We all know and understand that the ultimate objective has to be the delivery of excellent customer service to our final customer and the potential consequences when we fail. To reduce the risk of this happening we have to have an embedded customer service culture throughout the supply chain. This article will attempt to provide you with an understanding of how we can achieve this objective.
What do we mean by ‘Everyone Has a Customer’ within the supply chain?
The delivery to the end customer is the final link in what is very often a very long and complex chain. This all starts with the very first person who begins the entire process. For example, a product buyer may be the start of the chain and their customer will be the next person in the process, who receives the product into the warehouse and so on right up to the final person who delivers the end product to the customer. However, there are often other major support links that may not always seem obvious. An example of this could be the maintenance person who changes that broken light which enables the driver to load their vehicle
If our chain becomes broken at any stage it will have an impact on the next customer and also possibly the end customer.
What can we do to reduce the risk of this happening?
As a starting point we need to identify all our internal suppliers and customers within the chain. We then need to ascertain from the customer what, in their view, are the key targets to be achieved by their supplier. This could be something as simple as ‘if I don’t receive your paperwork by noon this results in me releasing my orders late and this then caused the delivery vehicle to also be late’.
It is often the case that an internal supplier does not always have an appreciation of the impact that not meeting their customer’s key targets has on them and potentially the rest of the supply chain. When they do become aware of and understand this, improvements are often made. This is frequently the case when two separate departments come into contact with each other.
Organisations that are very successful at this have very strong lines of internal communication including frequent performance meetings between the suppliers and customers. They fully accept that we do not live in a perfect world and despite all the planning we make things do go wrong. The most important thing that should be taken from these situations is that we treat them as opportunities for continuous improvement and take all reasonable actions to prevent a re-occurrence.
One of the major factors identified when things have gone wrong is a breakdown in communication so we should develop systems that reduce the risk of this happening.
Implementing a successful culture of ‘Everyone has a Customer’ into the supply chain requires the full commitment and understanding of everyone, however, when this is achieved the risk of not delivering the required standard of customer service to the end customer is greatly reduced and the business will benefit.