Many businesses in the supply chain are now shifting back to operations that at least resemble pre-pandemic norms, but they are doing so with renewed insight into what's valuable and better ways of doing business. Of course, all companies are different, so the paths they take to emerging from the past year are going to vary widely.

The overarching theme in the industry, however, is that customer experience has moved to the forefront and simply cannot be overlooked, according to a recent survey from SuperOffice. In all, CX was cited as the No. 1 priority for almost 46% of businesses, well ahead of providing quality products (just under 34%) and pricing (almost 21%). However, there's a clear reason for this strategy: The survey also found that 86% of buyers said they would pay more for products or services if the customer experience was "great."

Great customer experiences will buoy your business.Great customer experiences will buoy your business.

Of course, suppliers generally understand this intrinsically even if the data isn't there to back it up, the report said. In all, 42% of businesses say their No. 1 reason to invest in customer experience was to boost instances of upselling and cross-selling. Another 33% said it was to improve customer retention, and 32% wanted to boost customer satisfaction.

Why it matters
Being able to be accountable to customers and help them through both good and bad times is clearly important, and at a time when supply chain disruptions were grabbing headlines around the world, not always easy. This is, however, an industry-wide problem. Indeed, 94% of IT, security and procurement managers at companies in the U.S. and EU recently responded to a survey from Vanson Bourne and Interos saying their operations have been negatively impacted by supply chain disruptions.

More important, perhaps, is the fact that 83% felt they suffered reputational damage as a direct result of those disruptions, the survey found. In more than half of cases, these incidents were at least somewhat related to the pandemic, and for almost 9 in 10 of those firms, it was their production lines or individual business locations that were impacted.

Consequently, 50% said their top priority in the next two years will be increasing supply chain visibility, the report said. Only 39% felt this was the case today. That shows just how much, and how quickly, the winds are shifting on this front.

Assessing risk
Managing disruptions and improving the customer experience starts with an internal examination of risk assessment on an ongoing basis, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Companies need to look at their abilities to source products from numerous sources, increase flexibility, build inventory to weather unpredicted difficulties and more, as they will all not only smooth internal operations, but translate to better customer dealings as well.

Companies should be able to continually assess how their risk factors on this front are changing all the time, especially as they ramp up to full capacity in the wake of COVID. Doing so can boost business in ways they may not have been able to foresee.

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