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Arkansas State University

Keys to Customer Service in Supply Chain Management

Customers’ needs and expectations are driving tectonic changes as supply chain management transitions to customer-centric models. These models, in turn, are creating new career opportunities for professionals with expertise in technology-driven customer service.

The trend toward using customer service to create and optimize agile, resilient supply chains began over a decade ago as the technology changed the way consumers and business partners placed their orders and interacted with suppliers.

Then, when governments shut down international commerce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually every facet of the global supply chain faced disruptions that affected every industry, from empty grocery shelves to vacant hotel rooms. 

Those disruptions also created record levels of buyer engagement with customer service, which KPMG states is the foundation of the supply chain of tomorrow: “Supply chain management is no longer about reducing cost: it’s about service differentiation, increasing market share, even driving revenues as a growing number of customers buy into value-added, premium fulfillment options.”

Are Customer-Centric Supply Chain Models Creating Career Opportunities?

The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) notes that the impact of pandemic-related disruptions left businesses worldwide unable to meet consumer demand, forcing them to modify their supply chains and renegotiate vendor contracts or find new suppliers.

Those factors are building demand for supply chain management professionals, it says. As a result, there is a predicted 11% growth in the profession throughout the decade. “The future looks bright, and if your education is applicable in the field, you’d better wear shades,” according to the SCM educational resource and certification trainer.

Business professionals with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Supply Chain Management can gain a competitive advantage in the high-demand, low-supply senior management and executive roles. The program offered online by Arkansas State University (A-State), for instance, prepares graduates for those roles through coursework in business analytics, statistics, strategic management, project management and other areas that support the adoption of customer-centric supply chain models.

How Does Customer Service Improve Supply Chain Operations?

Technology is the link that connects customer service and supply chain management. Agile companies use data generated by customer service interactions to drive artificial intelligence that simplifies the buyer experience from ordering through delivery.

Supply & Demand Chain Executive notes several ways the integration of customer and supply chain management improves the buyer experience. Among others, those improvements:

  • Enable service teams to track orders through the logistics chain and keep customers apprised
  • Establish a unified customer experience across subsidiaries
  • Support collaboration between service, fulfillment and shipping to ensure aspects like customized packaging and deliveries meet customer expectations

In fact, Supply & Demand Chain Executive notes customer service is an integral part of the supply chain: “The supply chain is only complete when the product has reached the customer. As such, it is from customer service that the company gets to hear from the customer,” it notes.

How Does Customer Service Improve Supply Chain Operations?

A Qualtrix XM Institute survey of 23,000 consumers in 23 countries in 2021 found that eight of 10 respondents said they wanted a better customer experience, naming customer service and support as the second main cause of dissatisfaction only behind pricing and fees, according to a Magzter analysis of the data.

That dissatisfaction costs businesses worldwide $4.7 trillion as customers find other suppliers to meet their expectations. On the other hand, companies that provide superior customer experience are nearly four times more likely to keep buyers — who are five times more likely to recommend them.

Supply chain breakdowns that generate increasing levels of customer service engagement will continue to plague companies until they coordinate their service and logistics.

“In the face of supply chain issues and labour shortages, businesses are struggling to keep up with the know-how, infrastructure and people to respond. The result? The gap between what customers expect and what companies actually deliver is bigger than ever,” according to the online news media aggregator.

Learn more about A-State’s online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Supply Chain Management program.

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