How fulfillment and customer service impact customer retention
Reported by Alicia Orr Suman
This month, Target Marketing interviewed Mark Lutz, a direct marketing strategic consultant who has worked in marketing and on the operational front for companies such as Publisher's Clearing House, Disney Direct, Sears Canada and Alloy.
The question we raised: How does the back-end operation of a direct marketing business impact customer retention, and what can direct marketers do to ensure their customers are satisfied—not only with the products they purchase but with the overall buying experience.
"Fulfillment is a topic too many marketing folks ignore," says Lutz, founder/principal of Princeton, NJ-based C2 (formerly known as Consortium Consultations). Speed of delivery; inventory availability vs. back orders; shipping method used; and product presentation (including packaging, communications materials and in-package promotions)—"These all impact whether the customer will buy from you again," he points out.
As one who has worked on both sides of the fulfillment fence, Lutz offers some helpful insights to mailers looking to bridge the gap between their marketing and operations departments.
Target Marketing: Beyond satisfaction with the product itself, what are the most critical back-end business elements impacting customer relationship management (CRM)?
Mark Lutz: There are four key elements: presentation; communication to and with the customer; billing; and CSR training. Let's look at each one:
Product presentation. As to presentation, keep it simple and to the expectation of your customer! Don't clutter the outside of the package or inundate the customer on the inside [of the package] with offers for tons of opportunities they may not want.
Communication. A simple e-mail assuring the customer that his order was received correctly, shipped when and as instructed, and even a follow up e-mail asking if the delivery occurred as desired, keeps the customer informed, and builds loyalty until the next order is ready to be placed.