Intelligent Technologies, Happy Customers: How To Use Data To Put Your Customers First


If there’s one thing Supply Chain Leaders around the world can all agree on, it’s that customer satisfaction is key. According to SAP research, 33% of Leaders said it was a top three strategic goal for their business.

This seems as straight forward an ambition as any – but the road to a happy customer base is far from smooth, especially when Supply Chain Leaders face an unprecedented amount of challenges. With pressure from innovative competitors to maintain customer satisfaction and cope with the evolving aftermath of COVID-19, the need for businesses to keep an eye on new trends and rising expectations is greater than ever.

The key, some believe, is to create a customer-centric organisation. Fortunately, Supply Chain Leaders are in a better position than most to achieve this. Having an all-encompassing view of the lifecycle of a customer’s purchase, they’re better able to identify where businesses may be falling short – which may be why two thirds of Supply Chain Leaders say that meeting customer demand has actually grown easier over the past three years. It’s not enough to simply pinpoint areas of friction in the process, businesses need to be able to quickly act on their predictions for them to have value. But how? The answer is real-time data.

Follow the Leaders

From increased resilience to better supply chain visibility and seamless collaboration with other businesses and suppliers, there’s so much to be gained from having a handle on your data – and you may soon discover that your supply chain isn’t quite as simple or efficient as you think. Supply Chain Leaders are more likely than others to say their manufacturing processes, sustainability metrics, geographic footprint and quality control measures are highly complex. Part of their success against the odds might be down to the sophisticated methods deployed to collect the data. Over half use AI and predictive analytics to capture insights, freeing up valuable time and making data collection both more efficient and reliable.

However, their success can also be attributed to what they’ve done with the data. Over 80% of Leaders say they’ve been successful in breaking down organisational slices across the entire product value chain to flatten their complicated processes – a development that tends to go hand-in-hand with improved internal functions and better collaboration. With fewer stages to go through, the flow of information becomes streamlined. This gives companies the ability to be more agile in the way they approach sudden issues. As a result, evidence-based decisions can be made a lot faster, and their positive effects will ripple through the supply chain much quicker.

So, Supply Chain Leaders are doing a fantastic job of simplifying their organisation but the need for improvement persists. Most Supply Chain Leaders reported having greater visibility than other types of business, but few said they had full transparency. With self-confessed more complex processes, it’s crucial for Leaders to maintain visibility of their suppliers and sub-suppliers in order to reduce their exposure to supply chain risks. The same goes for supplier sustainability practices in particular, which 78% cited as an important area to have visibility over, but just under one quarter claimed to have achieved. So, what should Leaders be doing to further aid their mission of supply chain simplicity and putting the customer first?

Futureproofing the chain

Leaders are an innovative bunch. They overwhelmingly ranked using automation to perform routine tasks as a top strategic goal, and all of the Leaders surveyed have deployed intelligent technologies at scale in their supply chains, from IoT (76%) to Big Data and predictive analytics (64%). It’s no surprise when you consider the benefits. Of Leaders using RPA, 88% say it helps them to deliver a customer-centric experience, while just under that said their use of Big Data increased both visibility and flexibility.

And if that isn’t enough, the extra time and income saved by letting intelligent technologies handle this complicated process can then be reinvested in other initiatives. Take pharmaceutical supplier GSK, for example, whose use of real-time data analytics enabled them to release that cash back into the business for reinvestment in their factories and other areas.

Data-driven organisations are always better equipped to react quickly to unforeseen events due to their increased supply chain visibility. There is no easier way to gain accurate insights and discover how best to act on them in order to create a more customer-centric organisation. And with the possibility of these technologies being able to suggest solutions to predicted issues on the horizon, Leaders can secure themselves an efficient, prosperous future by investing in innovation today. But the main reward can be reaped a lot sooner: an instant, fact-based roadmap of where to make impactful changes in your business.

Discover how real businesses are using intelligent technologies to manage the complexity of their supplier chain in our free eBook, Surviving and Thriving: How Supply Chain Leaders minimise risk and maximise opportunities.

This article was originally featured on SAP BrandVoice, Forbes.