Every retailer team will have different KPIs, targets and deliverables. And, of course, everyone’s day to day BAU is completely different.
But one thing is universally obsessed over: delivering customer promise.
Everyone wants the shopper to have a good experience when they spend.
Realistically, there’s probably one eye on the customer, one eye on costs. Sometimes the eye you have on the customer can feel a little bit blurry. It’s often the case that delivery issues reach the warehouse second or third hand – which is frustrating and exposing (no-one wants a call from the Customer Experience Director with a “contacts are through the roof, did you know about this issue…?”).
Marketing teams are focused on the discovery, selection and conversion elements of the customer journey. Customer service teams are tasked with resolving issues proactively and monitoring sentiment of CSAT or NPS. For IT, it’s mainly security and stability of everything the customers sees and touches. All of those business areas are complex and have unique challenges.
For logistics and operations though, customer experience gets even more complicated… and, arguably, even more important.
It’s everyone’s problem if the customer delivery promise isn’t kept – but when warehouse ops are stretched and order cycle time is key, customer experience can start to feel like ‘someone else’s problem’.
The warehouse is responsible for a number of things that have a direct impact on customer experience (for a full discussion, see our carrier management playbook here).
To focus on the areas that are easiest to remedy, we’ve drilled down into the two places where change can be most impactful.
Feels like a marketing issue, right?
The delivery options offered to customers at the point of purchase is a key responsibility of the logistics and operations teams. Having a strong multi-carrier strategy to underpin growth is essential here. Routing all parcels through the same carrier, without question or query, isn’t a sustainable model for any retailer – not least because customers crave choice and convenience.
Customer promise is made at purchase, and fulfilled at picking and packing. That means the web front end and the warehouse should be effortlessly aligned.
A CMS that connects the checkout and the warehouse means customer delivery options are based on accurate operational and carrier capabilities – rather than just a static delivery offering, guesswork or, worse, making unrealistic delivery promises.
As an example, not every carrier will deliver to every postcode at the weekend, so don't offer that service to customers. Or if bank holiday delivery isn't offered by a carrier, don't offer that service to customers either. Save yourself the time on carrier claims and investigations – or the creep of WISMO (where is my order?) calls.
If your web front end knows exactly what's going on in the warehouse, and with your carriers, there's more chance of a smooth pick, pack, dispatch, final mile and happy customer.
If the web front end and the DC talk to each other, a customer will be given multiple delivery options and the illusion of choice – but all within the tolerance of your ops, real-time.
Find out more about connecting checkout and warehouse in our new CMS playbook: Five plays to nail multi-carrier delivery management.
If you’ve made the customer promise, you’ve got to keep it. And, to do that, you’ve got to have a versatile carrier offering that is agile enough to flex when the world changes.
Things go wrong – both in the carrier’s world and in the warehouse. But that’s no excuse for shipping issues.
The number of customer contacts per order hits the customer service team the hardest, but can be prevented or remedied quickest by the logistics team in charge of allocation and carrier management.
Customers shouldn’t suffer because of a supply chain hiccup – and operations and logistics teams need to make sure there are risk mitigations in place to protect that.
As soon as there's a sniff of carrier performance dropping, whether it's longer term change or in direct response to a severe and short term issue, there should be fall backs in place that can be implemented at a flick of a switch, to ensure customer promise is kept.
Issues internally with picking and packing can cause retailers to miss carrier departure times too. Mistakes happen - but, with no real carrier-driven issues, the warehouse is to blame for not delivering on customer promise. This can lead to stock build up, disruption of process and reduction of warehouse floor capacity - not to mention unhappy customers (and unhappy customer service teams).
Flex is needed, so other services are on hand as plan B. Preferably, before that order:contact figure creeps up.
Business continuity and output velocity can be maintained if the risk of carrier downtime is mitigated. One large fast fashion brand had downtime to the value of £50,000 when they were unable to ship for just one hour. Bad for bottom line and not good for customer promise, either.
Overall, as the oracle of everything carrier and shipping related, the business looks to the warehouse and the operations team to deliver a carrier strategy that is both flexible, financially sound and, perhaps most importantly, completely customer-centric.