The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.
If you’re like most manufacturers, your brand is your most important asset. It’s your identity. Your personality. Your customer. Your reputation. Your future. So, what is that worth to you?
Think about this throughout your customer’s buying experience – who controls each step of the way from the initial order – to production, to packaging, to the warehouse, to the customer whether at work or home? No one talks about the delivery that went smoothly, especially if it was just one order, but according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
You may not be there physically every step of the journey, but you can greatly influence each step by setting clear, concise expectations on everything from the quality of your raw materials to how the delivery drivers should be dressed.
More companies are building direct-to-consumer sales strategies than ever. According to Digital Commerce360, e-commerce hit $408.51 billion, up 21.9% from $335.15 billion in the first two quarters of 2020 alone. This reinforces the importance of protecting your brand by setting expectations. Ever notice how seamless eyeglass manufacturer Warby Parker makes each purchase? Everything is expertly orchestrated – from the search process, down to the packaging and the email notices they send to let you know when to expect your eyeglasses.
As e-commerce continues to grow, supply chains are becoming more intense with different hands touching a package from mid-mile through final-mile, and into the customer’s hands. It’s important to consider that our brand reputation builds with each customer touch. However, there are some areas of a sale where we lose control over the customer experience, leaving it in the hands of a third party. Most consumers now get a notification with live video feed to see that the transaction took place; often with a carrier who is not committed to the sale of that product. Their role is to simply leave the package, hit the doorbell, and be on their way.
I tell my people all the time – the delivery goes well beyond the package being left on a doorstep, and you can influence every step. Here are three important ways you can influence your brand – from the beginning to the end of your e-commerce delivery.
1. Up your communication A-game
Strong and consistent communication with your customer is essential. As obvious as this sounds, consumers want to KNOW what is going on; give them the good, the bad and ugly. Don’t be afraid to share bad news. Playing the offensive position will serve you well in the long run.
Communication should go beyond a templated email or a text message, it can be a mix of several channels especially when your product delivery goes off course. Keep in mind that connecting with a real person goes a long way when there is a problem. While it may cost more for customer service, do the math and calculate the value of a “lost” customer.
Recently I ordered a bathroom vanity online from Lowes. The vanity was delayed and I received a text message followed by a phone call. The customer service rep correctly guessed that my contractor and I were waiting to install it, asked me if a 3-week delay was acceptable, and offered a comparable in-stock option. I opted to wait, but that simple communication impressed me so much that I wrote a positive online review, and wouldn’t hesitate to buy online from them again.
2. Invest in essential technology
Good technology can help you troubleshoot a problem before it happens. Look into direct API (application programming interface) options. This can be costly, but it allows you to directly connect in with your carriers and customer to track every stage in the delivery process. You want to know all the milestones of the process.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that if there is a problem, your customers have a quick and easy way to alert you to a problem, so you can immediately fix it.
Whatever technology you select, be sure it can…
- Help you identify KPIs and metrics that matter most to you and your customer’s business.
- Help your employees to assess a situation quickly so they can help your client fast and efficiently.
- Build in a way to ask your clients for feedback
- Add the human element; offer live help at each stage
How cool would it be if a prospective buyer could shop online and if the product purchased is out of stock or delayed, receive an email that lets them see comparable items that can ship right away? Even better, how about including in that email the option to see a customer rep’s calendar to meet personally over the next few days?
3. Setting (and communicating) expectations
Ever wonder how Chick-fil-a manages to offer such a pleasant experience all the time? They are consistently rated one of the best fast-food chains. This is not due to luck. The company sets expectations for how it operates from the top to the bottom of the organization, and backs it up with ongoing training and recognition programs. According to a Business Insider editorial, franchisee owners receive strong support and guidance on everything from making sure employees say “please” and “thank you.”
Be crystal clear on your values and how you expect to be represented – from employees to vendors.
Supply chain is no exception. Working with final-mile companies requires a clear and consistent communication of your expectations – everything from delivery dates to a driver’s appearance and manners. I encourage you to map out your delivery process and evaluate your expectations every step of the way. This should be communicated to everyone and supported with training and reward initiatives. Be sure to encourage reviews with your own internal score cards, surveys, video footage, and direct customer feedback.
I regularly come across companies who expect a delivery to go perfectly but neglect to communicate the requirements that are needed to make their deliveries happen seamlessly. We’re all so busy, running from one project to another. My advice? Slow down. Take a step back, look at every stage in your delivery process – removing any assumptions. Reinvest your time and energy into setting and communicating your brand’s expectations. I assure you, everyone will benefit in the long run.
About the Author
Nicole Glenn founded Candor Expedite in 2017 after more than two decades in the transportation brokerage business, with a vision to build the smartest and most efficient freight business that delivers on its client’s promises. Today Candor is recognized as a leading certified women-owned business. headquartered in Texas – with offices in Illinois and Kansas.