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The diversified customer base of the chemical industry protects it from fluctuations in one or another customer industry, helps stabilize revenue, and improves resilience in times of recession and crisis.
But when it comes to customer centricity, this broad customer base may have a significant drawback. For many chemical companies, it is a trend to improve efficiency by providing quite similar products and services to customers in different industries. This may mean that they are sometimes unable to meet the specific needs of specific industries and customers.
In fact, Accenture’s global buyer value study shows that chemical companies do not always have a clear understanding of the value of their customers’ industries and what they want from them. They often overestimate or underestimate the importance of certain product and / or service attributes rather than what buyers really think is important. Moreover, research shows that customers’ preferences and needs are often different from their established beliefs about value. These gaps point to unmet demand and the opportunity for chemical companies to adjust their products to provide the most important products to customers.
The study also found that these unmet needs vary from industry to industry. For example, product and packaging customization showed the biggest gap between buyers and sellers in the study. However, only two industries rank it as the most undervalued demand. These include transportation and machinery manufacturing, both of which have complex supply chain, just in time production process and a large number of input materials. However, despite these similarities, the two industries respond differently to the second most important unmet demand. A similar situation occurs when considering areas where chemical companies overestimate the importance of attributes to customers.
Chemical enterprises need to improve the ability to understand and meet customer needs, especially those that have not been met. For those who do, the opportunity is enormous. As revealed in part 1 of this research series, customers are willing to buy more goods and pay more if their needs are met.
As chemical companies try to take advantage of this opportunity, technology will play a crucial role – a fact recognized by many of the marketers involved in the survey:
In order to make use of technology to better meet the needs of customers, chemical enterprises should:
Organize their (data) warehouse: the study found that chemical companies lack consistently good data, and 74% of sellers said that they are facing data related challenges (for example, too much, too little, unavailable or poor quality data), which affects their customer-centric ability. So they need to build a robust infrastructure to collect, analyze, and use customer data – for example, using the cloud to integrate structured and unstructured data; automating master data and data cleansing processes; and using artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analysis to advise on the next best action to interact with customers.
In depth understanding of customer needs: Although customer-centric initiatives are not uncommon in the chemical industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. Enterprises can establish more contact points to obtain data, so as to obtain a 360 degree perspective of customers, which is crucial for more complex segmentation, customized pricing and products, as well as effective customer support. Companies should also increase the use of analytics to develop data-driven customer views and enable employees to use these insights through connected CRM tools. In addition, these insights allow virtual agents to automatically help customers and support sales and service personnel.
Large scale positioning of products and services: improved customer data management, advanced analysis and differentiated value proposition of market segments can help enterprises realize mass customization. The ability to efficiently and effectively deliver a large number of customer specific products across different industries is critical. The company should also establish a “test and learn” mentality, and constantly assess the degree of fit between products and services and customer needs. In addition, analysis can be used to accelerate product innovation, while digital interfaces and artificial intelligence can be used to improve customer interaction. Customer focus ultimately depends on managing the trade-off between standardization / customization – an ongoing process that may involve more than expected.
By taking these steps, chemical enterprises can better understand what shortcomings they may have in the eyes of customers. They may also have a more realistic view of the effectiveness of their technology strategy.