Competitive difference in the service supply chain

Posted on 26 Sep 2014 by The Manufacturer

Sven Boddington, vice president of global marketing & client solutions at Teleplan International, shares how manufacturers can gain an competitive advantage when managing their supply chains.

Sven Boddington
Sven Boddington, vice president of global marketing & client solutions at Teleplan International.

It would be fair to say that the service supply chain has traditionally been viewed as a ‘behind the curtain’ necessity, a functional part of the business process for manufacturers.  However, in a recent survey we found that the perception of the service supply chain’s primary role has shifted and it is now being recognised as an essential tool for competitive differentiation and a key part of customer satisfaction.

Nowhere is this more true than within the high-tech sector where products often have long working lives and where uptime is critical to end-customer satisfaction. But just how do businesses ensure that their service supply chain is hitting tight turnaround times and maintaining reliability to make sure it is really maximising on these opportunities?

1. Keeping devices out of the supply chain

When considering customer satisfaction, often the best kind of service is one that doesn’t need to take place to begin with. Consumers, particularly millennials, increasingly expect to be able to resolve technical issues with their gadgets themselves.

Self-help portals remain popular as individuals seek to fault find quickly in order to maximize device up time and increasingly, live technical support is being recognised as an essential service tool. Our own experience shows us that over 30% of smartphone related queries can be resolved within minutes through live technical support, preventing unnecessary returns and reducing no fault found (NFF) rates by a factor of four. In fact, this service can help increase customer satisfaction rates to more than 85%.

2. Simplicity and visibility of process

Where returns are essential, the simplicity and convenience of the process is crucial. Consumers are demanding a process that fits to their lifestyle and schedule. No longer can we rely on a one-size fits all approach to returns. Gone are the days when it was enough to ask consumers to drop off and pick up items at a central depot. Nor will consumers stand for service windows of longer than two hours for pick up and drop off.

Manufacturers must have access to strong logistics partner networks to service consumers in a place, and at a time, that suits them. Moreover, when we’re dealing with electronic goods such as smartphones and tablets which users rely on so heavily, enabling visibility of the device’s progress through the repair process and providing updates on the estimated time of return is absolutely critical to give users the reassurance that they are being properly looked after.

3. Fast screening and diagnostics

A fast and accurate diagnostic process not only improves the overall efficiency of the service supply chain, it also reduces the likelihood of your customers getting back a faulty product. IDC has reported, in its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, that all phones in many of the world’s most developed economies will be smartphones by the end of 2017.

From our own experience we estimate 150 million smartphones are now being returned for service and repair every year across the globe. Automated testing facilities can reduce the testing and diagnosis time by around five minutes per device, a significant time saving to be able to pass on to customers.

4. Efficient repair

Once a fault has been identified, an efficient, high quality repair is essential.  From software related issues to highly technical board and “cleanroom” repairs, manufacturers need to be sure that their devices are being restored to a usable state by subject matter experts.

Not only do repairs require experts, but they should be carried out in accordance with the defined functional repair standards of manufacturers, in order to ensure brand reputation is maintained.

 5. Return to sender

The final stage of the supply process is often the least considered. It matters how a customer receives their product, for example, does one return the product packaged as new, or return it in the packaging it arrived in to demonstrate environmental responsibility. By focusing on returns as an important part of the service supply chain solution, manufacturers can really benefit from a simple, but important differentiator.

It’s time manufacturers embraced these changes and ensure that they are working with a partner who can deliver on all these areas. The service supply chain is increasingly dealing with products that consumers rely on for their daily lives and as a result, having a process that works quickly, efficiently and with visibility can make the crucial differentiator between you and your competitors.