Superb customer experiences drive brand loyalty and consumer trust, perhaps none more than in the delivery experience. As online large-item purchases, such as furniture, mattresses, and appliances continue to rise, so do shopper expectations around these items, and so does competition from new online competitors.
Every retailer is familiar with what happens when customer expectations aren’t met. You receive “Where is my order” (WISMO) calls, emails, and sometimes even negative reviews like the ones below. Worse yet, after all you’ve invested to earn that new customer, they’re not going to come back — 83% of customers leave a brand after only one bad experience.
Behind the scenes, there is an enormous amount of complexity that exists when shipping large-items. Not only do retailers have to deal with rising expectations, they also have to manage other challenges such as delivery speed, service level, and lack of control over the brand experience that their third-party carrier provides.
Below, we will discuss some of the large-item delivery challenges and ways to overcome them — and retain those customers you drained the marketing budget to attain.
Challenge #1: Delivery Speed, Final-Mile Scheduling & Flexibility
Delivering large-items requires significant coordination, especially during the critical final-mile. This extra orchestration can cause significant delays. Carriers are incentivized to get items to the destination terminal as soon as possible, but may have issues contacting customers or finalizing a delivery appointment. Our data shows that over 20% of White Glove shipments lose over 4 days of delivery due to scheduling issues alone.
Even though shippers are racking up costs with their carriers during this process, consumers still expect the delivery to be seamless from cart to door. Moreover, when shipping is not free, expectations rise around the speed of delivery, even for large-items which can take weeks to fulfill. This leads to higher operating costs and unhappy customers, reducing the likelihood of repeat purchases.
Also, the majority of shoppers want more flexibility with regard to scheduling the deliveries. According to our most recent shopper survey, Last Mile Delivery: What Shoppers Want and How To Save Retail, almost half of shoppers (45.1%) expect a delivery window of two hours or less, and over half (55.2%) report needing to reschedule appointment windows at least 20% of the time. This only creates additional delivery challenges, and leads to missed appointments, extra cost, and unhappy customers.
Solutions For Delivery Speed And Delivery Appointment Scheduling:
With automation in place, it’s possible to take back control of the large-item experience while empowering shoppers with the flexibility they seek. Top retailers are now using delivery appointment tools to proactively communicate to their customers and more accurately predict estimated delivery dates (EDDs). This speeds up final-mile delivery, and reduces costs related to delivery exceptions and transit time.
We’ve seen implementing this one tactic can reduce the average time at a delivery terminal by 22%.
Challenge #2: Large-Item Returns are a Customer Experience Nightmare
Customers expect that if they need to return an item that it will be as easy and simple as possible. Creating an easy returns process is imperative to retaining customers. In fact, shoppers that return items are more likely to buy again – 42% will make an additional purchase. On the other side of that, if that returns process isn’t seamless, it can cause customer churn. ⅔ (65%) of shoppers are not likely to make another purchase from a retailer if they have a poor returns experience.
Unfortunately, for large-items, “simple” is often not the appropriate adjective. Scheduling large-item returns can be a manual process full of time consuming look-ups and rating inefficiencies. Even worse, sometimes the onus is on the customer to go call on a list of local carriers. We’ve even seen retailers suggest the shopper keep or sell the item instead because of cost, again leaving the customer with the responsibility of finding a solution for where to place that item.
These inefficiencies lead to return shipments with less than ideal carrier selections, and in many cases, additional costs in customer calls and transit. For returns, it’s most important to reduce losses. Carrier selection should be based on cost and damage percentage, and not a list of phone numbers.
Solutions For Large-Item Returns:
Returns are a key area for optimization both for customer experience and operational efficiency. For the customer experience, the key is to reduce effort. Make it easy for customers to initiate a return. Allow the shopper to schedule at their convenience, through a tracking page, without having to call customer service. This is important, as 1/3 of shoppers would rather clean a toilet than call a customer service hotline.
Optimizing the returns process has 3 key benefits:
- Direct communication with the customer, instead of third-party carriers, leads to reduced customer effort and complaints.
- The ability for the retailer to identify and schedule with the best carrier minimizes losses.
- Automated control and visibility into return shipment status reduces error associated with manual work. It puts all parties on the same page for the purpose of issuing credits back to customers — a main source of their anxiety in the returns process.
Challenge #3: Lack of Control Over Customer Facing Experiences
The higher the Average Order Value (AOV), the higher the expectations around delivery quality. In general, large-items generate higher ticket prices. Purchasers of these items are in turn some of the best customers. Retailers need to tie the carrier network to these higher service-level expectations.
Despite a lack of control, the experiences carriers provide reflect on the retailer’s brand. Even tracking messages provided by freight carriers can cause significant confusion and frustration for customers. Remember, carriers are not customer service organizations, and 94% of customers will blame the retailer — not the carrier — for any delivery issue. Relying solely on carriers to deliver exceptional experiences is risky business.
Solutions For Controlling The Brand Experience From Cart To Door:
Take control of the consumer-facing experience for all levels of service. Provide customers with a self-service tool capable of identifying and translating the nuances involved in transit messages related to these shipments (i.e. scheduling delivery appointments).
We’ve seen when carrier messages are appropriately translated, exceptions for large-item deliveries are nearly 5x the self-reported percentage of shipments (17.9% compared to 3.4%). During moments like these, Delivery Experience Management (DEM) is crucial to retaining and impressing customers. Brands who proactively see, analyze, and act on these situations can reduce inbound WISMO calls and improve storage fees.
Additionally, ensure the carriers chosen (especially white-glove carriers that will enter a shopper’s home) represent the brand you are trying to create. Doing this well requires decisioning on qualitative factors outside of cost. Decisions should be made using historical carrier performance data as well as customer feedback.
- Even though large-item delivery is costly and complex for retailers, shoppers have high expectations when it comes to delivery experiences, and they are underwhelmed with the large-item delivery experience in particular.
- Poor experiences damage a retailer’s brand and have a profound effect on repeat business. This is compounded with increased competition from Amazon and others, where consumers more choices to shop for their needs.
- Through automation, retailers can control the brand experience through the final customer signature, regardless of which carriers you use. This saves time, money, and improves the customer experience.
Learn why Delivery Appointment Scheduling saves teams money and improves the customer experience.
This post was originally written on May 4, 2016 by Kassidy Bird, and it was updated on August 20, 2019 by Christina Singh.