Hot takeaways for CX and supply chain from KFC's chicken snafu

Profile picture for user Greg Kefer By Greg Kefer March 13, 2018
The recent chicken shortage at KFC in the UK shows the value of linking up customer experience (CX) and supply chain writes Infor's Greg Kefer

Crowd of chicken in poultry farm shed © Sergey Bogdanov -
The other week, there was a massive wave of news coverage about a chicken shortage at KFC restaurants in the UK. After all, what’s a chicken restaurant without chicken? Apparently, the new supplier failed to deliver. And, the fast-food chain was unable to alert customers in advance, nor did it know when chicken would be available again. The best it could do was notify customers how far away they were from the nearest KFC that still had chicken left.

While the public response from KFC was brilliant and hilarious, which may have ultimately worked in the brand’s favor, the event itself was a supply chain disaster and must never be repeated.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this episode on two fronts. It occurred to me that both the supply chain and the customer experience were out of sync. And the synchronicity of these two functions is critical to delivering on any company’s brand promise today.

Takeaways for customer experience

First, the customer experience perspective needs to be grounded. In any modern CX strategy, you need to create new touch points, rework methodologies, and tech up your internal processes to capture the desires of your customers – what they want from your products and surrounding services. No doubt KFC felt it had done all of this, but the sudden chicken famine showed up how disconnected its CX operations were from what was actually happening on the ground. This is why synchronicity is an imperative to improving the conversation with customers – support them in optimizing inventory, target new revenue streams, and reach them with the right offer at the right time. Learning from your customers’ behavior is ever evolving, with increasing emphasis on speed, reliability, and data security and privacy.

KFC did what it could in the circumstances, but had it been able to alert customers about its chicken shortage and availability timeframe – perhaps with a special offer for the inconvenience – it would have gone a lot further toward maintaining customer loyalty and mitigating potential damage to the brand.

Takeaways for supply chain

Second, the supply chain needs to work with CX. If you’re already in the process of tackling an improved customer experience, you are on your way. Step back a moment, though, and consider your supply chain. Capitalizing on your customers’ increasing demands for product and personalized service hinges on your supply chain’s ability to deliver. This sounds simple, but supply chains are a complex network extending globally. Total network orchestration is the highest and most sophisticated state a global supply chain can attain. Networked companies win because they’re agile, fast, and efficient. They’re the first to sense and the first to respond to trends and events, the right way.

Clearly, what KFC suffered was a collapse of the entire supply chain as a result of switching to a single point of failure that, well, failed. Interestingly, KFC has since signed a new deal with its previous supplier to provide an alternative source alongside its new partner. Having a back-up plan is a key attribute of a networked supply chain, which offers the ability to pull in resources from other areas, thus keeping customers happy, and avoiding brand damage.

Creating synchronicity

It is only by generating that level of synchronicity between the revamped customer experience and the networked supply chain that a brand can put the foundations in place for market success.

The interplay between evolving supply chain requirements and your customer experience is one example of what we are seeing across the business landscape now in this age of networked intelligence.