Product Diversity, Sales, Services, and what Henry Ford Didn’t Know

This is the third post in our series addressing how to achieve product diversity with scale. Here we’ll discuss how sales and service are impacted by product diversity.

Henry Ford once said: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Offering products with only one configuration might have been the norm in manufacturing 100 years ago. But today, customers demand greater choice, and products must be targeted for key market segments.

BMW claims that “every vehicle that rolls off the belt is unique” and the number of possible variations in the BMW 7 Series alone could reach 1017.

Think what that means for the sales organization, and, more critically, the service organization. Think about how accurate service documentation needs to be to deal with those variations. Think about how customer service levels can diminish when the service technician does not have the right documentation to fix a problem. Without the proper planning an implementation, the BMW “Ultimate Driving Machine” could potentially become the “Ultimate Driving Nightmare.”

Sales Challenges. With an increase in the number of brands and variants, alignment across the following departments is an absolute must:

  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Order creation
  • Development
  • Manufacturing
  • Order fulfillment

With the absence of this alignment, a number of critical extra steps need to be taken and as a result inconsistencies and delays occur:

  • Sales configurations may need to be manually reprogrammed to support new features causing in part delays in product launches
  • Sales organizations cannot fully benefit from enterprise systems that reply of product information including CRM, ERP, and Supply Chain Management

Service Challenges. Companies turning to a higher-margin service offerings as an alternative source to drive new revenue and profits will suffer when they lack the ability to efficiently support those new offers. Where inefficiencies occur that increased source of profit is far beyond reach. Diversity in product lines can complicate service documentation and training which results in technicians lacking the ability to quickly understand, diagnose and repair products.

These are not the only effects of poorly managed product diversity; in addition many companies have experienced:

  • Productivity decline when inaccurate service documentation reaches the field
  • Traceability issues and the impact on the product portfolio when warranty issues are not tracked accurately
  • Hugh costs when entire products are replaced rather than accurate diagnosing problems and identifying cost-effective solutions

And this ultimately leads to:

  • Employee motivation in a trough
  • Customer satisfaction reaching damageable lows

How does your sales or service organization deal with product diversity?

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