Your machine shop has the solutions your customers need but haven’t asked for yet. Your options are to a) sit back and wait for them to ask you questions or b) take a proactive, solutions-oriented approach to each relationship.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine which option adds the most value to the relationship and establishes you as a long-term manufacturing partner. Don’t wait for customers to ask you questions; take the initiative to ask your own questions first—then offer solutions.
Add Value with Proactive Problem-Solving
When learning how to run a machine shop, you likely established a standard customer journey that looks something like this:
- Your customer submits an RFQ (request for quote)
- Your estimator provides a quote
- Your machining experts make the part
While there’s nothing “wrong” about this straightforward protocol, many of today’s machine shops don’t realize how much more they’re missing out on!
Consider what would happen if you revised your customer journey to include one additional milestone:
Your team reaches out to the prospective customer and asks additional questions.
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- How will this part be used?
- Is your part one component of a larger assembly?
- Have you ever had this part manufactured by another shop?
- Do you have any concerns about this part’s success?
Asking your customers questions is, first and foremost, smart machine shop management. Even a brief conversation regarding each new job can prevent misunderstandings and mistakes on your shop floor.
But the true value of asking questions lies in the opportunity to learn what your customer needs and reveal the solutions your shop has to offer.
Collaborating Is Caring
Perhaps you remember our recent story about an NTMA member whose shop turned a $12,000 precision machining job into a $35,000 project simply by offering assembly services!
Could the customer have managed the process on their own and saved money? Of course! But the customer happily paid a premium price to entrust their entire project to the shop—a full-service, multi-vendor job that our member shop obtained only by taking the time to ask a few simple questions.
To Increase Production, Sell Manufacturing Efficiency
As more and more shops recognize the advantages of transitioning to a full-service manufacturing business model, machine shop management teams get caught up in finessing their own manufacturing efficiency.
But one overlooked aspect of the full-service model is your contract job shop’s ability to enhance manufacturing efficiency for your customers’ businesses, too!
How to run a machine shop with a full-service mindset
Consider another NTMA member’s experience of taking on the entirety of a customer’s complicated project. Rather than following the standard three-step quote-to-production process, the member shop reached out to learn more about their customer’s needs.
Their machine shop management team discovered that the customer was frantically sourcing a convoluted selection of services from multiple vendors—after which the customer still had to build their own 50-part assembly.
The NTMA member shop asked their customer, “Instead of creating 50 purchase orders, processing 50 accounting transactions, obtaining multiple inspections, and building the assembly yourself, why not let us handle it all?”
The customer had never even considered a full-service solution. But because one shop cared enough to learn more about their customer’s needs, the customer handed over the entire job for full-service manufacturing, enjoying increased efficiency and a superior product.
Simplified Solutions Are the Future of Manufacturing
Single-source manufacturing is one of the simplest ways to help customers save money—an essential consideration manufacturers must address head-on for American reshoring efforts to take hold.
Gone are the days of transactional relationships and single-service specialty shops. If today’s machine shops hope to compete, they need to ask more questions and create a culture of collaboration.
By offering high-value, full-service solutions and personalized service, you’ll soon develop an impressive list of repeat customers and pre-qualified referrals!