Customer experience is disrupting and changing the supply-chain world from the inside out.
New delivery models and e-commerce are causing customers to expect immediate, accurate and flexible product delivery at any quantity. So how can you deliver this new level of customer experience, while managing costs and limiting business disruption? By making your supply chain customer-centric.
Today, there’s greater emphasis on enhancing the end-user experience at each touchpoint in the supply chain. In forward-thinking companies, there’s also an increase in customer-centric supply-chain initiatives, given that logistics requires a large volume of customer interactions. Many businesses have yet to figure out how to drive more value from these touch points. And that opens up an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in today’s crowded market.
The first step in prioritizing the customer within the supply chain is to align key performance indicators to the end-customer’s needs and wants. These KPIs should be approached at an organizational level rather than a departmental one, since goals can vary at different levels.
Next, consider which disruptive technologies most enhance the customer experience (while helping you to manage costs). For example, the internet of things is gaining traction as a means of uncovering insights into supply-chain events and patterns. IoT-based improvements in today’s “digital-age warehouse” mean faster, more accurate delivery for end-users while minimizing costs for OEMs.
It’s likely that you initially chose your logistics model based on satisfying your company’s needs. But now that customer experience must take top priority, that model might need to change. You should ultimately choose one that focuses on all aspects of the customer experience, and how it’s impacted along the way.
Since each OEM’s needs and strengths are unique, you might need to build a business solution that makes your customer-centric goals a reality, once you assess your commercial and logistics needs. A direct model for one OEM, for example, might work because it has robust order management, invoicing and collections capabilities. For another, it might expose operational gaps resulting in increased costs or, even worse, dissatisfied customers. Building a business solution is about evaluating and considering a wide range of go-to-market approaches, and harnessing geographic presence, experience and scale to flex up and down as needed.
When it comes to global consideration, be sure to look at distribution facilities to meet customer demand. Also, gain an understanding of local regulations, tax implications and the human resources and expertise required in each location. Each region has its unique characteristics, and by understanding and accounting for these nuances, you’ll naturally elevate your end-customer experience.
Finally, new customer expectations demand that you offer end-to-end, real-time visibility. This includes real-time actionable insights, status updates, ETA calculations, analytics and reports, all viewed through a “single pane of glass.” It’s about analyzing data, identifying gaps and implementing processes to leverage that data to continually improve operations with the customer in mind.
Another good idea is to start incorporating advanced analytics, from predictive analytics
to artificial intelligence, into your supply chain. These enable managers to make smarter supply-chain decisions by redirecting human capital and expertise to more strategic challenges and solutions. Demand forecasting, production planning and order fulfillment are key areas to start with a broader vision for visibility throughout your supply chain and business. When these elements are improved, they automatically raise the bar in your customer experience as well.
There’s no question that customer experience is the new differentiator expected in supply chains. You can meet this challenge, and come out on top above your competitors, by adopting a customer-centric approach.
Jay Fraze serves as director of supply chain management services within Global Lifecycle Management, a specialized solutions business at Tech Data.
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