Having only one supply chain for your customers is not an appropriate strategy, says UPS' Macaluso, because needs vary greatly from customer to customer. A telephone company, for example, may have customers—such as hospitals and stock exchanges—for whom they are required by regulators to restore service within several hours or risk being fined. Responding to this requirement, the phone company creates a supply chain geared to reacting within a two-hour time frame.
"A closer study of the phone company's customers, however, reveals only 13 percent of customers require that kind of premium response," says Macaluso. "Operating under the premise that it was required to do so, the utility forward-positioned inventory, contracted for emergency air service, and established other supply chain attributes to respond to a majority of customers that didn't need these measures. The cost was astronomical."
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Customer relationship management (CRM) helps companies maximize the value of every customer interaction and drive superior corporate performance. And the value of CRM grows considerably when it is tightly integrated with supply chain functionality. A "customer is king" approach is replacing the factory-based push supply chains of the 20th century.
Today, a small but growing number of companies are successfully challenging this traditional "push" paradigm. They link the front end of their business—customer management and demand—with the back end—supply chain management.
As forward-thinking companies learn to operate customer-centered businesses, these demand-driven supply networks (DDSNs) are replacing the factory-based push supply chains of the 20th century. This is the essence of customer relationship management (CRM).
Businesses successfully linking CRM with supply chain management (SCM) achieve remarkable results. Indeed, they are twice as profitable as their competitors that do not link CRM to SCM, according to a recent Deloitte Research study. They are also two to five times more likely to achieve superior performance in sales, market share, and customer service.
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"CRM is an integrated approach to identifying, acquiring, and retaining customers," says Steve Fioretti, general manager, Siebel High Technology, Siebel Systems Inc., a developer of CRM software solutions. "By enabling organizations to manage and coordinate customer interactions across multiple channels, departments, lines of business, and geographies, CRM helps maximize the value of every customer interaction, and drives superior corporate performance."
"They identify their most valuable customers and adjust their service levels based on customer requirements, lifetime potential, and an intimate understanding of total supply chain cost on a customer-by-customer basis," the Deloitte report explains. "This enables supply chain managers to know which orders should get preferential treatment based on real-time knowledge about customers."
A customer who goes to an appliance store to look at a new washer/dryer set, for instance, may not plan to purchase one that day. "Most likely, their old machines are not broken," Macaluso says. "They might be preparing to move to a new house; or perhaps their old washer is lacking some desired bells and whistles." The focus in this case should be finding out exactly what the customer wants, not on garnering an immediate sale.
"The paradigm needs to change from telling the customer, 'We can ship a machine in 24 hours, but it may not be exactly what you want,' to asking the customer, 'Is it acceptable to deliver the exact machine you want, set up and installed in three or four days, possibly at a lower cost?'" says Macaluso.
"If the actual customer expects a certain lead time, and CELT is less than or equal to that lead time, a ready-made case exists for responding to that demand," Macaluso explains. The current fractured supply chain model, however, doesn't support the idea of the three-day washer.