Customer centricity is a hot topic in today's supply chain conversations. New technologies are dramatically changing the way customers interact with businesses. In order to remain competitive, businesses need to get products and services to their customers seamlessly and efficiently through multiple channels.

A combination of mobile technologies, e-commerce and social media are giving customers significantly more power in the way they interact with businesses when they are shopping and after having purchased a product.

In order to create business value, businesses have to pay attention to the customer-business relationship. The customer being in control characterises this relationship, so the whole supply chain becomes customer-centric. Customer-centrism is going to increase in complexity within the next few years as traditional customer interactions are complicated by the addition of multiple channels.

For Marco Rossi, supply chain cloud director for product development, EMEA, at Oracle, "customer centricity really is about making sure that when you are dealing from an outset with orders for your customers all the way through from the fulfillment process the customer experience is key, and the customer experience is consistent across all of the lines."

Rossi recently took part in an Eye for Transport (EfT) Webinar where, together with Michael Massimino, director of IT at Telogis, offered his view on what customer-centricity means for today's supply chain autonomous management.

"If you have different lines of businesses but you're ordering the same product through those channels, or different products across those channels then you want to provide a consistent promising date that your customer can deal with; it's what we call Global Order Promising," Rossi said.

Based on the current and projected demands and supplies across a supply chain and on an extended supply chain, the Global Order Promising (GOP) solution determines when a customer order can be fulfilled.

Redefining operations around customer-centrism

Operations are being redefined around customer-centrism. Multichannel is the new norm. Even though structuring a business around customers’ demands adds more complexity, the benefits of increased customer satisfaction translates into greater customer retention, happier customers, increased demand, increased revenue and better forecasting data.

For all this, logically, businesses respond to a customer who wants the product or service when they want it, where they want it, on mobile, at a low price, and fast if it's free, as it is illustrated in the infographic from EfT below. B2B customers are looking for the same level of service as they experience as consumers.

Customer-driven vs. product-driven supply chain

An EfT and Oracle's recent white paper (registration required), found that global businesses define themselves as 69% customer-driven and 31% product-driven whereas 66% of EMEA businesses are customer-driven and 34% product driven. North American businesses, on the other hand, identified themselves as 61% customer-driven and 39% product driven.

Automating the supply chain

The reshaping of the customer-business relationship is changing how businesses need to automate. Automation tools help organisations to maintain control of the redefined customer-relationship by handling customer relationships across channels and reducing friction for customer behaviour. Advanced automation allows businesses to hand more responsibility over to customers, and process automation is expanding rapidly. Robotics and artificial intelligence are now cost-beneficial to businesses, and allow a higher level of mass automation.

Customer-centrism has been driven by mobile and Web-based technologies. In terms of automation of data, the white paper revealed that 24% of the organisations questioned for the study have robots, 63% are investing in big data technologies and 83% think that big data will have a reasonable impact on their position on the market or will be a total game changer.

Maintaining control in the redefined customer relationship

Businesses will have to automate, digitise and streamline the systems they use for interacting with their customers and managing their customer orders. Increased cash flow enables shorter lead-times, increased personalisation and faster orders, all part of the new supply chain. Both direct customer and supplier relationships gain more importance in this new era of commerce.

EfT customer infographic (cr) Figure 1: B2B customers are looking for the same level of service as they experience as consumers.