December 29th 2011

Value-Added Distribution Services That Strengthen Customer Relations. Guest Post by Derek Singleton

Freight Wing-Interstate Distributor Co.6
Image by TruckPR via Flickr

Value-Added Distribution Services That Strengthen Customer Relations

Guest Post by Derek Singleton

Derek approached me after I reposted some of his very good content on adding value. After reading this, head over to his website and see his other good advice.  Reg

Distributors always have a host of pressures to contend with. For instance, the industry is constantly grappling with fierce competition and rising fuel prices. Under these conditions, it’s becoming more important than ever to maintain customer relationships. Like other industries, one of the ways that distributors can strengthen their customer relationships is by offering value-added services.

But what services should distributors offer? Customers have a whole laundry list of services they’d like to see added. These services range from providing consultations to managing customer inventory. Of course, distributors can’t provide all of these services. They have to pick and choose which they’ll provide. I’d like to highlight three value-added services the industry should consider providing their customers.

1. Vendor Managed Inventory

Vendor managed inventory (VMI) is a concept first popularized by Walmart. Under a VMI system, the distributor assumes responsibility for keeping their customer’s inventory levels stocked at optimal levels. While this is a complex undertaking, advancements in web-based software and mobile capabilities are making it easier to manage inventory on a customer’s behalf. As an example, a distributor at their customer’s location can access their their software with their smart phone and initiate a new purchase order to restock inventory levels.

2. Delayed Product Assembly

Distributors that work with manufacturers have an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction by delaying product assembly. Distributors get great discounts by purchasing component parts in bulk and assembling the product as orders come in. However,  managing product assembly can be tricky. To effectively manage delayed assembly, distributors should rely on the bill of materials (BOM) functionality in their wholesale distribution software. A bill of materials allows distributors to track the components parts, item numbers and proper packaging specification to ensure that final assembly is done correctly.

3. Improve e-Commerce Support

In the digital age, more and more retail are operations are asking distributors for help in fulfilling online orders. Supporting online sales distributors shifts the traditional dynamic of distribution operations by shortening delivery times and increasing the number of shipments. To handle the demand of fulfilling online sales, distributors need to focus on integrating their system with their customer’s. This allows distributors to receive orders instantaneously and to pick, pack and ship these orders in the most efficient way possible. Of course, it’s also possible to fulfill online orders through manual methods but these have a large efficiency gap compared to automated systems.

These are just a few of my ideas on how distributors can improve their customer relationships. If you’d like to see an expanded list of value-added services, please visit the Software Advice website to view the original article at: How Distributors Can Improve Relationships with ValueAdded Services.

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