Shipping & Fulfillment Best Practices: Part 2, Customer Experience

Customer experience during shipping and fulfillment sets the tone for how well you product is received. Follow these best practices to create the best experience possible.

With a solid internal plan for shipping (see Part 1 of Shipping & Fulfillment Best Practices), the next step is organizing and working through the customer experience. Here, your business’ operations meet the customer face to face, setting the tone for the overall customer experience with your product.

What is Customer Experience?

First, let’s explain what we mean by customer experience. Most simply, customer experience can be understood as how the customer perceives the interactions they’ve had with your company. This relates to the discovery, communication, and reception of your product. Customers who experience confusion, frustration, or discontent have had a bad customer experience. On the other hand, customers who have to exert little effort to get what they want, who are pleased with their product, and who are generally happy with your company have had a good customer experience.

Customer experience is not customer service. Customer service is just one aspect of your business, and indeed it does affect customer experience. But the customer experience relates to the whole picture, not just their interactions with your support agents or staff. For example, you can have customers who have a great customer experience, but never actually speak to anyone at your company.

With a subscription business, the shipping and receiving of your product are fundamental to customer experience. To help ensure a good customer experience, you want to excel at the following: setting expectations for customers, communicating with customers, and constantly improving what the experience is for new and returning customers.

1. Setting Expectations

The first thing you need to remember when considering the customer side of shipping is what expectations you’ve provided to your customers. What promises have you made your customers and how have you explained them? 

Consider these few questions a customer would ask:

  • When will the box arrive?
  • How long will it take to get the box from the order date?
  • Is there a specific shipping date each month?  
  • Who delivers the mail?
  • Where do you deliver from?
  • Where do deliver to? 
  • Will I receive a shipping notification? 

While it may seem like an abundance of questions to deal with. All of these can be answered concisely and completely in a few simple ways. Furthermore, by proactively answering questions, you can mitigate future support requests and reduce workload for your customer service agents.

For example, considering listing this type of information in several areas throughout the customer experience and make the answers easily available to any person searching for them:

  • Your Product Page: On the actual page your customers purchase your product from, you can list key pieces of information. On this page, I suggest not going overboard as to not distract the customer or take their attention away from making the purchase – this is most important! However, adding something like “Ships Mid-Month” or “Delivered in One-Week” under your ‘Buy’ button can quickly provide an answer and set an expectation without the customer having to think too much about it.
  • Your FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): Your FAQ page is the perfect place to list this information exhaustively. You can go into depth if you choose, as you should expect that all traffic hitting this page is looking for detailed answers.
  • Your Help Center: Some customer support platforms, like Zendesk, offer the option to have living Help Centers. These are fundamentally just better organized FAQs, usually with a search feature, that your agents can go through and update time to time. Like in your FAQs, be exhaustive and list as many questions and answers as possible. The more detailed you are, the most accountable and clear you can be to your customers. (Note: One benefit of a Help Center like that of Zendesk is that you can prompt it to provide answers to customers who seek to email your team. Gating the customers in this process – ie. filling out their questions before emailing, then having the Help Center suggest articles – means mitigating requests.)
  • Enable Your Team: If your customers do end up emailing you, make sure you’ve equipped your team with the tools they need to succeed. Creating Filters and Macros can help speed up the processing of these requests and improve standardization of answers with your agents, leading to better expectations set when dealing with customers one-on-one.
  • Your Confirmation Email: Do you send out a confirmation email for a purchase or a successful sign up email when someone subscribes? If so, you can include some of this detailed information in the email. Say hello and set those important expectations. Like the product page, though, this probably isn’t the best place to be too exhaustive: “Hi customer! We love you. Here’s your order information. Your box ships on THIS date by THIS carrier. Expect it then!” 

2. Shipping Notifications

Shipping notifications are emails that are sent to your customers when your team actually generates a label. In other words, when you print the label for your customer, you should have an automatic email queued to be sent, notifying them of the soon to arrive box. Think about what this means a customer: Have you ever ordered anything online? When you make the purchase, you receive a receipt. But when the order actually ships, you receive your notice that your shipment is actually on its way. That’s the more exciting of the two emails! Now you’re expecting the product at your doorstep any day.

Make sure that when you generate your shipping labels, you notify customers of the impending delivery. Like setting expectations, this can keep your customers informed on the progress of their delivery, and mitigate emails asking when to expect your product.

3. Tracking Information

Tracking informations is a powerful tool in keeping shipping smooth, minimizing support requests, and keeping customers informed. Tracking information is most often included in the shipping notifications discussed above. Depending on your carrier, tracking information can look different, and can require customers to do different things. In general, though, tracking information should be clearly marked in your shipping notification:

Your Tracking Number is: 1234567890

Preferably, this tracking number will also link directly to the system that provides the tracking information. This makes it easy for the customer to simply click to find the information they are looking for. If this isn’t an option, make sure you include clear instructions on how to use their tracking number.

Look up your tracking information at www.somewebaddress.com

4. Gather Feedback to Improve Future Experiences

One of the most valuable experiences people have is when they feel like their opinions matter and are listened to. This is a element of customer experience you can easily work into your monthly shipments, and you should consider implementing some type of feedback reports at least every other month or so.

For example, after shipping out your boxes and making sure they’ve all arrived. consider sending out a link to a questionnaire – perhaps a simple Wufoo Form or other polling service – asking about how you can improve shipping or the process behind it. Keep the questions simple and short to increase the amount of feedback (no one wants to fill out a long survey!). Consider these few questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, how would you rate your experience with receiving your product? 
  • Was shipping clear when you subscribed to our service? 
  • How could we improve this process?

Keep an Keen Eye on Customer Experience

By following these best practices, you’re working toward a solid, well-curated customer experience, built upon clear expectations and strong communication by you and your staff. Remember to reflect on these practices and always inform customers when something in the process materially changes for them. Reduce surprises and go above and beyond what your customers expect and you’ll be sure to delight your customers every month.

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

2 Responses

  1. Travis

    How do you link your tracking numbers from each shipping label to the email notification you send to the customers? How does the right tracking number get to the right person?

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