How to deal with the kinked links of today’s supply chain

It’s no secret the supply chain is a hot topic for most industries right now. So hot, Ben Brugler wrote on it just a couple months back. Almost everyone is affected—just last week, my family was at a restaurant where the waitress apologized for serving my kids’ lemonade in travel coffee cups because they hadn’t gotten a shipment of their kids’ cups and straws (I assured her they’d survive).

But today’s issues are much more critical than kids’ cups. B2B companies worldwide—no matter the industry or region—are scrambling to keep up with supply to meet ever-increasing demands. According to a survey report by Dunn & Bradstreet, a whopping 99% of respondents said the pandemic has impacted their procurement operations.

It’s a scary spot to be in, as many companies struggle to find labor, product enough to meet orders and, worse yet, tell customers they won’t be getting their orders in time … or at all. There are many factors out of our control, but one thing that is in our control is how we react. Here are some key takeaways to help you navigate communications:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is something you simply cannot do enough. Be transparent, both internally to employees and externally to customers and the community. Employees need to know you recognize there are challenges and what you are doing to mitigate any negative effects. Are they working longer hours without any end in sight? Simply acknowledging their service will help them feel heard.
  2. Arm customer service and sales teams with what they need. For your customers, it’s a completely different message. Unfortunately, your customer service and sales teams may get the backlash with questions, potential unhappy customers and an influx of calls. Make sure they feel confident in their responses and have other ways to support the customer beyond their orders. Proactive communication to talk about potential speedbumps with customers is always better than them finding out on short notice. And working together to help them come up with a solution will help you keep your relationship strong.
  3. Consider shifting marketing efforts. Take a comprehensive look at all your marketing and promotional activity to make sure messaging is sensitive to any challenges your company and industry are going through. For example, if you have a product that is back-ordered, pause on promoting it and shift to something else. Make sure content you share is empathetic with the current struggles of your customers right now.
  4. Plan for recovery. This, too, shall pass, and when it does, you need a strong recovery plan. Everyone, from employees to customers, and everything, from plant processes and marketing, need to be considered. Put a strategy in place to ensure a smooth ramp-up as the supply chain recuperates and production gets back on track.

It may seem messy now, but the supply chain will eventually recover. Activity may not be back to the way it was, but if we use this time to proactively nurture our internal teams and external relationships, we’ll come out on top.

Contact Olivia Tormento to talk about how your organization can optimize its communications around supply chain challenges.