Millionaire to Billionaire conference 26 April 2014
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Survey shows supply chain is key to customer centricity

It is interesting and positive to note that survey respondents recognise the need to understand their customers better, and 90% of them agree that customer centricity is integral to business success. They show a deep understanding of customer centricity and acknowledge the huge benefits that can be derived from it.

The majority of respondents (71%) agree that human relationships with the customer is far more important than processes and systems, but only 11% felt that most SA companies are very customer centric.  These statistics show a disconnect between the desire to achieve customer centricity and the ability to do so.

Key factors driving customer centricity cited by respondents include greater customer expectations (63%), increased competition (59%), improved communication technologies and use of social media (52%), increase in technology and internet usage (52%), speed of change and innovation (52%) and belief that customer centricity drives growth (48%).

Survey responses also reflect an awareness of the need to focus on issues on the ground that have a potential impact on customer centricity, which include an internally focused culture.

Difficulties with finding the right skills was cited by respondents as the top constraint that is inhibiting their progress towards achieving customer centricity.  This was followed by lack of alignment within business functions (48%) and no structure or plan to innovate or embrace continuous change (44%).

Sixty six percent of respondents agree that customer centricity requires lengthy time and investment.  The latter is linked to a generally strong focus on cost among respondents, which had dipped in our previous surveys over the past few years.

A key message that comes out of the survey is that doing business the way it has always been done it is no longer viable due to the rapid pace of change.

There is a need to find new ways of working with partners and with different market segments and to come up with more innovative, customised products and services. This will require companies to align their internal and external functions across their businesses, and change their business processes. They will also need to harness technology to enable them to understand their markets and customers better through the ability to collect, collate and analyse data more effectively.

A major challenge highlighted in the survey in that only 23% of respondents are geared to capture customer information to improve service levels and be proactive in delivering what customers want. Survey responses indicate that the supply chain is seen as being integral to servicing customers better and enabling companies to be agile enough to respond to the fast changing dynamics of the market, which links back to improving efficiency. Ninety two percent of respondents said customer centricity cannot be achievedwithout a supply chain strategy focused on delivering customer value. Seventy eight percent of survey respondents ranked improving customer service as the top strategic supply chain objective and 77% said supply chains are enhancing customer centricity.

This highlights the need to ensure that all elements of the supply chain both internally and externally are integrated to deliver what customers want. This needs to be supported by the use of technology to gather information and convert it into business intelligence and to anticipate and be proactive and agile in responding to customers needs.

While this might cost money in the short term, it will create greater value for the customer, which will in turn lead to business growth and longevity. 

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