It’s a classic business mantra: The customer is king. But are enough businesses, expecially B2B, taking it seriously enough? Damian Pike, vice president, innovation at DHL Supply Chain on why customer satisfaction should be a key target.
While many consumer-facing businesses have focused on ensuring customer satisfaction to retain that crucial share-of-wallet over the past few years, particularly as the wallet size is continually shrinking, fewer B2B businesses have followed suit.
Yet potential for unlocking value, and improving end-user experience, exists across the supply chain, and could make a real difference to your organisation.
The supply chain has generally taken the indirect role of managing the sourcing and production processes, as well as handling distribution, in supporting customer propositions.
However, this has changed over the past decade, as customers are beginning to realise the impact of the supply chain efficiency and ethics on the final product – a process which has coincided, perhaps not accidentally, with significant progress in improving supply chains, through removing waste, applying lean principles and enhancing quality.
This new focus on supply chains gives logisticians the opportunity to influence the customer experience: from developing higher-quality products or better customer service, to reducing costs.
Across industry sectors and customer segments, certain demands stand out: customers want choice, transparency and personalisation. Choice in whether they buy a top-of-the-range car, or a cheerful family run-around. Transparency in knowing exactly where their food was sourced. And personalisation could mean anything from an hour-long delivery window and different sizes on a clothes order to bespoke production.
To ensure our supply chains meet these ever-evolving demands, we assess the physical steps in customer experience for both B2C and B2B customers throughout the process. The crucial final mile might offer opportunities for personalisation, while reverse logistics gives customers the luxury of choice – and transparency and honesty needs to be paramount throughout. By linking these elements to customer feedback, we can ensure that we offer our customers a range of bespoke propositions to meet their individual needs.
While customer data is traditionally an under-used resource by logisticians, customer insights can have a beneficial impact for customer experience across the supply chain. From individual customer data to operational trends, in-depth data analysis allows logisticians to understand forward and reverse flows for each customer segment, providing valuable insights into everything from product design to customer segment behaviour.
These customer insights can then be used to help businesses reduce costs or improve service to augment their customers’ experience. Experience is not only about better execution, but also about the customer’s perception of an already excellent execution. For example, we recently worked with a company to help them understand why they scored low for “satisfaction” despite delivering best-in-class turnaround times. Our solution? Consumers are more impressed with expected turnaround times being beaten than all-round low turnaround times.
When the company increased the promised turnaround time – but continued to deliver best in class shorter times – they actually boosted customer satisfaction.
It’s also not just about getting products to customers on time (or earlier) – after sales support, in particular reverse logistics, is a crucial component of customer satisfaction. This is because it is often after a sale when a consumer seals their relationship with a brand – good or bad.
For consumer activity, this is amplified by the potential effect of social media, which can broadcast terrible – or sometimes excellent – service globally. There is a significant opportunity to manage these processes through the supply chain, providing considered and appropriate follow-up activity.
The bottom line about end-user satisfaction is that it should run through the entire supply chain, from manufacture onwards.
What does this mean on the ground? This means enabling everyone in the supply chain – operations in logistics, warehousing, contact centres and support teams – to understand the customer, and their customer. This could involve bringing customer experience metrics such as the Net Promoter Score (or equivalent) into the organisation to demonstrate the value of customer satisfaction.
By focusing on the customer throughout, companies can not only deliver according to customers’ needs, but also go above and beyond their expectations – allowing them to beat competitors and gain that increasingly-important – and tight – share-of-wallet.