Supply Chains and Customer Service

Jun 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

Customer service and customer satisfaction are not one and the same: The former is the perception of the provider, and the latter is the perception of the recipient. So it’s no longer enough to offer what you as a merchant think of as good service, warned Michael Wohlwend, senior director at software provider Manhattan Associates. “Now we’ve got to use the supply chain as a competitive differentiator.”

Supply chain efficiencies, Wohlwend said, are critical components of what he described as three ways to build customer confidence:

  1. seamless shopping

    This includes services such as real-time inventory updates online, e-mails providing customers with delivery status updates, and value-added services such as gift-wrapping.

  2. reliability and accuracy

    “The right product at the right place at the right time,” Wohlwend said.

  3. comprehensive service

    This includes asking customers for feedback and offering convenient returns options.

Among Wohlwend’s suggestions for improving the supply chain:

  • When determining in-stock goals, consider having the goal for your catalog/contact center channel be a few percentage points lower than that for your online and store channels. For instance, if your online and retail goals are 98% of items in stock, you may be able to get away with a 95% in-stock goal for your contact center, assuming that your telephone reps can sell callers a substitute item should a requested product be out of stock.

  • Have your suppliers take on more of the labeling, barcoding, and unit packaging of products prior to their shipping the merchandise to you. What’s in it for the suppliers? The more they help your business, the more merchandise you’ll be reordering from them.

  • Allocate inventory before it physically arrives. Requiring advanced shipment notifications from suppliers is necessary here. Knowing exactly what is coming in when can facilitate cross-docking, among other time-saving steps.

  • Consider an event management solution to give you greater visibility into the supply chain and alert you to unexpected delays so that you can redirect and reallocate shipments if needed.