bird's eye view  of  shipping dock  in Barcelona, covered in shipping containers
PHOTO: Tobias A. Müller

While much of CX focuses on relationships with end customers, to succeed, companies also need to maintain good CX up and down the supply chain, otherwise they won’t be able to meet the expectations of the end customer.

Below are some of the factors supply chain experts see as critical in maintaining and building CX.

Look at End-to-End Supplier Relationship

“When it comes to developing and enhancing customer experience in the supply chain, it’s important to approach supplier relationship management from an end-to-end lifecycle perspective,” said Shannon Kreps, Medius vice president of marketing and communications. “Make sure suppliers have the same experience across the organization.”

While many organizations focus on ensuring suppliers qualify, provide references, meet specific criteria and comply with applicable terms and conditions, but a deeper CX focus is needed, Kreps said. “Communication issues can arise and if a business is late in paying a supplier, it can end up hurting their financial health and ability to execute. This is why it is important for finance, procurement and other departments to have the same view and a shared enterprise-wide philosophy on how suppliers need to be treated.”

Prioritization of suppliers is also important, Kreps added. “Prioritize your suppliers, and tier them appropriately so you can keep close tabs on your top suppliers. Next, seek to understand both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of transactional performance and satisfaction on both sides of the equation. Conduct surveys with internal contacts within your company to understand the quality of goods and on-time performance. And don’t forget to also survey suppliers to understand what their experience in working with your company is like, so you can understand where changes might be needed.”

Related Article: Delivering Customer Experience in the Supply Chain

Supply Chains Need Visibility, Collaboration Support

Interactions between participants in the supply chain are becoming increasingly digital and real-time in nature, said Christian Wettre, SugarCRM general manager, Sugar Sell and Sugar Market. “Supply chain participants must have real-time visibility into movement and developments in the supply chain and need to quickly interact with each other. Email is no longer quick enough. We need new real-time digital collaboration channels."

Wettre added that organizations supporting real-time collaboration to optimize supply chain operations through integrations with purpose-built collaboration and messaging tools, enabling them to collaborate and organize conversations by topics and projects, in real-time.

“An effective digital supply chain strategy is one that enables you to collect and analyze customer feedback across every step of the production and distribution process,” added Darcy MacClaren, SAP North America senior vice president of digital supply chain and manufacturing. “Enhancing CX in your supply chain means using technology that gives you total supply chain visibility and integrates data from your customers at multiple touchpoints from both structured and unstructured sources.”

This includes combining intelligence from orders, POS and IoT sensors as well as social media sentiment analysis — all of which help a company to adapt quickly and deliver individualized products without sacrificing scale and speed. It’s not enough to gain CX insights from your digital store; establishing a digital thread throughout all your supply chain touchpoints is crucial.

Related Article: Supply Chains Face an Inflection Point

Use 'Event Streams'

The issue of visibility came more to light as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sumeet Puri, chief technology officer at Solace.

During the pre-COVID era, consumer products goods (CPG) companies wanted more real-time visibility and decision-making capability to optimize the supply chain. COVID made it a necessity because customers wanted to get real-time updates on where the deliverables were. Were the perishables going to get delivered in time? Should alternative sources be explored?

As a result, working with the logistics portal by logging in once a day was not enough. The CX experiences were not just good-to-have; decisions were now based on their visibility. This pushed the CPG company to unlock the value of their supply chain data by putting it in motion as "event streams." Each occurrence, from an order to a shipment notice to location updates, are "events" put in motion over a network like an event streaming foundation called an event mesh, according to Puri.

“While this helped with the visibility and hence better CX for external customers, internal supply chain managers experienced the real benefit. Real-time dashboards gave them insights, which allowed them to massively reduce detention and demurrage costs with better supply chain management. Multiple logistics systems, ocean, road and rail tracking systems, and order management events were all correlated to give a 360-degree view of the supply chain.”

Related Article: Transform the Global Supply Chain With Multi-Party Innovation

Offer Traceability, Accountability

"Building and maintaining CX in any supply chain starts and ends with two words; accountability and traceability,” said Lukas Kinigadner, CEO of Anyline. “More than perhaps any sector outside of retail, logistics firms around the world have had their mettle tested to the limit over the past year — and customer experiences have suffered as a consequence. This is borne out in the statistics: our recent survey of US consumers found that four in ten (43%) respondents had lost a package in shipping in the last year, while more than half (53%) reported receiving damaged packages during the same time.”

Rebuilding consumer confidence means adopting Amazon’s ‘customer obsession’ principle when it comes to tracking packages. It might seem impossible to illuminate every blind spot in your supply chain, but mobile technologies — and adopting a BYOD (bring your own device) approach — now make it far easier for workforces to deliver end-to-end traceability at any stage of shipment.

“This was the finding of Dutch logistics experts CargoSnap, whose mobile platform enables delivery personnel to scan everything from container numbers to package serial numbers using optical character recognition (OCR), as well as barcodes and digital copies of every bill of lading. This data is then uploaded and becomes instantly accessible to customers - giving them the power to track their packages in real-time,” Kinigadner said.