Why Medical Device Supply Chains Can't Afford to Ignore Customer Experience
brought to you by WBR Insights
One of the issues with supply chains, in general, is that they're often thought of as simple procedural operations designed to get products from one place to another -- from the manufacturer to a hospital, for example. While they have certainly become faster, more international, and more complex in recent years, this A-B tunnel vision can sometimes act as a real barrier to innovation.
The modern landscape requires logistics departments to focus on the customer experience just as much as any other industry sector. It used to be medical device companies that held all the cards, telling healthcare providers what they needed and when it could be provided. However, as the industry has expanded, competition has increased. It's now the client that has the power to choose alternative suppliers.
This competition is now at the core of the service economy, and customer experience is the key brand differentiator which separates the wheat from the chaff.
The Amazon Effect
Much of this change is being driven by what has become known as the "Amazon Effect." The ecommerce giant, headed by Jeff Bezos, has forever changed the landscape of what customers expect from the companies they do business with. And, far from this effect being limited to Amazon's own retail industry, the need for superior customer service has spread to every corner of every business sector.
"As time has moved forward, and as technological innovation has left no stone unturned, the traditional mind-set in logistics is no longer fit for purpose," writes Regional General Manager of DP World Europe, Robert Johnson. "Gone are the days when the retailer or reseller dictates to the manufacturer what to make, how much of it to make and where to sell. Under the trajectory of current consumer trends, it is the customer that rules the roost as the ultimate end-user, demanding personalized products, a customized shopping experience and ever-faster, cheaper delivery."
How, then, can medical device suppliers make sure they are meeting these needs through their customer service channels?
A Conduit of Customer Needs Through the Supply Chain
As we have already touched on, for logistics, it can be easy to lose sight that you are just as much a part of your customer/end user's experience as those who take the order and hand over the product. This means it can be of great benefit to offer ways for your customers to stay in touch throughout the process.
Things such as progress updates can help your customers keep up to date with how shipments are progressing and remove any worry they may feel from being out of the loop. This is a common feature with commercial companies such as Amazon, but can often be overlooked when it comes to B2B logistics. Not only does this keep your customers happy and informed, but will also lighten the workload of your customer service staff as fewer people will need to call in to check on progress.
Solicit and Analyze Customer Feedback and Other Data
Another factor which helps ensure logistics companies remain relatively faceless and esoteric is the lack of ability to gauge customer opinion. For many years, Amazon has been describing itself as a data company which happens to sell products -- and it is from this book that the logistics industry could afford to take a page or two.
Soliciting feedback from your customers can help you get a whole-picture-view of how your operation is perceived externally. Don't just focus on the product, but on the entire supply chain -- from ordering to shipping to delivery, without forgetting customer service. Every single touchpoint is important, and it's only by considering every way in which your customers interact with your brand, no matter how small, that you can be sure everything is running smoothly.
Data is a powerful tool. With analysis, you can identify any areas of your operation which are failing to meet expectations. If the same step of the process is shown to be causing dissatisfaction repeatedly, then data can help you identify and address it for the betterment of your business and your customers.
Customer experience is starting to become one of the most important elements in supply chain strategy. For Johnson, this transition to customer-centricity is the most dramatic and affecting in the supply chain's long history.
"As traditional models of practice and understanding break down, and new concepts and ideas permeate the sphere, the gains to be captured from providing an integrated, customer-centric supply chain cannot be underestimated," writes Johnson. "For supply chain operators, the race to the customer is most certainly on and -- as we all know -- the customer is perpetually right."
The customer experience in medical device supply chains is set to be a hot topic at LogiMed 2019, taking place in March at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.