An organisation's supply chain is perhaps it's greatest secret weapon when seeking to enhance customer satisfaction and improve profitability. Customers growing expectations and changing shopping behaviours are the main force behind a demand-driven supply chain. There is mounting pressure from an increasingly impatient customer base demanding products faster and cheaper, while at the same time expecting a decrease in lead times throughout the value chain.
Arguably, no other part of business’s operation can have quite the same effect on reaching the customer, reducing retail prices and improving service levels as a supply chain does. Effective supply chain management creates value for both your customers and your business in that it provides a competitive edge. High performing operations translate into meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations on the delivery of the product. Providing customers with what they want, when they want it, and at the most competitive price, is key to keeping them satisfied.
All customers expect the best service in exchange for their hard earned money. This includes the expectation of not only perfectly satisfying their needs, but to also receive the product on time, and in impeccable condition as a norm. In the event of a problem, customers expect transparency regarding why the problem occurred, and what will be done to fix it. In the age of social shaming – the way an organisation recovers from poor service can make or break their brand online. Modern consumers are highly likely to expose a company to a broad audience on social media, leaving the brand reputation susceptible to irrevocable damage as a result of avoidable supply chain errors.
Customer experience is fast becoming a bastion of competitive advantage. In a highly commoditised world, the way a customer perceives the buying experience can often be a more significant differentiator than the product itself. This also means that a lack of responsiveness if things go wrong is no longer tolerable. Customers require their interactions to be seamless, facilitated by dynamic processes that not only make interacting with an organisation easy, but indeed pre-notifies both them, and the seller, should anything go wrong. Agile, digitised supply chains that can continually adjust to fluctuating customer requirements, recognise deviations and self-correct are critical in creating buying experiences that delight customers. The use of supply chain expertise to differentiate the customer experience is becoming more and more commonplace, with retail giants such as Apple Inc. and Amazon already scrutinising and leveraging their operations in this regard.
Evolving consumer behaviour is creating a need to eschew traditional supply chain practices such as one-sided returns processes, single channel specific fulfilment, and operating in silos for a more dynamic and predictive environment. Aspects such as accelerated fulfilment, intelligent returns and partner collaboration are driving transparent, integrated, responsive, and robust supply chains that allow for the delivery of goods as well as value-added services that ultimately delight customers.
Businesses with responsive supply chains are well positioned to deliver outstanding customer experiences while creating lasting relationships that enable long-term performance. Such companies prioritise integration throughout the supply chain and are continually expanding continuous improvement efforts both upstream and downstream to develop true business partnerships that create a competitive edge.
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