Time to recap the past year. A year filled with ups and downs. Clearly, we all remember the downs. First the Australian Bushfires, then the pandemic and let’s not forget the oil price crash – that only covers the first three months of 2020! The pandemic introduced the beginning of a new way of working as it led to extreme global consequences such as closed borders, reduced workforce and interrupted production and distribution. There is no doubt that these challenges have been a wakeup call for one business area that has been underestimated for years when it comes to innovation and true digitalization: the supply chain.
Now it is Christmas season, and this usually means busy season on both sides: business and consumer. But what will it look like this year? And how do businesses manoeuvre through this time successfully?
Let’s have a look at three simple steps to survive the Holiday chaos.
Heads up! How did you prepare your company for Christmas season 2020? The weeks before Christmas represent a crucial moment for many business activities. Yes, Christmas time is crazy but it’s not unpredictable. You know that chaos always awaits you at the end of the year. Preparing your business is a lot like preparing yourself for Christmas – Things like buying presents, decorating your homes, or groceries shopping for the big meal remind you of what Christmas time means: Rising demand, increasing orders and limited time.
- Note changes due to COVID-19: The pandemic has drastically influenced the consumption behaviour of people and created new habits. Not only has online shopping has become essential, but also buying locally to support local brands and communities has become popular and a sign of solidarity. Moreover, the need for health and hygiene concepts changed business practices to protect employees and ensure a seamless and safe workflow. Now – more than ever – it is crucial to be digitized, flexible and rethink the current status quo.
- Know the trends: In logistics, peak periods like this need proper preparation. On the one hand, the outlook on the revenues generated by continuously increasing online trading is motivating. Forecasts say, global B2C e-commerce will more than double from $3.4 trillion in 2019 to almost $8 trillion in 2027. Even previous events such as Black Friday show increasing sales by 125% worldwide in 2018. The B2B market for global Supply Chain and Logistics is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate between 2020 and 2025.
- Be aware of challenges: This increasing number of transactions create the threat of load peaks with overcrowded warehouses and harbours and many other problems. Logistics, transportation, and freight forwarding companies play an essential role in managing these increasing demands. While choosing a reliable business partner who is ready for the complexity of markets, they can ensure appropriate and timely supply chain management on a global scale. Thus, if you want to be a champion in logistics you must know your weakness(es) as well as plan ahead and manage your inventory, capacities, business partners, and staff for peak periods like this.
- Recap your values: Always remember that as a company you sell a certain value to your consumers or business partners. How do your actions affect those values? Are your values still valid? How can you ensure to be an authentic and professional business no matter the circumstance? Define your goals!
Showtime! How do you stumble through the Christmas chaos? Hopefully, you are aware of one thing: Both, consumers and businesses, know what they want, and they want it now. Thus, do everything you can to avoid reputational damage. Here is what that means for Logistics:
- Ensure the correct product or service. There is one fundamental expectation from your customer or business partner: The product/material they ordered is what they will receive. So, make sure you meet those expectations. It’s worth slowing down to pick the correct product from your shelf or provide the exact service that you promised. Do everything you can to avoid additional costs and time for you or your customer due to returns or unnecessary communication to clarify issues.
- Provide an excellent service. Do not get fooled by the belief that consumers and business partners only want a good product. They expect a seamless and timely delivery with no delays and no extra costs. Increasing the visibility of your process is the key to delivering great service. For example, enable user-friendly and fast communication with business partners and employees, implement a real time tracking system for cargo, ensure clear documentation exchange between all parties to avoid misunderstandings, and use automation of processes where it gives you an advantage.
After the game is before the game! What are your lessons learnt? Congratulations, you have survived the Christmas chaos. What a relief. Finally, time to breathe again. But as a champion, you know that this chaos will be back next year. You know that if you reflect and document your lessons learned now, you will not be surprised next year by things you already knew. You will not forget about the stress and mistakes you made this year. Find room for improvement. How do you prepare your business to become better next time? So take your time, take a breath and ask the following:
- Use your data: Did your achieve the goals you defined in your preparation phase? Measuring your performance is important, so make sure you use the data you have collected during the past weeks. Did you meet or exceed your expectations? Do you even have valuable KPI’s and reports that help you to understand what happened and if your season has been a failure or success?
- Learn from your mistakes: Has there been issues with customers or business partners? Critically review your own activities and be honest to yourself. And do not make the mistake to blame others and be offended. Instead, search for a solution and do not make the same mistake again next time. For instance, do you need to be more precise in communicating your expectations to your business partners or do you just have to improve your selection process? Or maybe you need to rethink your whole business model? How can trouble be avoided?
- Commit to change: What is one thing that you will do differently in the new year? Find real, meaningful opportunities to do better and then set a goal for 2021 to commit to that action. Learning alone is not enough if it isn’t converted into action.
- Document your leanings: One year can be a long time and who knows what 2021 has in store. Do not wait until summer to recap what you learned this Christmas season. A simple bulleted list can make a huge difference when you start your preparation next year. Yes, that sounds simple and unnecessary, but if it is so simple, why don’t you just try it?
by Marie-Luise Kissler