by Alan Hopper, ProShip Inc.
Today's consumers want instant satisfaction, particularly during the hectic holiday season. Although some busy seasons peak earlier than others, retailers all have the same goal in mind – customer satisfaction. That means on-time delivery at a competitive cost.
With these five effective shipping tips, retailers can prepare for increased volumes, ensure timely deliveries and implement cost efficient processes for the holiday season and beyond.
1. Provide Origin-to-Final Destination Package Tracking
Notify customers when packages are expected, but keep it simple. If full details are provided from the carrier including hub stops, it may generate calls to customer service from nervous customers who see their package on unexpected carrier routes. Retailers who have a tracking interface for customers can show them what they expect; the origin, the destination and an expected delivery date.
Keep in mind that a spike in outbound volume will likely mean a spike in returns. Prepare for the increased return volume by ensuring that customers know the return policy and that the return process is easy for customers to find and execute.
Be aware of carrier service and weather restriction delays which may affect designated shipment dates. Ideally, this information should be taken into account prior to making delivery commitments.
2. Ensure Software Reliability
Maximize up-time by making sure the latest version of carrier software is installed to prevent any known glitches that may cause the system to be down. If processes have changed since last year's peak, stress-test new processes by simulating peak volumes. This will help find and fix any potential failure points as well as identify stress points that should be monitored when peak volumes hit.
3. Utilize Advanced Date Shopping
Maximize shipping costs by planning ahead and utilizing advanced date shopping to avoid using highly priced next-day or overnight shipping services to ensure on-time deliveries. For example, if a package needs to be delivered from New York to California by December 20, have the package pulled and shipped the prior week, allowing ground service to be used for the five-day shipping.
4. Stock Up Before Peak
Be sure all equipment has been serviced and shipping supplies are fully stocked: labels, ink, boxes, tape and packing material. Then add a bit extra. If projections are spot on, then the extra supplies will be consumed during regular business. If sales surpass expectations, supplies will be on hand to get products out the door without struggling to get additional materials that may be scarce during a busy holiday season.
Heavy FedEx SmartPost shippers should be sure to have enough tracking numbers so they don't run out in the middle of the day. Likewise, Endicia or Stamps.com shippers should see that they have enough prepaid funds so they don't run out of postage.
Make sure the shipping team is aware of sales and marketing discounts and special offers that are planned to run during peak seasons. The shipping team should know when to expect major pushes and if there are any special packaging requests, such as gift wrapping or special labeling requirements.
5. Line Up Support
Know how to get support when needed. An organization may not require 24/7/365 support, but be sure a process is in place to get help if a problem occurs. Remember, customer support adds value to the relationship. Support should come from a team of certified engineers who are familiar with the environment and have access to carrier support.
Consumers want to know that the items they purchase will arrive in time for the gift-giving season. A shipping process that enables automation, visibility and reduced costs can provide speed and accuracy – while achieving all-important customer satisfaction. If shippers adhere to these shipping strategies, holiday volumes that may have caused chaos in the past can be handled smoothly and efficiently this year.
Alan Hopper is the Director of Business Development at ProShip Inc., a leading provider of enterprise-wide, multi-carrier shipping software, and is a part of the company's direct global sales team. Alan is responsible for demonstrating the superiority of the ProShip software suite and growing the international user base. Alan has more than 15 years of experience in business and technology, in diverse industries. He has led software development teams, run global IT operations for a multi-national organization and delivered logistics software to companies large and small. He studied international relations and computer science at the University of California at Davis, and holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University, where he concentrated in strategy and innovation.
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