How Not to Tank your NPS Score During the Holidays Due to Supply Chain Shortages Jonathan Moran – SAS

By now, we’re all painfully aware of global supply chain issues. From groceries to apparel, PCs to cars, appliances to toys – everything is in short supply. The effect of these shortages is rippling down from the manufacturer to the distributor into digital and physical storefronts – impacting the end customer. With the holiday season fast approaching, and no end of supply chain trouble in sight, how do sellers keep off customers’ naughty lists?

 Know Thy Customer. How many brands know every single time a customer engages with them – whether over digital (web, mobile, social) or physical (in-store, call center, etc.) channels? I’d bet the number is less than five percent.  Taking it a step further, how many brands do you think take those interactions and tie them together to know when a customer visited a digital or physical property and can then map that customer journey over time?  I’d take an educated guess that this number is even lower. Customer insight is important in the best of times, but during a supply chain crisis it becomes imperative. Especially during the holidays when customers will be contacting brands in crisis because an order is late, and timelines are tight.

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Brands using techniques like identity management and resolution will have a huge advantage. These techniques will help them manage a customer’s identity across digital and physical channels and stitch visits together for a comprehensive view of customer activity.  These two customer data techniques create a level of understanding that forms the foundation for better customer engagement. Just imagine if Customer A, when contacting the call center, is greeted with a message of “Hi, I can see you need to reschedule your delivery, let me connect you to an agent who can help” instead of “Hi, can I have your name and the reason for your call today?”

Let’s take this scenario a little further. What if the brand assisting Customer A applies analytics to the customer data they had previously performed identity management and resolution on?  They could predict numerous things about Customer A and while not every prediction would be correct, a large majority of them would be.  For instance, by coupling basic propensity scores with sentiment analysis scores a brand can develop a clear picture of how an individual customer is feeling toward the brand. They could predict the propensity to churn, the propensity to provide a poor review or the propensity for future cross-sell and upsell opportunities. When connected to the customer service agent, imagine the how pleased the customer will be if the agent (with a clear view of the customer’s history) not only already knows why the customer is calling but has a solution. The agent knows about lagging inventory, missed delivery windows, and past fees applied to this customer’s account.  Armed with this information, the agent can deliver a well-timed, personalized offer such as waiving shipping or delivery fees, providing a discount, or offering a gift card for a future purchase.

Get Inventory Clarity.  Supply chain backups mean that manufactured goods aren’t being unloaded off cargo ships and delivered via truck to distribution endpoints throughout the country. Because of this, techniques like inventory optimization should be top of mind for brands as the holiday season approaches. Using analytics to know when and where products should be, and in what quantities – will save everyone some frustration.  And when the product simply isn’t there – what’s the alternative? Brands that I work with are getting creative. One large DIY retailer is offering close alternatives to out-of-stock items versus taking an online order for a product that they have no intention of fulfilling. Another e-commerce provider is dynamically removing and then replacing items on their branded web storefront as inventory levels fluctuate. Two simple concepts that prevent confusion and frustration.

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Practice Transparency . Being able to link customer understanding with inventory optimization will perhaps be the greatest single tool in a brands arsenal this holiday season to keep customers happy. The last thing a frazzled customer wants to hear in December is that a retailer has no clue when or if they’ll get inventory in stock, or has any alternate suggestions.

With better customer insight and insight into inventory frontline workers can deliver optimal customer service. For instance, if a customer experiencing significant delivery delays calls into the contact center, the agent can be equipped with a script to quickly and efficiently handle the situation. The worst thing that can happen is a frontline worker is blindsided by an unhappy customer and doesn’t have the customer understanding or insight needed to give appropriate answers. The customer feels uninformed, misguided, and perhaps even deceived by the brand. With analytics in place, frontline contact centers or CRM systems can flag a customer at immediate risk of attrition due to supply chain frustrations and proactively reach out to them with an alternate offer.

The points raised here won’t solve the supply chain issue but implementing some or all of them will certainly create a calmer, more pleasant brand-to-customer experience. Retaining the goodwill of customers this season will be a critical factor in maintaining loyalty.

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