You may not be able to make a tanker ship move faster or source materials that have become scarce. These are factors that are sadly beyond your control. But your business’s commitment to customer service is something you do control. And it’s also a major differentiator in supply chain management.
How the Supply Chain Function Has Evolved
In the not too distant past, supply chain management and logistics were focused solely on getting products into customers’ hands. But today’s supply chains have become much more extended, intertwined, and complex.
Customers now expect a high-quality product to land on their doorstep, timely communication about when that will happen, and faster delivery times. This makes the customer experience a major driver of business growth.
Customer Service Expectations Have Never Been Higher
A few eCommerce companies have set the bar so high that others in the space are struggling to compete. But meeting customer expectations is a must in a competitive industry. Some of the most common expectations among consumers include:
- Dependability — Customers want a dependable customer experience. In other words, how your company responds to a customer and fulfills their order should be the same each time.
- Knowledge — Customers expect the companies they buy from to have a high level of knowledge about the products they sell so that they can provide efficient and effective support when it is needed.
- Empathy — The customer isn’t necessarily always right. But a successful business will always be courteous and attentive to a consumer who has a concern. They will take the time to understand the issue and explain what is happening.
Why Customer Service in the Supply Chain Matters
Unless you handle every part of order fulfillment in-house, working with a logistics provider that values customer service is vital. Quality customer services throughout the supply chain can produce on-time delivery, transportation savings, happy customers, and peace of mind. On the other hand, poor customer service and communication in logistics can result in increased costs and damaged customer relationships.
According to a recent report by FrontPage, 98 percent of logistics companies claim that customer service is an essential part of their overall business strategy. At the same time, 55 percent say that keeping up with customer service around the clock is one of their biggest challenges.
How Customer Service Can Improve Supply Chain Management
There’s nothing simple about managing any part of the supply chain. But you can leverage customer service to enhance your company’s supply chain management in several ways.
1. Train Customer Services Reps
You can’t expect employees to read your mind when it comes to customer service expectations. Customer service reps (CSRs) should be trained to find a customer’s particular pain points and then offer the best possible solutions.
2. Create a Consistent Experience
No matter what business partners you use or how many locations you have worldwide, there should be a consistent experience for customers. You can achieve this by creating a set of standards for your brand that must be followed internally and externally.
3. Integrate Customer Service With Order Systems
Customer service reps should be able to access order and delivery systems to help customers with fulfillment issues. Many customers are likely to call with issues related to delivery times, so this can help CSRs resolve them and increase customer satisfaction.
4. Make It Easy to Contact You
To deliver the best customer experience possible, it’s vital that you provide multiple ways to contact your business. Not every customer wants to pick up the phone, and some are more comfortable with chat or email. Clients should be able to choose the way the contact you and reach someone who has the authority to solve their issues, not just give canned responses.
Ways Your Supply Chain Business Can Improve the Customer Experience
Caring about your customer’s experience isn’t enough in today's competitive market. You have to back up your commitment to customer service with the right processes and solutions that deliver results. Here are some of the ways your supply chain business can improve the customer experience.
1. Integrate Your Logistics System
It’s challenging to remain competitive and provide a positive experience if your business’s systems are still separate. A better solution is to integrate your logistics system by implementing something like a warehouse management system (WMS). This type of system will handle everything, such as customer contacts, order fulfillment, inventory, shipping, finance, and more.
2. Be More Adaptable
Companies can better meet the challenges of today’s supply chain by being more adaptable. This means a logistics company might have relationships with several suppliers and shippers. Doing this helps ensure promises to customers are kept no what the external conditions may be.
3. Provide Complete Transparency
By changing your tracking system to something like barcodes or RFID tags, you provide complete transparency throughout the supply chain. Customers can see what items are in stock and track their orders through the fulfillment process, from packing to shipping to delivery.
4. Leverage Automation Solutions
Automation technology makes providing a better customer experience seamless because it reduces errors, speeds up the order fulfillment process, and makes everything more transparent.
5. Get Buy-In from All Employees
A commitment to customer service should be organization-wide. It won’t work if only top-level management makes a pledge. Companies should provide continuous training and incentives to staff to help them internalize why the customer experience is a priority.
Your business can automate things like picking and packing. When combined with RFID tags and mobile solutions, you will be able to quickly optimize your processes.
Supply chain management is directly related to customer service. If your business is committed to an amazing customer experience and has the solutions in place to provide it, it can beat the competition, lower costs, and achieve better overall results.