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How Customer-Centered is Your Supply Chain Strategy?

Michael Wilson | Jul 9, 2015

The picture of the modern supply chain is much different than years ago, when great customer service involved on-time delivery of products, tracking assistance, and a quick ...

Customer-Centered supply chain strategyThe picture of the modern supply chain is much different than years ago, when great customer service involved on-time delivery of products, tracking assistance, and a quick telephone call to troubleshoot problems. Today’s logistics management requires a more customer-centric supply chain strategy that takes advantage of opportunities to gain competitive advantage.

In essence, customers want a comprehensive approach to service that encompasses guidance and a variety of capabilities at every stage along the supply chain. If you’re not providing it, they’ll soon be heading to your competition. Fortunately, you can provide a more customer-focused experience by incorporating a few best practices.

1. Get Feedback From Your Customers

The best way to hear how you can provide more customer-centric service is to simply talk to them. One strategy is to develop a group of 5-10 customers and create an advisory board, encouraging the group to discuss key topics and offer advice on how to improve service. Inform the board when you’ll be implementing new technology and let them know how these solutions will impact their operations. Ask for feedback on whether these plans align with their business objectives or will be an undue burden. It’s better to hear their opinions before implementation than be confronted with upset customers afterward. 

2. Deliver Value Through the Maturity Model

Understanding the maturity model of a customer-centric approach can help you deliver value, and it starts with the products that go out the factory door. Once you’re satisfied with the quality here, you move on to focus on optimizing the supply chain to provide premium customer service. Attaining your goals with the supply chain means you’re able to concentrate your efforts on customer-centric service: the final stage of the maturity model. Here, you implement integrated business planning, intelligent fulfillment, and prescriptive analytics to turn your supply chain into a competitive edge.

3. Understand the Needs of Your Customers’ Customers

You can be sure that, beyond your own customers, there’s a chain of buyers down the road until you reach the end user. If you can appreciate the needs of these customers along the way, you’re in a better position to improve the service you deliver to your direct purchasers. Disruptions in your supply chain affect the entire succession of customers who in turn look to their immediate supplier with complaints and problems. Strive to please your customers’ buyers in order to make your supply chain more customer-centric.

4. Strive to Offer the Complete Package

You must present them with the full package of vendor management, inbound/outbound transport, risk management, supply chain optimization and more – as well as the technology to manage everything. Delivering the full package requires you to collaborate with all components of your supply chain, rather than look at these relationships as an outsourced service. Mutually beneficial relationships among your partners along the entire chain offer opportunities to provide excellent customer service at each point.

Implementing a customer-centered supply chain strategy requires you to step up your efforts, exceed expectations and place a priority on customer service. The logistics and shipping industry is a crowded one, so setting yourself apart from the competition requires you to put customer needs first. Develop your approach around these four tips to build a supply chain that’s dedicated to service, from the drivers in the trucks to the executives in the corporate office.

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