‘Customer experience is becoming the most important factor in supply chain success’

Customer experience will soon be the most important factor for a successful supply chain – even more important than low costs, according to six out of ten supply chain professionals. They ranked it as the number one brand differentiator in the coming years, putting it ahead of price and product in a recent global survey commissioned by software vendor BluJay Solutions looking at the current trends, priorities and investments in the chain. The findings of this annual study are published in a report called ‘Focus on Customer Experience’.

The research was done in conjunction with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and conducted by Adelante SCM. In total, 61% of the respondents believe that customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important brand differentiator in the next five years. Besides that, the aim to deliver an enhanced customer experience is named as the main driver for supply chain innovation, putting it ahead of the aim to reduce costs.

However, there is a notable difference between how large and small companies view the importance of customer experience. More large companies (31%) than small companies (18%) do not believe that customer experience will become the number one brand differentiator over the next five years. This can indicate that smaller companies view customer experience as a more effective way to compete against their larger peers than on price alone.

Real-time visibility for better customer experience

In terms of investment areas, 22% say they will invest the most in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. This is closely followed by visibility (21%) and transport (16%). Real-time visibility appears to be a very key investment area for shippers and logistics service providers. The respondents also regard this as one of the most relevant supply chain capabilities for delivering an enhanced customer experience.

Furthermore, the survey reveals that companies that have electronic connectivity with their trading partners achieve better supply chain performance. Electronic data exchange (EDI) and e-mail are the two most common ways of sharing information with trading partners, but application programming interfaces (APIs) are gaining ground, especially among ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’.

There is still room for improvement in data quality, say the respondents. Poor-quality data is a barrier to transparency in the supply chain, leading to lost revenue, higher transport costs, excess stock and lower customer satisfaction. According to BluJay, these findings underline the need for companies to clearly define the roles and responsibilities around data quality and to start viewing data as a valuable asset that is worthy of investment.

Supply chain innovation needs management support

Many respondents regard a lack of upper management support as a barrier to supply chain innovation. In fact, it is the biggest barrier for ‘laggards’ and ‘late majority’ companies (scoring 23%, compared with 10% among ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’). According to BluJay, these results illustrate how important it is for supply chain managers to maintain a dialogue with their upper management.