This article was originally published on Information Management.
A new kind of manufacturing company is emerging that leverages big data and analytics for a unified view of the supply chain. This new approach provides supply chain insights that enable these organizations to respond quickly and decisively to changing conditions despite geographically dispersed suppliers and customers. And yet at the same time, they can also pursue long-term opportunities by identifying products, parts and components across all the data sources where supply and demand spans states, countries and continents.
No matter the supply chain model, customers expect quality service, on-time delivery and the right product every time, which can be challenging if an organization manages erratic supply and demand on a global basis.
For most organizations, products consist of numerous parts that move through the enterprise and its network of suppliers, creating a need for parts logistics. Every part number within the organization takes on a life of its own and every department must have access to all the information surrounding it.
As organizations build new products, and service existing ones, they need cohesive and comprehensive visibility for a unified view of the entire supply chain. This approach helps organizations optimize their supply chain and increase responsiveness by focusing on achieving greater visibility into products and parts inventory. Organizations that focus on these objectives can tighten the gaps in their supply chain and enhance their overall operations.
Supply Chain Unification
A unified view of the supply chain connects the enterprise and suppliers seamlessly to various applications and databases—such as enterprise resource planning, a data warehouse and customer relationship management systems.
This connected environment helps organizations keep abreast of the manufacturing process and supply chain management, and share relevant information across design, engineering, procurement, quality control and more. From understanding customer needs to building requirements, product prototyping and selling products, everything is streamlined and simplified across disparate systems.
By adopting a unified view of the supply chain, organizations can see what parts are in stock, which suppliers they re-order from and if those suppliers have available inventory. This gives engineers visibility into the specifications of components, the mean times between failures for components, discontinuation plans and recent negative reports. It also promotes accurate shipping expectations and on-time delivery, while connecting all departments and partners in the supply chain into one efficient manufacturing shop.
Finding the right part information when and where needed
An information-driven supply chain makes it easier for workers to search and locate specific parts for production. Workers can create alerts to be notified when relevant information surfaces. Empowered and informed workers can then concentrate on manufacturing products on schedule.
A unified view of the supply chain helps engineers know who has previously worked with each part and learn from their experiences. If a component is found faulty during production, engineers could spend days trying to find who completed the original design. A unified view of the supply chain helps pinpoint the most knowledgeable workers and provides immediate access to information about the component and its design specifications. By empowering engineers, organizations are better able to meet customer demands.
This approach also empowers sales with information about specific parts to understand when to sell a specific version, and to know who to talk to if they need more information. Customers then get a confident, knowledgeable sales associate to help them make the right decision.
Knowing how and where to get parts in a hurry
Organizations must be able to respond immediately to customers who need replacement parts and immediate service. If a part is not available, they must know expected shipment dates, transit times and who can supply it. This is increasingly challenging with globally distributed suppliers and a dispersed customer base.
A unified view of the supply chain can resolve this issue by giving customer service representatives visibility into all parts across the enterprise, regardless of location, repository or format in which the information is stored. It can also extend access to information from supplier sites and applications.
To assist customers with support requests, customer service representatives need to be aware of past problems and how to identify and resolve them. With a unified view of the supply chain, they immediately know the parts associated with a problem and how it can be fixed.
In the final analysis, managing the supply chain is about information access. Although many applications are necessary to manage information at different stages of the supply chain, a unified view provides cohesive visibility across all applications that manage information about products, suppliers and customers. It is a critical part of streamlining and optimizing the use of an organization’s supply chain.
This article was originally published on RT Insights.
Instant access and 360-degree views of all customer and product data is mandatory to enable customer service representatives to operate more efficiently.
Customer service centers serve as organizational information hubs, resonating with the voices of the customers. They are strategic to an enterprise, as they are often the most recent and most frequent point of contact that the customer has with an organization.
Properly used, customer service centers can satisfy customers and improve retention. They can also drive revenue by cross-selling and upselling. To do this, they must manage the volume of interactions efficiently and control average handle time (AHT). Increasingly, they must achieve this with tighter budgets. Instant access and 360-degree views of all customer and product data is mandatory to enable customer service representatives (CSRs) to operate more efficiently.
With people and information spread across various locations, this task can seem daunting. The right mix of technology can enable customer service centers to overcome these challenges and run at peak performance. Below are four tips for CSRs to manage high volume of interactions:
Improving visibility into real-time customer data
CSRs need visibility into customer data across all contact and interaction points within the enterprise — regardless of location, repository and format. By aggregating all data and providing a single, secure access point to relevant and real-time customer and product information, a unified view of information can be formed to help CSRs respond to customers’ concerns and issues quickly and accurately.
Relieved of the burden of navigating multiple applications to find a single piece of relevant information, CSRs can immediately concentrate on the callers’ concerns and quickly resolve their issues — increasing first call resolution and reducing average handle time to minimize the volume of customer interactions. Automatically providing a unified view of customer information effectively enables the customer service center to improve productivity and reduce operating expenses.
Automating access to relevant information
High attrition has always been a major concern for customer service center managers. Rehiring and retraining costs directly impact the bottom line. More importantly, high turnover rates burden CSRs, affect productivity and hamper the customer service center’s ability to provide quality service.
Automating access to relevant information can help customer service centers lower attrition by minimizing the excessive pressure and stress of the customer service center environment, which is cited as a major reason for attrition.
Leveraging automated analytics on top of customer and product information, customer service center managers can quickly spotlight new products for training and push information out to their CSRs. Simplifying the way CSRs access customer and product information and providing ways for CSRs to easily collaborate and share knowledge reduces CSR stress and consequently turnover. When CSRs have the information needed to answer customer questions and resolve issues confidently, they are much better able to interact comfortably and build close and lasting customer relationships.
Accelerating time to proficiency
CSRs never know what inquiry or problem they will face on the other side of an inbound call. As such, they must be well-versed on the products, services and policies of their organization. Successfully training CSRs is vital to the success of the customer service center. The cost of attrition per CSR is high, with new employees taking up to three months to complete initial training in many industries.
This can be exacerbated as many customer service centers have myriad applications and repositories, such as CRMs, ERPs and external databases, that CSRs must learn to navigate to prepare for and complete a call. The ability to seamlessly connect to these applications and provide a unified view to information greatly reduces training time and cost.
Sharing CSR knowledge
Collaboration capabilities that promote knowledge sharing and retention — even if employees leave — enable the remaining CSRs to maximize and enrich each customer interaction. Enterprise data is continually growing; as a result, CSRs have even more information to learn and retain. In addition, customer service centers are often scattered across far-reaching locations without sufficient support for their distributed organization. A scalable, distributed platform for information access solves this problem and allows data to grow without compromising access or speed for CSRs. They can then concentrate on listening to customer concerns and ensuring complete satisfaction, enhancing the entire customer experience.
Companies that employ the right mix of technology in their customer service centers empower their CSRs to go beyond solving customer issues to being customer champions — listening and responding fittingly to their needs. By actively listening, CSRs can turn complaints into revenue. By having relevant information consistently and securely available, organizations can react quickly to customer demands, innovate business processes, profile new target markets and formulate ideas for new product features.
Consolidating silos and promoting the quick and easy transfer of information and insight captured in the customer service center across the entire enterprise allows executives to make informed decisions that positively impact the direction of the company.