I'm actually not a fan of peppermint, but the whole thing
made me smile. Here was a human touch in what is otherwise
a faceless, even voiceless exchange. It got me feeling
warm and fuzzy about Sensia.com. And that got me thinking
about the importance of what you do when you fulfill and
send orders. 'Cause you guys know, the sale ain't over
till the Fat Lady sings, right? So let's talk about how
you make her croon!
suggesting everybody run out and buy hard candy. But I do
want you to consider that the overall sales process does not
end when youíve got the order. Fulfillment is an essential
part of the sale. After all, that's the first time, in
most online transactions, your customer can hold and
examine the product she ordered. Itís the first ďrealĒ
contact between you. In a store, you get to handle the
product, check out the packaging, read the label, give it
a test spin, talk to the salespeople - all this before you
decide whether or not you want to buy. In the online
world, this critical, interactive step comes only at the
end. Whether you do the shipping yourself or contract with
a third-party fulfillment house, you want to make sure
when that box arrives on your customer's doorstep, it is
more than just a box; itís a message that conveys
everything you want to convey about your business's class
act. And not just the box, but everything about the
fulfillment process speaks volumes to your customer, so
make sure youíre saying what she wants to hear.
your communication at the beginning. When the parcel
leaves you, notify your customer her order is on
its way. Send her an e-mail confirming shipment, and, if
at all possible, include a mechanism for her to track the
package. Folks like to know where their stuff is. In a
store, they're usually going to carry the item they've
selected to the register and out to their car. No such
sense of certainty when dealing through the ether of
cyberspace, so give them the next best thing: timely and
complete information by email.
so cultivate a professional appearance! Package your stuff
in a box that looks like it was meant for the purpose.
It's nice if the box bears your company's name or uses
some nifty tape, but at least make sure it doesn't look
like it formerly contained your old shoes at the community
rummage sale! Your customer is going to get a clear
impression of you when she sees that box.
most important thing you put inside that box, besides the
product, is your Return Policy. Your customer
doesn't have the luxury of slipping the item back on the
shelf and picking out another if she's not satisfied. So
you make it clear you are more than happy to be
accommodating. At the very least, include a list of your
return, exchange and refund policies. If you require the
customer to get an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization
number) to send the thing back, then tell her exactly how
to do that. You include a toll-free customer
service phone number, along with the hours during which
she can reach a pleasant and competent human. And
you print it all nicely in an attractive font on quality
you include a Return Label? That depends, but make
it as easy as possible for your customer to do what she
needs to do. Hopefully, the product is perfection itself,
but if it isn't, your customer shouldn't bear the cost of
exchange. She wouldn't pay for the exchange in a store,
and it would cost her nothing to return an item to the
shelves. Yes, it would have cost her some time in the real
world, but the reality is customers who have to pay for
returns usually don't remain customers for long and
typically side step the issue next time around by simply
not purchasing from you again. Is that a cost to you?
Certainly, and you have to build it into your margins. Is
that a big problem? Only if you regularly ship poor
quality products or make a lot of shipping errors. And
neither of those is something your customer should pay
other enclosures go in the box? Certainly you want
to include a detailed invoice of what has been sent
and the clear status of any back-orders. And don't
overlook the opportunity to offer other sales
incentives: your catalog, special sale items,
personalized information, a statement of the history and
philosophy of your company. This is definitely an
opportunity for you to strut your stuff, cross-sell,
up-sell and let your customer know the incredible value of
continuing to do business with you. And if you really want
put them in the frame of mind to consider buying from you
again, donít forget a sincere thank you note,
personalized if possible. Put it on top of everything else
so itís the first thing they see.
maybe you do add a creative little human touch, like my
piece of candy that is still sitting by my computer. I'll
never eat it, but I'm going to remember the company that,
on top of doing everything else right, popped it in the
box with my order. Think about it this way: you want more
than a customer who is merely satisfied. You want a
customer who is delighted. Customers are delighted
when the package promised in a week arrives in four days.
They are delighted when you only charge them for surface
but ship by air. They are delighted when you give them one
extra for free, or a free sample of another related
product - which they may well buy in the future. They are
delighted when they feel you have given them the red
carpet treatment. But remember, they expect on-time
and accurate delivery, and rightly so. They are only
delighted when they get everything they expected and more.
delighted customer is the one most likely to become a
repeat customer. She is also the one most likely to give
glowing reviews to her friends, so you can tap into the
power of viral marketing and add more customers with no
added marketing cost - which means not just more sales but
also more profits. It starts and ends with realizing every
single aspect of fulfillment is really communication
between your customer and you, the otherwise invisible and
largely anonymous supplier. Fulfill fulfillment fully and
you create a win-win for your company and your customers
Another Out-Of-This-World (And Free) Source of Valuable Knowledge
In my never-ending search to bring you the very
latest and best e-business info in the galaxy, I've
come across a truly exceptional resource. MarketingProfs.com
is a terrific site written by some really smart (and
really great) people, and it has a ton of practical
stuff you can use to increase your business
right away. They also put out an excellent
newsletter that I look forward to and read
diligently (don't even THINK of interrupting me). To
learn more and to subscribe, check out MarketingProfs.com.
Who Ya Gonna Call? Customer Service!
go into a great big department store, and at the very
back of the second floor there's a little office suite
called "Customer Service." Most of us don't
give it a second thought Ö we simply think of it, if
we think of it at all, as the place we go to wait in
line when things go wrong.
is a different world. Your customer service, the degree
to which you keep your customer delighted, starts the
instant he or she lands on your website. In e-business,
customer service isn't where you go when you have a
problem, and it certainly isn't what happens after the
sale is completed - it's everything that goes into
creating a superior online shopping experience from
start to finish.
about it. You don't have any online sales people moving
about, interacting with your clients and representing
your products, your sales philosophy, your guarantees,
or anything else that is distinctive about your
business. You rely exclusively on your website to do
this (even an acknowledged brand in the
bricks-and-mortar world can fail if you don't rethink
your online approach to customer service). A prospect
arrives at your home page (or somewhere within your
online store) and is immediately in need of customer
customers use service to find or inquire about products.
Do you have this item? Is this sold separately? How much
comes in one of those bottles? Is this product
compatible with that product? A host of questions is
behind even a single purchase. So how are you going to
help them get the answers they need so they want to make
the purchase from you and not one of your competitors?
the buying process,
customers need service to explain billing issues,
receipts, payment options, the checkout procedure. This
is a critical point for most shoppers, and you don't
want them abandoning their shopping carts in confusion,
frustration, or because they don't trust you.
the order is placed,
customers need to be able to check the status of an
order being processed. They want their purchase
acknowledged, and they like follow-through. They may
even want to track its shipping status. Give them
everything they need so they have the cyberspace
equivalent of carrying that item home.
the item is received,
customers may have questions about how it works.
Something may be missing. They may decide the product
isn't suitable. They need service to handle exchanges or
returns. Do you give prompt, knowledgeable and complete
responses to questions? Do you answer questions, or do
you point them somewhere else, making them do more work
and causing them to get more frustrated? Do you quickly,
efficiently and cheerfully honor your guarantees? Assist
with billing errors?
keys to great customer service are in things Iíve
it simple and easy for your visitor to find
information and navigate your site.
them helpful and descriptive information about
your products or services.
Prominently display your
and other help tools.
it clear and simple to buy from you.
the customer a reason to place his or her
confidence in you - inspire trust.
service on the web is a comprehensive package, an
on-going dialogue with your shopper. Don't miss out by
thinking it's a little office hidden at the back that
the customer calls when there's a problem after the
sale. By then, itís much too late.