Are your supply chain and customs practices affecting customer satisfaction?

Richard Nutt
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Organisations are bringing cost diligence back into the customs and trade planning equation in response to improving supply chain conditions. But finding cost efficiencies should not lead to higher risk, lower quality, slower delivery times, or detract from customer satisfaction. Instead, the focus should be on strategies that are a win for both the customer and your organisation’s bottom line. 


Customer-centric metrics

The first step to ensuring cost-efficiency measures do not impact customer satisfaction is to gain a deeper, unbiased understanding of what the end customer wants. Choosing the right metrics to reflect these needs is key. Over 60 per cent of supply chain leaders have said that their most important priority is to develop customer experience metrics and integrate them across all business units (Gartner). 

Customer needs and expectations differ between industries, so it’s important to take the time to survey your own customer base and put yourself in their shoes. In general, however, customer-centric metrics fall into six areas:

  1. Ease of doing business: How easy it is for customers to order, pay for, track, and receive their product. 
  2. Time to delivery: The time between placing an order and delivery. 
  3. Responsiveness: Ensuring the customer can find effective help when needed.
  4. Product availability: Minimising out-of-stocks through best-practice inventory management. 
  5. Visibility: Keeping the customer informed throughout the delivery process and providing the ability to track their order.
  6. ESG: Driving positive change across core issues such as climate change and social inequality. 

On this last point, an SEC Newgate survey of 12,000 people across 12 countries including Australia found 71% of customers expect companies to launch ESG action, 46% would be prepared to pay more for better ESG performance, and approximately half would avoid a product or service in response to an ESG issue. 

Ensure these metrics are included in your decision-making process when considering cost-cutting actions in your supply chain. For example, if you decide to re-shore certain products, how will these decisions impact product availability and time-to-delivery? Will consolidating suppliers increase the risk of disruption and delay? Does the new supplier have comparable environmental standards and work conditions? 

How to win at cost efficiency as well as customer satisfaction

The good news is many cost efficiency measures in customs and trade often overlap with operational efficiencies. Consider investing in the following areas to create a win-win for your budget and maximise customer satisfaction.

  • Customs and duties savings: Look for opportunities along your supply chain to find customs and duties savings to decrease the cost of sending or sourcing products offshore. Cost savings can be invested in digitisation or passed on to the end customer. Working with a partner like Grant Thornton to conduct a country-by-country review of your global trade profile can help optimise your trade tariffs and compliance obligations while reducing the risk of penalties or detainment of goods.
  • Supply chain visibility: Real-time visibility helps shippers cut costs by enabling better stock-in-transit tracking and forecasting, enhancing responsiveness in case of disruption and delay, avoiding expensive storage costs and the high costs of expedited shipments. Customers benefit from better service, proactive status updates, and peace of mind. Grant Thornton recently partnered with Telstra Visibility Imports to offer improved supply chain visibility to our clients.
  • Access accreditation: Accreditation through the Australian Trusted Trade program (ATT) provides businesses with a competitive edge, dedicated support from the Australian Government and a range of trade facilitation benefits including priority treatment and streamlined processing of goods to shorten delivery times for the end customer. As the ATT accreditation process can be complex, it can be helpful to have an experienced partner to guide you through the process.
  • Negotiate bulk discounts: While supplier diversification was an effective strategy for reducing risk amidst global uncertainty, managing multiple supplier relationships increases complexity, costs, and hinders access to bulk discounts. Increase your price leverage by consolidating suppliers while keeping a plan B in place to mitigate risk in the case of disruption. A reputable trade advisory partner can help you conduct spend analytics across major categories to identify opportunities for supplier consolidation. Also, you may consider joining a Group Purchasing Organisation to dramatically increase buying power.
  • Invest in digital customer centricity: Customer centricity needs to keep pace as the customer journey becomes increasingly digitised. Alongside supply chain visibility improvements, organisations can create cost efficiencies by leaning on customer self-service portals and chatbots while ensuring it’s always easy for the customer to access (human) help. Technology can offer a lot of benefits to organisations looking to streamline their customs and trade operations, but with so many options out there, it can be very easy to make an expensive mistake. Expert advice and support, especially in the early stages, can be invaluable.
  • The opportunity is out there: Organisations seeking to rebalance cost and risk can do so without impacting customer satisfaction. Always keep the lens on customer-centric metrics when making cost-efficiency decisions and look for win-wins that benefit the customer along with your operational bottom line.  

Not sure where to start? Get in touch with the Global Trade and Customs team at Grant Thornton for a discussion on cost-optimisation strategies that won’t risk quality, certainty or service for your end customer. 

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