Director, Content Marketing
From supply chain disruptions to the Great Resignation, the effects of the pandemic continue to ripple through our workforce. And it seems like SMBs are getting the worst of it.
The most recent Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey found that nearly 50% of small businesses reported supply chain delays — that number jumps to 74.2% in the manufacturing industry and 68.9% in retail.
If holiday shopping hasn’t already made it painfully clear, let’s just say that these supply chain issues are making it hard for SMBs to keep their regular products in stock. They often have to choose between having major delivery delays from their trusted suppliers or switching to new suppliers with very little time to think about it or screen vendors.
Switching suppliers can result in lower-quality items, higher expenses, increased turnaround times and more. Needless to say, it's a stressful time, especially because these supply chain disruptions can radically affect a business's ability to meet customer expectations. And that's the last thing you want as we gear up for a new year of business.
Thankfully, managing supply chain disruptions is totally possible. You can manage these challenges and maintain your relationships during this rollercoaster of a moment by leveraging your CRM.
5 tips for managing supply chain disruptions with your CRM
Here are five best practices on how to overcome and avoid supply chain disruptions as we head into 2022.
1. Be completely transparent with your customers.
Transparency is critical during this time. Tell your customers exactly what's going on. If prices are higher or shipping will take longer, let them know, and tell them why. It's much better to get in front of the issue and lose a few sales than having to deal with refunds and angry customers down the road.
You can use email templates and email sequences in your CRM to be proactive and send emails ahead of time. Rather than waiting for your customers to visit your website or social media page, start sending them emails now to encourage them to shop earlier than usual.
2. Communicate clearly and regularly with your suppliers.
Make it a priority to build strong relationships with multiple contacts from your different suppliers. Stay in touch and build a rapport based on honesty. Make it clear that you want to know about issues the second they arise, not when it's too late for you to adjust things on your side.
Use your CRM to schedule tasks and reminders to follow up with your key suppliers weekly to get status updates. Don't rely on them to tell you what's going on. Instead, call them regularly to touch base so you always have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare your customers.
3. Get the entire team collaborating and on the same page.
Managing supply-chain disruptions also means managing your team. These issues make things stressful for everyone. That's why it's important to keep tabs on all your employees and check in often. It's also a great time to make sure you're leveraging everyone's talents because, in times like these, everyone has to give it their all to keep things running smoothly.
You can easily create automated workflows in your CRM to make sure internal collaboration and communication stay intact. If everything functions smoothly through organized workflows, it's easier for your entire team to stay on the same page.
4. Use available reports and data to plan for potential problem spots.
While we’re in unprecedented times, your historical data is your biggest asset right now because you can use this data to help make critical decisions. For example, data from your CRM reports can give you a clear picture of your most profitable customers and vendors. You can use that information to plan for any supply chain issues by starting those conversations early.
You can use those same reports to help you make tough, but necessary, business decisions. Like, if you have to stop offering some products due to supply chain issues, you can use your CRM reports and future forecasting to decide which products to cut to help protect your bottom line.
5. Have a responsiveness plan of action
Flexibility is crucial right now. If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it's that it's impossible to prepare for every possible outcome. Still, there's no harm in preparedness. To survive this supply chain crisis, you have to be ready to respond to customer complaints — because even if you're proactive with suppliers and communicative with customers, things can still go wrong.
Consider using your CRM to set up "crisis pipelines," like a customer complaint pipeline or a refund pipeline. This ensures that if unexpected things happen, everyone knows what they need to do to keep the small fire from burning out of control and engulfing the entire company.
How to overcome supply chain disruptions
Everyone's wondering how to avoid supply chain disruptions, but the truth is that you can't. Like all the other hurdles of the last several years, it's another exercise in resilience. But if you plan ahead and adapt, it's another hurdle you can overcome.
Managing supply chain disruptions is all about strengthening your internal processes, teamwork, communication strategies and customer relationships. Transparency and collaboration are key.
And while this period may not be a growth period financially, there's no doubt that your company will evolve and become stronger as a result of overcoming these challenges together.
Be sure to use all the tools at your disposal, including your CRM. If you're not a Copper customer yet, try us free for 14 days.