How many times have you heard the word ‘megatrend?’ Do you then start wondering what it really means and if it really has a significant impact on your business?
Here is a definition courtesy of Charlie Helps and Co:
“Megatrend’ is a word coined to describe and group a set of changes in our world that are enormous in their impact, unprecedented in their magnitude, and apparently unstoppable in their march. They are global, sustained and macro economic forces of development that impact business, economy, society, cultures and personal lives, defining our future world and its increasing pace of change.”
It then goes on to give several examples. However, the newest megatrends that will directly impact value drivers for supply chain managers are Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX).
For too long, many act with the assumption that one is the primary concern of the marketing team and the other, the HR team. Such lines of thought only lead to rigid silo mentality and ignores the reality of the supply chain being a cross-functional process!
It begs the question though: Where exactly do customer and employee experiences interweave with the supply chain? Isn’t the store front enough?
Answer: No, it isn’t.
Suppose you think you are already on-board the idea of digitizing your customer’s experience. However, do you really think it’s enough that you simply have a website and a somewhat accurate tracking system?
Imagine you are the customer, you ordered something online and were given a tracking number. To your relief, you figured out how it works (with a bit of search engine shenanigans). You spend the next day or two keeping an eye on your package’s travels.
Finally, it arrives and you even decide to pick it up yourself. Yet as you look up your seller’s courier, you discover their warehouse is all the way at the docks. Upon arriving, you see that its ‘office’ is barely distinguishable from a sweatshop. The packages are roughly organized in crude, wooden boxes and they’re being manually sorted by sad, minimum wage laborers.
And once you approach the ‘front desk’ (which is really just a table with a computer on it), you manage to claim your package after the workers spend fifteen minutes sifting through the inventory.
Ah, but at least the seller doesn’t have a large shipping cost right? That’s what really matters in logistics and supply chains, correct? To cut costs?
If you were actually being honest, you know that low-cost should still never translate into subpar experience! It is rather ironic but it has been discussed time and again that traditionally low-cost strategies lead only to higher long-term costs! Everything from holding inventory to un-automated manufacturing methods ultimately leads to disasters such as the terrible customer experience described above.
I would not want someone else tell me about their experience as a customer. I would want to discover it myself for my organisation, wouldn’t you? Have you ever actually logged on and pretended you are a client of your own business? Why not? If so, what was the experience like? Was the web site easy to find? Did the web site load fast? Was the product easy to find? Was the product easy to order and buy? Was the product delivered on time? Was it easy to track? Was there a phone number to call in case of difficulty? How would you define your own customer experience? Would you log on again to your own company website and would you ever buy from your own company again?
To properly ride the megatrend of customer experience, supply chain heads need to embrace the fullness of the digital revolution. Don’t just treat it like a coat of paint. The embrace requires everything from full automation to empowerment via the Internet-of-Things.
Now, imagine the previously described scenario but this time from the perspective of a workman. Every day you have to report to the warehouse at the crack of dawn in anticipation for that morning’s delivery. The truck comes in bursting with unsorted packages. You and your colleagues spend the entire day hauling them to the floor and then manually stuffing them in large, postal sacks while struggling to ensure the codes and tracking numbers match.
Not only that, you are being tasked by your superiors to still be tech-savvy enough to use your mercifully computerized package tracking system. All, of course, just for the sake of maintaining your front as a ‘digitized’ business. Meanwhile, you are regularly exposed to the scandalized looks of your customers as they see you all working in a space that barely meets regulation standards.
Speaking of your more senior management though, you may not have ever even met any higher-up beyond the manager overseeing your day-to-day operations. In fact, it’s doubtful that your HR is even in the same building. There is little in the way of ensuring the product is handled well and everyone is just focused on stuffing things in and sending them off into the big city. Whatever complaints a customer might have had in the handling, you won’t hear because the customer service department is just told to hear them to keep up appearances.
Honestly, everything about such typical, low-cost approaches screams labour strikes and regulatory boards knocking on your door. These, in turn, translate to unhelpful negative disruptions and additional losses.
Likewise, your company’s culture needs to shape up as well. There should be clearly written values, mission and vision, rules of engagement for meetings and events and clear understanding by employee of how they will be treated and how they must treat others.
Teams should not just be engaged with themselves but across departments. Each head must develop a habit of communicating with each other, allowing both customer and employee feedback to travel freely openly and transparently across the hierarchy.
I am reminded of a saying here and it goes something like this: “In your organisation the person who perceives that they have the least amount of power, if aggrieved enough, will seek to influence the outcome of any action they may elect to take, in the maximum possible way!” (In short, treat people badly and you do it at your organisation’s peril.)
There are plenty of websites now that allow employees to review their companies, and many of these allow open reviews of their employment situations.The world is too small, too well connected and too transparent to let anything short of outstanding engagement slip through the keeper.
Business in the 21st century can no longer tolerate any level of short-term thinking. The Employee Experience megatrend places a strong emphasis on continuous feedback loop and team engagement.
Remember, megatrends are one of the strongest indicators of where the whole of the business world is directed. They affect every department, including supply chain and logistics. It is time to start looking into our own proverbial ‘backyards’ and recognize the direct impact our short-term strategies haven on customer and employee experiences.
Imagine the world where all employees could contribute to the positive direction and success of their employer! Where they were recognised and rewarded commensurate with the value of their contribution.Similarly their reward included recognition of their own personal development opportunity.
If this is not happening in your organisation you need to think again because this is not brave new world order stuff, it’s really happening now! The lost opportunities you are ignoring could be staggering!