I was a production planner for over 10 years of my career, and I loved my job! I enrolled in this job because I love analysing and working with numbers. But what really was making me feel good driving home after a day at work was being able to have helped out a customer. Customers do come back if they have been well served and I strongly believe that companies can make a difference by focusing on excellent customer service. Customer service can be delivered at every contact point with the customer, for example by answering the phone in a friendly and timely manner, by sending a text message one hour before delivery, but also by sending clear and correct invoices. We have plenty of opportunities to make our customer feel he is important to us.

Optimising your inventory management or production planning process is one of those things that contribute to excellent customer service. Does this mean that you have to keep everything in stock? Certainly not. Inventory costs a lot of money and you should always make the trade-off between the service you offer and the cost and the investment that comes with this service. Below I would like to share with you 3 tips on how you can deliver excellent service through optimised inventory management.

Tip 1: Make sure your customer knows what service to expect

After all, the journey starts with what your customer expects from you. If I want to buy a 4×2 meter wooden table for a meeting room from my neighbour who does some carpentry as a secondary profession, I don’t expect him to have it readily available … but if Ikea offers a certain type of table in their catalogue, then I expect to take it home with me after my visit to the store. So it is not necessarily good or bad to keep products in stock or only to produce on order, but it is important to have this clear to your customer.

Tip 2: keep your promises

If establishing the right customer expectations is important, then fulfilling those expectations is even more important, or as Carl Gustav Jung once said: “You are what you do, not what you say you will do”. Customers will only remember what you have been able to deliver, even if you promise better. Over and over again you will have to prove to the customer that you can deliver what you promise, so thorough follow-up on your commitments should be integrated in the daily planning and replenishment process.

Tip 3: if it does go wrong, communicate on a solution, not only the problem

Of course it will go wrong someday. On the one hand, you might face issues on the supply side. Quality problems or delays can arise throughout the supply chain. On the other hand, as we see for example during the corona crisis in the demand for face masks, you might encounter such a demand peak that you cannot help every customer as you would like to. Of course it is important to inform your customer about this delay, but don’t limit yourself to the problem. Propose a solution as soon as possible: when will he have his product, are there alternatives available, etc.

Paying some extra attention to these three seemingly obvious and simple tips, can make your company increase its customer service. Not only will it make your day, your customer will remember this next he’s buying your product.

If you’d like to exchange thoughts on how to optimise inventory management in your company, don’t hesitate to reach out. Comments and remarks to this post are also very welcome!