The goal of supply chain management is making customers happy by getting the right product to the right person at the right time. A cliché to be sure. But following this simple formula will assure high rates of customer satisfaction and therein lies the truth of the adage.

Simple formula, challenging goal

The three rights – product, person & time – make for a simple formula. Achieving the goal of supply chain management however, it is anything but easy. This is especially true when you consider customer expectations are so much higher today than just a few years ago.

As an example, I recently ordered two parts for a major appliance. Both were ordered direct from the manufacturer. One part arrived within a couple of days, but the other took over a week. Five or six years ago this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it’s a different story in 2016. It doesn’t matter if you are B2B or B2C, you are doing business in a world where customers demand immediate gratification and your supply chain needs to be built with that in mind.

From sourcing vendors to fulfilling orders, a highly efficient supply chain is necessary for meeting customer demands. Unfortunately, too many manufacturers forget that supply chain management extends beyond the production line, that the final link isn’t reached until the product reaches the customer’s doorstep.

Some misconceptions can be stomached; this is not one of them.

Order fulfillment starts with order entry, but where it goes from there depends. If you can fill the order with finished goods in the warehouse, great. If not, are you confident that you can meet the expectation you set for delivery? More importantly, is your customer comfortable with the expected delivery date?

It is imperative to have a smooth process from the point of order entry, through production, into the warehouse and, finally, shipping. Every link in your supply chain has to be as strong as the one that comes before and after.

In the past, order fulfillment could be treated as an afterthought. After all, a customer’s only recourse for unmet expectations was to lodge a complaint with customer service and get discount on their next order. But today’s customer is more empowered than ever and the vast majority are more than willing to exercise their new-found power. With a plethora of potential suppliers at their very fingertips, consumers can – and will – quickly and easily take their business elsewhere.

Meeting the expectations of today’s customer isn’t easy, but it is as simple as keeping a disciplined eye on every link of your supply chain. From vendors to your customer’s doorstep, a strong supply chain management strategy can elevate your company to new heights of customer satisfaction. And we all know where that can lead.

David Warford

As co-Founder and Managing Partner at KnowledgePath Consulting, Inc. David applies his 30+ years of experience in the technology industry, exceptional leadership skills, and his commitment to honesty and transparency to ensuring client success. He drives customer relationships that span the globe in numerous industries and product categories.