Unboxing Logistics: An EasyPost Podcast

Supply Chain and the Consumer Experience With Matt Boland From Körber and Jill Barron From Summit Advisory Team - Ep. 06

September 13, 2023 | 46:23

In This Episode

When your behind-the-scenes supply chain processes run smoothly, the front-end customer experience improves. In this episode of Unboxing Logistics, Matt Boland (senior director at Körber Supply Chain) and Jill Barron (practice lead at Summit Advisory team) explain how you can leverage the supply chain to give your customers a better buying journey.

A crucial piece of pre-purchase experience

What products are available, and where are they located in relation to customers? Inventory management is “probably one of the most important pre-purchase elements of a dynamic supply chain,” according to Matt.

When you don’t update inventory online, customer experience plummets. As Jill puts it, “there's no quicker way to lose loyalty and trust … than to not accurately communicate to your consumers that an item is back-ordered or out of stock.”

What customers want from the returns experience

Matt and Jill both agree: customers want a fast, frictionless return process. Jill suggests that most people prefer “either going quickly and dropping [a return] off at a local store or setting it out on [the] front porch for someone to come pick it up.”

Preventing returns is just as important as making them easy for consumers. Matt points out that “you greatly reduce your risk for returns if you dramatically increase your ability to deliver on time and in full.”

Moving away from free shipping

With the rise of Amazon, free shipping became a necessity for many consumers, and sellers offered it to stay competitive. But now, according to Jill, “There are retailers out there … putting thresholds on the purchase” so their customers have to spend a certain amount of money to get free shipping.



Lori Boyer 00:00 

Welcome everyone to Unboxing Logistics. I'm Lori Boyer and I'm your host today and I am super excited as always because we are going to be having an amazing show. I've brought on two of the smartest people I know and you guys are really in for a treat today. So today's topic, you know, recently I was reading an article that said that Americans are kind of over the supply chain excuses around COVID.

And that got me thinking a little bit about supply chain and how it impacts the consumer experience. I think that as consumers, we often don't think about supply chain being related to our experience. But as shippers, we all know it's a big deal. And so I brought in two amazing supply chain experts to talk to us a little bit about the impacts of the supply chain on the consumer experience, how we can improve that and make sure that we're no longer being able to just say, well, you know, COVID's caused a bunch of supply chain problems.

And so, you know, we're, we've kind of moved on from that. So. That's our topic for today. I have Matt Boland and Jill Barron. Excited, I need a drum roll here. Here with us today, and I'm going to give them just a second to introduce themselves. Let's start with Jill. 

Jill Barron 01:23 

Hi, everybody. Jill Barron. I am a practice lead with Summit Advisory Team.

I lead the supply chain operations and strategy practice there. Been with Summit for almost a couple years now. And prior to that, I have close to three decades of experience in supply chain, supply chain operations, and strategy with a luxury retailer. You know, I've really dipped my toe and have oversights in everything from operating a facility to strategy to partner relations and even some facility engineer experience in there.

Lori Boyer 02:01 

That's awesome. Welcome Jill. Matt, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Matt Boland 02:07 

Matt Boland. I got my start in supply chain way back at United Parcel Service. And so I was a practitioner back then. But when I started to see supply chain solutions and technology head out on the web I thought that was probably a good time to, to make the move.

So I, I did go out to a startup. I then found myself at an order management company the original order management company, and I really found my passion there. So I've kind of stayed in that realm. About five years ago. I did get an opportunity to get out into the ecommerce world and worked at several organizations that were bought by other organizations, and then I found my way out of ecommerce back into order management.

And that's where I'm finding my mantra and passion going right back into the order management space, working for Körber Supply Chain running their OMS partner ecosystem. 

Lori Boyer 03:02 

Awesome, welcome you guys. For our community out there, you can see why I invited the two of them, they both just have a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and I am really excited for us to dive in. But first, as always, we like to get to know our guests a little bit, part of what we do here on Unboxing Logistics is try to actually kind of get to know our, our, you know, comrades in the industry.

And so we're going to play a little game of this and that. I'm going to name a couple of things and you both just will go straight up and tell us what you like and what you prefer. We'll start easy. And at the end, I'll even throw in a couple of supply chain options to make it a little trickier. So okay.

Sweet or savory. Are you a sweet or savory person? 

Matt Boland 03:48


Jill Barron 03:49 


Lori Boyer 03:50 

Oh! Wow, I'll be the sweet person. Savory, you guys have a favorite? 

Matt Boland 03:55

There's probably too many, but just this past week I had a wonderful Irish Guinness beef stew that's kind of stuck in my brain right now, so I'll go with that. 

Lori Boyer 04:05 


Jill Barron 04:06 

Nice, I would say Italian meatballs would be my savory choice. Food of choice. 

Lori Boyer 04:11 

I feel like I need to have dinner at both of your houses. That sounds delicious. Okay chocolate or vanilla? 

Jill Barron 04:18 


Matt Boland 04:19


Lori Boyer 04:19 

Oh! You guys are on the same page. 

Matt Boland 04:23 

I like vanilla because you can add lots of stuff to it, but you can't necessarily add all those things to chocolate as well as you can to vanilla, so that's kinda my perspective there.

Lori Boyer 04:34 

Okay, time travel. Would you want to go to the past or the future? 

Matt Boland 04:37 


Jill Barron 04:39 

I, I would say the past as well. 

Lori Boyer 04:41 

Me too. Me too. Past for the win. In terms of supply chain, do you guys predict that... sustainability will continue to grow in importance or stall or fall off? Which one do you think in terms of sustainability with the supply chain? Do you think that's going to become bigger or not? 

Jill Barron 05:03 

It's got, it has to become bigger 

Matt Boland 05:05 

And not only to Jill's answer, but it will become bigger. There's too much focus on it now, there's too many ways to improve. And the focus goes beyond corporate. It's in governments. 

Lori Boyer 05:18 

What about in terms of AI? Prediction around that. Do you think the AI is gonna continue to grow? Do you think that it's overhyped? 

Matt Boland 05:26 

I'll tell you I'm I'm not the hugest fan right now So you have to talk about AI from a lot of different angles. I mean definitely in terms of solving problems, I'm kind of cool with that. What AI can be used for that is you know, controversial, I've got a big problem with. Probably my favorite thing for AI though, is I wish I could just go on a chatbot and say, I would like a receipt of my hotel bill and it would send it to me.

I mean, let's solve those simple things first and move up instead of jumping over the simple solutions to try and solve the most complex, right? I've never met a chatbot I liked, how's that? Never been able to get an answer to a simple question, right? 

Lori Boyer 06:08 

Jill, what are your feelings on AI? 

Jill Barron 06:09 

Yeah, you know, I, I kind of am with Matt on this.

You know, I love the use of AI and machine learning as companies are trying to solve problems and understanding habits and consistencies within data to help them be more predictive about the future within the supply chain. I love that use, and I think, I think we'll see more of that. But, I'm not so thrilled like Matt is about some of the more controversial kind of uses of AI and, you know, the complete replacement of certain skill sets and even certain industries by AI. I'm a little, little gun-shy on that one right now. 

Lori Boyer 06:59 

That's super interesting, you guys. That's, I love the idea of sometimes we're jumping a little too fast maybe, like over some of the amazing simple uses of AI that we overlook how cool those can be, like just getting a receipt or something.

That's something I hadn't really thought about. I am kind of an AI geek, so I love AI. But I love the idea as well of like let's take it step at a time and not, you know be eating meat before we have milk or whatever as they say so, awesome. Thank you. 

Matt Boland 07:28 

Who says that, Lori? 

Lori Boyer 07:30 

I said that apparently. 

Matt Boland 07:32 

Oh, okay.

Lori Boyer 07:32 

That's like a genius thing that I've made up. 

Matt Boland 07:35 

Okay, very good. See I'm not a genius...

Lori Boyer 07:41 

Okay, so we're gonna go ahead and jump into our topic about supply chain and how it impacts the consumer experience now. I want to kick this off today, I want to talk about kind of all of the three different phases of the consumer experience. So the pre-purchase experience, the purchase experience, and the post-purchase experience and how supply chain impacts each one and ways that our listeners out there and our, our viewers, if you're watching how they can kind of make sure that everything is running as smoothly as possible. Because as I mentioned earlier, consumers are no longer kind of giving us the benefit of the doubt when it comes to supply chain issues.

I want to dive into all three and I want to start though, Matt, you recently wrote a really interesting blog post kind of around this topic and around the consumer experience when it comes to supply chain. Share a little bit with us about that. 

Matt Boland 08:38 

Yeah. Thanks. It's good to know one person read it. Someone besides your mom.

Yeah. So that's two people. I've just seen a trend over the last several years where everybody talks about commerce and ecommerce. Almost as if they're synonymous, right? So, the article was to separate the fact that commerce is all these activities that have to do with purchasing in any way, shape, or form.

And ecommerce is just that. It's kind of like a channel by which people can purchase. So I started to talk about how, you know, you have to separate all these commerce activities that relate to the supply chain and not refer to it as ecommerce itself, right? So, you know, there's all these systems behind that, you know, Jill and her company know about, which are like incredible software companies, supply chain companies that take on different aspects of the supply chain.

And they all feed that purchasing experience, right? So, you know, having somebody, you know. When you, when you look for consulting or you look for somebody to talk to you about your end-to-end commerce experience, you have to remember that there's, you know, dozens of systems that impact not only that single channel, but actually impact that experience from what they see and what they're able to buy, an inventory perspective, and then this whole blind experience that happens once they purchase, you know, where they click that buy button or once in the B2B world, they send that EDI transaction over. There's assumptions around things that are going to happen and all those assumptions that are meant to happen are managed by the supply chain solutions, right? 

So you've got this, you know, you, you make the order and then you think everything's going to be done. And I just, in closing, I'd just say, you know, in B2C. There are no service level agreements like there are in the B2B world, right? So there's only an expectation and a promise a retailer makes or an e-tailer makes, right?

But in the B2B world, there are all these complexities that say, I don't need to know what kind of inventory you have. I just expect that you have it. And the ability to make sure that your systems are flagging things when they go wrong is incredibly important. And I think the focus on ecommerce over the last 10 years is saying that it's time for us to kind of flip the coin again and go get back to those best practices.

Because all those systems that we've used for supply chain, they're warhorses. They're gone. Chugged along every day, but it's time to give them kind of an update, right? You've kind of driven them into the ground, see what's happening, contact a company like Jill's to look at those systems that you have in place and where improvements can be made.

Lori Boyer 11:33 

Jill, I would love to hear how you, how you feel like the consumer expectations have changed over the years. How have things shifted and, and how have maybe things like COVID come into play? Well, what are, where are we at when it comes to consumer expectations? 

Jill Barron 11:49 

Yeah, Lori, I think it's interesting if you kind of look at the life cycle of expectations that consumers have when they're shopping online.

You're exactly right. 10 years ago, you just, you were just hoping that by entering in your credit card on the computer that it was going to be safe, right? 

Lori Boyer 12:09 

Yeah, 100%! 

Jill Barron 12:09 

Right. You know, but then, you know, fast forward a couple years and, you know, this big goliath called Amazon came out and said, Look, we're gonna, you can order something and we're gonna get it to you the next day or in two days or even in three days.

So that really shifted consumers expectations and it was called the Amazon effect kind of in the supply chain circles that everybody was kind of chasing that. How do we get faster? We have to keep up with Amazon. We have to get products to consumers the same day or next day, maybe two days, but definitely not longer than two days.

And then, and then you come into 2020 where the pandemic came into play and the online sales went through the roof in all industries because nobody wanted to go out into the public and wanted everything delivered to their door. So, you know, pandemic really also changed the way that consumers thought about how they were going to receive the goods that they purchased online.

They either wanted it delivered to their door, in a lot of cases the same day, or they wanted to drive to the store and have somebody bring it out and put it in their trunk for them. That kind of that curbside pickup option, which I think is fascinating. There's still a lot of curbside activity that still happens today.

Consumers are like, yeah, I don't want to go into the store, bring it out to me. It'll be interesting to see if that eventually goes away. You know, in, in that realm of Amazon effect and pandemic, we had free shipping, right? Free shipping, free returns you know, retailers really wanted to make it easy for the customer to buy and, and not have any regrets.

You know, where there has been a shift in that a little bit is kind of the carbon footprint and sustainability concerns you talked about in the very beginning. You know, sustainability and carbon footprint is not going to go away. It has to be important and companies that provide their customers options, whether that be reduced packaging and cardboard, or it could be combination of combining shipments if you order multiple times, those things have to have to evolve and become more prevalent. 

Lori Boyer 14:30 

Can I, can I interrupt and ask you really quick here, Jill? So do you think when it comes to sustainability, that's just got me on this topic. What are consumers' expectations of a company? Do we just, does a, let's say it's an ecommerce company.

Do they need to just offer the sustainability? Did they need to, can they charge their customer, do you think, to offset the cost? I guess where, what, what should if we have somebody out there listening right now and they're like I don't want to pay the extra for it, are are they able I guess is what i'm saying to offset that cost by asking the consumer to cover some of the, that extra burden?

Jill Barron 15:09 

You know, I think it depends on how you as a retailer are looking to weave in sustainability into your operating model, right? So if you are, if you are offering a consolidation of packages, you know where, you know, I see that you ordered something Monday and you're ordering something Wednesday. Can we consolidate?

Look, that doesn't cost the retailer any more money and it saves them money. It saves on the carbon footprint. So there's no really incremental costs there. There could be some incremental cost on packaging. I've seen it, seen it both ways. I have worked for a retailer where we had a retail organization in Europe that, you know, packaged everything in these very beautiful boxes, cost a lot of money.

And there was an offering now that you don't have to get every product in this beautiful, expensive box. We can send it to you in something that's more sustainable. A recyclable bag, or a recyclable cardboard. And really, that doesn't cost the retailer any more money in most cases either. So I just, I think it depends on the retailer and how they are thinking about weaving sustainability into the optionality that consumers have.

Oftentimes those those solutions don't cost more. 

Lori Boyer 16:39 

I love that idea of being, it's kind of just being creative around it. And I would think making sure you get that message in front of the consumer. So for example, I'm often offered the option to consolidate packages. The three of us have joked around a lot. We know that I have a million kids.

And so I do a ton of online shopping always. It's so much easier for me, but so I often get like, Hey, do you want to consolidate? And I think, Oh, I don't know. But if it just had a notice saying, Hey, you're going to actually be reducing the carbon footprint, you know, things that don't put a lot of effort on me, but then make me feel good about what I've done.

Those are perfect for having out there. 

Matt Boland 17:20 

Matt, did you have thoughts on that? What I've seen in the past is at checkout, you know, I know a lot of people want to want to do a quick checkout, but you can just quickly say if you choose this packaging, you'll reduce the cost of shipping and you'll reduce your carbon footprint by X, right? To Lori's point about you can kind of put them side by side and, you know, standard packaging or, you know, sustainable packaging, right?

And somebody could just click a box and check out. 

Jill Barron 17:47 

We are seeing a bit of a shift from the Amazon effect, from the pandemic, from the free shipping. There are, there are retailers out there now, some that I used to work for, that are saying, you know what, no longer is it free shipping if you buy a $5 item. They're, they're, they're putting thresholds on the purchase, the total basket price on whether or not you get free shipping.

Seen that a lot and also starting to see, and you probably have read some articles about this as well, retailers starting to charge for returns again. So I think you know the impact of meeting those customer expectations through the pandemic are really weighing on the P&Ls of many retailers, and they're trying to balance, how do we still make sure that our customers are getting that best experience, but also not break the bank at the same time? So I think the most important thing there, if you are a retailer, is you have to be nimble. You have to have systems that allow you to plug and play as these expectations change.

Lori Boyer 19:00 

Let's talk, I would like to talk specifically about the pre-purchase experience and where supply chain comes in. As a consumer, I have to admit that I never think about supply chain being part of like that pre-purchase experience. Matt, can you talk to me a little bit about where supply chain things come into play?

Where maybe our, our businesses B2B or B2C may be making mistakes when it is in the pre-purchase experience. How, how does supply chain really come into, to play here? 

Matt Boland 19:34

Yeah I think in today's global supply chain world, right, companies are really trying to stick with their core competencies and they're allowing more participants into their supply chain.

And what that means is they're needing more data from those participants to make sure that their information is as accurate as possible. I know this is a, Jill's very passionate about inventory, but that's probably one of the most important pre-purchase elements of a dynamic supply chain. You might have drop shippers, you might have manufacturers, then you have your warehouse.

And if you're in B2C, you have a store. When you start to think about the supply chain's impact, what's in these warehouses, what's at these participants, how quickly can I make or build something to order? Right? If my inventory is depleted, you have to understand these things as well as probably one other portion of that, which is that inventory that's in transit.

Right? But again, that communication with all those supply chain participants to be making sure that anything that you're displaying is available, has all the criteria that it, that makes it available. So you might be displaying this. But it's currently in transit. Right? So that might be five days more on to the transit time as opposed to it's there, I can ship it. Right? 

And that's true in B2B or B2B. I could tell you a million stories about each. And, you know, another one would be, well, we offer this all the time, but we build them to order. So it's not, you know, the expectation of the buyer can't be that, Oh, this is going to probably ship out tomorrow and I'll have it, right?

You have to communicate to the buyers that yes, this is built to order. It will take X amount of time to build on top of the transit time, that type of stuff. So those things are all critical in a pre-purchase is, all that upfront, on time, clarity around all the dynamics of any purchase, whether it be B2B or B2C.

That's, you know, those are, that's probably the most critical piece of the pre-purchase experience. 

Lori Boyer 21:45 

The inventory, is what you're saying, sort of the inventory management and then the communication of that inventory? 

Matt Boland 21:52 

That is it. That is it. And, and, you know, if you're saying it's there, then it all falls back to how quickly you execute it.

And there's a, and there's either a contract in B2B on how things will arrive, or there's a virtual contract, right? 

Lori Boyer 22:10 

There's an online review waiting to happen, man. 

Matt Boland 22:12 

Exactly. Yes, exactly. There you go. Perfect. And you want those people coming back. 

Jill Barron 22:17 

Yeah, you know, there's, there's no probably quicker way to lose loyalty and trust to your website than to not accurately communicate to your consumers that are out shopping that the item is back-ordered or it's out of stock until either the point you're in your checkout, or even worse, you've actually already entered your payment information and clicked order, and then you get an email saying, Oh, sorry, your item is back-ordered, right? That, that is a really quick way to lose trust in your company and to drive consumers to another retailer that offers a similar product.

The other important piece about inventory accuracy is making sure that that inventory is distributed where your demand is, right? That will eventually help your consumers even have more confidence and create a better experience because it allows you to get the product to the customer faster. So I'll go back to that AI conversation using AI and machine learning to understand, kind of that predictive analysis of where geographically is the demand going to be from this inventory? And making sure that that inventory is in those locations to then create a better post-purchase customer experience. 

Lori Boyer 23:45 

I have to say, this is, you are speaking like my life story, Jill. I just recently got back from an amazing trip.

It was this awesome international trip that my family had been planning, but just a couple of days before, I realized I urgently needed, they were the little battery things that, you know, keep your cell phones charged all the time. And so I went online. I found a merchant who could get him to me within the next day.

It was amazing. I ordered him and then I got a notice the next day that it was going to be delayed two days, and I was devastated because I couldn't wait two more days. My flight was literally the next day. And that was the entire reason that I paid a little more to go to this place. What a terrible customer experience that was for me.

Because I did get through the entire process, paid for it, and then they became basically useless for me. So, I think you're right on with what we're experiencing. experiencing out there. It was a worse experience than simply upfront being able to know this isn't going to come. I bought them somewhere else, so. 

Jill Barron 24:51 

You know, and that's where, you know, systems like, you know, where, where Matt works at, at Körber, I mean, from an order management system, they can help retailers manage all of that that we just talked about, right? From exposing inventory, making sure inventory is positioned in the right location and directing those orders to the locations where that inventory is, it's going to be closer to the customer.

Lori Boyer 25:20 

That's absolutely critical. I think that for the inventory management, you have got to, if you don't have good technology out there, this is exactly the kind of case that both Matt and Jill were talking about using AI and using technology and all of that is possible and should be done. So let's move on to kind of the actual purchase experience.

So let's say you've purchased something, where does supply chain come into play here? 

Jill Barron 25:46 

So we've already kind of talked about accurate inventory. Kind of that, that's very closely related to that is accurate delivery times. And so I touched on that just a little bit of, of making sure that the product is in the right location and you have systems that can predict and understand where is that inventory going to be pulled from, and how long is it going to take to get to the end customer? I will say that in my opinion being early is almost sometimes just as bad as being late from a customer expectation. 

Communicating accurate delivery times is one of the most challenging things that I, a lot of retailers have to work through. And it is a science, but having systems in place to help you do that, it's definitely possible.

Lori Boyer 26:44 

Jill, I'm curious that you say being early is almost as bad. Can you explain that a little bit more? How would, how would being early hurt? 

Jill Barron 26:52 

Well, so let's say that, you know, you were on that international trip, Lori, and you needed something to be delivered to you when you got back home, whatever that product was.

It may have been, it may be a high-value product, maybe something that you needed to have essentially on your doorstep the day that you arrived home or even the day after, right?

And if a company was early on that delivery, then it could sit on your doorstep for multiple days without you, you know, knowing it. If it was high value and have a problem to be, you know, stolen from your porch. You know, it's a lot of times, you know, you're making purchases and decisions and selecting the appropriate delivery date based on whatever your schedule is, whether it be your work schedule, your travel schedule. And you just need to know what day that product is going to arrive. And there are some times that if it arrives early, it can be just as bad as late. 

Lori Boyer 28:00 

That makes a whole lot of sense when you explain that. I have to say even, I tend to get my groceries delivered still.

I'm one of those people who's still living off of those COVID days. But for me, if they arrive an hour early and I'm not at home and it's a million degrees outside and I'm like, Oh my word, my ice cream is melting on my front porch. So that completely makes sense. That would be a great example. Matt, what are you thinking here in this sort of post-purchase world?

How does supply chain come into play? 

Matt Boland 28:31 

That post-purchase experience is very invisible to the consumer. Again, B2B or B2C. So now we need to make sure that those systems are working in harmony, right? So a real supply chain you know, focus area or strategy. A lot of that has to deal with the integration of these systems and the communication from again, like we talked about a minute ago, all the participants to that supply chain.

So that's when I start to think about the complexity of the supply chain and you know, the Körber portfolio of solutions addresses all of that. It's communicating to the participant, to their warehouse, to the shipping system. All of these things have fractional impact on the margin of making sure that that order goes out there for the best of the company.

At the same time for the best of the consumer, right? A solution like an order management system lays over all of those applications and make sure it's getting information. Today, systems tell you when something's going wrong, right? They're able to tell you that. Jill and I talked the other day about kind of like these decision trees, right?

That go, that an order management application kind of manages, right? If this, then that, if this. We talk to companies all the time. I'll, I'll give you two quick stories. One company that gets in an order and they simply have their customers directed to if this order comes in, west of the Mississippi, it goes to the LA warehouse.

If this company comes in or this order comes in east of the Mississippi, it goes to the Virginia warehouse. That does not make the best use of inventory in any way, shape, or form. Especially when you start to break down multi-line inventory, multi-line orders, where, you know, the inventory could be in every place.

And you think about customer service representatives who hunt and peck through all these different systems to find the inventory, to fulfill that order. These systems take all that off that plate. You still need those people, but you have those people dealing with exceptions, right? Orders that get kicked out because the system can't solve it appropriately, right?

When these things can't be solved, it kicks it out to say, okay, we need some human intervention. This order is just too complex to solve within our framework of solving. That's that's what I start to think about. 

Lori Boyer 30:59 

I love that, Matt, and I've got a couple of thoughts on what you said, but I want to hear Jill's thoughts first.

Jill Barron 31:04 

No, I, I agree. We, in the conversation that we had the other day about the multi-level, it has to be a multi-level kind of decision tree, right? And I love that west of the Mississippi, east of the Mississippi. I've experienced that myself in my past life. And it's, and it's not always the most efficient, right?

It most likely is never the most efficient way to operate post-purchase and provide the customer with the best experience at the same time. 

Lori Boyer 31:34 

I think it's so true. And I think so many, I know I, you know, talk to people every day and I know a lot of audience out there probably still run a little bit west of the Mississippi, east of the Mississippi.

So don't feel bad. You're not alone if that's you out there. I loved a couple of things that I heard. Integrations. Technology is obviously super, super, super, super critical at this point in being able to run all of these different scenarios, but your technologies have got to work together. So I thought that was really interesting you said that Matt, because you may get the best technology in the world, but if it's not communicating well with your other technology you're using, then, you know, you're in a whole lot of trouble. 

The industry is lagging a little bit compared to the rest of other industries out there when it comes to technology. We're a little bit of slow adopters and so I think just talking to you guys has really made it clear that it's critical for everybody to make sure that your technology's up to snuff.

I would love to hear a little bit about the returns process. How, how does the returns process come into play when it comes to the consumer experience and supply chain issues? What can companies do out there to make the returns process a little bit easier? 

Jill Barron 32:51 

Yeah, so returns process, the customer experience.

So I mentioned early on in our conversation, right? How, how some retailers are starting to charge for returns again. I think time will tell whether or not that will be a significant impact in customer experience. I think it will change how customers purchase. You know, in my past life at a luxury retailer we, you know, a customer would purchase a size six dress, a size eight dress and a size 10 dress, you know, and.

Keep one of them in return two. So there may be a little bit change in, in habits and in how consumers purchase because of those lack of free returns or having to pay for returns. Again, you know, when I think about consumers and what they want most in the returns process, they want it fast, right?

They want, if they are returning something, they're not exchanging something... They want a returns process that's fast that can be either be going to their local, you know, FedEx for somebody like a happy returns or going to a UPS store. And they, they want a frictionless process, right, to send that return back.

Either going quickly and dropping it off at a local store or even, even setting it out on your front porch for someone to come pick it up. 

Lori Boyer 34:22 

So can I clarify, when you say fast, you're talking about not the speed of the shipping, because they don't care if it takes 10 days to ship back to you. You're talking about the speed with which they're done with it.

Jill Barron 34:33 

Well, yeah, so I think there's two components of fast. There's one about how fast does it take me to get this product off of my hands and out of my house and back to the company. And then the other way the speed comes in is how fast am I going to get my money back? 

Lori Boyer 34:50 

Get my refund. Yeah, that sounds like us.

Jill Barron 34:53 

I'm sure we all have had experiences on both ends of the spectrum there. I would say my best experience is taking a product to a FedEx store and having them scan my barcode. And before I got into my car, my credit card was, was credited the amount of my return. That, in my opinion, is, is kind of the optimal experience from a customer standpoint.

I've also experienced where it's taken two to three weeks because the retailer does not credit the customer back until they've actually touched it, inspected it, dispositioned it, and checked it back into inventory. So the right answer is create a frictionless process for your customer in the returns process.

Lori Boyer 35:46 

Yeah. Matt, do you have any other suggestions? It makes me think, so one of the challenges for me as a consumer is that maybe the money I want back the fastest is probably the one companies don't want to send me back as fast because it may be the most expensive purchases. If I spent a thousand dollars on something, I want that back more quickly because I maybe want to buy something else or whatever it is. But the company's less likely to do that.

I, I'm guessing there's not really a way around that, but I don't know if you have any other tips when it comes to returns.

Matt Boland 36:19 

I love Jill's practitioner perspective. Right. I mean, and it does kind of go back as well to the frictionless process, which is again, looking at systems that are available wherever that return occurs.

Right. So in a retail setting, I got five pairs of shoes, right, from Nike online and, oh, what do you know my wife's going down to Tanger Outlet, you know what, instead of calling them, I'll just bring them all back, right your expectation is that when you walk into Nike, they're going to be able to, you know, just hit the system and, oh yeah, you bought these online.

And they're seeing that in their POS and okay, this was your order number. Let's affix that order number. It creates an RMA, you know, and you walk out and to Jill's point, the credit happens right there, you get the announcement and you go, that's frictionless, right. Is it just doesn't matter how or where you do it.

Everybody's got information, that harmonious integration of these systems that says everybody's sharing the same data. That's like when we talk about an order management system, we talk about it having the single version of the truth. Whether you're calling in the call center, you're bringing it to the store.

Once they scan that RMA that you got from Nike at the mailbox and it hits the shipping system, it's sharing that data with the EasyPost, and all these things are married together, right? And it, and all this floats up to probably the most important thing in the whole supply chain, when you think about it, is sharing all that data with a customer care center, right?

That's where, that's where the rubber meets the road in all of this. And then I'd just, I'd shift a little bit on the returns process and say, many companies should really start to adopt a kind of a measurement around on time and in full, right? So much happens because you're not delivering on time and in full and you're getting returns.

And these systems today can tell you why was this returned your systems today can see an order that says this individual or this company always orders these five units and always returns three, you know, kick these, these systems can be configured to recognize these trends in orders and kick them out to a system that says in B2C, maybe this individual who bought the five pairs of shoes would benefit from a consultation with someone in the phone center. You know, they buy these five shoes and they buy them in all these colors and all these sizes, but they always end up keeping the green shoe size seven, but they buy 'em all right? So it's kind of like, hey, we'd like to work with you, kind of a thing.

But I think that, you know, making sure that, again, back to expectations and promises and service level agreements in B2B. You greatly reduce your risk for returns if you dramatically increase your availability or your ability to deliver on time and in full. I think that's probably a good way to look at it, right?

Got to have those returns process frictionless when they happen. But how can we stop them from happening in the first place, right? That's another angle to it. 

Lori Boyer 39:44 

Yeah, yeah. Best defense is a good offense. Is that what they say? I may have gotten that backwards, but ... 

Matt Boland 39:50 

It was much better than your milk story, they say.

Lori Boyer 39:52 

Yeah. That's right. I'm just like a font of knowledge. We're running low on time. So we're gonna have to wrap up, but I would love, at some point I need to have you back because I feel like we could talk so much about returns. We could talk more about customer support. There are so many topics on this that we could touch into. 

But before we go, I would like to hear from each of you one quick, you know, final tip, if somebody's thinking about their supply chain, they're wondering what, you know, what is something they can do today to kind of check in on how their supply chain is impacting the consumer experience.

What would you recommend that they do today? And I'm going to start with Matt, and then we're going to end with Jill. 

Matt Boland 40:34 

I think it does depend on the scale of the organization, right? Some things are going to be easier to analyze by yourself. I would say really you know, hire an organization like Summit Advisory, right?

You know, they would, get them to come in, look at your problem areas and then get an outside view, right? Absolutely get an outside view, whether that be a short period of time or that be a year-long engagement with an advisory group, right? Get an outside view, hear what's happening in other businesses, be able to have someone like Jill who can tell you a story of when she was a practitioner, but also all the other clients that they work with because there are best practices out there that people aren't doing today.

We talked about them in this very call. So talk to someone you trust. We love it when Summit Advisory recommends Körber solutions, but Summit Advisory also is in that job of looking for the best solution given the problems, right? Getting to someone you trust who can help you with the advice, help you with the guidance, and share with you the best practices they have seen across multitudes of clients across multiple industries. That's my advice. 

Lori Boyer 41:48 

I love that piece of advice because it's really easy for us to start seeing things through our own vision, through our own, you know, we need somebody else's perspective and I think that maybe, you know, I mentioned earlier that we tend to lag behind when it comes to technology in this industry, and maybe we think that we're not lagging behind and are totally unaware of what we could be using or could be doing.

So getting somebody else's eyes whether it's somebody amazing like Jill's team or, or just reaching out to friends, people in other departments, whatever it is, getting a second set of eyes on your processes is critical. 

Jill Barron 42:27 

Be your own customer. Be hyper-aware of what, what's working, what's not working. And then go out and have the courage, right, to go out and seek, seek an outsider's opinion. You know, one like Summit who is, you know, filled with a team of, of ex operators and have worked with many clients that are most likely, you know, seeing the same problems, experiences, challenges that you are, but I think then the next step is don't, don't think about going and fixing everything at one time, right?

Set priorities, understand what is the most priority you know, out of this list of things that I, that I need to address, where can I make the most impact, whether it be internally and or with our customers and the customer experience. So I think trying to not take on everything at one time is also some good advice. 

Lori Boyer 43:27 

I love that. And I think that it is a big mistake that we make all the time. We come in and we say wow, we've got like 29 things that we should fix.

Let's fix them all! What's going to happen is 29 things do not get fixed. So let's start with one thing and it is likely going to get fixed. And then add two and three. And so I love that. That's a great piece of advice, even just for life, Jill. So I love it. Okay, I'm sure our audience is going to want to know how they can be in contact with you.

What's the best way to reach you, Jill? 

Jill Barron 44:01 

The best way is probably through my LinkedIn profile, Jill Barron, and you should be able to find me. 

Lori Boyer 44:08 

Awesome. Matt? 

Matt Boland 44:10 

I'll go with the same. Just look for Matt Boland, Körber Supply Chain. 

Lori Boyer 44:14

Thank you so much to both of you for being here. This has been fantastic. We have learned so much and I am going to want to have you back on for sure.

So again, thank you so much. And to our community out there, please join the conversation, make sure that you subscribe. We've got amazing things coming throughout the rest of this season and we will be excited to have you back next time. But bye everybody. 

Jill Barron 44:39