What's the word on the street about your brand? Are your customers raving about the end-to-end experience or left feeling unfulfilled by the time their parcel arrives?
Word of mouth marketing is the free publicity you get from customers sharing their experiences with others. Though more importantly, it produces a significant influence over purchasing decisions. For example, a recent study by UKDiss showed that 76% of respondents say word of mouth is their first determinant in buying decisions. Additionally, a poll by Alignable shows 85% of businesses cited word of mouth as the best way to acquire local customers.
The "last mile" of the buyer journey, i.e. the shipping and fulfilment stage, plays a critical role in creating word of mouth marketing for your business. For example, a Capgemini study revealed that 82% of customers satisfied with the deliveries would share those positive experiences with friends and family.
Those "where are my parcel" enquiries can be a source of frustration for customers and quickly affect the overall experience. The good news is that every business has the power to build positive outcomes from potentially frustrating situations.
Here are five tips that can help reduce shipment queries, improve the post-purchase customer experience, and build your brand's word of mouth reputation.
- Build confidence with confirmations
Confirmation pages and emails happen at a pivotal point in the customer journey. Particularly with new customers, they've spent time researching the perfect product, the best company to buy from, and maybe even reviews of your company to have confidence in purchases. After taking the leap and clicking that complete order button, the last thing a customer wants is to be left feeling abandoned.
Professionally presented confirmation pages and emails give customers confidence in their purchase decision. Here are some of the ways to create a better end-to-end experience with order confirmations:
Take a moment to say thank you
Start with a powerful thank you message. Don't be afraid to add some personality if it's consistent with your brand tone. It's often the little touches that make lasting impressions. It could be a simple, "Thank you for ordering with us, we hope you had a fantastic ordering experience." that makes your brand more memorable.
Order reference number
A reference number is vital for customers who have follow-up questions or need to contact your customer service team.
Your customer's details
You never know when a customer may have entered their details incorrectly. However, confirming their details at the order confirmation stage can alert them to any mistakes.
Your company's contact details
Make it easy for customers to get in touch if they need help or have questions. Include your contact details and links to social channels where customers may prefer to converse.
Include as much detail as possible about the products ordered. Think about product numbers, detailed descriptions, pricing, and discounts.
Transparency of costs
Confirm all costs involved in the final amount. Make any additional shipping or importing charges visible. Customers who may have missed those charges during the checkout will appreciate the transparency.
Include as much detail as possible, such as the shipping method, carrier, estimated processing time, the expected actual ship date, and final delivery date.
You might like to include self-help links on anything from returns policies to order tracking processes. You'd be surprised how often a well-placed link can solve a customer problem and negate a follow-up call or email.
Continue the journey
Just because a customer has made their purchase doesn't mean it's the end of the road. Social links can keep customers engaged with your brand, but there's still more you can consider. For example, can you offer additional shoppable moments? Would customers like to see exciting new product lines coming out? Perhaps you could include a loyalty discount for the next order? The perfect time to continue a customer's journey is when you already have their attention.
- Help customers navigate the path to delivery
The fulfillment and shipping process has several stages, which can be confusing for customers. With well-worded updates, however, your company can help navigate the path to delivery. Notifications to consider for the critical delivery stages are:
Printed – start building confidence straight away by letting customers know the delivery process has begun and the courier booking completed.
Picked up - your customer's package has been picked up, scanned, and is in the hands of the courier. This step may involve taking the package to a distribution centre.
In transit - these notifications reassure customers that everything is running smoothly and the parcel is on its way to the final destination.
Out for delivery - build some excitement with an "it's almost there!" update. At this stage, the delivery driver has the package included in their delivery route.
Delivered - make sure your customer has received their parcel safely by confirming the delivery has happened.
- Stay a step ahead with automation
Proactively showing your customers timely and relevant tracking data can give them peace of mind and reduce those "where are my parcel" enquiries. However, managing updates manually would take serious time and effort and hamper the scalability of operations. Luckily, we're in the age of automation.
With shipping and fulfilment systems, you can set up automatic email and SMS notifications. You define which notifications to send out, and customers have a better post-purchase experience. With automation, your updates are also consistent in quality every time a customer sees them.
Fully branded notifications also help to build recognition and reputation. Learn more about branding the last mile of fulfilment for additional tips.
- Reduce friction by finessing communication
Communication is key to any healthy relationship. Managing relationships became a challenge, though, for many companies during COVID-19. Online shopping exploded, supply chains were affected, and standard demand planning went out the window. These disruptions had a significant impact on fulfilment and the post-purchase experience. For example, as revealed in The Canberra Times, Australia Post received a 70 per cent increase in delivery complaints in 2020, with 30 per cent of those related to delays in delivery.
Here are some quick tips on finessing communications to better handle those "where are my parcel" enquiries.
Your customer has already been waiting for their parcel. Prioritise these responses to minimise the time and frustration for customers waiting to hear back.
Personalise written responses
Templated responses can make things quicker but don't always deliver the best experience. Make sure your email replies remind your customers that you value them. Take the time to personalise names, issue descriptions, next steps and expectations. Even when using templates, a little personalisation can make a big difference.
Set the expectations
Sometimes you'll have a quick answer. Other times, you'll need to do some digging to get the correct information. Set the expectations, each step of the way, about when and how you'll provide updates.
The quickest way to turn around a potentially negative situation is to pre-empt the next query and provide solutions. Simply offering to take action before being prompted can reassure customers they've made the right decision to purchase from your brand.
Add some reassurance
Here's your chance to remind your customer you're on the same side. Regardless of the next steps, take a moment to reassure your customer that you'll keep providing updates and follow the issue through to resolution.
Keep your promises
There's nothing more frustrating than expecting a call back that never happens. Uphold the expectations you've set to call, email, or message with further details. Keeping these promises builds trust and reminds your customer that you value their time.
Provide self-help options
By saving your customer another call or email, you're saving everyone's time. Offer self-help options in addition to direct contact channels and give customers the choice of how they want to engage.
- Connected systems can amplify the experience
As you may have gathered by now, you rely heavily on data to form the post-purchase customer experience. But, your data is only as good as your systems. The ability to access, report, and leverage data, the moment you need it comes down to a well-connected infrastructure.
You might be selling products on an eCommerce platform like Shopify, managing shipping and fulfillment with Starshipit, and handling customer service channels with Gorgias. You can connect these types of applications via API to share information.
Orders via your eCommerce platform can flow through to your shipping and fulfillment application. A system like Starshipit will also whiteback data, including order status, carrier name, and tracking information. This process enables streamlined fulfillment management and updates back to your eCommerce platform to give customers up-to-date tracking on orders.
Your customer service teams can see end-to-end customer and order histories by integrating your service channel with your eCommerce platform. You can also provide live chat and support ticketing features to boost the online experience further.
By connecting systems, you can create a seamless ecosystem to support customers, meet their expectations, and deliver outstanding experiences.
Make your brand the word on the street
If you're serious about improving the customer experience, start with a solid plan.
Build customer confidence with order confirmation pages and emails, and continue the journey if there's an opportunity to do so.
Guide customers along the path to delivery with updates at each critical stage.
Think about how you can automate processes to save time and deliver consistent experiences.
Revisit communications to ensure customers receive the best service at every post-purchase touchpoint.
Finally, look at how you can connect systems to create seamless end-to-end experiences.
With the five steps talked about here, you can not only cut down those "where are my parcel?" enquiries but also make your brand something to talk about - for all the right reasons.
This guest post was written by Abi Bennett, COO, at Starshipit, an integrated shipping and fulfillment app for growing eCommerce businesses. Starshipit has everything you need to effortlessly manage your online orders so you can spend more time working on your business, not in it.