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Supply chain breakdowns are happening due to global disruptions, rising costs and increased consumer expectations. Businesses can’t always stop supply chain hiccups, but they can learn from them and limit their impact on vendors and clients.
How a business responds to a supply chain issue can have far-flung effects. A company that is proactive and diligent is well-equipped to move past a supply chain mistake, keeping vendors and clients in the loop as it resolves the error.
If they happen, respond accordingly, and keep vendors and clients happy during supply chain hiccups.
How to respond to supply chain hiccups
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to responding to supply chain hiccups — but there are several things your business can do to keep vendors and clients happy when they happen. These include:
1. Build strong relationships with vendors and clients
Open the lines of communication with vendors and clients. Communications with vendors and customers during a supply chain crisis should be relational rather than transactional. Think about why a supply chain hiccup impacts a vendor or client. From here, you can put yourself in a vendor or client’s shoes and tailor your communications accordingly.
Keep the lines of communication open with these parties when an issue arises. If they have any concerns or questions, respond to them right away. In addition, provide vendors and clients with updates. Once a supply chain issue is resolved, notify vendors and customers.
Follow up with a vendor or client after a supply chain hiccup. This helps cement your relationship with this party. Going forward, you and a vendor or client can continue to improve your relationship and make it as strong as possible.
2. Prioritize customer and vendor management
Do not wait for vendors and customers to find out about a supply chain issue. Instead, reach out to them if you find out a supply chain problem will affect them. Let a vendor or clients know you are working to resolve the issue and prevent it from recurring.
To navigate a supply chain disruption, it is beneficial to have adequate staff on hand to handle vendor and client queries. Keep customer service agents up to date on a supply chain issue. Give them information they can use to respond to vendor and customer questions about the problem. Ensure customer service agents receive ongoing support as the disruption is resolved.
Remain accessible to vendors and customers. Encourage both parties to share their concerns and questions via phone and other communication methods. A vendor or client should have no trouble getting in touch with your business during this time.
3. Improve inventory management and expectations
If a supply chain breaks down, make on-the-fly changes as needed. For example, a supply chain roadblock can hamper other areas of your business. In this instance, you can use backup sources of inventory and reorganize current inventory stores. This allows you to keep pace with vendor and client requests in the short term. Meanwhile, you can start planning ahead to limit the risk of future supply chain breakdowns.
Consider e-commerce solutions to transform your supply chain operations as well. These solutions give you access to a wealth of supply chain data. As such, if a supply chain issue occurs, you can use an e-commerce solution to assess relevant data. This can help you quickly resolve a supply chain issue.
E-commerce solutions can drive automation, too. You can use e-commerce solutions to understand your supply chain processes and automate repetitive ones. This can help you avoid supply chain errors and maximize your supply chain’s efficiency.
4. Keep your supply chain operations moving forward
Resolve a supply chain mistake immediately. The mistake can escalate if it goes unaddressed for an extended period of time. The sooner you address the issue, the less likely it will have a long-lasting impact on your vendors and customers.
Make sure employees receive support as they work to resolve a supply chain issue. Employees can communicate and collaborate with one another to mitigate the problem. They can update business stakeholders. Next, these stakeholders can share updates with vendors and customers.
Do not shut down supply chain operations due to one issue, either. Keep these operations running, even if they are not going at peak levels. This helps keep your business going in the right direction as it works to handle the problem.
5. Review the error and learn from it
Collect data as a supply chain disruption occurs. Software is available that makes it easy to track supply chain cycle time, fill rate and other supply chain metrics. You can use data to understand disruptions and their impacts on your vendors and customers.
Following a supply chain disruption, analyze associated metrics. These can help you understand why the disruption happened and what could have been done to prevent it or minimize its impact. You can then learn from the experience and explore ways to prevent similar problems down the line.
Accept the consequences of a supply chain mistake and move on from it. The mistake happened, and it can hurt your business’ relationships with vendors and customers. On the other hand, the mistake can be good for your business in the long run. Because if you learn from the mistake, you can use it to optimize your supply chain operations.
The bottom line
When a supply chain disruption happens, make the most of it. The disruption presents an opportunity for you to show vendors and clients what your company is all about. Use the disruption to highlight your commitment to helping both parties in any way possible. In doing so, you can resolve a supply chain issue, find the best ways to prevent it from happening again, and keep vendors and clients happy.