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    Build Better: Improving Customer Experience Using Technology in the Supply Chain

    Technology makes it easy for consumers to track retail orders straight to their doorstep. Now it is time for manufacturers to follow suit by adopting the latest inventory management software.

    It’s no secret that the convenience of online apps boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people stuck at home, the process of using a smartphone app to order meals and make retail purchases has become highly normalized. These days, you can virtually grocery shop as easily as you can order coffee for curbside pickup and shop for school supplies for your kids.

    However, many B2B companies find themselves behind the curve when it comes to adopting the same technologies that consumer retail firms are already using. Which makes us ask… why?

    Think about it for a moment. Let’s say you order lunch from DoorDash. Each step of the way, your smartphone app tells you where that item is at and gives you the convenience of having a secure text discussion with your delivery driver.

    So, why can’t this same method that works with takeout happen with a $20,000 lumber order?

    It’s a stunning question that makes us ponder how building materials manufacturers could best use this type of technology to their advantage while offering customers an improved experience.

    Why Real Time Tracking is the Future of Customer Service

    While the global pandemic certainly made it easier to make purchases in the consumer retail world, the exact opposite has happened to the global supply chain.

    Currently, it’s a mess for a variety of reasons that we won’t go into, as we’re all well aware of what they are. Your business is probably struggling in the same way as everyone else with delays and inventory woes. After all, when the supply chain is crunched, it affects entire industries.

    But that doesn’t mean your customers don’t care where their orders are—especially when you’re talking about thousands of dollars in building materials.

    This is why adopting the latest supply chain technologies to offer real-time tracking, communication, and other features is crucial to giving buyers the information they need at the tap of a smartphone screen.

    Imagine a scenario where a customer can see from a tracking screen that their order is delayed in transit and they have an option to send a text to your customer support staff. Not only does this save them the hassle of a phone call, but it keeps a record of each message to eliminate discrepancies in communication.

    In some instances, customers who understand current supply chain challenges might not even be upset or question the issue, simply because they already have access to the most up-to-date information possible.

    There’s no doubt that this is a time where transparency and communication are paramount. By using tech to offer these options to buyers, you can help eliminate a lot of issues altogether.

    When customers know what to expect up front and can use self-service methods to ask simple order questions, there’s no need for additional interaction with your customer service team.

    How Difficult is Automated Supply Chain Management to Integrate?

    The next question most manufacturers have when the discussion of real-time order tracking and related topics comes up is, how difficult is it to integrate?

    It really depends on how tech-savvy your organization is at the moment.

    If you’re already using barcode scanning and automated warehouse inventory systems, then adding real-time tracking on the customer end is usually quite simple. In fact, the software you’re already using likely already has the option to offer this type of capability through some eCommerce settings.

    For more details, we suggest contacting the software company directly to find out if they offer some form of real-time tracking or smartphone integration. Worst case scenario, you might need a specialized app development team to help you figure out the details.

    However, if your business hasn’t updated its inventory management system in the last two decades, the process of switching to this type of system will probably be more of a challenge. But it is definitely possible and now is the best time to take a leap into how you can use today’s software capabilities to your advantage.

    And the best news is that these systems are a lot more affordable than they were even two or three years ago. Embracing this type of technology now is a surefire way to improve your team’s overall workflow and position your company for growth well into the future.

    What Else Can Manufacturers Do with Technology?

    Sure, you might not be ready to start utilizing a whole team of artificial-intelligence robots to pick orders—like they’re doing over at Amazon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start adopting different areas of technology to help improve your customer experience.

    Looking for a few additional ideas about why upgrading now is a good idea? Here’s what we see becoming big for the industry as we move forward:

    • Better Demand Forecasting & Intuitive Ordering: Communicating with customers via smartphone for a better purchase experience is one thing. Using the same supply chain technology to help forecast increases in inventory and intuitively help buyers find the right products for their needs? That’s the future of B2B sales.
    • Less Strain on Human Workforce Issues: Finding qualified employees is a challenge in nearly every industry right now. Automating certain tasks within your inventory workflow allows you to direct your staffing dollars to other areas, which can improve growth and facilitate wider product distribution, new inventory options, and even better marketing efforts.
    • Improved Data & Analytics: You can only adapt to your customer’s needs when you know what’s actually happening. With an automated inventory management system, it is easier to see which products fulfill their needs and where there are gaps in the process.

    Wrap Up: Using Supply Chain Tech to Improve Customer Service

    If Domino’s pizza can tell you via a smartphone app who is tossing the dough on your carryout pepperoni with extra cheese, there is certainly room for building materials manufacturers to utilize the same tech. Now is the best time to adopt this type of inventory management software into your business.

    About The Author

    Elton Mayfield

    Elton's career spans media, production, digital and building industry expertise. His diverse experience makes him nimble, innovative, and curious – always pushing the envelope to create extraordinary work that delivers real results for our clients.

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