The 4 Pillars of Customer-Centricity for Chemical Companies

How can you best exploit the latest digital technologies to drive supply chain and customer experience excellence

Customer-centricity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s currency, particularly for industries like chemicals where competition is steep and products are often undifferentiated. Chemical companies who want to retain customers and stay competitive must adopt a customer-centric approach, and ensure a consistent (and painless) experience across all channels.

But it’s a tall order, given customers’ increasingly high expectations and the logistics involved in collecting and leveraging customer data. Fortunately, there are digital supply chain technologies designed to help optimize customer experiences from end-to-end.

Here are the capabilities you’ll want to strengthen, and the technologies to have on your radar.

#1: More Curated Experiences

In today’s world, the sales “funnel” is a myth. Instead, customer journeys involve many possible channels, touchpoints, and paths. Customers’ journeys don’t always look alike; and yet, customers expect you to meet them where they are, with the right information at the right moments on the right channels (and devices). As customers engage in more and more cross-channel interactions, having a deep understanding of these process flows, or ‘journeys,’ is an important requirement.

Solution: 360-Degree Customer Insights

It starts with robust customer data. Chemical companies who successfully create customer-centric experiences will have transformed themselves into data collection hubs, with detailed information on every customer beyond when they placed their last order. How did they navigate through your website? How many times have they interacted with customer service, tech support, or your sales team?

Sophisticated customer management technology allows you to not only collect this customer data, but leverage it to personalize experiences. Imagine being able to provide real-time, customized pricing and delivery options automatically based on the customer’s patterns and preferences. Or lessen call center volume by sending automated emails when an order’s status changes.

#2: “No Touch” Ordering 

Picking up the phone to call customer service is a last resort for most customers. They expect easier ways to do business, and the ability to receive on-demand order updates.

Customers also expect complete transparency into an order’s status, including visibility outside the 4 walls of your company (like lower-tier suppliers or shipping vendors). It’s not only inefficient to have to call several other vendors to provide updates to your customers. It can frustrate customers and erode trust.

Solution: Digital Supply Chain Networks

Supply chain organizations must coordinate like never before to ensure this level of transparency and ease of doing business. Using disparate, siloed systems (or worse—static solutions like spreadsheets) simply won’t cut it. Companies should opt for technology solutions that connect customers’ orders to suppliers’ systems, improving efficiency and paving the way for automated notifications that reduce friction even further.

However, there will always be value in some level of human interaction. Organizations should also offer human interactions, allowing customers to easily access expert know-how and opinions about products, technical service, innovations and so forth.

#3: eCommerce and Direct-to-Customer Capabilities

As more chemical manufacturers discover the value of investing in their own, branded eCommerce channels, the ordering process increasingly resembles that of guided B2C eCommerce experiences. By “owning” the process, companies can better understand customer behavior, which leads to improved conversion, cross-selling and loyalty.

But many chemical companies have a long way to go before they’re ready to stand up their own digital channels. It starts with having the right foundation in place.

Solution: Airtight Product, Customer and Order Data

Elegant eCommerce customer experiences start with high-quality data. It needs to be accurate, real-time, and standardized in a way that lets systems talk to one another.

Solutions like Elemica’s ENRICH can help you begin to manage data as a strategic asset, laying the foundation for countless improvements (including excellent direct-to-customer experiences).

Trend #4: Marketplace Platform Readiness

Thanks to emerging platforms like Knowde, which allow customers to search, filter, sample, quote and purchase from multiple producers in one place, marketplace selling has become more commonplace. Even tech giants like Amazon have begin to establish a presence in the chemicals category. These platforms appear poised to change the way companies do business for good, since they greatly simplify procurement and buying for the end user.

Manufacturers would be wise to monitor these platforms and evaluate whether they should get on board. Otherwise, companies run the risk of being caught by surprise by competitors, including new industry entrants, that are ready to take advantage of this channel.

Solution: All of the Above

Digital supply chain networks, and the capabilities they enable, are critical for chemical manufacturers who want to adopt a more customer-centric approach—whether they’re looking to ramp up their presence on emerging eCommerce platforms, establish their own direct-to-customer presence, or simply be prepared weather future industry sea-changes. Many of the steps described will require significant change, but the digitally driven iconic experience is already having a significant impact in many industries—and it is soon likely to do the same for the chemical industry.