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.
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.


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.


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.