Customer-Centricity: A Home Run For Your Supply Chain

Warren Miller

Spring has arrived, and if you’re anything like me, that means one thing: Baseball is back.

In my eyes, what makes baseball so great is the strategy that’s involved. Manufacturing runs and winning games can be achieved through various means, from laying down a sacrifice bunt to pinch-hitting for a sub-par batter.

Supply chain is similar in many ways. A tactical approach is crucial. But your organization’s strategy should primarily revolve around a singular focus: customer-centricity.

Here’s how you can round the bases of supply chain by putting customers at the core of your operations.

First base: Gain access to valuable customer insight

While an enhanced emphasis on customer-centricity is nothing new for supply chain organizations, many companies still find the effort challenging. One major impediment to customer-centricity is gaining access to valuable customer insight.

Author Matt Davis explored these challenges in a recent SCM World whitepaper. According to his company’s research, 74% of supply chain executives say that accessing customer insight is difficult. Additionally, more than one-third of the surveyed executives admit to possessing no customer data at all.
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So how can your organization begin accessing the insight it needs to optimize its supply chain operations?

Second base: Put strong omnichannel processes and/or technology to work

SCM World experts have long believed that regardless of industry, organizations with better omnichannel processes and/or technology also possess more valuable customer insight. A survey that the company recently conducted confirmed this hypothesis.

Of the 155 survey participants, roughly 20% say they have “good” omnichannel processes and/or technology in place. Unsurprisingly, these companies are better equipped to access customer insight and subsequently optimize their existing sales, delivery, return, inventory visibility, and supply-and-demand planning capabilities.

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Moreover, because these organizations have already realized the benefits of strong omnichannel processes and/or technology, they’re also two times more likely to increase their investments in improving their existing processes and/or technology.

This additional investment will not only enable these organizations to better access valuable customer data but also further differentiate them from the competition.

Third base: Prioritize your investment in these two omnichannel enablers

While an overall investment in your current omnichannel processes and/or technology is a prudent business strategy, improving two specific capabilities—inventory visibility and supply-and-demand planning—should be paramount for your supply chain organization. After all, these efforts are critical in yielding customer insight.

According to SCM World research, a majority of companies recognize this, with many planning to make experimental or heavy investments in these capabilities over the next three years.

A staggering 68% of organizations with “good” processes and “weak” technology plan to increase their investments in inventory visibility, while 60% of companies with “weak” processes and “weak” technology expect to invest in improving their supply-and-demand planning capabilities.

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Home: Experiment, fail fast, and scale what works

For years, Amazon has been the model of supply chain excellence, both from a business perspective and a customer-centricity standpoint. The key to the company’s success has largely been its strong willingness to innovate.

Over the years, Amazon has rolled out a number of creative ideas, from drone delivery to the Dash button. Matt Davis suggests that in order to realize your customer-centricity goals, your organization would be wise to follow Amazon’s innovation strategy: experiment, fail fast, and scale what works.

Davis even lays out a plan for how you can begin this transformation:

  • Digitize your supply chain
  • Make use of imperfect data
  • Collaborate with your customer care group
  • Create a menu of supply chain services

Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to developing an enhanced customer-focused strategy and rounding the bases of supply chain.

Smart organizations today use agile processes and smart technologies to extract a wealth of customer insight from their supply chains. They’re using live data to improve all aspects of business performance and adapting to the unexpected to serve omnichannel customers better – leaving the laggards behind.

Download the new “SCM World white paper, Customer-Centric Supply Chain,” to explore how you can replicate the best practices of omnichannel leaders.


About Warren Miller

Warren Miller is a senior writer with more than 10 years of experience. He has written extensively on the topics of marketing, customer engagement, commerce, sales, HR, and supply chain.