use.
Digital Asset Management: Digital asset management (DAM) is a business process for organizing, storing, and retrieving rich media and managing digital rights and permissions. DAM is a single point of control — which means changes to assets are made centrally and available globally.
Data Management Platform: Combine in-house, customer-level data with third-party data to create specific audience segments based on a variety of traits and behaviors. By pulling data from multiple sources into a single platform, you’ll have a master marketing profile that will become your one-stop shop for everything related to your customers.
Working with transformation experts and the IT department, make a list of the types of tools that will be necessary. Be sure they have the ability to readily interact and integrate with your specific enterprise software. Understand the functional dependencies among packages to plan your installation sequence.
5. Planning. With the information you now have in hand, it’s time to plan. Synthesize suggestions from partners, user feedback, information from internal subject matter experts, and competitive intelligence. Identify potential use cases by customer and distributor type and find the common features, assets, data sources, and other enterprise systems of different types of experiences.
Now you can create a master list of experiences as well as the enterprise data and system resources necessary to create them. Tag each of the experiences with the digital tools and integrations that will be necessary. Also apply a 1-to-5 scale level of interest on the part of customers and distributors, based on previous interviews and surveys. Add the interest levels of internal departmental executives, line-of-business employees, and digital transformation experts. Add estimations of time, resources and cost necessary for each experience. The result is effectively an annotated to-do list.
6. Prioritization. With the annotated to-do list in hand, it’s time for prioritization. Work with the transformation experts, internal subject matter experts, and representatives of the finance department to generate estimates of the financial return you expect to see — both those that deliver specific cost benefits, as well as advantages from competitiveness, market strength, and brand value.
You can then begin the process to determine the relative ROI opportunities for each type of experience transformation on the list. This stage requires the balance of benefits with costs and the software necessary for implementation. Group potential experience implementations by the tools they require to see when it would be possible to begin each one.
Consider peppering the early part of the priority list with projects that offer a strong ROI and relatively easy implementation. Significant wins in the opening phases of the work help build goodwill and continued support.
7. Phased development and rollout. It’s finally time for implementation. Based on your priority list, establish roles and responsibilities for cross-functional team members. Ensure those team members have the time and resources necessary to perform their tasks. This is where having departmental executive sponsors becomes critical.
A master project list and schedule will help keep everything in the context of the overall goal. The master list and schedule should not be overly detailed. Specifics will come in individual schedules for each of the experience projects.
Schedules will also have to include detailed testing — including user testing with internal employees and the volunteer and advisory customers and partners — and roll-out plans. The best concepts and implementations can fall flat if there isn’t a strong path of transfer from one method of customer or partner interaction to another.
Transforming the digital experiences you offer customers and distributors, and the corresponding business processes you use to interact with them can be a large although rewarding undertaking. But it is something you can accomplish and that will provide a long-term competitive advantage.
Learn more about how digital experiences are reshaping manufacturing customer and distributor experiences. And read more in our #manufacturing series.