To the consumer, a company's success hinges on only a few points— product quality naturally, customer service and reliable shipping speed. Fulfillment services affect two of those three, making them a key component to customer satisfaction. Murky or disconnected fulfillment chains disrupt not only smooth workflows but customer perception as well. Data visualization, on the other hand, clears the clouds and provides companies with vital top-down views of their fulfillment operations, allowing real time assessments, highlighting weak points and much more.
Where Is My Order?
A customer that's willing to call or contact your customer service department won't want to hear when an order 'left the warehouse' or a wide range of dates when it is 'expected' to arrive. If your employees have access to the tied-in data from a logistics provider, they can track the shipment and give an extremely accurate answer— the type of attention to detail that brings customers back.
As Legacy Supply Chain Services advises in a whitepaper for SupplyChain247, proper contextualization of your data feeds will not only help with answering these spot questions, but will also give you the tools to hone your shipment approaches to prevent impatient questions in the first place. Logistics information, in particular, will also assist with mitigating lost or misdirected shipments from fulfillment services, improving in-house operations as well.
Where Are You Needed?
Social media has given driven businesses an unprecedented ability to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer and industry habits, and with that oversight comes the ability to forecast where trends are blooming, currently traveling and where they're fading into the sunset.
Visua.ly points out a case of an unlikely marriage of operational and logistics efficiency and a children's movie—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles— by highlighting how social media was used to forecast where shipments of branded merchandise needed to be, based on social media "chatter." This same method can easily be extrapolated to different industries, and even used as an ad hoc method of determining how pervasive a competitor is among stockists in an area. Visualization that ties product keywords to 'need' words will help narrow focus on likely targets for product promotions and spotlights.
What Are Your Vendors Providing?
Those in business know that the end product is only part of the 'package' being provided. Price, promotion and especially place comprise the other three sides of the marketing square. If your supply chain vendors aren't offering you this information, you may need to consider if they're truly serving your company's needs.
Partnering with a vendor who, for example, delivers end-to-end tracking, with no "holes" as a shipment is loaded into a barge or rural carrier, is sometimes worth a bump in cost over a more affordable vendor that lacks this ability. In fact, Lora Cecere explains in an article for Forbes that visibility and tracking is becoming increasingly vital as supply chain outsourcing becomes commonplace. The need for visibility doesn't necessarily mean that you need to swap vendors, but if you're struggling with shipment holes, it may be time to discuss a revised set of expectations with your current material or logistics providers.
Fulfillment services, customer interactions, efficiency plans— all of these are dependent on having not only current data, but the systems to process, compare and contrast it. Visibility should be considered a corporate goal alongside fill rates, shipment times and inventory targeting— treating it with the proper amount of respect and forethought will reward your company with the data it needs to leave competitors in the dust.
Whether your current visibility isn't all it could be, or you're already behind in initially formulating and implementing it, devote some time into cleaning off your business' most important lens in order to see the big picture.