Meet Jane, a 30-something professional who has shopped with her favorite retailer since she was a teenager. After she closed on her first house, she ordered a new bed, new sheets, and new pillows with the brand’s two-day shipping option so that everything would arrive in time for her to spend her first night in her new house under brand-new covers.
But instead, Jane will spend her housewarming party explaining how her favorite store let her down. The bed didn’t arrive until a week after move-in, the sheets took two more weeks after that and the pillows are still in transit.
Back at retail headquarters, it’s starting to become clear that Jane wasn’t the only customer to experience delivery hiccups. Sales from repeat customers are down and recent online reviews are searing. Negative customer experiencesn are having a ripple effect throughout the enterprise and put leaders from every department on edge.
Who’s to Blame?
Retail leaders know that botched deliveries that lead to the loss of lifelong customers like Jane are seldom the result of one department’s shortcomings. The CMO who doesn’t have access to inventory levels risks promoting items that are already out of stock. The vice president of distribution who doesn’t have real-time data on item selection throughout the entire distribution center (DC) network can’t reroute trucks in the event of inventory shortfalls or inclement weather.
Today’s customers are kept or lost based on the retail organization’s ability to process orders quickly, and collect and share data across the enterprise in real time. Retailers that implement voice-directed applications and predictive analytics platforms purpose-built for the supply chain will be the ones most likely to meet rising consumer expectations and succeed.
How Voice and Analytics Affect the Entire Enterprise
While the benefits of voice automation technology and new supply chain analytics platforms may start in the supply chain, they don’t end there. Data collected from voice management suites can improve efficiency and accuracy for a variety of warehouse functions. Predictive analytics platforms make it easier to make critical real-time decisions by collecting data from multiple sources, including voice software, sales forecasts, transportation management systems and more.
As a result of the accuracy and efficiency improvements, and data collection that voice and predictive analytics bring to the supply chain, the entire retail enterprise benefits. The organization becomes more powerful and better able to keep customers like Jane. Here’s a closer look at how retail leaders across the enterprise can benefit from a smarter value chain powered by voice and analytics:
The Fulfillment Supervisor
To execute time-sensitive, next-day and two-day shipments, the fulfillment supervisor must be able to move orders quickly through the warehouse and make decisions fast. One way to aid fulfillment supervisors is by replacing outdated paper-based systems currently in use for a variety of warehouse functions, including everything from picking to put-away to receiving. In fact, even by only replacing paper-based processes for a single function like picking can lead to efficiency improvements of 30 percent or more, but leveraging an analytics tool to capture data and tie it to transportation and weather reports can help the fulfillment supervisor keep deliveries on schedule.
Vice President of Distribution Operations
The vice president of distribution operations should be able to leverage the full power of a DC network to prevent delays. Data collected from technologies like voice automation can help identify both shortfalls and surpluses to keep orders moving on time.
Not only can voice improve standards significantly, but voice automation solutions also collect data that can be useful for identifying high- and low-performing DCs and for gleaning insight into the entire retail operation as a whole. Predictive analytics that link elements of the supply chain together gives the COO the ability to continue to improve operational efficiency.
The cost of a single late or incorrect order is enormous. The order must be repacked and reshipped, while the incorrect item is returned and reshelved; the impact on the customer experience can also lead to long-term damage to the bottom line. Loyal customers are willing to take their business elsewhere when companies can’t deliver.
The CMO must be able to rely on supply chain systems to execute on marketing offers without losing customers. Not only do multi-modal voice solutions help get orders out the door quickly, making it possible to offer fast and free shipping, but analytics can also provide real-time inventory information that makes it easier to design promotions and sales.
The HR Manager
Making sure customers get their orders on time means having enough team members in the warehouse to keep throughput at optimal levels, but planning is never simple. By combining pick rate data generated from a voice management suite with data on sales forecasts, analytics tools can leverage the average pick rates of both permanent and seasonal staff to help hiring managers determine the likely outcome before the recruiting process even begins.
Faced with the challenge of increasingly complex retail environments, CEOs know that long-term success hinges on being able to deliver a superior customer experience. With voice-directed software, CEOs can make their operation even more efficient and 99.9 percent accurate. With predictive analytics purpose-built for the supply chain, CEOs can give their team members the ability to identify areas for improvement with the power to make real-time decisions that can help to improve customer lifetime value.
Voice and Analytics: No Longer Optional
Shoppers like Jane have options. After a botched order sends customers to the competition, even a track record of success may not be enough to pull customers back to a brand. Smart retailers know that the supply chain is critical to the customer experience and ultimately to the entire retail experience. Implementing voice automation and predictive analytics tools helps companies keep and delight their customers, helps departmental leaders achieve their goals, and helps the retail enterprise succeed in a changing environment.
Keith Phillips is the president and CEO of Voxware.