Product Fulfillment Problems and Solutions
By Barry Blumenfield
To most people, order fulfillment may appear to be a fairly straightforward process—take an order and ship out the product. But it actually is quite complex. Consistently fulfilling customers' expectations requires a seamless integration of the product development and production, creative and promotional efforts, telemarketing scripts, order processing, customer service and shipping.
For many mail-order businesses today, these tasks are handled by a combination of separate in-house departments and third-party suppliers. It is therefore exceedingly difficult to orchestrate a seamless integration of all involved parties.
We decided to take a look at the common fulfillment problems encountered by mail-order companies and the solutions that were implemented to solve them. We found that in nearly every case, most problems would have been caught sooner or completely avoided with better communication throughout the fulfillment team. However, since problems will inevitably occur, we recommend that businesses follow three steps to deal with them:
>Establish procedures to identify possible problems before they occur.
>Once you learn of a problem, find and correct any damage done with an emphasis on customer retention.
>After fixing the problem, take the necessary steps to avoid future occurrences.
Step #1: Identify Problems Before They Occur
This obviously is difficult to implement without a crystal ball, but it's a critical step in every project and should always be considered when launching a new offer or promotion.
Keep a checklist of all possible departments that could be impacted by fulfillment problems, and make sure that all have been adequately notified and given an opportunity to provide feedback. Typically, marketing decisions are made by marketing people, approved by financial people and implemented by creative people. However, the list should also include:
>Data Processing/IT: Can your system handle the project or are modifications required? Will the Web site support this offer?