Having earned a living writing about supply chain issues in one form or another for the past twenty years, it’s often interesting when something called a ‘moment of truth’ hits you between the eyes. While I am used to waxing lyrical (usually in the form of press releases or feature articles aimed at the logistics trade media), it’s only when the theory of supply chains hits you as a consumer that you begin to fully appreciate the ‘practice’.
I have recently bought two items over the internet; and this experience has really shown me how the delivery service can play a big part in my overall perception of the retailer and its brand. I won’t mention names (to spare blushes) but my retail dealings have been with two British manufacturers, one of watches, the other radios. On the Friday of last week, I ordered a replacement aerial for my digital radio. Two days later (Sunday) I ordered a very nice watch (it was my birthday!) from an internet retailer, which required the strap to be altered to fit my size.
When Thursday comes, I get a note from the postie, saying that an item has arrived for collection. As the aerial has been ordered two days earlier (and required no alteration prior to dispatch) I expected to collect a long thin package from my GPO sorting office. What a surprise to see a square, watch-shaped package being handed to me over the counter!
More to the point, what a pleasant surprise! And what great customer service! These guys had taken an order on Sunday PM, got cracking to prepare the watch for dispatch on Monday, taken out the required number of links to fit my Adonis-like wrist and sent the package special delivery.
This then got me thinking. What were those ‘bozzos’ at the radio shack doing? All they needed to do was pick the replacement aerial up, pop it in the right padded envelope and stick it in the post; no preparation, no alteration, no fuss.
A day later (Friday) and still no aerial. I am now missing my daily fix of Radio Four with my morning toast and feeling resentful and unimpressed with the radio people.
The big lesson here? If you get your logistics slick and reliable; you get happy smiley customers. I love my watch and love the way it came to me with no hassle. If you get it wrong (or even ‘less right’ than the competitor) you won’t look good and could lose a customer.
The supply chain boffins call this ‘multichannel retailing’; whatever the technical term, it’s a hugely important issue which retailers of every hue need to consider.