When was the last time you had to track someone down to get information about a shipment, to discuss a fulfillment problem, or to address a service-level issue. How many phone calls and emails did it take to get the problem resolved? Odds are, it was too many.
When you hire an order fulfillment company, you expect them to handle the logistics and customer service aspects of your business, and you expect them to do it without a hassle. Unfortunately, many companies that may have the ability to handle your order fulfillment don't invest in their client support—an oversight that can cause any small glitch to become a major headache for you.
Shipping and order fulfillment are the frontline to the customer, and the backbone of merchant operations. You can't live without them, but you also have better things to do than track down wayward shipments or wait for a call back from your order fulfillment company.
Fortunately, you don't have to. The best order fulfillment companies can make your life easier by providing these three customer-centric services:
ACCURATE, REAL-TIME REPORTING
A real-time reporting tool like Dot Info can put all the information about your inventory and orders in one accessible location.
When you have a question about an order or the state of your inventory, instead of reaching out with a call or email, you can simply log in and view where each order is, the state of your inventory, what's on hold, what's reserved for shipping, and any hiccups that may arise in the process. With real-time reporting, you can set exceptions to notify you immediately in the case of specific events that may require your immediate attention.
Ask any prospective order fulfillment company what reporting tools they use, and request a demonstration. Ask them also to share data on the accuracy of their real-time updating, so you can be sure that the information you access is up-to-the-minute.
CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SERVICE MODEL
Nearly every company likes to boast about their customer service, but only a few live up to their promises. Before you sign with an order fulfillment provider, ask them to share with you the processes and procedures they have in place to support their customers.
Here are specific questions to ask:
- What are your standard response times to emails and phone calls? You want a company that will reliably respond to your inquiries within the same business day. Faster is better.
- Will I receive a direct phone number for my representative? You definitely don't want to have to dial through an automated phone system every time you have a small question. Ask for at least one direct phone number for someone who can help you reliably and immediately.
- Will I be able to access help after hours? If you have a problem on Saturday morning at 4:30am, you really shouldn't have to wait until Monday morning to access help. Look for an order fulfillment company that provides 24/7 order reporting, plus prompt phone and email support.
- If I have a problem, is there a designated chain of support that will allow me to speak to someone higher in the organization? When the front-line representative simply can't help you, you want to know that you have recourse. Ask for access to the complete chain of command, from front line to supervisor, to customer service manager, all the way up to the top. Which leads to the next question...
- Will I have a direct line to the top of the chain? It may seem crazy, but we think you should be able to talk to the head honcho when you really need to. Nights, weekends, holidays--if the order fulfillment company gives you a direct line to their CEO, you know they're serious about satisfying you. We do it at SP Express, and we think your order fulfillment company should too.
A ROBUST SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT
Reporting and customer service access are critically important, but one thing is even more important: Getting the right product to the right customer at the right time, in perfect condition.
Your order fulfillment company should provide you with a robust Service Level Agreement that specifies accuracy, quality, and speed of shipping. Everything from packaging requirements to delivery dates should be discussed, documented, and backed with a guarantee.
Ask your prospective order fulfillment company to provide you with historical data on meeting SLAs. Review the agreement carefully, and ensure it meets all your requirements.
We think your order fulfillment company should make life easier, not harder, for you. Demand these customer service qualities, and let us know how your relationship turns out. Better yet, give us a call to find out how we measure up. We look forward to chatting with you.