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Who Are These ‘New Customers’ and What Do They Have To Do with My Supply Chain?

iStock/Maksim Kamyshanskii
  • Companies want to make their supply chains more resilient and transparent.
  • A new report urges them to not lose sight of their most important stakeholders.

You are probably very busy these days, what with improving your supply chain operations to withstand future shocks, amid myriad other tasks. But you definitely should pause to remember a key stakeholder whose expectations have changed considerably in recent years: the customer. Whatever you do, you don’t want to spend all this time and effort in service of a type of customer who might not even exist anymore.

The Digital Supply Chain Institute (DSCI) and Bain & Co. say their new survey of supply chain executives uncovered plenty of recent disruption that has changed companies’ priorities and shaken their leaders’ level of confidence. One key finding was that many companies are trying to move their supply bases closer to their customers. That is an important step toward better serving both B2B and B2C customers.

“No one believes that we will ever return to the supply chains that we built in the past,” George Bailey, DSCI executive director and chief research officer, blogged in Forbes this week. “Instead, we will have more flexible, resilient supply chains that serve the ‘new customer’ in a way that increases revenue as well as reduces cost, mitigates the effects of unforeseen events and improves new customer loyalty and happiness.”

The “new customer,” you could say, is someone with a much higher set of expectations. Samuel J. Palmisano, chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise, once said this customer “expects your supply chain to marry deep knowledge of their needs with a rigorous approach to operational execution.”

The average consumer, of course, probably doesn’t think in terms of “operational execution.” However, think of how expectations have changed toward something as mundane as getting a lift: You expect to be able to track the location of your rideshare vehicle and know exactly when it will arrive and who is behind the wheel. The “old customer” would have been resigned to waiting almost indefinitely for the cab she had called while the anonymous driver was off somewhere finishing his donut and coffee.

DSCI and Bain, in their new report “Supply Chain Resiliency Executive Survey Results,” offer these recommendations to companies currently rethinking and reworking their supply chains:

  • Increase your focus on customer satisfaction.
  • Create scenarios for a range of possible changes in demand.
  • Select new locations based on whether they create better value for customers.
  • Improve supplier visibility through the use of shared technologies such as blockchain.

“We can and need to build an extensive new supply chain framework based on the new customer — a customer who wants something different from the typical supply chain; a customer that values resiliency and expects favorable and transparent prices,” Bailey summarized in his blog.

More suggestions and findings from the survey can be found here.


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