Supply Chain Discussion: Introducing the Customer Channel
Most supply chain professionals are familiar with the term omnichannel fulfillment. Put simply omnichannel fulfillment is a strategy where businesses use multiple selling channels to fulfill and distribute customer orders. In the above conversation, we are introduced to the concept of the customer channel.
The grocery industry has been working to enable omnichannel fulfillment over the past 10 years, in line with customers’ growing preference for shopping in multiple channels. The omnichannel tried to accommodate that trend, but it ended up “encasing” multiple processes — e-commerce, store operations and the supply chain — with technology applications.
The “customer channel,” by contrast, seeks to eliminate the distinction between various shopping methods and focuses exclusively on what the customer wants and needs. This is according to Randy Evins from SAP in the above conversation.
“They become the channel, and then that drives the rest of the process.”
Evins describes five “pillars of work” that are within the customer channel: a single view of the business, customer trust, personalized experience, unified commerce, and digitized supply chains. The first and last pillars combine to help retailers stock inventory that shoppers desire, regardless of where they’re shopping.
Under the old, and in most cases current, way of handling orders, a truck arriving late at a warehouse might be turned away. If a business is able to successfully implement the “customer channel” mentality, this wouldn’t happen: The warehouse manager “won’t risk not receiving the truck because it has a customer order on it,” Evins says.
Unlike today, where service levels are the measure, he says. “The goal is 100% customer satisfaction. That’s a different paradigm. Most supply chain folks don’t think that way.”
This requires changing the mindset of supply chain managers so that they’re no longer focused on receiving, moving and shipping boxes. “You’re creating a customer service experience inside of your business process. That’s not what they do today.”