From Millennials to Baby-Boomers, do you believe there’s a place for everyone in The Age of the Customer?
One of the larger challenges facing us as manufacturers in the transition from Product-Centric selling to the new Commerce and Customer-Centric Engagement models is the future role of the ‘expert’. In simple terms, product presentation, sales processes, and customer support still rely heavily upon the availability, expertise, and experience of an aging workforce – think: baby-boomers.
Unlike many industries, and despite the huge advances in technology-enablement, we do not yet have, and may never realize, the ability to FULLY encapsulate, digitize, and deploy this ‘gray matter’ across the commerce cycle.
At the same time, the new millennial and post-millennial workforce is certainly producing fewer replacement candidates for these types of deep domain expertise roles – and companies like Kennametal are finding the human capital costs and the learning curve for new entrants to be increasingly prohibitive.
Before laying out the new model, it’s important to recognize that these two generations seem to have differing aspirations for their ‘work’ lives.
I’m trying to be careful not to over-generalize, but there are documented surveys and trends that shape my thinking on the potential for a new and optimized workforce that meets the needs of both ends of the workforce demographic spectrum.
- Millennials value quality of experience over pure compensation compared to their predecessors in industry; and are less willing to work under the ‘old’ model of top-down hierarchies and structured work schedules still present in most manufacturing companies. Many will not accept or tolerate jobs where an engineering or technical degree is applied to repeating the same basic processes, calculations, and sales/customer support activities over and over (instead of solving problems that are more challenging).
- Baby-Boomers, and especially these deep-domain knowledge experts, continue to seek satisfying outlets for their experience as well; but also in models that are more flexible and adaptable to a ‘pre-retirement’ life. Unlike their predecessor generations, this professional and technical workforce doesn’t seem to aspire to full retirement at age 55 or 60. Economic uncertainties further add to their willingness and desire to keep working.
So, how can we respond?
By adapting our business to blend the best of both. We’re now able to mobilize our entire workforce in far more connected and efficient ways that play to their strengths and preferences. I’m making the case that the best model during this transition period is to leverage new Systems of Engagement, Productivity Technologies, and Cloud-Connectivity/Services to adapt to the changing demographics and customer needs.
Here’s a scenario based on a very common Kennametal case example: A new Kennametal salesperson in Beijing, China is assigned Marketing Lead in CRM developed by the Marketing Department through a social listening feed about plant expansion that indicates the customer is a candidate for a specialized cutting tool machining solution.
- The lead is assigned to a regional sales Rep who opens Microsoft Outlook and is alerted to a new Task from CRM; and she then opens the lead in CRM to review the details from the Marketing source.
- Unfamiliar with this specialized tooling application, she goes into CRM to open Kennametal’s guided-selling application (NOVO) to gain deeper insights and narrow the solution options to a few good candidates. However, even after reviewing the valid options, she still isn’t entirely sure of the exact best solution, and she has a question about the full-life cycle cost of one option.
- Rather than risk presenting a sub-optimal customer solution, she searches in CRM for an online engineering support person using Skype for Business to connect to an ‘expert’ in this tooling application.
- Her request is queued to an available product engineer in Solon, Ohio. He’s a semi-retired, part-time Kennametal engineer who has designated himself as available to provide technical support during this part of his evening.
- They connect using Skype translate and document sharing so the engineer can quickly see her selections and help her to finalize the best-fit solution for this customer. He offers advice and points her to some digital assets that will highlight key differentiators in this solution vs. competition.
- The sales rep now confident that she has leveraged all of the expertise available to present the perfect solution, is now ready to complete the tender offer.
- She opens the cloud CRM product configuration and pricing service and finalizes the offer, incorporating the digital assets recommended by the support engineer; she adds a system generated ‘upsell’ parts and service offer presented by the sales configurator.
- The upsell offer is presented as an OPTION in the Tender Offer, and is captured in CRM. CRM is set to automatically create a pre-configured campaign workflow to trigger a promotional offer if the customer has not responded within thirty days of placing the order.
- The expert engineer in Solon, OH posts this proven solution to the social feed for customer solutions and closes the case.
That’s a simple example – but it covers a broad range of knowledge applications plus human and digital interactions to ensure the best customer outcome. The tech enablement makes this efficient and seamless by removing the barriers that can slow down business; a perfect mix of self-service and accessibility to experts with tacit knowledge does this.
Imagine your complex solution selling becoming as easy as your simplest product sales.
As specialized and technical product manufacturers, we face these types of scenarios every day. This new model not only overcomes the potential talent hurdles posed by shifting demographics; at the same time it strengthens and optimizes the sales and customer engagement practices. In this case, by leveraging the new productivity technologies, we bring a global workforce together with unified communications, cloud services, and an integrated CRM and Customer Engagement platform.
With thousands of sales representatives across multiple geographies and sales channels, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to advance these new tech-enabled, always ON, always CONNECTED Modern Workforce models to create the Age of the Customer in Manufacturing.
With these new technologies all available through the new Customer Engagement systems, everyone can maximize their effectiveness and efficiency. Now it’s up to us to lead this change and engage the work force of the future in the commerce excellence model for the future.
Read how our CIO, Steve Hanna, has embraced Microsoft Office 365 ability to connect Kennametal’s 14,000 employees in more than 60 countries, in this full article: “Kennametal: Manufacturing Leader Creates Unity and Harnesses Knowledge with Office 365.” Also, hear how Microsoft 365 helped Kennametal and other “Microsoft Customers Realize a New Era of Productivity in the Cloud.”