Better Customer Service (and More) Through Exception Management
In the supply chain and logistics industry, exception management is often defined as a process that’s set up to capture information that sets outside the normal parameters of doing business – exceptions to the normal flow of your supply chain, from consumer purchase to packing and shipping to delivery on a customer’s doorstep. Any interruption, issue or unexpected change can be flagged under exception management processes so that a manager can intervene, see what the issue is, and immediately correct it.
It’s obvious to see the importance of having connected systems and a real-time information flow in your e-commerce and logistics operations for this process to be effective (or even possible). Implementing exception management processes and best practices simply makes sense to anyone that’s even been involved in making sure a product gets from A to Z. Better information helps make better decisions – and without that information, problems can persist or go unsolved.
While it’s easy to see why exception management makes sense for your behind-the-scenes operations, very few companies are utilizing it to its fullest potential. One of the most important ways it can be used is to bolster your customer service operations.
Proactive Customer Service
For example, say your exception management systems have flagged that there is an issue with a specific shipment of devices. The packaging machine had needed unexpected immediate repairs, and some devices needed to be re-packaged as a result, interrupting the flow of the packing – and eventually causing a chain reaction where a whole palette of goods was shipped out late, missing the deadline for the devices to be sent out and arrive when the customers wanted.
This is valuable information for those managing client relationships or customer service. Without a system in place to capture this knowledge, the shipments would just arrive late without any warning, upsetting retail partners and/or consumers. With this knowledge, however, companies can be proactive.
Retail partners and customers can be notified that there’s a possibility of change in delivery time. Coupons or offers could be proactively offered as an apology, helping to soften the blow of the delivery change – and prevent customer contact centers from overflowing with upset customers.
Contact centers themselves will also benefit from the information, as they can be prepared with the latest information and updates should an upset customer contact them – instead of seeming like the company isn’t on top of the issue by giving a canned, generic response.
Improved Business Operations
Getting back to the back-end operations side, exception management can also help those handling the supply chains and logistics to understand trends and adjust the future of the business accordingly. Say, for example, the exception management process is continually showing that packages have been showing up late at customers’ doorsteps. After some investigation, you come to see that it’s not your facility to blame – but one of your shipping partners. You can then easily recommend to your client that they swap shipping/delivery partners based on the data.
Without a process to capture that information, you’d have no idea that end-user customers were not receiving their orders on time, damaging their perception of your brand.
Good exception management systems can tell you what’s working, where potential problems are, who’s doing what – and make a recommendation on solving an issue based on that data. When it comes to identifying problems in a supply chain, there will always be resistance from partners – it’s human nature that no one wants to be blamed for a potential problem.
That said, don’t back down – it’s for the good of your business and your customers that an exception management system be put in place, and information from all parties needs to come together to present a true real-time view of the full operations responsible for getting an order in a customer’s hands. The value – from solving a problem to being proactive when there is one – is critical to protect your brand and your reputation in the customer’s eyes.
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