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Peak Season: When Customer Focus Matters Most for Supply Chain

Anshul Singh | 22 November 2021

It’s no surprise that peak season is no longer just Black Friday. The ecommerce and retail markets have changed to show increased demand throughout the year. That increase means added focus on supply chain quality and efficiencies.  Material handling automation and software solutions can help offer answers across industries to tasks like picking and packing, manufacturing, on-site storage, product movement, and so much more.

As markets change and adjust, even during this traditional holiday peak season companies are striving to win over current and potential customers. Customer trust is key and maintaining that makes a big difference on customer success. This starts with building an internal culture that is customer focused, building lasting partnerships through teamwork, collaboration and trust.

I reflect back on a dark and somber chapter in India history. On November 26, 2008, India’s financial capital was plagued by a series of terrorist attacks when 10 heavily armed extremists carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai (aka Bombay). Not a single employee left the grounds of the Taj Mahal Hotel. Instead, they banded together to protect the customers. They had a strong sense of loyalty to the company and a sense of responsibility to the customers. The series of events that unfolded at Taj hotel prompted Harvard to conduct a formal research on the incident because of the standout employee response to protect customers.

While the Taj incident was a severe scenario it highlights a culture that looked beyond metrics. To put this into cultural context, India is a country where people are almost obsessed about grades, but here is an organization that is doing just the opposite. Their customer-centric culture looked at character. These types of social characteristics stretch beyond positive internal impacts and carries over to positively impact customers.

5 Customer-Focused Elements that Can Make a Difference in Supply Chain  

1. Recruit for Character  Contrary to popular perception, it’s not important to scout for the best speakers or math whizzes. We don't have to necessarily look for students who have the highest grades. We can recruit for traits like empathy because that kind of underlying value is sometimes hard to teach. Developing relationships with local schools, asking the leaders of those schools to hand-select prospective candidates based on three-character traits: respect and empathy, cheerfulness, and motivation.

2. Traditional Human Values for Recruitment Focus on traditional human values while recruiting. Tasks and operations can be taught on-site, but you cannot train humility, respect and honesty. These values don’t only come to light internally with other colleagues but also if and when employees interact with customers or distributors. That positive attitude and customer empathy can make for easier resolutions to challenges and can go a long way to leave a lasting impression. Challenges are sure to arise at some point or another, but it’s how you handle them that matters.

3. Dismiss “We’ve Always Done it This Way” – Consider employee candidates and opportunities for improvement outside of the usual scope. Look at schools and recruiting forums that you may not have considered previously. As companies are turning to advanced automation technology solutions to help revolutionize their operations, keep the customer in mind when making decisions. Will modernizing an order fulfillment process with a robotic solution help to improve the customer experience?

4. Incorporate Customer-Focus in Training – To really strengthen a customer-focused approach, it needs to be present in every aspect. In addition to recruiting employees who have a more customer-focused disposition, include it in training and workplace conversations. The Taj’s employee training process follows the ancient Indian principal – “Atithi Devo Bhava.” This means “the customer or guest is equivalent to God”. In short, the phrase means that honoring customers is equal to honoring god, a message deeply embedded at the Taj. This prescribes a dynamic of the employee-customer relationship.

5. Mentorship – In addition to training, mentor programs can help further solidify customer-focus as a core value. It can help serve as a reminder that the customer needs to be considered every step of the way. This can also help create connection within the company for a stronger internal bond. It creates kinship, dedication and loyalty.

Considering the Customer at Every Turn

It is this combination of selection, training and workplace culture that explains what happened during those terrible three days when the Taj hotel was under siege. The employees were essentially performing the behaviors they were selected and trained to perform. In this case, extreme selflessness and kindness to customers.

In the supply chain and material handling atmosphere, customer-focus goes beyond tasks like processing returns quickly; it’s about providing an experience from start to finish that puts the customer first. It’s about considering the customer in designs, order fulfillment processes, decisions of where and when to create new distribution centers. At Bastian Solutions, customer-focus is one of our core values, and we work with you to ensure that ROIs are met to help you become leaders in your industry. If you are ready to explore your warehouse or distribution center solution, talk to a solution expert today.

Author: Anshul Singh

Anshul is a Senior Logistics Consultant with Bastian Solutions' software division. He has a mechanical engineering degree from Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University), a Master's in engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of Louisville. 

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