If customers weren’t familiar with the supply chain pre-Covid, they’re well-versed in it now — at least in terms of how it affects their daily lives. Before the pandemic, shipping wasn’t perfect, but it certainly didn’t have hiccups that made the news. Two years later, the supply chain seems to be all anybody can talk about. According to Gartner, 83% of companies now demand that supply chains improve customer experience (CX) as part of the digital business strategy. Furthermore, B2B and B2C companies that implement innovative CX strategies are three times more likely to substantially outperform their business goals, per Adobe.
So, how can supply chain leaders leverage CX to help mitigate issues, align with overarching business goals, and improve customer retention — even in the midst of shortages and delays?
Let’s take a look.
Bring back the human factor
Lack of control over delivery time and low supply inventories may be due to global affairs, but customers aren’t thinking about this. Instead, they’re focused on how it affects them and their personal lives. According to Salesforce, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. Providing outstanding CX and becoming customer-centric can help alleviate some, if not all, of the stress and irritation associated with supply chain issues.
This starts with business leaders remembering that they’re selling to people; whether it’s B2B or B2C, there are humans behind every purchase and every brand. Instead of adding an AI chatbot to your site, have customer service reps use messaging platforms where they can communicate with customers in real time. Many buyers still prefer to communicate via phone, and when they can’t reach a person, their frustration only grows. Supply chain leaders should look to include several touchpoints for human-first communication, which brings us to our next point.
Overcommunicate and be transparent
When delays are inevitable, buyers will be disappointed, but supply chain leaders can help shift this tone to a more positive one through clear and consistent communication. Need some incentive to improve customer communication? According to a recent Forrester report, customers are 2.4 times more likely to stay when companies solve problems quickly — and nearly three times more likely to spend more when brands communicate clearly.
The best way to mitigate adverse reactions and retain customers is to remind them that they have support throughout every step of the journey, especially when things aren’t going as planned. Automated emails will not cut it; messages about orders, including deliveries and delays should, again, be personalized and tailored for each individual buyer. It’s imperative to provide helpful information such as the reason for the delay and tracking information if/when possible. Companies should also demonstrate data history and trends, and forecast what customers might expect in the short, medium, and long term.
Set realistic expectations
When there’s a significant disconnect from the time it takes to place an order to the length of the delivery time, customers get upset. Think about it like this: if it only takes 5 to 10 minutes to submit an order, how many people will have the patience for a weeks-long delivery window? If a product can’t be delivered in time to meet increasingly high customer expectations, communicate that from the very start before the order is placed. This can be achieved by placing the estimated delivery date directly on the product page, rather than making the customer go through the entire order process before being able to obtain delivery information.
Simplify the return process
It’s no longer enough to offer customers free returns; the process should also be free of frustration. Many brands will make the customer navigate through the company’s website, searching for the return policy only to discover they have to do all the work. This often includes firing up the printer (assuming they even have one), downloading, printing, and securing the label to the package — and then driving it to a specific location for drop-off. Instead, make things easy and increase customer confidence by including a return shipping label with the product.
The rapid shift in supply chain dynamics can be frustrating at times, but it also provides a unique opportunity for organizations to take a new approach in how they implement CX strategies across the entire business. Providing customers with exceptional experiences will not magically fill inventory or remedy shipping delays, but it will certainly help improve ROI and retention.