Hello? Can You Listen?

Founder and CEO, Supply Chain Insights
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

LinkedIn Influencer, Lora Cecere, published this post originally on LinkedIn

Like feathers in the air in a pillow fight, consumer sentiment permeates the Internet. It comes in many forms including blogs, rating and reviews, twitter and Facebook posts. The irony is that while technology has given customers voice, the average company does not have the capability to listen.

Traditional marketing focuses on yelling a message. Traditional marketers yell, but they cannot listen. Today's shopper wants to be heard, but today's manufacturers have big mouths and little ears. They cannot hear. There are several ironies:

Irony 1: The customer-centric value chain has never been more possible based on technology. However, it is not where manufacturers are investing. Few manufacturing and supply chain leaders have a plan to use customer sentiment data in supply chain processes.

Irony 2: Customer sentiment could help supply chains to sense from the outside-in, but the majority of investment in supply chain technologies are focused on improving response. The focus is on building an efficient response. Less than 1% of companies are investing in sensing capabilities.

Irony 3: If customer sentiment and the mining of unstructured text to understand customer feedback on products and services is happening within the traditional company, it is occurring in the digital marketing teams. It is seldom if ever used by the supply chain teams. Digital marketing teams and supply chain teams usually never speak.

Related: Writing a Book: The Downhill Slide (LinkedIn)

In 2015, I encourage companies to break this cycle. Embrace the customer-centric supply chain and mine sentiment data to enable new capabilities. Here are three to consider:

1. Better Production Scheduling. 

Companies that can sense customer sentiment make better decisions on the second and third production runs for a new product. This improves the in-stock position of a fast-moving product and prevents obsolescence for one that is not selling. Listening and the mining of customer data can reduce demand latency by 50-75%. While it takes seven to sixty days to read market sell-through, customer sentiment can be mined in hours and days.

2. Early Detection of Quality Problems. 

Cross-functional processes to listen to the customer can improve the time to sense a quality issue by 15-30%. While the complaint reports to call centers takes days and weeks, the mining of sentiment data takes hours and days.

Related: What I Learned from My Father (LinkedIn)

3. Product Rationalization. 

Unchecked complexity increases costs and inventory levels. Through the better use of sentiment, companies can more easily prune their product portfolios.

Have a great new year! As you spend time over the holiday, reading and relaxing, consider if it is time for you to build listening capabilities into your processes. I for one vote, that it is time for companies to reverse the equation. Instead of big mouths and little ears, I think that it is time to have big ears and little mouths. I want to usher in the era of the customer-centric supply chain. What do you think?

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