Supply chain leaders open the curtain on customer experience

June 05, 20194 minute read

At the 2019 AWESOME Symposium, one panel featured a retail organization that sells high-end fashion, a health care and medical device company that touches people at every stage of life, a company that built their brand on being a warm and inviting environment, and a company that epitomizes the trend toward digital commerce. Did they have views on how customer experience and the supply chain are closely connected? Absolutely!

Each has faced challenges when it comes to giving customers what they want.

Nordstrom, represented on the Symposium panel by Shea Jensen, SVP, Customer Experience, has always prided itself on giving personal attention inside the store. Now they’re taking into consideration that what many of their customers want is speed and convenience when they shop.

Johnson & Johnson, represented by Carol Montandon, Chief Quality Officer; Vice President Quality and Compliance, Medical Devices , faces the reality every day that if any one of the multiple products they provide for one critical surgery fails to arrive, someone’s life could be affected.

Starbucks, represented by Emily Chang, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, and Katie Young, VP, Urban Markets, became a huge success on being a “third place” where people could feel comfortable between home and work – and now they’re pleasing customers with other options, such as drive-through and mobile orders.

And Amazon — represented by Alexis DePree, VP, Transportation Services, Americas Sort Centers – the company that gave everyone a lesson in succeeding without bricks and mortar, is now opening actual bookstores and markets, while still exploring innovative concepts in ways of transacting business.

As moderator Kelly Bengston, SVP and Chief Procurement Officer, Starbucks, probed for insights into customer experience and innovation, there are things about which the panelists agreed:

How do they stay close to the customer?
Emily Chang talked about visiting a Starbucks location one Sunday and striking up a conversation with a man she’d noticed there before. It turns out, he comes to that location every day and travels a distance to get there. He said, “This is my chair. This is my place.”

Carol Montandon spoke of the way she and her team members actually observe surgeries to see how their implements are used; to notice if there would be any way to make the process more efficient. J&J also uses data analytics to provide insights to doctors that help them choose which products to use for which patients.

Shea Jensen talked about one initiative in which Nordstrom took a subset of 800 customers and spent nine months doing focus groups, events, and product design. What resulted was more than 400,000 points of data.

Katie Young explained that Starbucks has a way of “trying out” design ideas before they become permanent. There’s a space where prototypes can be built to get customer and partner feedback quickly.

Alexis DePree described how Amazon likes to use a system of asking multiple teams to write a “PR FAQ” – (modeled after a public relations information sheet of “frequently asked questions”) about a new idea or a problem. Amazon, she said, believes in the Darwinian theory that the best will eventually rise to the top. Alexis’ comment: Holy chaos!

More words of wisdom from the Customer Experience and Innovation panel: