How to Improve Customer Service With Real-Time Supply Chain Visibility

Companies are increasingly demanding high-quality service and experience from their suppliers. Accurate, proactive communication on shipment status and delays is key to providing a world-class customer experience for stakeholders throughout the supply chain — but this necessitates knowing where those shipments are in the first place.

In this post, I’ll define real-time supply chain visibility, its impact on customer service in the market today, and provide best practices for implementing supply chain visibility within your organization.

What Is Supply Chain Customer Service, and Why Does it Matter?

Customer service in the supply chain is fundamentally shifting from what it once was. Though logistics has traditionally been an invisible discipline, it’s increasingly becoming a center for improved customer experience and competitive differentiation. Historically, after an order has been placed, the customer would be blind to that shipment’s progress without reaching out to the supplier for an ETA, which typically wouldn’t happen until a delivery missed its appointment time. In addition to being time-consuming and administratively burdensome, this process was also inherently reactive rather than proactive. Avoiding a negative customer experience really was the best you could hope for.

One of the best-known examples of how this game is changing is — no surprises here — Amazon. When Jeff Bezos first announced Amazon Prime’s free 2-day delivery promise, the company’s supply chain suddenly transformed from an obligatory cost center into a powerful competitive differentiator. For the first time, a well-run transportation department had the direct opportunity to delight the end-customer and deliver a positive experience, rather than simply avoiding a negative one.

“Customers may buy products, but what they are really buying is the entire experience. And that’s what they are judging a company on.”

Yone Dewberry | Chief Supply Chain Officer | Land O’Lakes

Modern supply chain management is no longer just about avoiding a negative customer experience. When a customer places an order with a supplier, they’re trusting that their order will be picked up and delivered according to their exact specifications. Failure to deliver on the customer’s requirements is a blemish on that supplier’s reputation. By the same token, however, exceeding those rapidly rising expectations where others fail or fall short is a great way to ensure that future business. Now, companies have the chance to exceed their customers’ expectations and outperform their competitors.

How to Improve Customer Service With Supply Chain Visibility

Real-time supply chain visibility plays a major role in this transformation, allowing you to empower your customers and employees to act dynamically when disruptions inevitably occur. You will improve customer service with supply chain visibility by:

  • Training and empowering your customer facing teams to utilize real-time tracking data
  • Proactively communicating order statuses to end customers and key stakeholders
  • Improving response times by consolidating shipment tracking data

Supply chains are incredibly complex global entities. As a supplier, if you are able to reduce complexities and make order management as simple and transparent as possible for your customers, you will be viewed as a supplier of choice. In short, improving supply chain customer service is no longer optional; it is mandatory in order to stay competitive.

3 Examples of How Visibility Improves Customer Service

Incorporating real-time supply chain visibility strategies into your organization’s workflows is integral to creating a best-in-class customer experience from order to delivery.

Training staff to use a visibility platform not only improves productivity for customer-facing team members, but also can encourage collaboration across departments. Ryder, for instance, won the 2019 FourKites Golden Kite Award for its success in driving end-user adoption of the FourKites platform, and has seen significant benefits from extending the reach of visibility. “Our customers, their customers, their sales teams, people outside of transportation now have an understanding of where their customers’ trucks are and that’s been a huge relief on our customer service teams,” reported Erin Starliper, Transportation Manager for Ryder.

Leading suppliers like C&S Wholesale Grocers are defining best practices for leveraging real-time visibility to proactively communicate with customers and create a top-tier customer experience. C&S uses FourKites data to keep its internal teams and its customers aligned on the location of a truck in transit and the ETA. When C&S’s transportation team implemented their automated notifications, they were able to reduce transportation-related customer service calls by 65% in just four months.

Having easy access to shipping data enables teams to take action on at-risk loads before they impact customers. Bryan Kennedy,  International Transportation Specialist at Kimberly-Clark, recently shared this example: Two containers were showing up as late in FourKites, and upon investigation, the team discovered that the carrier had mistakenly switched the destination of the two containers The container that was supposed to be heading to Chile was set to be loaded on a ship to Costa Rica! As soon as KC identified the problem, the logistics crew contacted the carrier and corrected the error, allowing the shipments to sail on time to the right locations. 

Taking a reactive approach to shipment delays is no longer a viable option when considering your customers’ experience. As the status quo of the transportation industry shifts from reactive communication to proactive communication, those who lag behind in adopting a real-time visibility solution that can provide predictive, proactive updates on their shipments will see their competition seize the competitive advantage.

FourKites is surfacing potential bottlenecks or delays with shipments earlier and earlier into the order lifecycle. Allowing customers to proactively plan ahead for disruptions, as opposed to simply reacting to them, is imperative to improving customer service.

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You don’t have to take my word for it. Check out some of FourKites’ early adopters here and hear what they have to say about how they were able to translate FourKites’ real-time visibility solutions into organizational ROI.

To gain an understanding of how your company will benefit from FourKites and the power of real-time visibility, check out the FourKites ROI calculator. The ROI calculator is a great starting point to gain directional guidance on what returns your team can expect when investing in FourKites as a solution.

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