By Will Schneider
In our fast paced world, waiting too long for a product or service is not a good thing. From waiting in line at the bank to complete a transaction to waiting on the phone for a customer service rep to respond to an inquiry, people have little patience. And the more people wait, the more their tempers flare and the less inclined they might be to purchase again. This is especially true with regard to online ordering of product. Because the internet moves at lightning speed, customers’ expectations are high when it comes to the speed of delivery of goods purchased online.
Online Shipping Gone Awry
If timely shipping sounds unimportant, just talk to Dennis Bamber, President of Technologydrive.com, an ecommerce fulfillment services company that specializes in storing and shipping goods for online retailers. “Recently, I purchased a rubber drive belt for a vacuum cleaner on the internet from a top online retailer for vacuum accessories,” said Dennis. “Great selection and great prices – but I was still waiting for the drive belt three weeks later! I’m guessing that they delayed in picking the order because it was only $6. But in doing so, they lost my future business.”
And Dennis’ sentiments are by no means the minority. The predominant theme is that customers expect online orders to be shipped quickly and error free. On top of that, online consumers are used to low cost shipping and free shipping, which places an additional squeeze on small business profits. It’s a high level of expectation for small businesses to meet. So what can be done to make sure that you satisfy your customers’ needs and operate at a level of profit that’s sustainable?
Keep it Simple When It Comes to Shipping
- Use the most effective means of shipping, even if it’s a cheaper option. For example, if sending to a PO box, use the USPS instead of shipping via UPS and you could save your customer the hassle of potentially making an unwanted trip to their nearest UPS store.
- Set clear expectations with customers. If you’re going to ship lower priced items in batch less frequently, let your customers know so that they have that expectation. If you can ship orders same day, define that standard. But regardless of the standard, make sure that you’re able to deliver on the standard consistently.
- Communicate with your customers. Be sure to send your customer a quick email detailing the status of their shipment, and update them at critical points in the shipping process. This can be automated with most e-commerce programs.
- Be careful not to set the bar too low. Sending orders less frequently may be a way to cut costs, but make sure you don’t scrimp on timely deliveries. If your competitors are shipping within 24 hours of receipt of order, consider matching that service level to keep customers happy.
The most important thing to remember is that shipping can either be a competitive advantage or an Achilles Heel. By realizing that shipping is another area to “touch” your customers and provide them with a favorable experience, you’ll be able to take advantage of this often overlooked opportunity and turn more of your customers into raving fans.