As customers demand personalisation, companies must respond in kind

25 October 2013

Dan Hawker

Dan Hawker

Former Head of Tobacco, Wholesale & Retail

As clichéd as it sounds, the customer is always right idiom has never been more correct than in these times. In the wholesale and logistics businesses, this construct has been taken further. With customer platforms increasing seemingly by the year, businesses have taken the concept of differentiation forward to a more individualised approach. But without an effective approach, there can be misfires.

This includes generic campaigns, making the wrong sort of promotions targeting the wrong customers, and even underestimating the correct stock levels. Such moves can prove damaging, with a recent report stating retailers currently lose up to 4% of sales volume from inefficient execution of day-to-day processes.

By making small changes to make the customer feel more valued, businesses will see profitability increase while experiencing efficiency improvements as a direct result.

Here are some useful considerations for operations managers to consider when increasing customer value:

Data integration is essential

With the increase in channels; with everything from mobile to tablet devices, logistics firms need to firstly capture data effectively. Following that, the need for effective usage is of equal importance. Why stockpile large data if it isn’t going to be used effectively?

A report from Scribe Software surveying over 900 businesses worldwide, stated customer data integration has become a core business issue as organisations struggle to attain the ideal of the connected enterprise and drive business value from IT investments while managing increasingly complex IT environments.

By integrating data successfully and building up a picture of a customer base, both engagement and loyalty can be combined to create a powerful entity, rather than being down to one or the other. This can also lead to effective campaigns – tailor made for customers.

Monitoring breeds consistency

Companies need a 360 degrees view of their company; from top to bottom and everything in between. A wholesaler - fully aware of an increasingly competitive market – can adopt this cross company approach towards customer engagement.

The availability of sensor based logistics programmes, notably FedEx pioneering its SenseAware programme detecting temperature, light, humidity, barometric pressure, and location, offers total visibility and control of operations. This stems from a few steps of the supply chain to the entire process.

This is where companies can also add value to customer operations. P&O, one of Europe’s leading logistics providers, have been at the forefront of adopting the customer as an individual approach. It recently replaced its paper-based picking system with a voice picking system.

This gave it access to real-time management information. Previously the company had to collect data manually and pick rate KPIs were often produced late. Having up to date information has allowed the company to optimise resource planning, thus improving efficiency and benefiting the customer.

The more platforms, the better

Much like the pharmaceutical industry, arguably one of the last sectors to take a more personalised approach, the logistics sector is finally waking up to the benefits. One of the criticisms of the industry in recent years has been its rigid approach to customers. Increasing the customer as an individual ethos is the use of new technological platforms in which to engage with customers. Companies should also see the impact of cloud computing on logistics operations.

Customer portals are perhaps the best illustration of this technology. While the big logistics firms have set them up to provide tracking services and customer contact, manufacturers keeping logistics in-house would also be wise to explore to options. This can improve collaboration between members of a supply chain and make it easier to manage essential logistics information.

As one of the business areas where significant business improvement is still possible in terms of customer satisfaction and cost, logistics companies – whether they be in-house, third or fourth party need to implement a more structured and sustained approach in order to increase customer value.

With technology becoming increasingly integral to the supply chain, the opportunity to make relationships increasingly informative and subsequently increase those ever-important margins is there.

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