Whether it’s OMS, CRM or TMS, too much gets lost in translation—leaving consumers to suffer the consequences, argues Convey's Rob Taylor.

This is the third article in a three-part series on how retailers deal with last-minute delivery issues. You can access the first article here and the second one here

Retailers often drag their delivery experience on long past an item’s actual delivery date, and rarely for positive reasons.

Rob Taylor, co-founder and CEO at Convey

That was the case for New York Times best-selling author Jeff Abbott, who has had his fair share of delivery mishaps following a major house fire and remodeling project. A large furniture retailer delivered a bureau for Jeff’s son’s room, but the dresser drawers did not close properly. In response the retailer offered to either repair or replace the item. But after two months, Abbott still didn’t have a resolution.

First, the brand sent a third-party repair technician who was able to fix one of the drawers, noting the unresolved issues in his report. However, when Abbott called the brand’s customer service line to follow up, the agent claimed the item had been repaired. The brand then sent the same technician back to the Abbotts’ house, who remarked, “I’m not sure why I’m here again.”

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Both the repair contractor and the Abbotts shared the same information and pictures with the retailer, but the brand was unable to act on the data.

“They wasted our time,” says Abbott. “I planned to furnish my home office with their products, but now all of my purchases are on hold because of this nightmare.”

A Convey survey of 1,500 shoppers confirms that a whopping 83% are unlikely to shop with a brand again after just one poor delivery experience. And 44% believe brands are not creating successful delivery experiences. Resolving delivery issues requires communication and collaboration—from brands, carriers, contractors, and customers.

All too often, retailers try to solve the problem with cobbled together do-it-yourself systems that can’t keep up with rising customer expectations. Whether it’s OMS, CRM or TMS, too much gets lost in translation—leaving consumers to suffer the consequences. Often the faster a merchant’s ecommerce operations grow, the more issues from that rapid growth emerge.

Here are three key points to remember if you have a DIY system:

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  1. Build it at your own risk. Rising customer expectations increase the pressure on vendors to have vertically integrated systems like Amazon or Walmart.

    But few companies have the financial resources or technical expertise to build out such massive service networks—or continually experiment with new ways of implementing them. In our survey, 75% of shoppers said a superior delivery experience would impact the decision between choosing a specialty retailer or Amazon. And an overwhelming 97% expect the ability to self-serve or interact with their brand to resolve delivery issues. Your customers don’t care that you don’t have Amazon’s breadth or depth of resources. They care about getting their orders how and when they want to, and having choice in the process if something goes wrong along the way. You can’t fulfill those kinds of expectations with a hard-to-maintain DIY system that has trouble connecting the dots between disparate data points to make critical customer service decisions.

  2. Anticipate costly collaboration issues. You also can’t just punt your delivery problems to third-party contractors and expect things to go your way. After multiple failed appointments, emails and phone calls, the situation with Abbott has cost this brand thousands of dollars in future furniture orders, not to mention its brand reputation. If your DIY solution doesn’t help you learn from and collaborate with everyone in the delivery experience, you risk both your reputation and customer retention. In our research, 52% of shoppers say that efficiency and ease of service is THE defining factor for brand loyalty today. Too often, DIY solutions knitted together from legacy systems and focused only on shipment tracking fall short of providing a comprehensive platform for seamless collaboration. Instead, imagine a branded portal where Jeff and the repair technician could have shared photos, updates, and requests about the faulty dresser, and the retailer could have taken immediate, appropriate actions to minimize related costs and downtime, and retained (if not increased) customer loyalty. 77% of shoppers in our survey are more likely to return to a retailer if they have no delivery issues. Brands risk shrinking their customer base if they can’t collaborate with them to provide a great delivery experience.
  3. Consider the benefits of an integrated solution. A DIY approach to delivery management leaves you and your company vulnerable—to evolving technology standards, to more nimble competitors, to escalating customer expectations. Most DIY solutions draw on the limited delivery experience of a particular brand and its carriers. By contrast, integrated delivery management solutions draw on the accumulated knowledge of millions of delivery experiences—pulling data from emails, spreadsheets, customer tickets, telematics from trucks and airplanes, and contractor reports—to provide real-time, actionable information that drives better-informed decisions.  Asking a small IT group, no matter how smart and dedicated, to design a system that can scale across so many different systems and data types, is a tremendous risk in a world where consumers are increasingly unforgiving.

Uncommon Goods, an online gift retailer with a heavy emphasis on customer service, uses an integrated delivery experience management platform to provide proactive communication and collaboration around delivery exceptions. All of the brand’s carrier information is integrated. That enables consumers to sign up for text messages and exception emails, rate their delivery experience and submit feedback and post-delivery issues to the customer service team and place additional orders via special promotions once the delivery is successfully made. All of this helps Uncommon Goods meet and exceed customer expectations.

This is exactly the type of customer engagement Abbott expected from his furniture retailer. But it wasn’t what he received. “The retailer did not listen to us, or to their contractor,” he says. “[The retailer] simply never had the ability to understand or improve my delivery experience.”

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