3 Ways To Make Customer Service Your Best Supply Chain Strategy

Business woman working on freight transportation and using a tablet computer to check stock at a warehouse

Should your customers call the shots in regards to delivery expectations within your company?

Quite a counterintuitive thought, isn’t it? You know your business best, so shouldn’t you design the shipping processes of your business? Jim Tompkins, CEO of Tompkins International disagrees, according to his recent blog.

“The days of telling customers what to expect are behind us…customers’ expectations are that your supply chain be personalized to their personal expectations,” he wrote. “Customer expectations are not consistent with what companies offer. Expectations are not being met because company supply chains are not properly designed to meet these expectations in a way affordable for the company.”

The 2016 State of Small Business Report found 43 percent of SMB leaders hope to improve customer retention and experience. But how can you possibly strategize and set goals for a supply chain that will constantly change from client to client? It seems a bit overwhelming, but absolutely necessary as customers become more demanding, and business leaders fight to respond to those demands.

Also consider statistics highlighted in a recent Retail Industry Leaders Association study:

  • 56 percent work for companies that will increase spending on supply chain process improvement this year
  • 26 percent of executives say their companies are prioritizing “enhanced customer service” as their primary supply chain strategy, up from 11 percent in 2015

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These new pressures are leading retailers to rethink their overall supply chain strategies, prioritizing customer service on multiple levels. Here are three things to get you started toward a more customer-centric supply chain.

  1. Improve relationships with logistics providers: Building strong rapport with your suppliers and can help overcome growing challenges of customer relationships. The more businesses turn to third party logistics (3PLs) providers, the more necessary it is for a collaborative and strategic approach to  This results in effective partnerships and enhanced customer service from shipping to the customer.

You can outsource many services to a trusted 3PL, from inbound/outbound transportation, contingency planning, technology systems, and vendor management. Building these relationships help to meet customer demands and keep operations running efficiently and effectively.


Related Article: Poor Supply Chain Management Is Killing Apparel Brands Like Banana Republic

To meet changing customer demands and keep operations running efficiently. Dr. C. John Langley, author of the 2010 3PL Report, believes running an effective and lean operation shouldn’t undercut customer service.  

“Working closely with providers facilitates service improvements because it helps them gain detailed knowledge of shipper requirements,” Langley told Inbound Logistics. “It also makes it easier for providers to determine what issues are most important to their customers.”

Asian business woman working at a warehouse as a manager with a group of workers at the background

  1. Keep customer feedback top of mind: Always operate with your customers’ needs in mind.  You never know who will cross paths along the much interconnected supply chain. Bad service at one point can snowball all the way to the end user, damaging your reputation in the process

That is why it’s imperative to understand your customers’ needs every step of the way. When you know what they are looking for, you can align your processes, services and people to those requirements. Tracking customer feedback results in more personalized solutions, improving prospecting for new customers and  goalsetting with current customers.

Inventory Control System helps Rainguard

Jim Butts, vice president of 3PL Eden Prairie compares this unique customer service to a logistics neighborhood watch. He said when you have access to accurate real-time metrics for customer behavior, you can pinpoint problem areas and take corrective action. This allows a positive influence throughout the supply chain, and your customer can make better decisions with your help.

  1. Don’t overthink it: The internet has trained all of us to get what we want, when we want it within a few clicks of the mouse. A transaction happens easily and seamlessly. Think about your supply chain in that respect. Can you improve your customers’ experience to reflect what you’d expect in a transaction? For example, is your inventory readily available? How quickly can you ship items or perform your services? What type of guarantee or commitment can your customer’s expect when they order from you?

Bottom line to survive in today’s business culture, you must provide excellent performance, exceed customer expectations, provide affordable services, all to increase customer satisfaction and success.

An inventory management system can give you the data you need to identify problem areas, from shipping to the end user. The metrics you can access in invaluable to close the critical gaps in customer service may experience.

Still not convinced? The fourth annual Chief Supply Chain Officer Report surveyed 1068 supply chain professionals, across an array of industries and locations.

The research found quite an upsurge in in the complexity, volume and urgency of demand in the supply chain. It also showed that the control of big data analytics is of utmost importance when improving customer service in the supply chain.  This means to understand and effectively use real-time accurate data is imperative. Further, those polled said overwhelmingly that “enhanced customer service and loyalty is the top choice for how a high-performing supply chain impacts the business – 45 percent say this has ‘very high’ value.”

A customer-centric supply chain comes from harnessing data from both long-term and short-term demand. An inventory management system provides that information as well as connects this data with an overarching view of your supply chain.  It empowers your company to maximize customer satisfaction.

Having a supply chain to meet these personalized expectations will not only result in happy customers but also happy shareholders. Companies will not only be satisfying the customers’ expectations, but they will also avoid incurring unnecessary costs to the company.

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter