4 Ways to Turn Your Fulfillment Operations into a Customer Service Function

Feb 17, 2012 11:56 PM  By

Nothing makes customers happier than receiving a package they ordered arrive on time, at the right place, and with the correct contents inside. As brand loyalty becomes more coveted in a crowded retail space, merchants need to move beyond simply doing things correctly to keep customers coming back.

Even a retailer’s most basic order fulfillment processes are becoming increasingly more customer-facing. Operations can and should be used as another tool to complement your customer service initiatives.

From the warehouse shelf, to the pack station, to the shipping dock and ultimately the customer’s doorstep, a retailer’s fulfillment operations have a critical impact on the consumer buying experience. As a result, operations should be viewed as a function of customer service.

Here are four easy ways to turn your fulfillment operations into a relationship-building machine:

Provide order information
Hold your order fulfillment operations accountable by providing customers with tracking information for their orders. Not only is this another excuse for a customer touch point, but it can actually calm the fears of uneasy shoppers and limit inquiries to your customer service teams. These transactional messages can often be automated through your email service provider, so pair it with a “thank you for purchasing” note and email away.

Add value after the sale
The customer has already purchased from you, but there are ways to guide them into doing so again and again – all during the pick and pack phase. Include a value-add in their package: your latest catalog, a discount coupon, or a promotional flier with a QR code to watch a video about their new product, and they’ll be more likely to make a repeat purchase.

Offer appropriate follow-up
Leaving customers hanging after a purchase is a good way to make sure they never return. Provide information about returns (Can they do it in-store? Online? Through the contact center?) along with their order as well as clear ways for the customer to contact you for support.

Having several contact methods, such as social media, live chat, email, and phone ensures convenience for customers in every channel. Don’t forget to ask for feedback – via survey, social media, or some other method – to ensure that you are satisfying your customers’ expectations.

Make returns another touch point
Processing customer returns is not only a task for your fulfillment operations, but also an opportunity for your customer service team to shine. Use this interaction with the customer as a way to garner information that will help prevent future returns: ask reasons for the return, up-sell or cross-sell products that might better suit his or her needs, and make it easy for the product to be returned to you.

It’s also a great time to send another transactional message that apologizes for any issues a customer may have had and includes value via related products, a discount code, or the ability to leave feedback about her experience.

Matt Konkle is president of Fifth Gear, a provider of outsourced order fulfillment services.