The Enterprise Resource Planning applications market is beginning to look a lot like the automotive industry where customer experience takes on greater urgency than ever.
These days Starbucks kiosks, tropical aquariums and stylish lounges are some of the amenities one can expect from local car dealerships, which seek to better connect with a new breed of buyers by upgrading their show rooms in droves. Without capturing favorable customer feedback, a dealer might end up selling yesterday’s Yugos and Pintos.
ERP is no different. Customers bristle at the thoughts of navigating a maze of complicated ERP software features as though they have to learn a foreign language. It’s not unheard of that some ERP vendors would release an upgrade with hundreds of new features. In the new era of Cloud application development, a new release could happen every few months resulting in as many as 1,000 new features that customers have to slog through in a given year.
It’s one thing to be caught up with the vicious cycle of vendors packing new releases with loads of enhancements at a frenetic pace. It’s something else altogether when customer experience, or all aspects of service for that matter, falls short of people’s expectations. It’s as if someone trying to sell a luxury vehicle and the customer experience does not commensurate with the price tag, or the perceived value.
SYSPRO has no desire to win the feature arms race. Its products are user-friendly, reliable and it offers more features than its target customers – typically mid-sized manufacturers or distributors – would ask for. What differentiates SYSPRO from others is it takes customer service seriously. Its customer relations department reports directly to the company president and SYSPRO has devised a comprehensive support program so that every employee can effect change to ensure customer satisfaction.
Customer responses to such SYSPRO programs are equally enthusiastic. Mick Whitlock, president of Vanns Spices and a SYSPRO customer, said SYSPRO’s customer service is the best in the industry. The way SYSPRO excels in optimizing customer service lies in its domain expertise. Already well-established in a number of manufacturing verticals, SYSPRO now aims to be more entrenched in subverticals like food and beverage.
Domain expertise takes decades of experience to perfect, often requiring vendors to fully engage with customers to build best practices, collaborate with them to mitigate risks, while delivering continuous innovation. By focusing on these verticals, SYSPRO has invested considerable resources in such capabilities as lot tracing, industry-specific compliance and inventory management knowhow that is essential to helping businesses rein in their costs and achieve greater efficiency. All of these are designed to boost customer success rates at a time when the value of enterprise-wide ERP projects is being questioned because of well-publicized IT failures.
What’s more appealing is that SYSPRO is helping its clients look good with its solid product features, exceptional support infrastructure and customer-centric approach when it comes to daily workflow, reporting and business processes. Based on interviews with SYSPRO customers, we have established a good return on their investment. And the fact that SYSPRO users look good in front of their board or their own customers may have a deeper meaning.
A car dealership may well be one of the few retail establishments where customers interact with polished salespeople. There is nothing wrong with tattoo art, body piercing and all kinds of casual attire. But if a business does not make an effort to train its people to look professional and knowledgeable about its products and more importantly the value of customer experience, it’s doing itself a major disservice. There is a fundamental disconnect when a business fails to impose exact standards on the appearance of its salespeople or its service metrics, while wondering why customer expectations and requirements are not being met.
At a time when looking good is more important than ever as social media could be used to magnify all matters big and small, warts and all, the least a company can offer is to accentuate its intrinsic value, which is as simple as delivering a good customer experience that could leave a lasting impression on one’s business process and operational excellence.
In fact, it could become a virtuous cycle when SYSPRO’s focus on great customer experience is extended to its software users, who in turn adopt the similar approach with their own customers in order to replicate the user experience, or the same business process for that matter to improve top-line performance.
When that happens, SYSPRO could well be the ERP vendor that not only helps its customers look good, but also blazes the trail for all the key stakeholders to go to new places and expand their horizons.