The articles listed to the right provide an overview of notable findings from our 2012 Top Shops benchmarking survey. The survey, which was offered early this year, included a range of business- and technology-related questions. One question asked survey participants to choose from a selection of sales and marketing strategies they commonly use to promote their businesses. By far, customer tours was the most frequently cited tool among the companies in the Top Shops benchmarking group. Nearly three-quarters of those upper-echelon shops recognize the value of opening their doors to their customers, even though it’s impossible to quantify or track how much new work can be directly attributed to this promotional device.
Tours offer the opportunity to personally introduce the equipment, processes and people involved in creating your customers’ parts in a way that isn’t possible through a brochure, a website or even a video. Tours demonstrate not only your pride your operation, but also your comfort level in showcasing it. In turn, your customers come away with the comforting feeling that their parts will be created with the same degree of care and concern they would exercise if they made their parts themselves.
Clearly, there’s value in showing customers the advanced machines you have on hand to produce parts accurately and effectively. But tours also enable you to demonstrate the control you have over your processes and the thought you put into how work flows through your shop. Better still, tours enable customers to get a feel for your operation in a unique way: By observing your employees. While walking your shop floor, customers are able to sense how your employees perceive your company by observing the camaraderie they display and the manner by which they conduct themselves. In addition, your customers can tell whether your employees have been given all the tools they need to perform their duties efficiently as well as a process that makes the best use of the talents they have. These are the types of subtle attributes that make it attractive to do business with you.
Tours will become even more important in the coming years as OEMs continue to divest machining capabilities and bring fresh, new designers onboard. Because those designers won’t have the luxury of interacting with in-house production personnel to get a decent understanding of manufacturing’s capabilities and limitations, touring your facility serves as a valuable educational experience for them. Plus, this type of personal interaction helps build long-lasting business relationships, which is important as more manufacturers look to their suppliers to serve more as partners than vendors.
If you don’t offer customer tours, think about why you don’t. Identifying the reasons might highlight areas of potential improvement.