A Personal Touch to Customized Supply Chain Account Optimization
Know your customer has acquired new meaning as supply chain disruptions have declined. It’s not enough to have a segmented customer base where generalized attributes are applied. For example, eCommerce merchants may share the desire for fast shipping at lower costs, but they differ in how that’s achieved. Some merchants may offer delivery options such as same or two-day delivery. Others may promote eco-friendly packaging. Understanding such varying account preferences allows logistics companies to provide a more personalized experience.
Business-to-business (B2B) account management requires a more tailored approach if organizations want to improve customer loyalty. According to Harvard Business Review, companies must do the following to ensure customer retention:
- Identify and address pain points
- Add value to each interaction
- Personalize the process
Although what to do is an important first step, how logistics businesses perform these tasks is just as significant. It takes a combination of technology and people skills to achieve customized supply chain account optimization. It demands a mindset that adjusts to market fluidity.
Identify Changing Pain Points
Some pain points are more like aches. They are always operating in the background, like pricing and delivery times. They periodically become painful and need to be addressed. However, there are other pain points that are less obvious and possibly unique to a given customer.
Evaluate Supply Chain Processes
Suppose a customer is experiencing unusual fluctuations in inventory. Since the customer’s peak selling season is coming up, those variations in inventory levels could be a problem. By watching inventory levels, account managers can contact the customer to discuss the situation before it becomes a pain point.
They may suggest setting a threshold value to ensure re-ordering is done promptly. They can even offer to set the threshold value for the customer who is likely overwhelmed. With the use of technology, changes in re-ordering can be performed automatically, enabling customized supply chain account optimization without adding to the workload of account managers.
By reviewing customer accounts, logistics personnel can identify weaknesses to address before they impact a customer’s bottom line. Some pain points may be short-lived, such as a delivery delay because of severe weather. Others may have long-term consequences. Slow or incomplete deliveries could indicate a supplier is having financial difficulties, allowing customers to find alternative suppliers.
Understand Risk Management
Managing risk is about living with uncertainty. Knowing what uncertainties customers face makes it easier to identify and address their pain points. For example, 2020 was a year of high uncertainty. No one was prepared for the impact of a global pandemic. Few organizations had a plan to negate the associated risks.
Today’s businesses are more aware of the impact global events can have on local economies. They now view risk with a wider lens. Political unrest could block exports, and struggling economies could mean fewer imports. Staying informed on how external factors impact customers can help account managers highlight potential weaknesses that place customers at risk.
Monitor Retail Chargebacks
Big box stores have used chargebacks as a way to ensure supplier compliance with their delivery standards. Smaller businesses are now using chargebacks as a way to compensate for lost revenue because of delayed shipments.
Account managers can deliver personalized service to minimize retail chargebacks. They can ensure that deliveries are made on time. If delays happen, they can update the entire supply chain so retailers do not wait for delayed shipments.
They can also monitor the supply change to eliminate common mistakes such as mislabeling or damaged goods. Account managers can review historical data to identify what actions have contributed to chargebacks in the past.
Customer interactions take time. Sending a “checking in” email means the customer has to read it. Even if they just hit delete, it takes time. To avoid falling into the automatically deleted category, account managers need to make every interaction count. They should develop processes that ensure value at every touchpoint.
Develop a Continuous Improvement Mindset
Clients are more likely to accept a phone call or respond to an email if they benefit from the action. If customer contact only happens when a delivery is delayed, they soon dread hearing from you. So, how do you add value to logistics?
- Operate as a team. Sharing information across an organization keeps everyone informed and generates collaborative efforts that improve operations.
- Review processes. Continually review processes to ensure they are meeting customer needs and corporate objectives.
- Focus on continuous improvement. Constantly evaluate business operations to provide incremental and innovative changes.
By shifting their mindset, logistics providers can elevate customer experiences through continuous and incremental changes that add value at every step of the customer journey.
For example, shipping completed a complex packaging job to meet a tight delivery window. This effort provides a value-add opportunity. Take a quick picture of the internal packaging and include it in an email that provides statistics on the job. The personal touch lets the customer know the packaging was performed correctly, even under time constraints. It provides a value-add to the standard email that says the job was completed. It provides the personal touch for customized supply chain account optimization.
Manage Customer Relationships
For many organizations, managing means controlling customer relationships. Unfortunately, that approach no longer works in a digital world where customers can engage with businesses when they want through websites or social media. To maintain a strong customer relationship, companies must add value beyond what they can learn online.
Logistics companies must pay attention to their customers’ businesses. They should stay current on industry trends that impact customers and be knowledgeable on external factors that threaten their operations. Companies can demonstrate this expertise by:
- Sharing relevant research. Providing customers with curated documentation on trends or challenges keeps them informed without having to conduct the research themselves.
- Discussing innovative solutions. Without naming clients, account managers can highlight unusual solutions to problems or suggest innovative ideas based on their experiences.
- Providing unique insights. Forwarding interesting or pertinent articles to customers can illustrate an interest in their business.
The more logistics companies know about their customers’ world, the more value they can add to their relationships.
Tailor Customer Preferences
Customizing supply chain processes means addressing pain points with value-add services for superior customer experiences. It requires logistics providers to align their strategies with customer expectations. Logistics must look beyond cost reduction and efficiencies to other factors, such as customer preferences if they want to retain customers.
Provide Delivery Options
As consumers demand more delivery options and packaging choices, companies will search for ways to meet those expectations. Not every business can offer same-day delivery, but they want to offer options. Logistics providers need to adjust their processes to accommodate individual preferences.
For example, last-mile delivery preferences are changing. Consumers may want to use pick-up locations instead of at-home delivery. Lockers in third-party locations with extended hours are becoming more popular. Logistics business models may need to change to account for variations in last-mile delivery options.
Technology allows companies to customize delivery preferences. As an example, logistic companies that accept online orders on behalf of merchants need a business model that delivers packages flawlessly without adding to employee workloads. Personalized service requires strategic use of technology and employees.
Offer Packaging Choices
Retailers see packaging as a way to raise brand awareness and demonstrate their environmental commitment. They see it as a differentiator in a highly competitive market. Logistics must find ways to accommodate individualized preferences.
Suppose a skincare retailer offers three product bundles. Each bundle requires a different product insert. Making sure the right insert goes with the appropriate bundle requires a customizable system. Often, this change means altering an existing business model to guarantee accuracy.
Technology can help meet customer expectations. As consumers demand more personalized services, businesses will look for cost-effective ways to meet them. Deploying a business strategy that combines people and technology allows logistics companies to optimize supply chain accounts for improved customer satisfaction.
Personal touches not only enhance the customer experience but also improve operational efficiencies. By tailoring processes to meet specific customer needs, logistics can reduce lead times, optimize delivery, and increase customer loyalty. However, they will need technology to accomplish these improvements without jeopardizing their bottom line.
Personalize the Process
Understanding individual customer requirements allows logistics companies to develop personalized processes for improved performance. Companies have gigabytes of data stored on servers or in the cloud. Those data points serve as signposts for customizing operations.
Data analytics can evaluate information on key performance indicators (KPIs) to identify inefficiencies in customer-specific implementations. Adjusting how orders are processed or how delivery information is received can improve performance. For example, batching orders may not be the optimal solution if a company wants to offer multiple delivery options.
Using data analytics, companies can determine whether orders should be processed as received or batched at set intervals throughout the day. The analysis may show that batching orders three times a day provides the same delivery coverage as completing orders as received. Because the batched processing is less expensive, the company’s costs are reduced without significantly impacting the end user.
Through customer interactions, companies learn what clients value when it comes to service. Some customers may want an immediate response to an email, text message, or phone call, even if it is to say, “I’ll get back to you later.” Others may not care about an acknowledgment as much as an answer. They are willing to wait until an answer can be provided.
Technology can respond immediately to customers acknowledging receipt of the request. Account managers can use their time to find answers or solve problems instead of responding to routine requests. Technology can also help with inventory and supply chain management.
Collecting data from the Internet of Things (IoT) devices provides logistics companies with information to customize services. Knowing inventory trends helps establish inventory levels to meet demand without paying for overstocking. IoT devices can help monitor goods as they move through the supply chain to highlight potential obstacles to smooth deliveries.
Experience the Personal Touch
Symbia Logistics has a rich history. Beginning in 1989, the company mastered the essential warehousing components of third-party logistics. Today, Symbia Logistics has a network of fulfillment centers designed for fast and accurate delivery. Combining technology and staffing, the company’s employees provide the personal touch needed for customized supply chain account optimization. Contact us to learn how our personalized approach gives our customers a competitive edge.