How to improve your supply chain experience management to benefit customer experiences
A supply chain is the backbone of a company’s daily existence. And it has a major impact on customer experience, even though it often goes unnoticed by the end consumer.
Customers of different industries place a different value on the elements that generate their overall experience. A pharmacy customer may prioritise product availability, safety and compliance, whereas high-end retail shoppers prioritise quality and choice. Others may prioritise convenience, design, simplicity and usability. We all have different needs and perceive similar details in different ways.
But we all depend on order management, logistics and supply chains to get products and services to us. Even with a great digital or in-person experience, the experience doesn’t end the moment the customer clicks the final confirmation button. From the customer’s perspective, there is now a waiting time, and the experience management continues here for the company. What happens between the last click and the time a digital or physical product or service is delivered requires procurement, logistics, supply chains and sometimes freight forwarding. It also involves a great deal of experience management.
Since I’ve been assisting with a project that deals specifically with the customer experience between a purchase order and the journey to the customer, I decided to talk about this topic.
Supply chain strategies are evolving
We are living in a time where supply chains have had to quickly adapt to work more efficiently to satisfy the demands of customers, especially if those demands related to staying safe at home. Many companies found themselves obliged to transform because of this. Consumers need almost immediate delivery, and in my experience, only Amazon, Alibaba, and Zalando are really up to the task.
COVID-19 put the spotlight back on operations management and supply chain experience management. In fact, a recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute found that 66% of consumer product companies and retailers believe their supply chain strategy will evolve significantly in the next three years. With the current changes, this comes as no surprise. In all reality, three years means forever, since we are all evolving — customer needs included. Companies that listen to customer feedback and criticism will keep growing, listening, reflecting, acting and transforming to continuously adapt.
According to the report, only 28% of retailers believe their supply chain is flexible and prepared to support actual challenges. This low percentage also means that data insights and forecasts for supply chains become a major challenge for organisations that are inaccurately assessing the needs of their customers.
Here are the ways organisations can improve their supply chain and procurement experiences:
1. Assess data insights
Around 68% of companies in the Capgemini report mentioned that they faced challenges in demand planning due to a lack of accurate insights about customer needs and demand during the pandemic. In order to enhance forecasting accuracy, 66% of organisations are currently planning to divide their procurement and supply chains into segments according to customer behavior patterns.
When it comes to obtaining the right customer insights, 54% of the organisations surveyed say they are turning to data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for better demand forecasting. To properly understand the data and customer messages, you must also ask the right questions.
2. Deliver with speed and protection
It’s not enough to respond to customer needs. You must be fast, anticipate demand, and prevent customer concerns – and have well-designed packages that generate the sense of security the customer is looking for when they are receiving the package or solution at their house.
For example, recently I ordered a product and received it from Amazon only three hours later. For me, this was a pleasant surprise, since the last time I ordered it, it took them two weeks to deliver it. As the pandemic progresses, the supply chain experience does the same. The ability to deliver quickly, efficiently, and correctly was always a prerequisite for any experience. However, it is now being fulfilled better.
3. Achieve delivery speed with the data available to you
Do you know where your data is in your organisation? This question is important whether you are utilising Voice of the Customer (VoC) as a basic initial tool to gain customer insights, or other sources of data. The more data you can acquire as customer feedback in response to real objective questions, the more your organisation will be able to deliver a great experience. You’ll have to find the data in different ways, and this will take some effort, but you should at least be using basic VoC.
Consider, evaluate, and analyse the quality of additional data you will need to import. Analyse the results and distribute them to the appropriate team for action. Feedback doesn’t work without reaction and speed.
4. Identify and involve partners and stakeholders
Work collaboratively with peers from across the organisation when developing the VoC programme. Issues often appear when the supply chain needs VoC data but isn’t involved in the programmes. Identify where you can rely on existing data collection, and be sure to tailor questions that will provide insights specifically for supply chain processes and interactions. Always involve teams, customers, and partners in the process of getting and assessing feedback, and in adopting the necessary preventative actions.
Problems or misunderstandings emerge when companies function only in a reactive mode. Involving peers from across the organisation will help to strengthen your plan and to ensure wide adoption and assertive use of customer insights. A broader use of the VoC insights will help drive alignment and a “single view” of the customer and their needs – as well as their view of your organisation. This becomes important as you begin to create projects and seek funding to transform and improve the overall customer experience. Journey mappings – when well-orchestrated with customer feedback – can make your organisation better equipped to act preventatively and really address customer needs. It’s important to include the supply chain, production, procurement, and all other segments along the entire journey to get a final product to the customer’s door.
5. Align your supply chain and customer values
Customers have become purpose- and value-driven. Prior to purchasing, they want to know what your company stands for. Values are included in the other four items mentioned above, because they are crucial for the supply chain experience. For example, we want make sure that the raw material for our chocolate was not collected by underage kids or slaves. All the different aspects that can potentially impact the “customer perception” are an intrinsic part of a company’s values – and are things customers care about.
To improve customer experience, companies must rethink old models and established processes. Customers expect a great delivery model. The logistics and supply chain models for your organisation need a series of actions to generate the right customer perception, and providing information to customers via an omnichannel about package deliveries is one example where companies could make great improvements.
6. Create a positive product experience perception
A few months ago, I wrote an article about customer perception based on Samsung’s product perception programme. The ultimate test for your company’s customer experience is about how the product performs, and how the services will solve a customer’s specific problem. If your service or product underperforms, your ability to justify the customer paying for your offering diminishes.
Many people use the word ‘’WOW’’ to demonstrate (often) positive amazement or surprise in customer experience. Are those clients ‘’wowed’’ by the performance or speed of any given product or service? Is it fast enough? Does it make their life better? Or did it just help them in their simple daily tasks? Does it deliver the kind of experience that was promised by and expected from the company?
Collecting the Voice of the Customer or Employee feedback is an intrinsic part of any company experience. The question is: What are you doing with the criticisms and feedback collected? In parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic, many changes have happened in supply chains. Sadly, some of those changes would not have happened otherwise. Clearly, it would have been better to transform slowly and avoid such a terrible situation, but there have been some positive outcomes for the entire global business community.
One is a much faster adoption of digital transformation; another is adaptability. Leaders around the globe started to add customer experience, digital transformation, and digital design into strategic discussions. The details about how you get your supply chain ‘’done’’ – from the raw material all the way to the customers – is more important than ever before. Traceability, adaptability and simplification for any supply chain experience has become a huge topic that Amazon, so far, is leading. But companies around the world are also learning quickly.
Where does your company stand with its supply chain experience today?
This article is adapted from a piece that originally appeared on Ricardo's blog.
I am a global executive and strategic consultant for medium and large global technology organizations, focused in Customer Experience, Professional Services, Customer Success and delivery.
I enable major global enterprises to generate new revenue and enhance market competitiveness by delivering global customer experiences, services,...