Tag Archives: customer service

It’s Not Just About Sales – It’s About Building Lasting Relationships

Even in the manufacturing software industry, every company has a different tactic for building profits. Understanding the sales process can tell you a lot about the company.

By Lisa Kessler, Customer Relations with CIMx Software

In her blog (a blog I often take time to read), The Irreverent Sales Girl states, “I think the biggest mistake salespeople make today, is that they try to pretend they’re not salespeople.”

What can the sales process for a new MES tell you about the long-term success of the implementation?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can the sales process for a new MES tell you about the long-term success of the implementation? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Companies need to make money, but when they haven’t taken the time to ensure their product adds value to the customer and profit to their business, they struggle to build trust with customers (a common problem for some MES suppliers) and resort to smoke and mirrors to hide the true cost of their product. Every business needs a mechanism or system for generating profit. Without it, you have no way to pay salaries or grow the company.

For some MES suppliers, that may be through service charges. These companies will offer a smaller base product and have a whole “implementation” team to build out your system with modules or add-ons. Other suppliers might focus on building a custom system. Or they may sell the software at an extremely high initial price, then pass it to the customer to use and implement as they see fit. Future sales may focus on upgrades. Many companies that offer extensive analytics, but only rudimentary MES functionality, often generate profit this way. These strategies can be very profitable for the supplier, but do not support the long term success of the implementation.

Whether you’re selling a 20oz. porterhouse, classic cars, or software that can run a manufacturing shop floor, the ultimate goal is the same…make the sale and grow profit. But, for CIMx a sale is worth nothing if it comes with a dissatisfied customer because of how we have designed our sales process to generate profit. Customer relations are vitally important, if not more important than the sale itself.  Our goal is to build trust from the start.   Building trust brings loyalty in the future.

CIMx builds a relationship with our customers – fine tuning our sales process around the customer’s needs. We want our customers to rely on our software for many years, and to come to us with their manufacturing challenges. It wouldn’t do any good to rush through a sale, dump a less than stellar product, and then disappear. Our goal is to offer an outstanding product that adds critical value to our customers. As their business grows, CIMx grows with them. We must help the people we’re selling to.

When working with CIMx, here is what you should expect:

 

  • We research our customers – We’ll take a look at our customer’s website prior to talking to them. We try to understand what they make, how they function, and what their priorities are so we know what questions to ask. We take the time to ensure the first call is of value.    
  • Have more than one call – Selling MES software is not a race to the finish (unless you are only concerned about dollar signs). Manufacturing is a complex business, and taking the time to fully understand our customers adds value and benefit. 
  • Move at our customer’s pace – We’ll ask about timelines – a customer in investigative stages will have different priorities than one already at requirements. Pushing a customer forward before they are ready doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable. 
  • Learn our customer’s processes – Our goal isn’t to sell software with custom code, but we do want to design a solution for our customers. We do this by mapping the customer’s processes to our software. It is important to show how our software can specifically help the company.  Our goal in the sales process is to help manufacturing companies be the leanest, most efficient they can be, and we do that by using their material and processes. 
  • Focus on ROI – We aren’t selling shoes here – an MES is a much bigger investment. We know our customers need to see an ROI to prove the software is a worthwhile investment, so we base our sales process on the ROI. Our goal is to solve the prospects manufacturing challenges and ensure there is a return. 
  • Follow-Up – For CIMx, the sale is only the first step in the process. We make sure our customers are not just satisfied, but happy. We’re available to our customers, and care about how the system is helping them succeed. Installation is just a first step.

 

We’ve seen this process work. Many of our sales have come from referrals from our current customers.  

Every MES company and every salesperson has their own process and way of generating income. It is important to keep your eye on the prize…which for us isn’t just the sale. For us, the goal is knowing our product is helping manufacturing companies thrive. Knowing our customers are happy, knowing they feel comfortable with us and our product, and knowing they’ll stick with us for years to come.  If we succeed in the sales process, then we know when our customer’s face another manufacturing challenge, we’ll be the first supplier they call to seek a solution.

 

If you are interested in learning more about MES and how it can benefit your shop floor give us a call.  No matter what stage you’re in, we will move at your pace, discuss your needs, and make sure you are comfortable at each step along the way.  We are happy to help and look forward to speaking with you.

Understanding Manufacturing Software Solutions (MES) and Customer Service

Take an honest look at your software vendor – are you a business partner or a commodity?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Recently, I had to rent a car and wanted to know what was covered in my policy, so I gave the insurance company a call.  It turns out they couldn’t answer my question until I retrieved a number from my insurance card.  The entire experience made me feel like a number to a huge insurance-mega-corporation-behemoth.  My simple question couldn’t be answered until I retrieved a magic number they used to access my file amongst the sea of data the corporation swam in.

Ho confident are you in your MES or paperless manufacturing provider? Photo by www.colourbox.com.

How confident are you in your MES or paperless manufacturing provider? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

I first bought my current policy from a nice gentleman who came to my house and shared a cup of coffee while we looked at options.  But his agency was purchased by the mega-corporation, and, from what I heard, the nice gentleman left to open a restaurant.  So, now I am an account number to “Customer Service and Concern” reps who mangle my name each time they addressed me.  Even worse, I know each of those reps used a script as they spoke to me.  Yes, I just got scripted!

I am NOT against big corporations.  Corporations are made up of the same good and bad people you see in any company.  But I was dismayed when a commercial for the insurance company came on TV, obviously targeting new customers, while I waited on the phone to have a SIMPLE question answered.  New customers represent growth, and are the lifeblood of a company, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your existing customers in the relentless pursuit of new business!

This is especially true in manufacturing software.  Manufacturing solutions software, such as MES and paperless manufacturing, provides a vital service to the shop floor.  A well-crafted solution should work seamlessly with your current processes, but when a problem happens, you need an answer quickly… more quickly than a help desk can provide.  Because a shop floor is a constantly changing environment, especially in discrete manufacturing, the software can’t be installed and forgotten.  It needs active support to capitalize on the latest technology and processes, and a truly customer-centric solution shouldn’t gouge a customer for a simple update or necessary service.

That said, after spending (wasted) time on the phone with an insurance company, I’m proposing a simple manifesto of manufacturing software customer rights.  Here goes:

1)      All existing customers should have direct communication with a company representative they know by name, and not an anonymous “help” desk or an even more anonymous email address.

2)      A plan for regular software updates, to accommodate new technology and processes, should be offered before software is installed. Change will happen (anyone paying attention to the latest in 3D printing?) so you need a process to accommodate change.

3)      The manufacturing solution provider should know your company by name (not number) and understand your business to provide service and recommendations specific to you.

4)      Your software solution should be continually supported.  Any system that doesn’t have regular upgrades and releases will eventually become the obsolete legacy system so many companies struggle against.

5)      You should not be afraid you’ll accrue service charges if you call with a question.

Consider these the goal of manufacturing software customer service- an expectation you have before you go into business with a company.

Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better when it comes to customer service. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to customer service. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

While this discussion started after a bad experience on the phone with a mega-corporation insurance company, I’m not specifically targeting the big companies.  I do think there is a tendency to focus effort on “new” customers and business, and forget existing customers.  The help desk and the customer service line become a sales tool, and not a tool for customers to find a true solution.  Sometimes, companies focus on the “sales funnel” to convert “prospects” into customers, but once a customer completes the sales funnel, they become forgotten.  The existing customer is a “commodity” measured in business statistics, rather than a partner.

Now that my rant is over, take a moment and think about the “manifesto” of customer rights.  How does your manufacturing software provider rate?  What confidence do you have in their service now and in the future?  What expectations do you have regarding customer support?

Questions?  Leave us a message.  I guarantee it won’t be answered by a help desk that needs a 13-digit account number to hear your question.

What Does the Future of Manufacturing Software Look Like Now?

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Dassault Systemes recently announced the purchase of Apriso, apparently to acquire the manufacturing market in India… so what does that mean for manufacturers around the world?

In a press release that went out May 29, 2013, Dassault Systemes, a company based in Velizy-Villacoublay, France, announced the intent to purchase Apriso, a Long Beach, California, based manufacturing software solution provider.

DMO-Question-Mark-121012CIMx Software has been supplying manufacturing software solutions for more than 17 years.  We know the industry, and have seen multiple consolidations of vendors.  Any time there is an acquisition, you can’t help but take a moment and consider what it means for the customer.  The world, and our industry, is changing (which isn’t a surprise… change happens, and change seems to be the only constant in manufacturing) and now is a good time to think about where we are going.

As corporations slowly acquire manufacturing software companies, there are fewer choices for customers.  One result we’ve seen time and again is the acquisition increases costs and reduces the ability of customers to get support.  This happens often… remember the telecom industry when Ma Bell, or the Bell Operating Companies, was split into separate companies to break up the monopoly on telephone service.  And now the companies are slowly reacquiring each other and building the mega-corporation again… so what has this done for phone service?  How difficult is it to compare prices or services from each company?  What will this do for service costs, or product upgrades (because, as we know, manufacturing is always changing and upgrades are necessary).

How will this affect current Apriso customers, or customers looking for an MES?  Articles have said the acquisition will help Dassault in India, but what does it mean for current Apriso customers?  Both companies have done a good job explaining how the services of each company will be integrated, but it does little to address the current base who, honestly, are most affected by this acquisition.  At one time, Dassault and Apriso were partners, and apparently offered a, “… best-in-class, pre-configured solution,” and maybe pre-configuration will help as they integrate of services and products.  But, it is difficult to imagine the Dassault 3DExperience integrating seamlessly with Apriso’s Flexnet.  Only time will tell if acquisitions are truly good for industry.  Perhaps they are different enough products ensuring a smooth integration, but manufacturers don’t care about that… they want to know what it means for them and their current business.

What does it mean for the future of our industry?

Manufacturing has always thrived on innovation, minimizing risk and cost. Innovation is not acquisition, and increasing a service footprint doesn’t seem like a path to minimizing risk and cost.  I don’t have all the answers, but now is a good time to ask questions.  We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, and keep asking ourselves what does it mean for the future of our industry?

This is an important topic, and one that deserves a longer look.  Leave a comment, ask a question, and let us know what you are thinking.  Stop back here for the next few days as we take a look at this issue and what it means for our business.