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Mark Healing from the Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Australia explains why keeping certain interactions with customers to a minimum is an important skill for supply chain practitioners. 

As an operational Supply Chain practitioner, I often suggest that if we do our job right, we are invisible to our customer base. If we do not, they want to know every step of our process and why. The customer’s expectation is that their goods or services are available when and how they want them. Sometimes, that expectation is based on a specified scope and timings or alternatively, an implied understanding built on repetition, trust and relationships.

In other words, our customer’s level of expectation is intrinsic in our everyday dealings with them. 

How does the “invisible” happen? Through:

  • Interaction with the customer. 
  • Working with them, understanding, clarifying, specifying and recording their needs.
  • Understanding the individuals within their team technically, personally and emotionally. 
  • Mutually agreeing on an outcome.
  • The kicker here, is that it must be workable for you as well.

I witnessed an example of this on a recent vacation in Far North Queensland. My wife and I needed to be collected from Cairns Train Station for our Trip to Kuranda on the Sky rail. I watched the bus driver: 

  •  Arrive a few minutes prior to arranged time.
  • Greet all passengers and tick them off his list.
  • Call ahead to other passengers being collected and suggest they make their way to their collection point.
  • Advise passengers of all the next steps whilst driving to the next collection point.
  •  Collect three other groups along the way whilst battling traffic and fielding general questions. 
  • Communicate with Sky Rail Station as to how many passengers he had and his estimated time of arrival.

Answer all questions and provide extra information on where to sit and what to expect so as passengers would get a better experience once on board the Sky Rail.

We arrived at the Sky Rail Station, the driver’s colleagues met and directed us to our respective cable cars via the ticket booths, and within minutes we were sitting in the cable car enjoying the view. Expectations met and exceeded!

This is just a simple example of managing customer expectations as well as streamlining your internal process. Most of the passengers were oblivious to the driver’s skill of seamlessly making it happen with the minimum of fuss – invisible!

I was impressed in the way the driver set some of these expectations with his imparting of information. The customer at times does not know what they may want or need. This is where the intrinsic knowledge you have of your customer base and your product can add value to their expectation. This will also reinforce the relationship with them and provide an avenue for return business with them.

So, I challenge you – what is your “invisible”? These may be hard to recall as you are doing them that well you don’t even know you are doing them! Now that you’ve done that, it is the “visible” that I would like you to concentrate on.

Be brave and reach out to your customer and establish where you are not meeting their expectation and only then, respectfully share where they aren’t meeting yours. Rest assured you will be working on the “visible” continuously, but I can assure you that if your customer is aware of your interest, they will reward you with the detail to enable these to become just another part of your “invisible”.

For more information on the SCLAA, click here.

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