How self-service can improve your supply chain

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One moment, please… Your call is important to us… One of our friendly consultants will be with you shortly.

Annoyed yet?

I mean, is there anybody out there who likes to hold the line and listen to pan flute music after you have already punched your way through multiple prompts?

A 2013 study by TalkTo estimated that the average American spends between 10 and 20 minutes each week listening to pan flute music, that is the equivalent of 13 hours per year or 43 days in a lifetime! Combine this statistic with the fact that millennials make up the majority of today’s workforce (the generation known for their explicit need for instant gratification), and the door is wide open for self-service.

The term “self-service” originated in 1917 when Clarence Saunders pioneered the concept of a “self-serving store”. Where customers previously handed their grocery list to a clerk to retrieve from behind a counter, customers in Saunders’ store walked around the shop, selecting the items they wanted to buy from the aisles, and presented them to a cashier before leaving.  Removing unnecessary clerks, creating attractive aisle displays, and rearranging the store to force customers to view all of the merchandise in a continuous path, all contributed to the success of the first “self-serving store”. At the time, this was a revolutionary concept.

Similarly, digital self-service means empowering customers and suppliers to find answers to their questions themselves to facilitate a better experience with a product or service. So, apply this concept to your manufacturing or distribution business. Imagine if customers and suppliers within your supply chain were connected, tech-savvy and more than ready to find the answers to questions themselves rather than wait on hold for a friendly consultant to help them.

Self-service within your supply chain

Gone are the days when emails and calls were the topmost customer and supplier preferences for support-related communication. We see businesses incorporating other communication channels like live chat and social media to provide efficient customer service. Chatbots for example assist users with self-service options to get instant answers without the need to interact with human agents. Using the power of AI, chatbots create a digital self-service environment and can be used within your supply chain to communicate, share information, and assist users.

Self-service via a supply chain portal

A supply chain portal is a centralized location where organizations and their customers or suppliers can exchange knowledge to provide a secure, transparent source of information. This enables manufacturers and distributors to connect and collaborate with their supply chain bringing in a new delivery method to engage across their common touchpoints.

The ERP connection

There are two primary components to any self-service system: content and delivery method. In the case of those first “self-serving stores”, the content was still groceries, but the game-changer was the delivery method, being the revamped stores themselves. In digital self-service, the content is information, and the delivery method is software. Real-time integration with an ERP software is the key for accuracy, speed, and the elimination of errors in the content presented for self-service. Real-time integration also allows you to manage your data on one system, maintaining a single source of the truth. This creates a comprehensive, fully automated link between the needs of the customer or supplier and the company’s in-house functions which enables the self-service function to be organized and automatically executed. This means end customers and suppliers can access real-time information relating to their account, and the details of transactions entered, including download statements, invoices, and remittance advices on the system themselves.

Through your ERP software, dashboards, business insights, and other “smart” departures from the traditional report format can deliver data through a more visual interface.  This creates an information delivery method that is easy to engage with.

Consider how innovatively Clarence Saunders used aisle displays and the rearrangement of the store to force customers to view all the merchandise. A major contributor to the success of self-service remains the customer experience.

The benefits of self-service within your supply chain

Self-service can assist your business:

  • Better understand the needs of your customers
  • Lower support and administrative costs
  • Reduce disruption to your daily operations
  • Minimize the need to grow the size of the support and accounting staff
  • Speed up processes
  • Provide customers and suppliers with accurate information about your products in real-time

No more pan flute music.

No matter which way you look at it – it’s time to think about how you and your company, as well as your customers and suppliers, can benefit from digital self-service.

Read more on our self-service enabled Supply Chain Portal to see how we can help your business.

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