Consumer & Supply Chain

In an article on Demand Media, Scott Thompson says “Consumers in the past usually had no influence on the supply chain, because they didn’t know anything about it. A consumer who ordered a pair of shoes would have no idea where those shoes were made, who made them, under what conditions or when to expect delivery. Now that consumers have ready access to information on all these topics, they have gained unprecedented influence over supply chain management” (Thompson, 2016)

From production to consumption and from order placement to delivery everyone is a customer and hence a logical conclusion can be made that the customer is at the centre of all our transactions in business. When a hospital considers investing in a cancer treatment centre, it is not that the hospital management are driven by a sense of corporate social responsibility; they have carefully considered the trends of lifestyle in a country and they have seen that their investment will pay off quite well.

There is no better than the agriculture industry to show us the centrality of the customer in the supply chain from feasibility study to procurement to launching and even to multiplication of the same.

With the advent of agricultural technology such as green houses, hydroponics and such, what is planted is driven more by demand than by the weather. In the savannah where people thought that shrubs were the only green to be found, many are eating drought resistant produce that has been grown in these terrains. As a ripple effect, a dictation of the customer at the point of sowing the seed means that the customer will definitely put a demand on the speed of delivering the end product to the table. This demand has its good and bad side, but today we concentrate on how to make good of the demand without taking sides. We do this by asking a very simple question.

What do we need to address to make sure that the demand by the customer keep the supply chain clean and reliable?

Information availability

The customer in the 21st century has little patience. Compounded by lack of information, this impatience normally results in what is interpreted as bad customer service. Customers seek to know real time when an order they have placed will be ready, when they should come in for a review of the process, how fast the loan will be processed, and even a step by step guidance of the end result they are expecting.

Companies are therefore left with little choice than to keep abreast with means of getting the necessary information to their customers. The information should also be specific and accurate, and this calls for detailed “Know-Your-Customer” records and models to be applied in the business.

Application of technology

Agricultural practices of the 1940s, 50s and 60s can inform but cannot have the tremendous practices of the 21st century. The same can be extended to many other sectors and it is important that every business equips itself well enough to remain relevant with all the disruptive technology around us. Photography, masonry, woodwork, glasswork, sewing, knitting, weaving, lawn mowing, lumbering, and many more skills-based types of work may seem to face little disruptive technology, but they still are affected and those that don’t adopt technology and/ or ICT are bound to struggle as generations become more and more adaptive to changes and easier ways of doing things.

Reinventing sustainable practices

Every great business stands because of some good habits that allow for sustainable performance. Every small business that seeks to grow past year 3 must build a culture of good practices right from the start. However, with each generation, comes a demand for/ of change that accommodates convenience. In Europe, Middle East and the Americas, mobile banking is the in-thing. A new bank that doesn’t have flexible banking options will be in for a big surprise with very little, if any, clientele. In Africa today, mobile banking is quickly catching on. Security of information, transactions, and the money itself must be assured and reassured as more customers adopt it. It is not one institution that has found itself caught off guard with online losses of customers’ money. The level of difficulty that one may face while accessing your physical assets, should be the minimum that one faces when trying to access your digital assets. Reinvent, make it easy to be your customer but safeguard what has kept you successful.

Relationships

In a recent meeting, a banker shared that banks have now invested more in relationship managers than tellers. Customers are now more than ever being pushed into online or mobile banking leaving tellers less occupied. Relationship managers now have targets that include new business generation, existing account activity and such like measures that are directly influenced by the kind of relationship that the customer maintains with the bank.

It is relationships between farmers and seed or fertilizer companies that determine a good produce and trusted returns. A field officer who understands that farmers in his region grow bananas sold to the international airlines will do well to equip himself with information on the quality of fruit. He will do even better to train his farmers and recommend the right inputs for a bounty harvest. The relationship of trust built therein is neither one that is out rightly quantifiable nor one that is easily replaceable.

Whatever the place of your company in the supply chain, customers will be best served in an efficient way that leaves most, if not all, players benefiting greatly.

References

Thompson, S. (2016, January 31). consumers-affect-supplychain- management-81664.html. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/ consumers-affect-supply-chain-management-81664.html

For more information on how to grow your customers by improving your processes we recommend the book

“Creating Competitive Advantage: Give Customers a Reason to Choose You Over Your Competitors

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