Logistics and Customer Engagement
Logistics and Distribution work is often seen as a behind the scenes role. A baseline necessity that is taken for granted. Rarely does it get the glory of winning business that sales routine is given. The truth is Logistics and Distribution work is on the front line of customer engagement. The logistics teams at many supply chain organizations have a more intimate and consistent relationship with customers than sales or customer service. From the deliver to the packaging to services performed logistics employees interact with customers on a daily and hourly basis.
Drivers Lead the Way
The delivery of goods ends up being the most common and one of the more important customer touch points. Particularly in a B2B environment where the delivery driver is not outsourced deliver service (UPS/FedEx) the driver can be a key window into the customers. Frequent deliveries create a routine with a customer and can lead to a close friendship. Delivery drivers also don’t have the same sort of “corporate” stigma that a sales rep has and are often seen as part of a customer’s network. In some contexts even living as neighbors in the same area. A friendly and helpful driver is essential to maintaining a committed customer.
More than a Box
The box a product is delivered in may not appear to produce a critical human interaction but it can be just a critical. The execution of your innerpack, shipping packaging & delivery mechanism needs to be presentable to a customers. Apple computers for example is known for their highly thought out but simple packaging. It helps support their brand as being a design oriented company. Not every step in the supply chain has to be as elegant as Apple but it is critical that your deliver have some intentionality. This might mean evaluating your shipping labels (both what is on them & how they are applied) or the way a pallet is stacked and shrink wrapped. All of this is important so that an unintentional opinion isn’t created about your organizations brand.
While customer service generally owns the customer interaction on returns, it is critical that logistics/operations play a foundation role. Organizations should have a role or at least a “thought leader” to design ones reverse logistics process to avoid needless and potentially expensive delays. The last thing you want is an unhappy customer becoming more unhappy because you failed to quickly resolve a problem. In fact, a quick resolution of a return/damage can sometime improve your brand and customer relationship.
Services and Solutions
One of the more exciting areas where logistics interacts with a customer and can play a strategic role is in the area of added value services. These are services that in general are given away for free or at a reduced rate. The goal is to complement, enhance or enable the purchase of ones main product line. Think about play zones at your local McDonalds. McDonald gives these away for free to enhance the sales of happy meals. Added value services can take transition a happy customer to a life long customer. They generally grow out of witnessing some reoccurring need across a population of customers.
An example of an added value service could be breaking down a shipment in a certain way, doing a desktop deliver (inter-facility delivery), or offering technology to manage the reordering process. In very lean supply chains it is common for the supplier to even manage the reordering of goods for the customer. A vendor manage inventory situation can be very beneficial to both the supplier and customer.
Logistics is far from a behind the scenes function. A good logistics department is highly engaged with customers. This engagement can even lead to developments in the capabilities of an organization. This evolution can in some cases shift the company into new products or services that are sold. Logistics needs to be at the forefront of listening, reacting, and predicting the needs of a customers