Supply Chain for Customer Service and Support  

Customer Service Management

Delightful customer service is core to customer retention..

Supply Chain for Customer Service and Support

Customer service and support supply chain is of a different order. First is urgency- where a faulty product disrupts customer's life and needs to be attended to and secondly, you may not get any money to fix the issues. Smart organization understands that supply chain for customer service is as important as that for order fulfillment.

Friendly and sincere customer service staff has to be backed by a robust supply chain to help keep the service & support promises.

To stay focused on the objective of this page, let us highlight a nuance- The supply chain for service and support is little different from the supply chain for order fulfillment. The order fulfillment is related to fulfillment of the sales order, which is giving you money. Supply chain for customer service and support is related to fulfillment, when you may or may not get money. As some exceptions, many companies have higher margin and robust revenue line out of their customer.

Extending this thought, we have generally observed that the supply chain focus on order fulfillment is higher than that of customer service and support (as you are not immediately loosing a customer due to non-delivery). With this context in mind, let’s look at the key determinants of success for the supply chain related to customer service. As the customer service components significantly vary depending upon the products and sector. We have tried to generalize it here. Therefore, you may have to apply some effort in relating these points to your own context:

IT infrastructure and systems capabilities aligned to the customer service requests

I have seen many organizations, where systems are designed for a transaction or an event. They are not designed or architected to address the customer service requests. It is partly due to the legacy factor and partly due to over-sight. Therefore, a customer service person may need to go through many systems and open multiple screens to service a single customer request.

For example, a service request could ask for a spare part to be shipped to the customer address. An associated query could be to know on when the warranty period of the currently installed part be over, and also on what will be the cost of extending the warranty.

In this example, one can see that a single customer service call has three individual requests. Ideally an aligned IT platform should enable the information related to all these queries to be available in a single view. Alternatively there should be a smart work-flow, which should enable the customer service executive to link up to different systems

Effective Inventory and Logistics Management of Spare part and servicing machinery

This is more applicable to manufacturing sector, where you have a customer service centre network. It’s a logistical challenge to have hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of spare-parts of a product to be managed across hundreds of service centers. When a customer gets his product for repair or maintenance, he needs quick TAT as his work may be getting hampered. At the same time, a company does not want to over-inventorize its goods.

Repair and Maintenance Staff

A great proportion of the repair and maintenance of the goods is done on-site. For this you require service staffs, who are trained to work at customer premises, and set of most used spare parts. You need to train the servicing staff for handling the customers, and also to fulfill the billing and collection work (incase the repair is paid repair). The key point here is that while in a contact centre, you can track and check upon how your customer service staff are servicing your customers, it s not possible to do so for your on-site maintenance engineers. Therefore one can use the sample feedback form from the customer post-facto basis.

Product Recalls

Companies are quick now days to recall their malfunctioning products to maintain their credibility and trust with the customer. The whole recall process is a very tedious one, as it disrupts a customer's daily life. One needs to ensure that:

  • You give a replacement (temporary or permanent) wherever possible
  • You give a commitment, on when the quality product will be re-sent to the customer (in case the replacement is temporary)
  • You may decide to not only give a replacement to the customer but also an additional set of value-added services to compensate him on the discomfort caused.

Refunds and Returns

Ideally an organization should have the frontline staff being empowered to take the returns and refund as per the given guidelines.