3 Solutions for Manufacturers to Achieve CRM Success

Historically, customer relationship management, or CRM, has been limited in scope to the timeline of the sales cycle. Customer buys product, sales team facilitates, end of story. But as more companies move into the digital age, there are even more channels through which they interact with their customers – and even more information companies want to glean from those customers.

When it comes to the manufacturing sector, the full life cycle of a company’s products – the before, during and after of the sale – offers untapped opportunities to deepen that customer communication.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of ERP and CRM integration, the struggles manufacturers have encountered in doing so, and three solutions for implementation.

CRM + ERP = Match Made in Heaven

Just as with so many other types of technological integration, the benefits of marrying your CRM and your ERP are plentiful. The development of more nuanced action plans based on the data cultivated from both systems can lead to increased sales and revenue. The tweaking of internal processes to streamline and ease the user experience means more productivity. The data itself that is cultivated from both systems working harmoniously is a gold mine for future mining.

Given these facts, the benefits of ERP and CRM integration might seem obvious. Yet, manufacturers still struggle to implement integration, or to even utilize a CRM to begin with.

Struggling to Integrate

When it comes to cultivating a long-term buyer relationship, companies need to have buy-in from the ground up and across the entire life cycle of the purchase. CRM implementation struggles often stem from people and process-related factors, not just the software itself. 

The absence of personal touches that let a customer know they’re valued is one such factor. If prospective customers are getting lost to basic forms and left unattended in the sales life cycle shuffle, the company is losing out on hundreds of potential opportunities to cultivate a customer.

Take the lowly chatbot on a manufacturer’s website, for example. When a prospective customer arrives, the chatbot makes itself known, with an offer of assistance. The customer may ask the chatbot a question, and then be connected with a sales rep or expert. But what if the chatbot’s engagement is more personalized? What if the chatbot is deployed post-sale, offering post-implementation support?

This is technically not exclusively a CRM resolution, but the deepening of the relationship between the manufacturer and the customer makes for better CRM overall. When a company adopts new processes – like before-and-after chatbot communique – and embraces a more customer-centric approach, mindsets about the traditional role of CRM change, and the sales horizon is further broadened.

3 Solutions for Implementation 

With different customer touchpoints proliferating in the digital age, firms need integrated systems to gain a full view of each relationship. Simply connecting the systems at a basic level is not enough. Companies must integrate their CRM and ERP data, since these two systems together provide the "360-degree view" of customers that companies seek. Here are three potential solutions to implement.

Customer 360

The customer is a multi-faceted individual that companies want to understand. The question companies ask has moved beyond the basic quantitative inquiry of “When will my customer buy my product?” and “How many of my products will my customer buy?” and zoomed out to encompass a more holistic and qualitative perspective.

Companies will benefit and gain that 360-degree customer perspective when they ask questions like:

  • How did you interact with our sales team?
  • Was the communication clear and helpful?
  • How knowledgeable and responsive were the salespeople to your questions and concerns?
  • What factors were most important in your decision to buy from us?
  • Who else was involved in the decision-making process?
  • Were there any roadblocks or hesitations during the purchase process?

New technologies like AI can offer more opportunities to supplement CRM. Take Amazon’s Augmented Reality (AR) technology, for example, which allows a customer to see how a lamp would look in their living room. Or Walmart’s introduction of virtual apparel try-on technology. Companies of all sizes, not just retail juggernauts, can turn their customer insights and data into action.

Nobody likes a bumpy sales cycle as a buyer. It must be frictionless or very, very low friction to encourage buyers to continue forward. If the process requires heavy lifting, customers can lose patience and companies can lose a customer. If companies focus on making the experience as frictionless as possible, using the information they gain from the deeper questions they ask, on the pre- and post-sales side, they have a better chance at long-term retention.

Cultivate Your ERP

A lot of that data comes from a company’s ERP. Not all of it, but plenty – somewhere close to even half of that information can be found in their ERP. So, if a company isn’t connecting its CRM with its ERP, they’ll find they could be missing half of their customer’s story.

There are some foundational CRM capabilities within JD Edwards, but JDE should be viewed primarily as the ERP source. Many companies utilize Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics (among other products) as their CRM conduit. Integration of the systems beyond basic customer and sales information is essential for a seamless flow of data and enhanced customer understanding.

Manufacturers should aim to create a data integration framework that is scalable, modular and expandable. As a company gains more data-driven insights, it’s important to be able to build upon the action items already laid forth to achieve maximum customer comprehension. Failure to do so limits the effectiveness of CRM initiatives and hampers the realization of their full value.

Turn Data into Action 

A well-implemented CRM strategy offers numerous benefits, including improved customer relationships, streamlined processes, and better decision-making. Companies can kickstart their journey to holistic data integration and understanding of the customer through the development of long-term roadmaps outlining how CRM and other applications will evolve together over time. This roadmap should include enriching data, connecting data between systems, and planning for insights extraction over time.

Supplemental tools are also important for maximizing CRM value. Beyond sales automation, manufacturers may require additional investments in areas like call tracking, email monitoring, and marketing campaign management.

Getting Started

For manufacturers with ERPs who are struggling with CRM adoption, it can be difficult to find experts who are proficient in both. Here at ERP Suites, we can offer that expertise.

Our CRM and ERP-experienced consultants can help develop strategies to overcome cultural barriers and create integrated systems roadmaps. By addressing people and process issues holistically, firms can better leverage CRM to understand their customers and support long-term relationships.

Reach out today to get your CRM journey underway.