Tips On Avoiding Fulfillment Disasters (1,083 words)
Fulfillment has many faces in the direct marketing industry. Not only do we use this broad term to cover what probably first comes to mind—product fulfillment— we also lump in subscription fulfillment, literature and promotional fulfillment, direct mail fulfillment and Internet fulfillment.
The single unifying factor all these faces of fulfillment share is that they must fulfill a request, inquiry or order coming in from a customer or prospect. Somebody wants something you have and you have to figure out how to get it to him. Plus, and this is increasingly important in the "click-to" era we've entered, the response must be handled in a speedy, glitch-free manner or you risk losing customers.
THE LATEST CHALLENGE: FULFILLING LEADS OFF THE 'NET
A challenge many direct marketers are facing and one they may not have encountered before is figuring out how to fulfill requests for information coming in off their Web sites or by way of e-mail promotions. Communication Concepts Inc. (CCI) handles fulfillment of literature and premiums, including leads coming in via the Internet. Mitch Goldklank, CCI's senior vice president, sales and marketing, says the two most important things with e-commerce fulfillment are: a) to be sure when a request comes in via e-mail, it goes to someone for handling right away; and b) that the request is acknowledged right away with an e-mail.
"Whether [the responder] is a real person or a phantom doesn't matter," says Goldklank. "Immediate acknowledgement is what's important." He explains that in contrast to direct mail requests for information, people expect instant replies to e-mail.
While timely fulfillment is always important, with online requests for information, Goldklank says that a speedy reply to the initial contact is absolutely essential. "You know how it is when you're surfing around researching a purchase. You may hit a few sites requesting information," Goldklank says. He adds, "A fast initial reply keeps your [company] name at the top of the list if someone is looking for information then and there, regardless of whether e-mail or regular mail is used for sending the final literature." If not, Goldklank warns, "You lose the advantage of the whole electronic process."