Sometimes in business continuity we end up with such a fierce focus on actions inside the enterprise that we neglect actions directed towards the outside world, and specifically towards our customers.
In the logistics sector for example, among third-party logistics service providers (3PLs), business continuity has not always been a strong point. However, the smarter ones (often the larger ones) have developed a tactic that helps them ride out the rollercoaster conditions of the economy and different natural, political, social, technological, and regulatory upsets.
By getting and staying close to their large customers, 3PLs can gain important visibility into business trends. Some 3PLs take things even further and in concertation with the customer embed part of their personnel into the customer’s organisation.
The 3PL representatives are then involved in strategic as well as tactical discussions for improving storage and transport results. They also have more opportunity to help the customer improve logistics performance from all angles of the customer’s activity (production, packaging design, sales and operations, and others).
When this works well, it becomes a virtuous spiral, with improved results embedding the 3PL team deeper into the customer’s organisation, which in turn helps generate even better results, and so on.
Of course, third-party logistics service providers are not the only entities that can benefit from such embedding. Other services providers from accountancy outsourcing to marketing communications firms to travel agencies can and, in some cases, do “set up shop” inside a large customer’s site, engaging with the customer’s teams and management better as a result.
It’s a win-win situation from the service provider and customer, on the condition that there are the necessary initial resources to start the embedded relationship off, if only in terms of staff relocation and desk space. If you haven’t yet considered it, it’s possible that there are opportunities your enterprise could be exploiting to get a lot closer to your most important customers.