Grant Gordon, Managing Director – KPMG Business Effectiveness, recently blogged on optimizing the service supply chain, profiting from product lifecycle opportunities (http://ow.ly/7IrzL). In the blog and associated white paper, Mr. Gordon noted An effective reverse logistics program within the service supply chain is key to managing the customer experience. The seemingly simple process of exchanging a defective part during the products life cycle can make or break a customers long-term relationship with the technology provider.
I agree completely with Grant, and it seems to me that this seemingly simple process of exchanging a defective part is a great example of value of advanced portal solutions.
Previously, portals were mostly focused on information sharing, with a customer retrieving product information from a supplier or vendor. They have now evolved to become a gateway to community based workflow and automation, helping cooperation between multiple parties, improving and measuring performance by adhering to a best practice workflow , and most recently automating much of the customer service functions by using timely data from supporting systems; resulting in faster and more accurate service for customers. This helps reduce the suppliers cost through improved efficiencies and decision making quality through better insight in their customer/supply chains.
This approach also lays the foundation for the fundamental point within Mr. Gordons blog entry Embracing service as a revenue generator rather than a cost center to earn and retain a valuable assetyour customers Long-term loyalty
Our own portals provide these types of benefits, but I believe over time they will/can do more.
Our spare parts management portal presents to users the association of spare parts to specific products, allowing online ordering through ecommerce, quoting or P.O. issuance. Our returns management portal allows users to report and manage RMAs/cases while automatically determining warranty status and tracking workflow performance.
However, I do believe we will see even greater benefits from collaboration across additional departments and functions as they extend further into the global supply chain and the end user activities, enabling an even higher level of workflow efficiency. Microsoft knows this, and has invested a great deal in their SharePoint platform and its fundamental portal capability, with some great out of the box document management and workflow automation capabilities resident within SharePoint 2010.
And of course, a well designed portal solution fits well with the cloud movement, enabling theses benefits to be deployed rapidly and universally across multiple stakeholders and systems; using SOA and other information exchange architecture that supports real time availability of important information. Providers (like GlobalNow) must ensure customers receive a high level of value, basically making their lives easier as they service their customers in a fashion that shifts their operations from a cost center to a revenue generator.