Is Your Customer Service Performance Building Confidence and Loyalty?

As we shop this Christmas season, we have had three examples that stand out from all the rest:

  • We had our first same day order and same day delivery from Amazon.com. It wasn’t something we requested but we pleasantly surprised to get. Amazon has two distribution centers in Richmond, VA where we live. The order was placed on a Saturday in the late morning and delivered within four hours to our home. Frankly, I know that this isn’t an economical option for most businesses (maybe including Amazon). But I’ll tell you it is a formidable marketing weapon. It was extremely fulfilling to receive the item so quickly without leaving home. 
  • For procrastinators, how late can you shop and get it in time for Christmas? Figi’s is the supreme example. They promise that anything in stock from their catalog that’s ordered by Dec. 23 will be picked and at your door by Dec 24. Many businesses’ last ship date this year is Dec 21 or Dec. 22.  You will pay for expedited shipping but it will get there for someone’s Christmas.  
  • Now for a poor performer, which I’ll call BigBoxDiscounter.com. We placed an order at 4 p.m. Sunday for a unique item we really wanted for a grandson. Upon hitting the submit button, the website said to contact them if we didn’t get a ship confirmation within four hours. What? Frankly, my heart sank. Limited inventory? They have our credit card tied up? 

There was no telephone number to call; but oh look, a chat line! When we submitted a request for a chat session, the website displayed a counter which showed how many people were ahead of us. It started at 50 and slowly counted down. We lost confidence in getting through and finally abandoned it. We kept checking email every so often throughout the evening and into Monday. Seventeen hours after placing the order we got the confirmation. Since we have 14 days before Christmas we have a chance of getting it beforehand. This is the only time I’ll ever shop from this company. PERIOD.

Some things to consider:

Does management have objective measurement of their fulfillment performance? 

Have we become so detached from the customer and how we serve them that we have no idea of our actual customer service performance? I’ll use BigBoxDiscounter.com as an example. Any executive sitting and watching the chat line slowly click through customers should go crazy. In a world where the customer has a “point, click and deliver” mentality, this kind of episode will destroy your business.

I ask clients on a regular basis, when is the last time you and your senior management have listened to customer calls in the contact center? Almost to a one, it’s been years. Yes, we want to delegate management to our call center directors. But when I’ve listened to customer calls for clients I am always intrigued with things like what products and services they’re asking for, and how they feel about the company. What is the level of lost sales for not serving their initial product request?

Does marketing have measures and surveys of how the customer is being served? 

This might be an on-line quick survey, reviews or old school postage paid cards inserted in the outbound packages. BigBoxDiscounter.com is not the only company that makes contacting them difficult to near impossible.

Do you have service-level metrics established throughout the supply chain? 

When we talk about customer service we always focus on customer-facing metrics like first-call resolution, abandonment rate, email turnaround times, chat sessions and resolutions, etc.

However, outstanding customer service is the result of adopting metrics throughout the supply chain. Two examples come to mind: On-time purchase order delivery not requiring rework, and the time from dock receipt to inventory put-away (best-in-class is two hours or less; the average company does it in the same shift).

Customer order turnaround time for best-in-class companies is the day the order is taken except for weekends. Many of our clients are shipping 75% of their orders same day as received.

Returns processing including customer credit and refunds and inventory disposition for best in class companies is same day as receipt.

These are some of the fulfillment metrics which make delivery on marketing’s promises a reality.

Does your order taking and fulfillment build customer confidence that will encourage them to be a repeat customer? It’s worth taking a few minutes to ponder how well we are servicing customers.

Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Company

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