Article | 4 min read

The top trends behind manufacturers’ CX revolution

Discover how investing in AI can help manufacturers deliver better customer experiences and ultimately, stand out from their competitors.

By Andrew Lawson, EMEA Sales SVP at Zendesk

Last updated May 24, 2023

Manufacturers are taking the ‘glass half full’ approach to forecasting their performance for the next couple of years. Specifically, they are viewing CX as a potentially profitable tool as they look to overcome what has been a difficult period of supply chain disruption and rising costs. The rationale is that if they can continue to delight customers, it will help them stand out from a crowd of competitors.

It is easy to see why. According to the Zendesk 2023 CX Trends report, seventy seven per cent of manufacturers globally have seen a positive ROI on their CX over the past twelve months. Consequently, they are committing to doing even more to enhance it, with eighty per cent planning to increase their CX budget over the next year. Meanwhile, seventy five per cent of leaders in the sector say strengthening business resilience through customer service becomes a top priority during an economic downturn.

In other words, this is a strategy rooted not in trying to ignore the unstable economic climate, but to address it. Let’s take a deeper dive into the trends affecting this renewed focus on CX for manufacturers and the steps they are taking to build on the progress so far.

Smarter, savvier, more strategic

With ChatGPT soaring past 100 million users in January to become the fastest growing consumer app in history, it is hard to ignore the transformative effect AI is having—and will continue to have. Although we are only just scratching the surface of what is possible, leaders in the manufacturing space are seeing AI evolve quickly. Two thirds (sixty five per cent) of businesses in the sector believe AI and chatbots are becoming more natural and human-like.

But with everyone taking their own journey into exploring what AI can deliver, firms also fear being left behind. Some sixty two per cent of business leaders feel their organisation is lagging in using AI and chatbots, while sixty per cent of leaders think their approach has been ad hoc rather than strategic.

Yet while differences in speed of adoption abound, one thing the majority of manufacturers agree on is the fact it should be a top priority for 2023—the view of seventy-two per cent of industry leaders. With AI solutions deployed, companies can manage their CX resources more intelligently, save costs, and roll out new services.

Conversations across every channel

Conversational CX is borne out of the fact that people want to interact seamlessly with brands and businesses across channels. It is therefore becoming an increasingly valuable tool for manufacturers when it comes to attracting and retaining customers.

Here too, there is a clear sense of progress–at least in theory. Some seventy one per cent of the leaders who took part in the Zendesk 2023 CX Trends report are rethinking their entire customer journey to make it more fluid and better able to assist customers wherever and whenever they want.

The key now is to turn plans into action. By embedding conversational CX tools across all their locations and touchpoints, businesses can meet customers where they are, then quickly, and conveniently give them what they need.

Tailor made interactions

There is an increasing need among manufacturers to know their customers better. When they do, they can offer them a service that is tailored to them and their needs. Two thirds of manufacturers (sixty seven per cent) plan to increase their budget on personalisation in relation to customer experience over the next twelve months, which will open doors to increased levels of trust and customer retention, as well as a reduction in customer acquisition costs.

A particularly valuable step in personalisation is creating a formalised method of capturing customers’ emotions and using those insights to optimise future interactions. This is an area for improvement in the manufacturing sector where currently, less than a third of businesses (twenty nine per cent) say that customer sentiment is used to personalise the experience a customer receives.

Merging teams and data

One last CX trend highlighted in the Zendesk report is that of organisational silos. They can be problematic because teams split across geographies, functions, and products can all host specific segments of data leading to a disjointed experience for customers. The business is much better off if the information is available to every department, but currently only twenty two per cent of company leaders feel their organisation is excellent in sharing customer data between teams and departments. This can result in frustration for customers.

By bringing together CX teams, responsibilities, and data, companies can take advantage of operational efficiencies while providing more connected interactions for customers. Positively, almost two thirds (sixty four per cent) of manufacturing business leaders plan to merge at least some customer experience responsibilities or teams in the next twelve months.

CX’s universal appeal

For manufacturers, there is no escaping the challenges they face, but the combination of optimism around the industry’s recovery and the availability of tools to help aid that recovery are welcomed. Here, CX will feature heavily in the turnaround, creating ways for companies to drive revenue, rather than just acting as a cost centre.

By transforming their CX in a way that creates deeper relationships with customers and streamlines operations, manufacturers can put customers first–for the benefit of everyone.