Epicor discusses the role of ERP in customer experience
Written by Erik Johnson, Vice-President, Technology Strategy, Epicor Software Corporation
How much thought have you given recently to the role your ERP system plays in enabling excellent customer experiences across the supply chain?
When you implemented the system, a strong MRP system, efficiency, supply chain visibility and flexibility were probably on the list of goals, but not necessarily customer experience, even though it is impacted by all the other goals right through the supply chain, sales process, manufacturing and up to the point product arrives with your customers.
When it comes to the customer experience, ERP would not even be mentioned if you ask a business leader what elements in their business contribute to a great experience. Most would point to their sales teams, support staff or the quality of their products, and yet, newly published research indicates ERP systems can be a powerful enabler of customer experience initiatives that are so essential to support customer retention and product differentiation.
Customer experience: the new horizon for manufacturers
Over the past few years, most manufacturers have been operating in survival mode: doing “more with less”, staving off worldwide competition, and keeping operational cost and profitability under control.
However, recognising that a business strategy purely based on cost cutting isn't sustainable, manufacturers are increasingly adopting initiatives and strategies focused on improving the customer experience to deliver more value and differentiation throughout the business.
This shift is evidenced by the results of a recent survey conducted byIDC Manufacturing Insights. recently This worldwide study comprised over 460 enterprises across multiple sectors including industrial machinery and equipment, high-tech and metal fabrication, and covering 13 countries worldwide.
Insights gleaned from the study indicate that the top business initiatives are focused on growth and differentiation through value-added services and improved customer experience.
What is customer experience in the manufacturing realm? Customer experience is formed via a compilation of all the interactions a manufacturer has with its supply chain, production and distribution processes.
According to IDC Manufacturing Insights, it’s the service level the supplier is able to provide to its customer, beyond the manufactured product itself. It includes, for example, the ability to deliver the perfect order - right quality, quantity, location, and due date - and the range of aftermarket services supporting the initial product.
Customer experience pays dividends. An enhanced customer experience can translate into customer loyalty and longer lasting relationships between supplier and purchasers.
Beyond aftermarket services, customer experience encompasses a number of essential capabilities including how easy an organisation is to do business with, reliability, speed of interaction, and willingness to help or serve – something we can all strive to do better across the supply chain.
These capabilities create an essential engagement to the product, service, company or brand, and create business benefits including differentiation from competitors, profit increase, and business growth.
ERP as customer experience enabler
Most people equate CRM systems with customer experience initiatives, but ERP? ERP is widely recognised as the “backbone” that manages the vital data and processes that drive the business, and now it seems it’s finally getting its due as a key enabler of customer experience.
IDC Manufacturing Insights' survey respondents ranked ERP among the top three most critical IT applications that can affect customer experience, and drew a correlation between manufacturers’ customer experience, practice adoption/maturity and use of ERP systems as a catalyst.
As stated in the IDC Manufacturing Insights report ‘Get Customers Inspired: How Modern ERP Can Support Greater Customer Experience’, “The role of ERP appears crucial to improving customer experience. Companies on higher levels in the customer experience maturity model have a higher consideration of their ERP as a key tool in delivering a good customer experience.
“The research indicates that an improved customer experience can be gained through investments in modern, fully integrated, flexible and easy to use ERP systems that streamline all operational processes and connect back office with front office by offering integrated CRM, warranty and aftermarket functionalities.
“Flexible ERP systems that include or easily integrate those applications will add the most value to manufacturers in relation to creating a superior customer experience.”
Key constraints to customer experience excellence
The study also explored and perceived barriers to success in becoming more customer-centric. When asked “What are the main barriers to creating a greater customer experience?”, respondents cited the following:
· Lack of accurate and timely information
· No or inadequate integration and collaboration with suppliers
· Organisational and information silos exists that hamper data sharing
· Poor decision-making capability
· Ineffective, inadequate, or rigid IT systems
· Inability to rapidly adapt business processes to change
· Lack of back-office/front-office integration
You’ll note that these statements map to benefits normally ascribed to modern ERP systems. However, the response most often cited was: Lack of funds to implement changes. Sound familiar?
The size of your company, your position in the supply chain and your budget should not impede your ability to deliver a superior customer experience. This is where a software as a service (SaaS) ERP solution fits in: it gives companies the ERP “goods” to support improved customer experience at a price point that’s ideal for small manufacturers.
Today’s SaaS ERP solutions provide end-to-end operational visibility across the organisation, from customer to supply chain, production and financial management, that are so affordable the bill is often less than their electricity bill each month. SaaS also minimises the upfront costs normally associated with software, and eliminates the onus and cost of having to manage the IT behind the system.
ERP systems have been a fixture in the manufacturing sector for years now, and have helped support lean, green and quality initiatives. Now your ERP system can help you with what is potentially the most important initiative of all – evolving your business processes quickly to meet ever-changing customer expectations, whether a business or consumer, and help you win your customer’s respect and their continued business.
SAP Ariba to digitise procurement for Expo 2020 suppliers
The global trade event, this year hosted in Dubai, was rescheduled from last year and will now take place between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022.
As the event’s Innovative Enterprise Software Partner, SAP Ariba solutions will fully digitise and automate the procure-to-pay lifecycle, providing a streamlined experience for thousands of market leading, global suppliers and strengthening the global supply chain with enhanced transparency and efficiency. The cloud-based platforms operate through on SAP Ariba’s UAE public cloud data centre and connects to the Ariba Network.
Expo 2020 "a long-term investment"
Mohammed AlHashmi, Chief Technology Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said the world trade event is “a long-term investment in the future that aims to enhance opportunities for sustainable business connectivity and growth”, which stretches beyond Expo 2020’s six-month window.
“Our partnership with SAP is an example of what can be achieved with the invaluable support of our technology partners to host one of the most digitally advanced World Expos ever,” he added. “The implementation of SAP Ariba solutions has transformed our end-to-end procure-to-pay cycle and helped set new standards of procurement automation for projects of this scale.”
To date, more than AED 1bn has already been transacted by Expo 2020 suppliers through SAP Ariba. The platform promotes collaborative partnerships and allows registered users to participate in sourcing events, negotiate and initiate contracts, and centralise their invoicing and payments in real time.
Claudio Muruzabal, President of EMEA South, SAP, said: “Expo 2020 Dubai is demonstrating global best practices in digitising its procurement process with SAP Ariba solutions to help gain visibility into its spend, tighten collaboration with its suppliers, and achieve process automation, including completely paperless invoicing.”
About Expo 2020 Dubai
Expo 2020 will take place in Dubai and is the first of the long-running World Expos to be hosted in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia territory. The original World Expo, called the Great Exhibiton, was hosted in 1851 at the Crystal Palace in London, designed as a showcase for the innovations of the Industrial Revolution.
Expo 2020 was originally due to run 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, but was last year postponed in light of COVID-19 restrictions - though some business has already taken place virtually. The event will place greater emphasis on innovation in sustainable solutions through the Sustainability District, blending technology and culture. It is expected that around 70 per cent of the 25 million attendees will be international visitors.