By Rob Taylor, CEO, Convey Inc.
It seems inevitable. Every few weeks the headlines are dominated by the latest in an ongoing saga of customer service nightmares. When the news isn’t covering any particular viral incident, chances are someone in your social network is posting about a terrible experience they had with one company or another. Every industry has it’s own set of “frequent offenders,” among them airlines have overbooked flights, restaurants suffer cleanliness issues, and hotels struggle to maintain their facilities.
In the retail world, half of all ecommerce customers will experience at least one issue a year. Delays, damages, and goods simply not arriving at all top the list of customer complaints. These issues are never more prevalent (and frustrating) than around the holidays. This is not one of those stories.
Last month, Father’s Day gift givers placed orders with hundreds of retailers around the country. If you were a customer of online retailer UncommonGoods, you didn’t have to worry about missing your deadline. In the weeks that led up to it, UncommonGoods made a pretty radical decision to go above and beyond for Father’s Day to make sure no gift destined for a Dad would miss its deadline.
As simple as it sounds, they kept their promise. “We see the delivery date as a promise. You trusted us with your hard earned cash and we want to deliver that wonderful handmade item, damage free, to your favorite person, by that important date,” says MC Halfpenny, Director of Operations for UncommonGoods.
Rather than rely on customer service reps to field late shipment calls, the UncommonGoods team used data to proactively identify shipments that would miss their Father’s Day promise date — days ahead of the actual delivery deadline. This gave UncommonGoods the time and information necessary to expedite new shipments guaranteed to meet their destination by Sunday. Meanwhile, existing in-transit shipments were intercepted by the carrier and returned to the warehouse.
Most retailers agree that meeting delivery promises is a top priority, but UncommonGoods is quickly becoming a hero in the minds of their customers. They are taking action to make sure they “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.”
According to the NRF, Father’s Day spending reached an all-time high this year with total sales expected to reach $15.5 billion. While that’s nothing to balk at, it pales in comparison to the volume done during the winter holiday months. Over the 2016 holiday season, Convey tracked hundreds of thousands of packages and found one out of five shoppers didn’t receive their package on time the week before Christmas.
With common carriers and retailers alike coming under fire for missing important holiday deadlines, what can others learn from UncommonGoods about how to “wow” through proactive support this year?
Don’t Rely On Carrier Data Alone
Relying on carrier data alone is a common issue when trying to improve the delivery experience. Even if you assume carrier performance data is complete and accurate 100 percent of the time, it still only tells part of the story. Many issues that are not the result of a carrier missing their SLA — such as late tenders or missed pickups — can cause make-or-break delays for a customer. For this reason, it’s important for retailers to know, communicate, and work against the order promise date, not the estimated delivery date.
Offer Service-Level Upgrades Post-Purchase
We’ve all been there, rushing to buy last minute gifts before a holiday weekend. Some customers will opt for free 2-6 day shipping only to regret that decision as the date gets closer. Offering a post-purchase upgrade can help stave off this buyer’s remorse. If a big holiday is coming up, go the extra mile and send a post-purchase alert to let them know the option is available.
Pro tip: Post-purchase upgrades can be used for services other than speed. For large item deliveries, these might include white glove or room of choice service, while for parcel they might include redirecting a shipment to a new location or requesting the carrier hold it at the terminal.
Be Prepared To Act
Knowing where issues occur during the delivery process is only half the challenge. For any given scenario, you need to have a plan in place to address them. In some cases you may be willing to take a margin hit to gain loyalty points, while in others you may simply want to communicate and reset expectations with the customer.
While keeping their promise to customers may not seem revolutionary, UncommonGoods is rewriting the playbook for best-in-class support, doing whatever it takes to keep consumers happy. To learn more about their strategies for success listen to this podcast with Director of Operations, MC Halfpenny.
About The Author
Convey CEO Rob Taylor has two decades of entrepreneurial and founding leadership experience building successful venture and IPO-funded startups. Most recently, Rob was the President of BlackLocus, a SaaS software company providing competitive price intelligence to large retailers which was acquired by The Home Depot in late 2012. Prior to BlackLocus, Rob was the EVP & GM of TrueCar (Nasdaq: TRUE), the leading negotiation-free car buying and selling platform, where Rob built the consumer direct business from the ground up.