Customer satisfaction

Keep the customer: Four practical tips for visibility

Who can afford not to stay on the pulse of its customers today? Nobody. Not for long anyway. You need to be connected, you need visibility. Here is how.

The customer runs your business

In my last blog post, I’ve given examples and tips for supply chain transformation in the age of the customer and digitization. In this challenging environment, businesses need to fully grasp the concept of the customer being king. Not just in theory, but actually…

Not only does the customer shape businesses and products today, but customer loyalty – as we know it – is a thing of the past, too. Today, if expectations are not met, customers are likely to take their business elsewhere. This varies by industry and product, of course, but generally, things have become increasingly tough for everyone.

Keeping the flow of information going between all partners in the supply chain has thus become crucial for business survival: the faster you can react, the lower the impact on service levels and on finances will be. It’s the foundation for securing the future of a business – whichever direction it may take.

With this, the business perception of the need for supply chain visibility and system integration has shifted: from something “nice to have” to improve delivery service to something “essential to survive” in dynamic markets in the digital age of the customer.

Visibility: the winning set-up whichever way a business goes

Everyone in the supply chain not only needs to know what’s going on everywhere and anytime, but also what to do about it – at all times. And the higher the levels of integration and automation are, the more actions can be accelerated through defined system parameters triggering automated follow-up processes.

Such a set-up not only dramatically reduces costs of corrective measures, but also leads to business agility, better external collaboration, and faster business innovation. And it results in improved service levels, reduced costs, increasing competitive differentiation, and value generation. These are actually really nice collaterals for implementing something needed to survive – if you think about it ;).

Getting there comes with challenges – we’ve discussed quite a few already. We’ve also written a white paper about it. But as a true ambassador of supply chain visibility, there are a few more pointers I’d like to share today – I hope they are helpful to you in the process. Please let me know if you have any questions – I look forward to your comments on LinkedIn.

1. Start the right way

Supply chain visibility and system integration are complex topics, so get innovative expert advice on the right tools, technology, and infrastructure for your business. Analyze your market, network, processes, and system landscape thoroughly – but don’t take too long. Long-winded analyses today are no longer valid by the time they are needed as the basis for a new strategy. Identify relevant information needed to capture and share regardless of data structure and formats. Apply a flexible approach that allows for easy integration and adaptation to the specifics of your supply chain.

2. Capture relevant data most efficiently

Information overload is an inherent challenge in integrated supply chain environments. You need to simplify and remove complexity. Define the crucial steps for both operational continuity and market monitoring and reaction. Leverage legacy systems and processes as far as possible and add flexible solutions as needed.

3. Involve everyone in relevant data insights

Viewing, sharing, adding, and reacting to selected data is crucial for everyone in the supply chain. This includes the smallest supplier in the most remote location who might still run their operations in a very traditional way. Simple and easy access to platforms is the best way to integrate everybody and visualize reality from different perspectives in a straightforward way.

4. Make use of relevant data quickly

There is no point in integrating everyone and getting the relevant data if any of the supply chain partners “sit on it”. Speed is of the essence in all areas: for re-routing or reallocating products for a last-mile delivery, adjusting a local distributor’s stock levels in line with online purchasing behavior, shifting orders to alternative suppliers, or tapping safety stock to secure fulfillment after a standard disruption.

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