The boom in internet shopping over the last decade has caused a massive overhaul in the retail industry, resulting in changes in how retailers handle their return policy. For any retailer, optimizing their customer returns has become a critical component in remaining competitive against other retailers.
Return policies have always been important to consumers, but now even more so, with increased internet shopping. Consumers expect returns to be effortless—flexible terms with a reasonable time frame, the ability to receive credit for the merchandise, and an immediate resolution.
A Simple Returns Policy
Retailers should aim to develop an omni-channel return policy, which attempts to manage their customers’ expectations with continuity and multiple return options to satisfy them. The steps to make a return should be clearly stated in a return policy, and the policy should be easily accessible to the customer in the store, on the website, on sales receipts, and with each merchandise shipment. This helps to create a positive buying experience for the customer.
One of consumers’ primary concerns is a seamless return transaction. So, whether they have purchased the merchandise online or not, they want to be able to return it in the store. The return should be reconciled against the original transaction so the customer does not need a receipt.
Pre-printed Return Labels
Make it easy for the customer to return by mail by including pre-printed return labels. This eliminates any uncertainty over where to send the return, which carrier to use, and having to stand on a long line at the shipping center. Retailers benefit as well by being able to track the transaction data easily with the bar code and get the item back to inventory.
More complex returns such as purchases made while in another country, or returning a purchase made in store via mail also need to be considered.
Social media is one of the first places unhappy customers will go to vent their frustrations, and unfortunately, word spreads quickly. Monitor your outlets to mitigate any negative experiences with a quick response.
Striking a balance between customer satisfaction and your company’s operations is key when creating an omni-channel returns policy. A positive returns experience for a customer can translate to a loyal customer and building a good reputation as a retailer.
All companies use data to create strategies, make important decisions, and set goals for the business. A good data management process will help companies to align strategies and identify areas of growth. And in today’s competitive environment, being able to make those decisions before the competition, or making the best decision for your business is crucial to growing your business.
A comprehensive data management system can help managers and executives have access to the information they need when they need it. In addition, financial and accounting information will be better organized to reduce errors.
Almost all organizations have data in some form, however, it is not consistent, stored in multiple locations, or in different formats. This makes it difficult to utilize the data as it is intended—to create strategies or make informed decisions about the business.
Many companies use different sources of data for forecasting, analysis and evaluating performance. When decision makers are analyzing numbers in order to make choices that will have an impact on the business, it is imperative that the numbers come from the same source so that all managers are viewing the same data. Even the smallest discrepancies can affect its usefulness.
Kable Fulfillment can help your company standardize your data in a user-friendly, easily-accessible format. Your organization will be able to evaluate data accurately to optimize business returns.
The increased demand for instant information in the business world necessitates a data management system with real-time solutions. It is not productive for decision makers in your organization to waste time locating the information they need and synergizing it with other data to make it usable. Having the necessary information when you need it makes all the difference in productivity.
For example, when supply chain managers need to get the right product in the right place at the right time, they need to make production decisions based on real-time data, as well as track inventory to get the quantity correct. In this situation, access to real-time production and inventory numbers is critical.
There are many off-the-shelf data management solutions available but they don’t always fit your business needs. Kable can provide your company with a customize data management system that works specifically for your business, including:
- Customized reporting options
- Fully audited transactions
- Marketing and sales reports
- Real time production reports
- POS sales data capture
- Remote reorder alerts
Data analysis can also be made easier and faster with the use of an integrated system. Kable can create custom IT applications that streamline processes. Your data management system will be fully integrated and flexible, tailored to your specifications. We can also streamline processes such as orders, customs, accounting, payment processing and returns.
Kable Fulfillment can give your organization the tools you need to make the best decisions for your organization by integrating your data into a customized format to fit your needs. Our IT team can give you a smooth, errorless data integration and create reports that let you manage your business properly. Contact us today at kablefulfillment.com to learn more about our data management solutions.
Selling nutritional supplements online is a competitive business because consumers are smart. Most know with a quick search the same product can be found at similar or better prices. Yet, it’s not all about price. Transit time and shipping costs are factors buyers care about too and consider as part of their decision. Keeping this in mind, online retailers must be tactical in how they keep customers on their website through that final crucial step of checking out.
On the flip side, retailers can’t give away too much just to make a sale and have to protect their margins. Selling on price alone is a race to bottom, so what’s a retailer to do?
For a leading online marketer of nutritional supplements this was a familiar story. To them it was painfully clear their rate of cart abandonment was too high. The goal had to be to take steps for keeping customers on their site while looking for other ways to drive costs out of the supply chain and increase margins. What was not so clear was what to do about it.
Looking to take this challenge head on, the retailer took a deep dive into their supply chain and order fulfillment processes. This research led them to three main conclusions.
1 – High shipping costs and slow delivery times were the primary causes of cart abandonment on the site.
2 – Margins could be improved with better cash flow and reduced lead times by way of tighter inventory control.
3 – Implementing real change would require an upgrade in their supply chain expertise and technology.
The solution to these challenges became a reality by partnering with a new ecommerce order fulfillment provider, Kable Fulfillment.
Shipping costs and delivery times are mostly determined by where an order ships from, making a shipping point in the central U.S. a big advantage for retailers. Leveraging Kable’s strategic location and volume shipping discounts, the retailer was able to reduce their shipping costs by 28% and reduce average deliver time to its customers in the eastern U.S. by 2.5 days. These are ongoing savings that benefit their operation by way of lower costs as well as improved customer satisfaction thanks to faster delivery times.
Better inventory management positively impacts operating costs and cash flow by ensuring the right amount of product is always in the right place, at the right time. Kable’s fulfillment and warehouse technology provides the customer with robust inventory reporting tools and program data. The tools at the client’s disposal include trigger “alerts” by SKU as a given item’s inventory hits a particular threshold. The result? The client has reduced their average Cost per Order for fulfillment by 14%.
By working with an experienced fulfillment partner, the retailer is able to benefit from the collective experience of an organization whose sole focus is to make supply chains work better. The pressure on all types of online retailers to sell for less and deliver faster is not going away. Kable Fulfillment offers simple, cost effective solutions to reduce problems like cart abandonment and high shipping costs – which helps to ensure our customers remain competitive in the marketplace.
It’s easy (and common) for companies to claim it’s their service that sets them apart- but does it ever really? Most companies are selling something that is more or less just a commodity. In other words, there are always a lot of other companies selling the same thing you do.
Worse yet, ask a company what makes them special and they’ll usually say it’s their service. Clearly that cannot be true so there is a gap between how companies perceive their strengths and reality.
To many companies, “service” is a reference to their customer service team. While many CSRs and Account Managers are very capable, many times customer service can only attempt to deal with the symptoms of problems which doesn’t help when a solution is needed.
True solutions can only come when there is a real problem solution process. To do this, there needs to be a complete feedback loop with the right people involved.
For example, if you are selling online do you understand why returns are happening and is there data on what’s going on getting back to the right people? Processing returns and handling customer calls is treating the symptom. Preventing the returns in the first place is finding a solution to the problem and improving service.
Here is another example – are there delays with deliveries affecting your customers? Is the cause an issue with lead time and inbound materials or something happening within the operation? Understanding and fixing the problem is the solution. Would that be your company’s approach or do you fall into a daily cycle of putting out fires with no attention paid to actually fixing the problem?
Here are 5 tips for improving service to your customers:
- Setting proper expectations with clients during the sales process
- Have a solid onboarding processes
- Create a communication process that includes all the various functional areas of your company
- Measure meaningful KPIs
- Hold periodic customer reviews
These are all basic, but important steps to improving service to your customers.
Providing service to a customer is a team effort. It takes an understanding by operations and all functional areas to provide good service.
A successful customer relationship starts and ends with a clear understanding of expectations. In other words, the communication that takes place pre-sale largely determines the long term success of every new customer you bring on.
It’s easy to joke about the classic situation of a sales person saying and doing anything to get a sale, and then the rest of the company working to clean up the mess. It doesn’t have to be this way – in fact if this is how your company operates you could be making a big mistake. The downsides outweigh the positives with this approach more often than not.
What’s not as well known is that the same problems can occur for a different reason. Even when nothing has been “over promised” it is still possible the real needs and expectations of the customer have not been heard. You weren’t listening well enough or asking the right questions. Being too caught up in what you do and not what the customer really needs is one reason this happens. The responsibility for getting this right lies with you.
The fact remains that a lot of customer relationships go off the rails after the deal is signed. Not listening can have a real impact in several ways:
Unclear expectations lead to difficult onboarding for new customers. This inevitably drags sales people back into the process only to bog them down with the implementation. This prevents sales people from moving on to new opportunities and doing what they should be doing – selling.
Not understanding the needs of a client will affect your operations as well. Incorrect or impossible expectations that your company cannot deliver is setting you up to fail. While at the same time, the customer is not getting what they expect and service suffers. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Perhaps in the end, the worst part is these problems waste time and money. This is on top of the ill will of the customer and the operations team. Even if you are able to successfully onboard such a customer, who’s to say if they will be profitable. The price you’ve quoted was based on work different than what the project ended up to be.
It is important for companies to take steps to make sure they are hearing their customers. Involving the various functional areas of the company – account management and operations for example – help to make sure the customer’s needs are understood. Just as importantly, this helps to ensure your company can deliver on the commitments being made. Clear and reasonable expectations are two key factors that make for long lasting and mutually beneficial customer relationships.
As a marketing or sales person, you are constantly trying to spread your message. You talk about features, benefits, ROI, and any other reason you can think of regarding how what you’re selling matters to prospective clients.
But, do prospects really recognize value in what you are selling?
As crazy as it sounds, there is a good chance many do not and it is not their fault. The problem is most often that your message, while it sounds good and makes sense to you, means nothing to the intended audience. Worse yet, marketing often happens as a one way conversation and many sellers never figure out the real reason their customers buy from them. They’d do a lot better if they did.
The responsibility to ensure the right message is being heard lies with you.
It’s not your prospect’s job to understand what you do. This means your message needs to be from the perspective of the client and what matters to them. Presenting a feature list of what you think are your strengths is often the last thing potential clients can relate to.
You need to remember prospects are only thinking of themselves. Their problems and needs and a million other things are always front of mind for them. Your message needs to resonate immediately and clearly. It has to mirror the challenges they face and the solutions they need.
Being off message and not listening also means missing out on valuable feedback to close a sale. Not hearing what the client is saying means you are likely fixated on the wrong solution for the situation. That makes it hard to sell.
Even if you get lucky and close a sale, expectations that are not in alignment make for difficult implementations and poor execution. The end result is a bad customer experience and lost business in the long run.
Do this. Review your marketing messaging – are you communicating a list of features that attempt to make the conversation about you? Or, are you presenting ideas that bring up real pain points for customers? There is a simple solution to this common problem. Create a process to ensure each step in your sales and marketing process is designed to ensure a constant feedback loop with the prospect. This way you can be certain to be on target with your messaging. Expectations will then align at each step of the sale and on to the onboarding process.
Business consultants are quick to point out the importance of order fulfillment. In fact, it’s the most important part of customer service. Without an outstanding delivery system, customers will choose your competition, even if your pricing is better.
With that in mind, the decision to outsource order fulfillment can become the impetus to bring in additional customers, and that translates into more sales and of course higher profits. And… working with a third party logistics provider can provide you and your staff with more time to concentrate on other areas of your business. Indeed, outsourcing could even save you money as a fulfillment firm can streamline the process.
The decision, however, is not as easy as 1-2-3. There are a variety of things that you should consider before you decide whether or not to outsource your order fulfillment.
Cost is a major consideration when it comes to deciding whether or not to make the move to outsourcing. And it’s not just about the money. How much time will you be saving? And what about the cost of labor?
And then there’s the cost of shipping itself. Delivery services such as UPS and FedEx and even the U.S. Mail offer volume discounts, so while you might have to pay $10 per package (for example), a fulfillment company’s rate – since it deals in volume – may only be $8 per package. Part of that lower rate will be passed on to you.
Determining whether or not outsourcing is necessary at this time in your company’s growth is crucial. And yes, there is some risk involved in putting this part of your operation in the hands of another party.
However, you can ease that thought by conducting due diligence on the fulfillment agencies you are considering. Check on their records with the Better Business Bureau and go online to read reviews, or ask the potential agency for references. You don’t have to leave your company’s fulfillment operation in question if you use the tools available to you to investigate or explore what’s out there. Fulfillment agencies are companies just like yours, and the reputable ones want your business and won’t hesitate to answer your questions and provide whatever information you need on how the process works, as well as their reputation in the industry.
One more thing… the biggest indicator that it’s time to outsource is when you can no longer grow with your current setup. This is when it might be worth looking into other options to get your product out to your customers on time and in great shape, especially when it will mean the continued growth of your company.
Other Things to Consider
Another reason to consider outsourcing your delivery system is if your business sees a lot of seasonal spikes and variations. For example, holiday time may mean a temporary increase in orders. No worries. Your fulfillment agency will handle that and you won’t have to hire more staff and pay more benefits or overtime.
Outsourcing the fulfillment aspect of your company’s operation is indeed a major decision. The bottom line is that it should enable growth for your company, cost savings, and a little less for you to worry about.
Aside from the products you sell, the costs for packaging and shipping are often the biggest expense for online supplement and nutraceutical companies. As the health and wellness category continues to grow, so grows the competition. This means companies need more focus than ever on controlling costs while still providing a unique customer experience.
These ideas may seem to be inherently in conflict, but they aren’t with the right approach. It’s really just a matter of being smart and knowing what details to think about with your packaging and shipping decisions.
Packaging is important because it protects your products during shipping. Compared to some other products, supplements have it pretty good – since many are small and not too fragile. Yet the right packaging plays a big part in shaping the customer experience. Given many health and wellness products sell at a premium and are in many ways “lifestyle” purchases, customers are expecting the products to arrive with special presentation, not just brown box packaging.
Special packaging comes with a cost. You know your clients so it’s really an individual choice to decide what packaging to use and how much extra expense is worth it. But, here are some things to think about.
Nicer packaging is expensive. For example, having your boxes custom printed with your logo will look good, no doubt. But custom printed boxes are expensive. Think about using small color printed labels instead. Your fulfillment operation can affix the labels to regular boxes as orders ship to give your products a customer look.
Big packaging is expensive. Oversized boxes and packaging materials can cost you in more ways than just the expense of the materials themselves. More weight and bigger size can make your shipping more expensive too. Every ounce matters, so as you consider different packaging make sure you consider what the added bulk will mean for shipping costs.
Many order fulfillment providers can be helpful when it comes to specialized packaging and order customization. Ask for their advice on the best and most efficient ways to add personalization and a little extra presentation to your customer’s orders. While you are at it, ask how you can optimize the shipping methods you are using. Shipping is always a trade off of how long a delivery takes and the cost. A good warehouse partner will help you optimize the best shipping method for you to use every time. After all, packaging and shipping is what they do.
With any business, inventory management is crucial. If your company deals with nutritional supplements and nutraceuticals, then it’s even more important to have a tight control on things. Good inventory management is important not just because of the effect it has on your bottom line – there are serious health and safety considerations as well. Here are 3 reasons why every supplement company needs to make inventory management a top priority.
Keeping Up With Demand
Unlike a lot of products, supplements are something always in demand. When your customers are relying on your company for specific supplements on a regular basis, it’s important to have an accurate gauge on inventory counts. You can’t ship what you don’t have. This is especially true if your company offers a subscription service or ships regularly to certain customers. Not only do you have to have the supplies ready to ship on a monthly basis for your pre-existing customers, but you also have to be able to take into account the addition of new customers; having the ability to fulfill new orders as they come in.
Too Much can be Worse than Not Enough
The problem with running a product that has a set shelf life is making sure you have a proper rotation of your stock. Nutrition supplements have an expiration date which means older stock needs to be sent out first. The only way that works is a very careful rotation of products, requiring a strong control on your inventory, as well as good inventory management practices. Nutrition suppliers need to be especially careful as sending out expired, or close to expired products, can be a health risk to your customers which has the potential to result in a lawsuit or other legal action against your company.
Keeping up to Code
CGMPs or current good manufacturing practices, which were finalized in 2007, create a strict set of rules and guidelines for the manufacturing of nutrition and health supplements, insuring quality, purity, and strength. This is perhaps one of the most important reasons for strong inventory control. Any company found in violation of the CGMPs can be subject to punitive action from both the Department of Justice as with as the FDA. Supplement manufacturers, both large and small, need to be especially careful as being found in violation could result in your company being shut down entirely.
All in all, inventory plays a crucial role in the success of your company. With proper inventory management systems in place you can not only set your company up for success, but protect it from countless potential supply issues, delays, and possible legal action from being found in violation of the CGMPs. Much in the same way that your products help to promote the health of your customers, having good inventory control practices helps to promote the health and success of your company.