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Managing Multiple Channels of Communication for a Better Customer Journey

The typical customer journey has changed a lot over the past two decades, with the rapid rise of online business meaning that companies are now engaging with their customers through more channels than ever before. Although more than 90% of customers requesting additive manufacturing services still prefer to pick up the phone and speak to a real human being, more and more prefer the speed and convenience of ordering online. It’s therefore vital to understand these different channels of business and incorporate them into a single, integrated customer experience strategy. This will ensure each project is managed smoothly, consistently and in line with the customer’s expectations.

Let’s look at the different project stages that need to be considered…

Initiating a new project

Whether it’s a new customer or a well-established one, the first point of contact at the beginning of a project should be as easy as possible, regardless of which channel of communication is used. It’s therefore important to have systems in place to receive requests through multiple channels, including phone, email, in person, or through your website.

Making project initiations as easy as possible in this way can help generate new streams of business and also turn first-time customers into loyal, repeat ones.

Delivering the quotation

Thanks to the internet, business now moves faster than ever before. This emphasis on speedy communication and service delivery has had a tangible impact on offline business, with customers expecting faster results than ever before, from the point of initiation through to the final delivery of their part. A robust system for generating quotations from the submitted project data therefore needs to be established.

For simple repeat orders that will not require your team’s direct input, you should consider automating the quotation process, so customers can submit or upload their CAD files, have the data checked and repaired where necessary, and translated into a quotation. On the other hand, for more complex projects, or if your teams and customers prefer a more hands-on approach, it would be better for the project files and data to be forwarded directly to a member of your team, so they can generate the quote personally and offer any consultation that may be required.

Bear in mind that it is perfectly feasible to present customers with the option of either an assisted or automated quotation, at their convenience. Be clear on what your customers prefer and what your teams require to deliver their best, and tailor your systems around this.

Once a quotation has been received, it should be logged for future reference, as this will dramatically speed up the management of repeat orders in the future.

Placing an order

Once the quotation has been delivered and approved by the customer, they’ll want to place their order straight away. There should only be two stages to this: confirming their order and making the payment. If a quote has been delivered online or via email, it should only take one click to take them to the page where they can enter their payment details. As always, flexibility is important here. Consider offering customers multiple payment options to make the process as smooth as possible for them and ensure timely payments each time.

Maintaining transparency and communication

Despite the increasing automation of the customer journey across many industries, communication and transparency will still determine each customer’s overall impressions of doing business with you. A key element of this is having complete visibility on their order’s progress, from the moment they make their payment to delivery of the finished part or prototype.

A dedicated customer dashboard can be a powerful tool in this regard. Not only can this put all their order data in one place, where it will be easily accessible, it can also be used to store details of previous quotations and orders — as discussed above — streamlining the whole process for making routine orders.

Any questions?

Finally, even if your customers are primarily placing and tracking their orders online, it’s quite possible that they’ll want to speak to someone in person to resolve any questions or concerns they may have. Whatever stage their project has reached, it should always be possible for them to contact someone who can answer them directly. If it will not be practical for someone to always be available to respond to a phone call or message, provide them with the option of scheduling a call back. This will help manage both your workflows and customers’ expectations — the best of both worlds.

If you consider each of these elements, you will be able to identify any potential ‘roadblocks’ in your own customer journey and put measures in place to pre-empt them. As this process is refined, you will find that not only do your customers benefit from a better experience throughout each of their projects, but that your teams are well-placed to make more effective use of their time and resources, increasing your operation’s overall efficiency.