Managing a Service Supply Chain During Peak Season
Disruptions in a customer service supply chain can happen at any time, but more so during peak season. You can’t completely eradicate these disruptions because accidents do happen and the people you employ can sometimes make mistakes, but what can you do to minimize the damage on your service delivery processes?
1. Identify peak season challenges and plan accordingly.
If you’ve been a logistics service provider for many years, you’d already know when the peak season starts and ends. You probably know the challenges you have faced and the solutions you applied to overcome them. But, if you’re relatively new or you may have little experience in handling large orders because you only expanded your operations recently, then understanding when the peak period is and what happens during that time is vital to your business.
During peak season, there’s a massive influx of orders across all channels. You can predict when and how spikes in volume will occur through data. Benchmark your productivity metrics as well as your operating costs, so you’ll know how much materials or products to pre-order, the number of people to hire as temps or seasonal workers, and the work hours you’ll have to extend to meet consumer demands.
2. Implement a responsive supply chain strategy.
Once you understood the challenges you would have to face down, start adopting a responsive strategy in managing your customer service supply chain during peak season. This type of strategy doesn’t keep the goods for long in inventory and cuts down waiting time when responding to consumers. Here’s a more informative list of benefits from adopting a responsive supply chain:
- Improved use of just-in-time fulfillment.
- Ability to leverage cross-docking and drop-shipping.
- Automated exception management to get around the next “storm.”
- Reduced inventory carrying costs.
- Improved customer service.
- Increased accountability throughout the supply chain network.
- Decreased risk of damage, out-of-stocks, and other inventory management problems.
- Improved competitive advantage.
- Better use of data in preparation for the next surge.
This strategy emphasizes data collection, analysis, and monitoring. It also makes use of an omni-channel communication model in customer service, which means the company keeps in touch with their consumers through phone, email, text messaging, video chat, and social media. With the “new normal” coming up in a pandemic-affected world, these channels of communication become essential in customer service.
3. Improve your recruitment and workforce management capabilities.
Hiring activity rises up before peak season. While most of them are seasonal workers, it’s important that you train them up in anticipation of people handling more than one job. Expect there will be job swapping involved and that means implementing cross-training programs.
Cross-training is a process that uses training and development opportunities to ensure employees have the skills necessary to perform various job functions within an organization. While employees not only broaden their skills, the employer enjoys the fruits of a flexible workforce during periods of high production.
A “buddy system” or mentoring program that pairs a seasoned employee with a new hire certainly helps, but this only works when it’s not peak season. Right before peak season begins, plan a shorter, more focused employee training program for your new workforce. If you’re hiring for a customer support role and the employee would need to undergo both customer service and language training, either you’d have to hire months before or state your preference for experienced call center workers.
4. Choose the right supply chain partner.
Whatever your company’s size may be, you’ll always be in need of a supply chain partner that delivers without putting your name and reputation at risk. During the peak season, a good partner can take the load off your shoulders. This leaves you more time to spend on expanding your market reach, finding ways to innovate, and growing your business.
You don’t have to invest in office space, hardware, software, and overhead when you outsource to a third-party provider. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of outsourcing the work during peak season. When you find a supply chain partner who adopts good business practices and has the same values and principles as you do, the process of integrating your outsourcing arrangement into your supply chain will be easier. And, the results will astound you!