Is your company considering replacing or upgrading your current ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system? Don’t let cost dictate your decision of this critical business investment. As Apple’s Steve Jobs once famously said, ‘Think Different.’ Think first of what you need and why you need it, and keep your ERP selection process focused on those factors. Future success is dependent on a number of elements, not the least of which is having the right ERP system in place to support the path forward. Here are three crucial must have suggestions for business growth.
- Become Customer-focused. Having a competitive business edge means staying efficient and adaptable to market responses, and that means giving more attention to customer base retention. For most companies, increased sales means retaining current customers and this will reduce costs and increase growth. Business growth from positive cash flow often follows increased sales and good inventory management, netting you satisfied customers. Get their orders filled fast, and deliver a product of value, then deliver it on time and you will retain your customer base.
Customer satisfaction now means more than basic service; there is a feeling- based “something else” that moves clients to comment about you on social media. When marketing focus groups ask attendees how the vendor “makes you feel,” the answer now becomes a social media driver. Good or bad impressions will either deliver on customer loyalty or customer losses.
Joseph Michelli, author of the best seller The Starbucks Experience claims this secret sauce or ‘something else’ for Starbucks was to “create personalized experiences in every store, secure customer loyalty, stimulate business growth, generate profits, and energize employees—all at the same time.” In this era of feeling- based brand success, Starbucks continuously works to connect with customers on a more personal level, beyond just getting the order right. Customer connection has netted them customer satisfaction, and has played an important narrative in their story.
However, for most businesses, getting the order right still remains the most crucial component. Technology brings the customer closer to all transactions, and customer acquisition is now taking a back seat to retention. Customer retention is paramount to growing your revenue. Same-day delivery services are more important than ever, and the future promise of drones or self-driving trucks will only move this figure upwards, presenting new challenges to both domestic and global operations, large or small.
One constant remains and that’s value. While your customer’s feelings about your product or brand count, product delivery and performance is the most powerful driver. You need to focus on getting their order right, getting it out on time, and making sure the product performs the function intended. Deliver on value for your customer, and their satisfaction is guaranteed. When your salespeople can react in real time to the challenges of sales, inventory, production and delivery, you will earn repeat business.
- Become Employee-focused. Empowering your employees is a priority, and a crucial component of your success. Employee empowerment links directly to the retention of both satisfied employees and a satisfied customer base. You can have the best tools, the most creative, high-demand product, but your employees are your best resource. When motivated and inspired, employees are unstoppable in providing success. You want them to take charge of their own work domain.
Enterprise Resource Planning will transform your current operations by creating a more centralized data hub putting your employees in control of the data and ‘intelligence’ of your business and its best practices. ERP will enable everyone in the company to access correct, accurate data, making for better work flows. Centralized, up to date data input is always more accurate, making employees in different departments better able to complete work in a timely manner. This will naturally empower employee decision-making throughout the organization, and all will feel more responsible for its success.
When your employees have access to all department data, there is a cost time-savings in accessing information from this now centralized hub. Walls are taken down, and silos opened up, fostering open communication. This access to all data allows employees to make better decisions. Customer satisfaction is more achievable when an employee on the front-lines helps customer service by making a quick, problem fixing decision to retain them. This low cost CRM (customer relationship management) decision often will, in turn, give more job fulfillment to the employee as well as satisfy the customer in the process. It could be a decision to waive a fee or give a discount but this quick fix pays dividends to the bottom line. The ability to give an immediate, common sense gesture can keep customers happy and employees feeling more fulfilled and central to your operation’s success. To quote Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s CEO, “Employees are the true ambassadors of (your) brand.”
When you give employees both the authority and big-picture data to do their jobs, they feel important and empowered. Conversely, when poorly motivated or uninspired, employees can become resentful, and can bring the business crashing down. “It’s not the tools that you have faith in – tools are just tools. They work, or they don’t work. It’s your people you have faith in- or not,” Steve Jobs.
- Become Data focused. No two businesses use their data in the same way, but most have learned, and sometimes the hard way, that data utilization without a strategy is not utilization at all. The right ERP system can provide quick, actionable information to that empowered service rep who wants to fix the client’s problem quickly. Your cloud based ERP will give the tools to transform your bottom line. By aligning all data inputs, the inventory picture becomes transparent. Your manufacturing can be top-notch, and the product can be fantastic, but if you can’t get the right parts accounted for, or ordered, and delivered on time, no amount of customer relationship actions will overcome problems. If you are too busy putting out fires, or trying to locate parts, or replace missing inventory, you can’t grow your operation. A solid ERP investment will power up your data so that you and all your employees can access it in real time.