How Not To Spoil Everyone’s Christmas
“The final mile is where you’ll lose customers,” Sherrie Mead, co-founder, The Letteroom
No matter how great your customer experience is, it’s the last mile that leaves the lasting impression. Get it right and your customers will walk away with a favourable view of your brand, get it wrong and they’re unlikely to return.
In 2015, the number of parcels sent by online retailers in the UK topped one billion for the first time–around 260 million of those were delivered throughout November and December, according to IMRG. Volumes are set to increase this year, placing greater pressure than ever on logistics companies and online retailers alike.
As Sherrie Mead, co-founder of The Letteroom, notes: “We don’t own the delivery but people think we do. As a retailer you can buy great product, market it well and sell it but the final mile is where you’ll lose customers.”
“By not delivering in time, you will not only spoil someone’s day, but likely lose at least two customers for life, both the gift purchaser and the recipient,” warns Will Dymott, Head of Data & CRM, Practicology.
So how can online retailers rescue delivery failures this Christmas? Here are three essentials.
1 – Manage expectations and communicate
The number one piece of advice from experienced retailers and experts alike is to avoid overpromising and under-delivering. While retailers may not own the delivery part of the journey itself, the onus is on them to manage customers’ expectations from the start. To begin with that means adjusting how long you tell your customers standard deliveries will take so that you factor in the extra pressure and possible delays during seasonal trading.
Communication within the business is just as important. Practicology’s Dymott says: “Make sure you are in regular touch with your distribution team in the warehouse or dispatch team from your store. If they start to fall behind, you need to increase your delivery promise and communicate it to your customers.”
2 – Flex the process and keep an eye on the weather
If it looks like orders are starting to take as long as you promised, consider ways to speed up the pick, pack and delivery process. Larger retailers shipping from a warehouse could try extending shifts to increase the overall daily pick and pack numbers. Regardless of size and whether you’re shipping from a warehouse or a store, speak to your courier to arrange later collection times, or switch to a faster service.
“Keep an eye on the weather,” advises Dymott. “If it looks like there will be snow in parts of the country then talk to your courier. If necessary, bring forward the last order dates shown on your website for the affected areas.”
3 – Handle it well
Customers don’t like delayed or unsuccessful deliveries, but how you respond could make or break that customer’s future loyalty. “You have to handle it as if you’re the customer and in the way you would like to be treated,” says Victoria Rex, founder of fashion boutique Women’s Society. “We treat every case on a unique basis. As long as you work through it, you can resolve it.” That could mean picking up the phone and talking to people to show you are dealing with it, or finding other ways to reach them via text or social media if necessary.
Dymott agrees: “If it all goes wrong and you do miss a few orders, contact the customers, refund their delivery charges and apologise. If the product is going into your sale, then refund the difference too.”