Doing well by distribution customers

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Worldwide, distribution and supply chain management are straining as never before to predictably meet customer demand and allow companies to remain viable. In this series of six blog posts, we discuss distribution issues that you can address with the right technologies, refined and deployed by industry experts at Sikich. Earlier, we discussed supply chain challenges, how Sikich helps address them, and how our HEADSTART methodology makes a difference. Then we took a closer look at key areas of distribution and supply chain management that are often top priorities for Sikich clients, starting with inventory and vendor management. Today, we highlight the customer experience in distribution and how you can support it with your own ecommerce channel.

Delivering great customer experiences every time

When you partner with Amazon and similar retail leaders, you outsource customer experience to a degree. Customers transact business, are billed, and direct initial inquiries in case of any issues to them, not you. When you work with a retail organization that describes itself as fanatic or obsessed with customers’ experiences, you have to align with their high standards, or the collaboration won’t work out. You need to uphold your end of the business by honoring your customer promises and delivering quality goods on a tight schedule, with accuracy and speed in all of your processes. When customers need to return items or ask for assistance, you have to be responsive and easy to deal with, or they might stay away and give you an unfavorable review.

On the other hand, if you treat customers well and garner praise, your search visibility on retail sites may improve and you have a better opportunity to win repeat and referral business.

How do you assess your company’s customer experience today? What are your protocols for improving it? By the time you work with one of the large online retailers, you should have a strong track record of keeping customers happy from their first contact through to delivery of your products at their facility or home. You can use the CRM capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics 365 to manage your customers and commitments, and have a complete, real-time view of your performance to KPIs for customer experience and service levels. Sikich can also help you apply and achieve common industry benchmarks.

For most distributors, satisfying the needs of customers who repeatedly order the same products in similar quantities is not a challenge, but they find it difficult to adjust when demand shifts. Analytics and insight tools like Microsoft Power BI can complement your Dynamics 365 environment to give you early visibility of market volatility, so you can be ready to adjust quickly. The same resources can help you identify issues and drive improvements in the last segment of the supply chain, when goods are on their way from the last distribution facility to customers’ homes or business locations. When customer expectations and the flagging performance of shipping services need you to jump into action, you can do so before the quality of the customer experience slides.

Launching an ecommerce domain

Some distributors offer products through online retail partners and decide to market others through their own channels. You will have your own criteria—profit margins, market share, brand building, customer segmentation—for doing so, and reporting through Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help you target the right product for the right market and channel.

If you want to stand up your own ecommerce venue, Sikich can deploy and configure the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce module. We can also help you launch the new channel to customers and manage it efficiently. You can use dashboards developed by Sikich in conjunction with the analytics tools on the Microsoft Azure cloud to gain a real-time view of events in your ecommerce channel and make rapid course corrections.

Some Sikich clients market a small percentage of their products through their own ecommerce venue, while online retail leaders handle the lion’s share of their distribution. Some manufacturers generate considerable revenue by selling parts or supplies online. For other companies, ecommerce is an effective way to remain connected with certain customers and capture their interest when they are ready to offer new services or product upgrades. In any case, the Dynamics 365 environment Sikich implements for you has the scalability, flexibility, and intelligence to manage any number of transactions and profitably serve customers.

The next step

If it’s time to take your distribution and supply chain management to the next level, we should talk.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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