Improving customer experience is top of mind for supply management organizations. “Everyone wants to improve the customer experience because it’s revenue,” says Gary Neights, senior director of product management at Wayne, Pennsylvania-based Elemica, a digital supply network for manufacturers, their distribution networks, and customers.

It’s especially critical in multistage supply chains, where manufacturers sell to other manufacturers or via distributors. “A metric that’s very important to the customer experience is on-time, in-full metric,” he says. “For example, if a customer orders 100 boxes to be delivered two weeks from now, the customer doesn’t want it three weeks from now with a delivery of only 50 boxes. So, a basic element of customer experience is delivering what you say you’re going to deliver. The last thing you want to do is shut down your customers’ manufacturing operations, disrupt their schedule or have excess material blocking their plant or warehouse.”

Building a favorable customer experience also pertains to:

Product quality. “It’s imperative to make sure that the delivered product meets the customer’s quality standards,” Neights says. For the manufacturer, ensuring product quality can touch other parts of the business, including the manufacturing process, inbound supply and supplier relationships.

The customer’s perception of how the process is working for them. “If customers call and get a rude customer-service representative, that’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouth, even if they get high-quality product on-time, and in full,” Neights says. “So, the feeling a customer gets from the experience is important as well.”

Convenience and ease of use. One trend is increasing connectivity between systems, not just internally but between companies, he says: “An increasing number of customers, when they buy products, want to be able to operate using automated purchasing systems, rather than having to manually call or fax orders. Such technology makes it as if the companies are interconnected. For example, if I as a manufacturing manager realize that, based on my manufacturing schedule, I need more of a raw material, I enter that into my system and that order will be in the supplier’s system right away. Everything is operating in the background.”

Such interconnectivity allows for 24/7 order processing and an improved customer experience, Neights says: “Let’s say your customer-service representatives work 9 to 5. If an order comes in at 6 p.m. Friday night, no one is there (to take or process the order). The customer must then remember to go back and place the order at 9 a.m. Monday. That’s not a good customer experience. But if through technology, the process can flow in automatically 24/7, that’s a better customer experience.”

And that customer experience can be even more improved by the supplier sending back a confirmation that the order was received and with a delivery status update, he notes.

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