Three Keys to Avoid the Supply Chain Relationship Rut

A supply chain partner that is flexible, innovative and invested in the customer experience will keep the relationship moving forward.

Taking the time to reflect on relationships can be as inconvenient for brands as it is important. Brands have many relationships to manage, each of which are crucial to the continued success of the business and operations—especially when it comes to the supply chain. As in any relationship, taking a step back to ensure all parties are getting what they need can help the relationship move forward and avoid falling into the dreaded rut.

As the physical and digital supply chains converge, the end-to-end supply chain is longer and more complex than ever, with the ever-increasing customer expectations and demands for lower costs and increased convenience. To succeed in today’s digital age, brands need a supply chain that can deliver on these demands and is empowered by a fleet of valuable supply chain partnerships—from manufacturers and logistics managers, to contact center representatives. To make sure these relationships are productive and proactive, brands should keep the following three things in mind to make sure they haven’t gotten too comfortable in a supply chain rut.


Relationship ruts can be easily avoided if partners are able to roll with the punches. In today’s digital trajectory, this includes dealing with the constantly changing industry standards that new technologies introduce. To get ahead, brands need supply chain partners that understand evolving market needs and how brands will need to adjust over time. The best supply chain partner will not only have this mindset, but also will be ready to equip brands with the solutions they need to remain as flexible as the market.

One increasing demand is for brands is to expand globally, breaking out of their comfort zones to reach new markets. This move can require significant effort, from gaining access to an international network or ensuring that e-commerce infrastructure is prepared to accept foreign currencies and local languages.

A global supply chain partner will have an international infrastructure in place to enable this flexibility for brands, including financial management services or networks established worldwide. That way, when strategy does change, the supply chain isn’t holding execution back with old habits. Having the right tools in place shows that supply chain partners are ready take the relationship to the next level and know how important it is to brand success to be flexible in today’s market.

Top-Notch Customer Service

Partnerships, of any variety—personal or professional—are healthiest with open communication, especially when it comes to voicing concerns and goals. To remain competitive in today’s market, brands need to supply consumers with excellent customer service to make sure they feel heard, catered to and satisfied in a personalized experience.

To make sure brands, too, feel heard, the best supply chain partners become invested in helping them meet that goal—following up strong communication with high-quality, consumer-centric offerings such as contact center solutions, reverse logistics that consider every outcome of a return, and e-commerce platform options that cater to consumer demands. In essence, supply chain partners need to be as invested in a brand’s interests as they are.


The best way to avoid falling into a relationship rut is for partners to try new things. Brands that want to improve their supply chain need a partner that is willing to work outside of the box to bring new options to the table. The most proactive supply chain partners won’t wait for brands to ask how to enhance strategy with the newest solutions—they will already be in the know for the latest industry technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, and will consider how these capabilities could enrich existing customers’ operations, from implementing algorithms for demand planning to optimizing warehouse operations. By introducing innovative services to the customers, the supply chain partner not only keeps the relationship moving forward, but also becomes a better partner and company.

Like any relationship, the best partnerships need to strike a balance between spicing things up and providing a stable support system. A supply chain partner that is flexible, innovative and invested in the customer experience will keep business and the supply chain moving forward.

Nick Foy is chief strategy officer with ModusLink, a provider of supply chain & logistics solutions.



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