Why is customer service important in the supply chain?

Customer service has an important place in the supply chain. It is responsible for the way customers feel about the product and the company who is selling it. David Kiger knows that unfortunately, customer service today has mutated into a concept deeply related to the way business are done and the profit they generate. The entire idea around companies having kind people responding to customers’ inquiries and welcoming them to retail stores, has become almost a romantic idea around the way companies interact with their consumers.

It is very likely that most of us have had dealt with a company’s representative on the phone. We have waited for an eternity for our inquiries to be solved, without the rep checking if we are still there. Probably we all have had to struggle to understand the rep’s accent –because its native language isn’t English- and it is very probable that while talking with the rep the background noise was so loud that we couldn’t hear the rep’s answer. This model, based on companies outsourcing customer service to save some money, goes against customer retention in the supply chain.

Customer Service in the Past and Present

There are many of us who had the chance to enjoy a wonderful customer service in retail stores. We still remember being welcomed to each store with signs and sales associates standing at the door eager to please us. Sales associates would meet our needs supplying us with everything we were looking for. Every company was built on the idea that customers came first.

Kind gestures like saying good morning or good evening were practiced everywhere and the polite and always question “how can I help you?” would pop up every time we needed someone to assist us on that last step of the supply chain, helping stores retain their clients in time and create a wonderful reputation around the service they’d provide.

A messy rack – like the ones we are so used to seeing today- or store products dropped on the floor were always out of line. Stores were always clean and organized. Customers were assisted one at the time and distance would be kept in case you needed to make up your mind around the pair of jeans that best suited you. Also, customers would wait for their turn to be assisted by the sales associate and after the purchase, people would find a thank you card from the person who assisted you and closed the deal on the bag.

Of course, there were exceptions, but compared to what it is today to be assisted by someone at a retail store, bad service was something sporadic and out of character. This situation is completely opposite to what occurs today, when high-quality customer service seems to be a rare luxury that only a few mortals can have access to, it has become almost a myth.

Today, customer service in the supply chain has been neglected. People feel it represents an extra work for which they are not being paid. Sales associates don’t want to act like they have to please customers all the time, affecting the companies they work for in a terrible way because of customer desertion due to the terrible service.

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Image courtesy of NBT Natural Building Technologies at Flickr.com

Customer Service in the Supply Chain

Customer service is everywhere along the supply chain, it affects the way it begins when products are sold to the customer and it is there when products are delivered. Through the processes of manufacturing, distributing and selling the finished goods, companies should focus their efforts on supply an excellent assistance to their clients, answering their questions and counting on their feedback to improve their operations

Companies should measure the way customers respond to their service and the way those numbers affect their sales. It is very likely that companies with better customer service along their supply chain will have better sales than those who barely care about their relationship with their clients. Understanding this concept will help you to be more competitive.

Voice of the Customer

The term Voice of the Customer (VoC) is related to what customers have to say about our service. Counting on this feedback allows companies to improve their customer service experience making the necessary changes to please customers. This changes immediately affect the company’s profitability thanks to sales rising numbers.

Customers who give feedback are not only those outside the company. There are inside customers who are often more important than those from outside since they are the ones taking care of our business. The VoC process is related to being proactive and innovative, for this reason, it is vital to listen to inside customers’ opinions and what they believe should be different inside the company.

There are different ways to listen to the Voice of the Customer. Companies can use surveys, focus groups, interviews, observation methods, stored data from warranties and complaint reports, among other alternatives. The most important issue here is to actually listen to what is being said about your product and the service provided behind the purchase.

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