When creating a product for a customer and achieving a sale, the job is not finished. The job is only complete when the product is sitting in the customer’s hands with the customer satisfied with its quality and their experience. Therefore, it is extremely important to put just as much emphasis on optimising the shipping process as it is the production or administration processes. Let us consider some well-documented best practices for shipping and logistics.
The behind-the-scenes logistics for manufacturing, warehousing and shipping are just as important as the shipping company itself.
Inventory stock control and tracking
Tracking, which could be achieved through barcode technology, is vital for a well-run warehouse and inventory system which of course must precede correct picking of product for shipping. It is very easy to pick the wrong product in a disorganised warehouse which will only result in dissatisfied customers and lost revenue through the replacement of products and dissatisfied customers.
There is inevitably going to be a percentage of defective product or changed customer requirements and so it is important to have a system to manage returns, which includes a logical physical place in the warehouse where they can be stored. This must be away from any other product, as of course, it must not be picked to fulfil new customer orders. This is a component of good inventory stock control.
Inventory stock control system
A large part of shipping is inventory stock control and the system you choose to implement. It is important to have one that will support the company’s requirements. There are several options and methods to choose from, a good one being a perpetual inventory system which denounces the need for physical stock counts, saving time and maintaining accuracy.
Of course, successful and timely shipping is a joint achievement between the manufacturer and the shipping company. Here are some aspects to consider for optimum shipping.
Consider the packaging you use for your product. The packaging will not only determine the safety of your product in transit but it also influences the customer experience of the product and the cost of shipping, which is dependent upon weight and dimensions. It has even been suggested to start considering your packaging well before the product is manufactured.
Choosing a shipping company carefully is important because ideally, a long-term business partnership is formed where both companies benefit and want to see the other prosper. Consider a company that you can trust, who can provide a reliable service in a cost-effective way and who has a global reach should you expand your clientele in the future. An important attribute the shipping company must have is customer support and tracking technology. Customers want to know when their product is shipped, where it is at any given time and when they can expect it on their doorstep.
It is inevitable that things go wrong and shipments are lost. It is also understandable that there are certain import taxes and fees for certain items. Make sure that the shipping company is licensed and insured to ship items to the countries in which your customers live. If these basic things are not in place, the company can stand to lose a lot in the replacement of goods or unexpected custom and export fees, which affects inventory stock control. It is one thing to select your carrier based on their low prices or glamorous website, however it is also important to consider the policies they have in place should things go wrong and how they would endeavour to support you.
A large component of shipping is the customer experience of the process. Ensuring the customer is involved and receiving world-class treatment will help to build loyalty and future sales.
When ordering a product, customers want to know exactly how much shipping will cost as often this will affect their decision to place the order. Even if your company can offer the lowest shipping rates, you will lose customers if it is difficult for them to obtain this information. Some companies will even make it mandatory for the customer to create a login and sign-in to access this information which is a big faux pas.
Customers are nosy, we are all guilty of this. We want to know where our product is and when it will arrive. Therefore, it is important to have this information easily available via your website, which will often mean finding a way to incorporate tracking information from the carrier’s website into the customer’s portal on your own website. It will always be beneficial to a customer to have all the information, easily obtainable in the one site.
True shipping prices
Customers are savvy and you will not win any favours by falsely inflating shipping prices to make a quick buck. Ensure you provide a cost-effective, speedy and reliable service, which is only possibly by considering your carrier carefully to ensure your customer gets the best deal.
Efficiency and responsibility
Efficiency should always be a big focus and one way of appearing efficient to the customer is to under-promise and over-deliver. Build in a margin for error so that if anything does go wrong, the customer might still receive their purchase on time; however, if things go smoothly, then they will be pleasantly surprised by early deliveries. Under-delivering is a sure way to lose the trust and respect of your customers.
Another important aspect to this is to take responsibility for when things go wrong. Customers will not be satisfied or loyal to the company if they feel let down and like they are ‘on their own’. Be prepared to take responsibility for orders that may be delayed or lost, not questioning the customer or ‘investigating’ and causing more delays. Be efficient about shipping a replacement as quickly as possible and deal with any fall-out or corrective actions later once the customer is satisfied.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.