The importance of customer service for end-to-end supply chains

AlexaCheater

Customer ServiceSupply chain rigidity could be costing you billions

Getting the right product to the right people at the right time – that’s at the heart of what demand and supply planning is all about. But as anyone who works in supply chain knows, it’s a lot easier said than done. Forecasts are wrong more often than they’re right, and shifting consumer priorities means your supply chain has to be able to react to change and shift directions in seconds.

The success of your business depends on it, because if you can’t adapt and adjust, your customers will find someone who can. Exemplary customer service matters to your bottom line. Whether you work in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or any other space, the reality is, we all have customers to serve. Supply chains are built around that fact.

The result of poor customer service

A recent study by NewVoiceMedia shows nearly $62 billion is flowing from companies’ pockets into the hands of their competitors as a direct result of poor customer service. Failing to deliver the right product, failure to meet on-time delivery promises or even just a lack of clear communication are just a few reasons why customers are disappearing. The same research shows almost half of respondents (49%) reported leaving a business due to inadequate customer service, with those aged 25-34 years old 62% more likely to switch to a competitor as a result.

Can your company really afford to lose that many customers?

As Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, says in a recent Forbes article, “Every statistic and fact out there indicates that service gives any company a competitive advantage, and the lack of it can be the demise of the business.”

If you work in a B2C environment, you may be less concerned about losing one or two customers. After all, you likely have thousands of them. But even a single customer can have an impact on your financial results – especially given a growing trend to share dissatisfaction on social media. More than one company has fallen victim to the power of social sharing, and not in a good way. One angry customer now has the ability to reach thousands, or even millions of other people, sharing negative views about your company. It’s the power of word of mouth marketing and it shouldn’t be ignored. NewVoiceMedia’s report shows 42% of dissatisfied customers are now likely to post an online review or complain via social media.

For those in B2B, losing one customer could represent a sizable portion of your business. Your pool of prospective customers tends to be more limited, and each sale tends to be higher value. You need to treat each of them like the high value partner they are.

Minimize your risk of unhappy customers

So how can you minimize the risk of losing customers? By ensuring you’re doing everything you can to promote a customer-centric end-to-end supply chain process across all nodes. That means breaking down silos and building visibility across the end-to-end value chain so you can respond to your customers’ changing requests faster and more accurately.

You need to banish supply chain rigidity. Eliminate those time-consuming Excel spreadsheets, start working across departments to support company-wide metrics instead of individual ones, and structure your supply chain so you can plan, monitor and respond concurrently.

What you don’t need to focus on is trying to build a better forecast. It’s never going to be 100% accurate – not even close. While there is value in improving forecast accuracy, the better option is developing a responsive, collaborative supply chain that lets you know sooner and act faster when problems arise.

Hyken notes there are five key things customers look for in their experiences with you:

  1. An easy experience
  2. Knowledgeable people
  3. Friendly experience
  4. Speedy service and a quick response
  5. Consistency

Supply chain flexibility lets you manage all of those. End-to-end supply chain visibility lets you provide an easy experience, knowledgeable people and consistency by providing a clear picture and expectations. Your customer support team will be able to let customers know of any potential delays, how long it will take to resolve them and if there are any alternatives. With accurate information at their fingertips, they’re a lot more likely to be more friendly. And trust me, from personal experience on both sides, customers are a lot more willing to forgive if you keep them informed of what’s going on.

Speedy service and quick responses are powered by your supply chain’s reactiveness. When change happens – and it will – you need to be able to see it, run multiple what-if scenarios, collaborate with others and put the best solution into action.

When it comes to customer satisfaction levels, don’t underestimate the power your supply chain plays in providing a positive outcome.

How has your company upped its customer service game? Let us know in the comment area below.

AlexaCheater

As the Marketing Content Manager at Kinaxis, Alexa helps develop and deliver informative, engaging, and entertaining supply chain content, with a primary focus on industry news and trends. She joined Kinaxis in 2015 with more than a decade of communications experience. Alexa holds a Bachelor of Journalism (Honors) from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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