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For years, companies have been challenged to develop products with broad yet highly personalized appeal. Mini Coopers, Android phones and Nike ID sneakers are just some examples of customers being able to customize what they want. And there’s a good reason why companies are embracing personalization. According to Forrester, “The level and quality of personalized experiences will be a key determinant in who wins mindshare and share of wallet.

Unlike mass manufactured products, custom-built or engineered products require companies to pay close attention to each customer’s requirements

 

For many companies in engineer-to-order or build-to-order industries — including high-tech manufacturing, automotive equipment and specialty foods — mass-customized products are irrelevant. In facts, their products are made for just a single customer. When it comes to developing a single product for a single customer, how companies build products varies widely from the development of mass produced products. Holding focus groups, collecting ideas from thousands of customers, and balancing priorities across multiple customers is unnecessary when there’s just a single customer with defined requirements.

For example, suppose Peak Products is a high-tech manufacturer that develops custom touchscreen devices for retailers, airlines and banks. Each of Peak’s customers will likely have their own set of requirements for the type of touchscreen they need Peak Products to create. What’s critical for Peak is to figure out which requirements and features they can realistically deliver within the customer’s time and cost objectives. In order to do this, Peak Products and other companies that do custom development need to:

  • Reduce product costs by helping customers, engineers and others find, reuse and edit similar products
  • Streamline development by collaborating externally and internally
  • Eliminate errors by managing changes to products, files, etc.
  • Reduce project delays by tracking tasks and timelines
 
To develop and deliver great products specifically designed for a specific customer, you should follow four key steps.

 

Step 1: Make It Easy for Customers

The first step in delivering custom products is making the entire customer experience as seamless and easy as possible. One of the most important yet overlooked things that companies should do is making it as easy as possible to find a potential product fit. When customers are first interested in having you provide a new product, how easy is it for them to find out if you make something that’s close to meeting their requirements?

For potential customers, it should be easy for them to browse your product portfolio and see if your company makes similar products to what they’re looking for. How easy is it for prospects to search for products on your website? Can they see customers who have worked on similar products as them? For existing customers, they typically know what your company can do, so it’s more important to keep them up to date on your evolving capabilities or new products.

Once customers find a potential product match, you need to make it easy for them to submit a custom development request or contact a company representative. How is that information captured? Is it something that can be easily shared across internal teams, or does it get worked on through emails? You should make sure you have an easy way for them to submit their request — whether it be a phone call, web inquiry or access to a customer portal.

 

 

 

Propel makes it easy to capture customer requests related to opportunities and existing products.

 

 

Stay tuned for a future post on steps 2 to 4, or download the full whitepaper “ 4 Steps to Creating Great Products for Each of Your Customers.” And of course, for more info, visit propelPLM.com.

Product Development Blog Customer Engagement Engineering

Miguel Tam

Miguel Tam

May 10, 2016