Happy Customers make a Happy Business
Everyone familiar with online shopping in India has had or knows someone who has had at least one nightmarish experience while shopping on a site. This year itself saw astounding instances of how the entire online shopping experience can slip into a progressively unravelling horror story for customers; in the process also for the seller and the marketplace involved. In the day and age of cut throat competition where “same day delivery” is the norm, every seconds delay from the promised time is magnified on social media. And rightly so.
Sample this, a guy received marker pens in a package meant to deliver pen drive, not once by thrice in a row from Flipkart. In a more shocking incident, a man who ordered an iPhone received a bar of detergent soap in the package from Snapdeal. Ordeals like this are increasingly getting common, what with more serious issues of mishandling emerging, for example how Flipkart delivery man stole the delivery a few months ago.
In a market place where inventory is ancient history and delivery timelines are being crunched every day to attract new customers and stay ahead of the clutter, it is not rare to find marketplaces put their foot down and assert a set of rules and regulations on vendors.
And this is natural, for in a scenario where customer is untouchable god beyond doubt, there needs to be a scapegoat to take the blame and vendors, that is You sellers who sell your wares on these marketplaces, are the most easy fallguys. Are the marketplaces then fair in how they react to these situations?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrELzK8uDmU- a customer in flipkart had received marker pens instead of the order of pen drive not once but thrice in a row.
Tightening the noose
While most ecommerce sites focus on attracting new customers and acquiring traffic, very little thought is put in taking care of actual fulfilment of the experience. A typical fulfilment metric would involve tracking the following:
- Error rates on orders pulled
- Error rates on products shipped
- Turnaround time for orders from the time of receipt to the actual shipment
- Costs of shipping vis a vis the rate charged
- Time to fill an average order
With the largest chunk of resources and money being channeled into building a brand and getting traffic, very little attention is given to this metric and the actual fulfilment staff. Typically, pay in this segment of a marketplace is low, retention very less, regular attrition and hence a lack of trust worthy employees who understand the process and can be trusted with the products.
A typical knee-jerk reaction to the issues of faulty fulfilment by marketplace is to tighten the noose around the vendors. Sellers are given a set of stringent rules that they have to abide by in order to continue their association on the marketplace. Extra checks, more paperwork, and a list of dos and dont’s is what vendors have to face in the wake of such incidents.
Conform or perish
Ensuring that the order delivered is what the customer actually ordered is a complex process. It involves warehousing, receiving product, putting it away, storage, packing, shipping the works. A lot of this is beyond your control as a vendor/seller on a huge market place like Flipkart or snapdeal. Nonetheless, there are things that you can cooperate with the marketplace to ensure such instances are a rarity. At the same time, there are things you should know are the marketplace’s responsibility to avoid getting the entire responsibility and liability on your heads in such situations.
There are processes that should be followed at the marketplace’s end to ensure fulfilment of orders is as transparent and efficient as possible:
- Provide Accurate Details – Provide clear and simple product labelling always when sending out the products to a marketplace. A bar code identification aligned to the marketplace’s standards is the most ideal way to do this. Each container should be labelled with a unique identifier and always send out an advance ship notice back to the marketplace.
- Validate Purchase orders – Always ensure that a list of purchase orders are shared with you from the marketplace. Validate this against the order shipment you send out and also ensure a second level validation happens at the marketplace as well. Proper documentation of this validation process is your proof against any accusations later on. Ideally, marketplaces should have automated this process, crucial as it is since it ensures product quantity is maintained as per order. It is good to check this part of the process before you sign up with a marketplace.
- Ensure accuracy in picking– With all procedures and checks in place at the order shipment level, things can still go wrong if picking is not proper. It bodes well for you to check if the marketplace has a Radio Frequency based picking system in place, and if it doesn’t, then the paperwork based manual process is foolproof.
- Check workforce– This is most vital, both at your end and at the marketplace’s end. Cross check employees involved in the packing and shipping processes at your end. Ask for proper documentation and quality check procedures from the marketplace regarding their delivery process. Are the packages once shipped tracked online? Is the customer informed at every step of the order being placed to reaching him or her? Are updates sent via mail or sms to the customer? Can you access and monitor the status of the final delivery? These are things that you need to ensure before you tie up with a marketplace.
Better Safe than Sorry
Ecommerce like any business, is based on a relationship of trust. As a vendor/seller, you must be truthful to your self and your customers. At the same time, it is important you are aware of the processes after the product leaves your hands, for at the end of the day, it is your image on the line. Online shopping is all about ease and instant gratification. Ensuring this does not turn into a nightmare should be your paramount goal.