Customers expect all retailers to match the service levels of the largest players. But while retailers want to provide better customer service, many struggle with the limited capabilities of standard tracking systems, which don’t allow self-service, corrective actions or collaboration.

For New York Times-bestselling suspense author Jeff Abbott, it was a mystery–how many times would it take a major furniture retailer to get his delivery right? Abbott, who lost his home to fire last year and is now furnishing a rebuilt home, ordered a sectional sofa for his family’s media room. The delivery was made on time, but the middle section was damaged.

Rob Taylor, co-founder and CEO at Convey

Getting the problem resolved took three appointments and countless phone calls. Abbott’s story of frustration is one I’ve heard time and again as many retailers come to realize that tracking pages alone aren’t keeping up with customers’ increased expectations.

“I had to call multiple people in customer service and then accept the retailer’s suggested solution that it would send a repairman. The retailer’s responsibility for dealing with problem was now on my shoulders. Problems like this make me hesitant to buy again from that retailer. All they did was give me tracking information—it wasn’t enough.”

Abbott’s issue reflects a common complaint: Customers expect all retailers to match the service levels of the largest players. Meanwhile, retailers want to provide better customer service, but struggle with the limited capabilities of standard tracking systems, which don’t allow self-service, corrective actions or collaboration.

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Let your customers self-serve

A recent survey by our team at Convey found that an overwhelming 97% of customers expect to be able to use a retailer’s self-service tools to address a delivery issue. However, tracking alone doesn’t provide enough data to support a self-service model.

Customers need data beyond tracking to drive actions such as rescheduling delivery, requesting a merchant to reship a damaged parcel, picking up a misdirected package or responding to an additional information request.

A sense of greater control in delivery can help merchants keep shoppers satisfied. And, conversely, a lack of options can lead to frustrated shoppers who may never return to a retailer’s site. Our survey found that 84% of shoppers are unlikely to return to a retailer after just one failed delivery experience.

Take corrective action before there’s a problem

Retailers, such as the online gift marketplace UncommonGoods, can proactively anticipate issues to better meet and beat customer expectations.

When UncommonGoods ships an order, the customer receives an email with a tracking link, which takes him or her to a branded web page. All the data required to make the delivery successful—from the retailer, carrier and customer—is gathered and presented in one place. From there, the customer can sign up for text alerts and exception emails, rate the delivery, and submit feedback. They can even place additional orders through special offers.

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If there’s a delivery delay, UncommonGoods can send both a notification and offer a discount on a next purchase. And in the case of major gift-giving events such as holidays, UncommonGoods will proactively identify shipments that are delayed or damaged and expedite new packages, meeting or in some cases, beating its delivery promise date.

“Customers really appreciate being in the loop, and alerted when there’s an unforeseen delay,” says Mary Catherine Halfpenny, the retailer’s director of operations. “Rather than causing them to be angry, often UncommonGoods looks like the hero because we’re being so proactive.”

Collaborate to resolve issues

Online shoppers expect retailers to have built bridges to information that has been traditionally siloed off by shippers and carriers, and now thanks to Amazon, they’re being held accountable for customers’ ever-increasing expectations of what delivery should look like. Our survey found that 93% of customers want to be notified when there is a delivery issue, and 94% will blame the shipper, not the carrier, when a delivery goes wrong.

If an item is damaged, a customer like Abbott could be immediately notified and given the option to schedule a replacement delivery, avoiding the frustration of customer service delays and poorly handled repairs. This can only work if shippers and carriers collaborate to share data, and give customers the tools to share preferences and make self-service decisions.

Unfortunately for Abbott, an unsatisfactory repair process ultimately resulted in having to order a replacement sectional. And there were still problems.

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“My wife initially scheduled the redelivery for a time when she planned to be home, but then she had to unexpectedly leave town,” Abbott says. “I would have loved to be able to instantly reschedule the delivery to match my calendar, but I didn’t feel like making yet another tedious phone call to the retailer.”

The sense of urgency in dealing with exceptions is only going to increase for retailers. Brands that do not offer collaboration to resolve exception issues are going to run into an unforgiving brick wall of customer expectations.

Move beyond tracking

So, what are the challenges in moving beyond tracking?

The first is getting a large enough data set to respond to a wide range of delivery issues and exceptions—insights, experiences and responses derived from established retailers and newer, rapid-growth companies.

The second is combining all the relevant data in an easily accessible format. Too much information needed to make delivery experience management a reality currently lives across a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, emails, care tickets, carrier reports and web pages, driving up customer service costs and inefficiencies.

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Tracking alone does not fulfill the increased expectations of customers, who view their delivery experience as inseparable from a retailer’s brand. Delivery experience management is the next post-tracking wave for parcel- and freight- dependent shippers.

For Abbott, he wonders when more retailers will rise to this new challenge. “Out of our first 10 deliveries, four of them had issues where we had to call the retailer. I’ve got a bunch more furniture to buy, and I’m shopping with those retailers who can resolve these issues quickly and easily.”

Rob Taylor is co-founder and CEO at Convey

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