Exploring Customer Experience as a Contract Packager in the Supply Chain

Grab your snacks and a seat in the family room! Soon, you and about 3.6 billion people around the world (half the earth’s population) will watch the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. There will be triple axel jumps and unimaginable speeds, not to mention side dishes on fashion snafus and Russian athletes. What you may not notice, however, is the game’s official slogan: Passion. Connected.

The phrase aptly describes the supply chain for natural food manufacturers. We are connected by one shared value: our passion for making, packaging, selling and enjoying healthy food. As a contract packager, we help shape consumer satisfaction — fresh taste, packaging, on-time delivery, social impact, sustainability. It’s like we’re on the “luge team relay” (yes, it’s an actual Olympic sport) with customers: cultures that align fuel growth.

The point: customer experience is everything.

What does supply chain strength look like for food companies? Well, it is a lot like training for the gold. A great customer experience helps customers achieve faster time to market with less stress and worry. In a commodity business where competitors are historically indistinguishable, anticipating a customer question before it is asked means we’re listening. A consistent customer experience across all touch points — production, quality, in shipping and receiving, even how we answer the phone — builds trust.

The Food Business is Changing

With the many changes on how people consume and interpret food in their lives, no manufacturer can risk a supplier that operates in a silo. There’s little to no relationship there. It’s transactional. Simply put, we believe the customer experience we foster here at GreenSeed helps food companies deliver a better product.

According to a Walker study entitled “Customers 2020: A Progress Report,” customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. The study also states 86 percent of buyers across industries will pay more for a better customer experience. Why?

Back to the athlete. They have trainers, nutritionists, coaches and cheerleaders helping them succeed. The customer experience in the supply chain is no different. When you factor out the must-haves like quality programs, certifications, packaging technology, etc., the culture of your people remains.

What the Customer Experience Looks Like in the Supply Chain

We’d love to say we have all this buttoned up, but we don’t. We’re working on it. It really comes down to the role of customer relationships in manufacturing. Here are six points we’ve learned:

  1. Natural Food Manufacturers Value Relationships. Our customer base as a whole is more interested in relationships because the natural food industry is more relationship-driven and expects more from themselves.
  1. Human Beings Are Sensorial. Feelings like empathy, joy, commitment, loyalty, unity may not be a metric on a dashboard, but are just as important. Each customer has different needs and expectations about relationship. Just as we gauge quality and production metrics for customers and ourselves, the customer experience is just as tangible — from how we listen to meeting an RFP deadline.
  1. Transparency Creates Value. This is big. Transparency is the predecessor to trust. There are no one-footers here. We have to be all-in with customers so they are confident about bringing their product to market, brand integrity, and quality.
  1. Can We Fix This? Life happens. Relationships enable you to work through hard times and flourish in good times. This is where we learn, improve, grow. Step one: honest collaboration.
  1. Living our Values as a Company, Even if we Fail. When we fall flat on our face, at the end of the day, how we respond and the customer experience is tied to values.
  1. Vibrant Innovation Means a Seat at the Table for Suppliers. There’s tremendous pressure on brands to innovate. So the interaction between brand companies with suppliers takes on more responsibility. GreenSeed, for example, has an ideation process. We’re creating with customers, not just for customers.

It’s easy to think of manufacturing as a machine-driven, metrics-driven business. But consider this. All the training and data behind the making of an Olympic hopeful staring down at 800 feet of snow, their snowboard in position, surrounded by the quiet and mental flow of what they are about to do, will not necessarily ensure their performance. They must have something their competitors can’t touch in order to win gold.

To us, that’s the customer experience. By year’s end, we will circle back with you and share the lessons we’ve learned on this topic.