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Managing supply ecosystems

January 15, 2020

Effectively managing suppliers is not easy. In many cases, the tools and systems that support supplier management are at best rudimentary. Indeed, a report released this week by the Supply Chain Research Council reveals that Excel spreadsheets ‘remain the most commonly used analytical tool’. Not an especially powerful way to gather, analyze or act upon data.

Visibility into supply ecosystems has rapidly become more important and, in some industries, a regulatory requirement. An imminent report from the IACCM Research Forum will outline these pressures – and also the challenges businesses face in responding.

Having the ability to control and manage your supply network takes on an added urgency when that network is interfacing with the end customer. That is why controls over distribution channels are typically far more detailed and comprehensive than those with suppliers in general. Though even here, if end customers experience a problem, the ability to make a complaint or secure recourse is often slow and time-consuming, perhaps even to a point where it is virtually impossible.

Companies spawned by our networked world have often come in for criticism and Uber has definitely been one of those. Today, I ordered an Uber. I stood at the appointed pick-up point. I could see the driver circling, but he did not arrive. I texted him to ask what he was doing. For a moment, ‘I have arrived’ popped onto my screen. Clearly he had not – at least, not where he was meant to be. And within a few minutes, I received a message from Uber accounts telling me that I had been charged for my no-show! I walked 50 yards and found a conventional taxi.

Normally, for the sake of $5, I would simply write off an event such as this, but I was annoyed because not only had I been charged, but I would now also be late for my meeting. So while sitting in the taxi, I searched for how I might complain to Uber, little expecting to find an answer. But yes, there is now a ‘Help’ button and it worked. It even offered an ability to send a complaint – which I did. It made me feel better, even if I wasn’t optimistic about receiving a response.

Within two minutes, I had a reply. My charge was being refunded. The tone was apologetic and thanked me for getting in touch. Instantly, my trust and appreciation for Uber increased. And yes, I will now continue and expand my use of their service because I now know that if it fails, I have recourse.

Managing your supply ecosystem really does matter. And Uber have grasped the point – but more important, they have developed a system that is fast, efficient and user-friendly. Well done Uber!

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