Customer enablement offers supply chain orgs a pipeline to increased revenue

Gartner survey finds organizations focused on enablement are more likely to garner repeat customers

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Customers always come first, but without customer service, there are no customers. A survey released on Tuesday by Gartner has found that less than one-quarter of supply chain organizations have adopted customer enablement to the extent necessary to truly put the customer first.

Gartner surveyed 650 supply chain leaders across geography and industry from August to October 2022 for its flagship Future of Supply Chain report. It found that only 23% currently emphasize customer enablement. Those that do are twice as likely to receive repurchase orders compared to peers that merely focus on customer satisfaction or ease.

“The survey data showed that high-performing supply chain organizations are capturing competitive advantage and have capabilities at operational rates often twice as high compared to their lower performing peers,” said Jennifer Loveland, senior director analyst with Gartner’s Supply Chain practice. “These high performing teams have also succeeded in retaining the respect of the C-Suite; 72% are viewed as strategic partners at a time when perception of supply chain management’s importance has declined back to pre-pandemic levels at most organizations.”

Customer enablement is often referred to as the processes and strategies employed by companies to provide an improved customer experience. This includes supporting customers with the tools, training and resources to use the company’s products or services.

Enablement adoption rate likely to be high

The survey identified four areas that fit into supply chain strategic plans. Those are: commercial innovation, sustainability, real-time execution and human-centric work design. Gartner was encouraged by the amount of responses that indicated future adoption of these areas. Between 80% and 90% of respondents said they plan to adopt key components of these areas.

The survey went on to identify high-performing supply chain organizations by the ability to exceed expectation on eight distinct measures, including customer experience, stakeholder expectations and business performance.

Customer enablement fits into the commercial innovation, and Loveland noted how high-performing supply chains are at the forefront in this area.

“Commercial innovation requires that there is no one-size-fits-all customer experience across the supply chain and no one-size-fits every interaction for a specific customer,” she said.

Top performers gain competitive edge

Gartner went on to note that traditional thinking dictates customers fall into high, medium or low value segments and that was used as a way to differentiated supply chain service. But, customer enablement is taking that to another level, and top performers are gaining a competitive edge in doing so.

Enablement looks at the customer through more lenses than the traditional cost, lead time and availability that determined how organizations deployed supply chain resources to each order. Progressive companies are offering their supply chain capabilities “as a service” to others, in a consolidated service menu view, and through operating model modularity and flexibility.

Organizations do agree on the challenges facing the reinvention of the supply chain, regardless of their performance level. Both high and low performing organizations said operational challenges and lack of fund limits their ability to differentiate the supply chain experience.

Gartner noted that switching to a “cost-to-serve” model can help align supply chain costs to service choices, rather than to functions. This will lead to better transparency and increases the ability to fund new commercial innovation strategies.

“All organizations can start now to build a service menu that captures the current options available where customers interact with their supply chain,” said Loveland. “Rapid innovation to expand that service menu captures an earlier mover advantage, while ongoing innovation in specific categories such as supply chain as a service (SCaaS) offer opportunities for advantage even beyond five years.”

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About the Author

Brian Straight, SCMR Editor in Chief
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Brian Straight is the Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered trucking, logistics and the broader supply chain for more than 15 years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He can be reached at [email protected], @TruckingTalk, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 774-440-3870.

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