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Gartner: Three steps to a customer-centric supply chain

Retailers need to ensure their supply chains are customer-centric.

Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) should focus on improving their supply chain customer experience.

That’s according to a new report from Gartner Inc. which recommended that, due to the increased pace of change in customer preferences and expectations, CSCOs must take three actions to improve supply chain customer experience.

The following is a brief overview of each action from the report,  “Overcome 3 Key Barriers to Improve Supply Chain Customer Experience”.

Build customer understanding
Gartner advises that to understand their customers, supply chain organizations must listen to them at multiple interaction points and examine customer product use data and/or customer satisfaction data. The goal is to get a full picture of what the customer wants, needs and thinks – and to create a shared understanding of the customer at critical touchpoints across the enterprise.

Currently, more than 60% of supply chain leaders are investing in developing and maintaining access to voice of the customer (VoC) data, according to Gartner data. If those investments continue, Gartner says the supply chain of the future will be fully tuned into customers.

Set and adapt a strategy for improving customer experience
According to Gartner, supply chain leaders will only be able to set a strategic direction for customer experience when they partner with their executive peers across the organization and align on where the organization will focus its efforts. Clearly defined metrics and expected outcomes can help to determine whether selected strategies and investments deliver desired results. 

Coordinate to create a customer-centric culture
Gartner advises that successful customer experience depends on the commitments and actions of all people in the organization. CSCOs should align and communicate the customer experience vision to get everyone on board and clearly outline the behaviors that need to change.

Ideally, Gartner says there will be a customer experience leader in place, who coordinates best practices and assets, such as the type of VoC solution that is best for understanding a given customer touchpoint. This leader works with a cross-functional steering team to engage the organization in listening, understanding, and responding, with the goal of creating products, solutions and services to respond to customer needs.

“Supply chain customers today are looking for improvements in areas such as on-time, in-full,” said Beth Coppinger, senior director analyst with the Gartner supply chain practice. “They also expect shorter lead time and personalized products and packaging. Organizations must adapt quickly, as failing to understand and meet customer needs can result in the loss of exactly those customers.”

Artificial intelligence will spread in supply chain
Gartner also recently released analysis indicating evolving data communications networks will help drive 25% of artificial intelligence-based supply chain decisions to “edge ecosystems” (physical locations where things, people, and data connect ‚ such as distribution centers) by 2025. Edge ecosystems transform operations by allowing decision-making close to the original source of information, noted Gartner.

Gartner also advises that enabling data processing, communications and storage at the point of data capture creates more even workflows, distributes data capacity, and streamlines real-time responses to stakeholders who need to make decisions.

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