The resurgence of the UK economy is being driven in no small part by the boom in international trade. But with customer expectations on the rise, even the smallest delay passing through customs at UK (air)ports can have a significant business impact. In an era of end to end supply chain transparency, John Main, Product Manager, Descartes explains the value of not just tracking goods through every stage of the process, from customs to Port Health, but also sharing that information with traders in real-time to improve the overall customer experience.
The growth in online businesses importing and exporting a diverse range of goods from around the world and with growing confidence amongst UK manufacturers, the import and export activity passing through UK (air)ports is playing an essential role in the country's improving fortunes.
However, the road to success is far from smooth – and as every company in the retail business knows, the end customer is demanding more. Business customers and consumers are not prepared to wait for goods to be delivered. From timed delivery slots to tracking an order throughout the supply chain, the ability to add control and visibility to the entire logistics process is becoming not just a competitive differentiation, but an essential part of the customer experience.
Yet while companies can increasingly gain visibility over key aspects of that journey, including the last delivery mile, there are still aspects of the import/export model that remain opaque - and passing through customs at UK (air)ports is a key area of concern. While the overall customs process is pretty slick these days, delays still occur - from HMRC document checks to ascertain the accuracy of goods value or incorrect commodity codes, to intervention by Trading Standards or Port Health. A lack of visibility of where goods may be in that process may have a significant knock on effect on collection, distribution and end customer delivery.
Whether it is a two hour delay checking documentation or a week long physical examination, there will be an impact on the end customer experience. How can an importer update customers on the actual delivery date of goods without up to date information regarding the arrival on shore and the stage of the customs clearance process? How can a retailer confidently embark upon a promotional campaign with a three month lead time without the ability to track those goods every step of the way, from manufacture to the shop floor? The risk and cost associated with any glitch in the logistics process are huge.
The issue is not the delay itself, but rather the lack of information regarding the potential duration of the inspection. The ability to provide traders and customers alike with complete, real-time visibility of goods passing through customs offers clear value and differentiation. Freight forwarders, for example, know whether or not goods have arrived, where they are in the process and when they will be released - so why not share that with customers?
Complete end to end visibility of the supply chain is powerful. Of course, delays will still occur – but armed with that insight, a company has the confidence and ability to respond proactively, to contact customers and provide realistic updates regarding delivery. With visibility of every single stage of the supply chain, organisations can improve the customer experience and achieve far greater financial control.