In the world of commerce, the harsh reality cannot be ignored: Convey's research has revealed that a single subpar delivery experience can deter a staggering 84% of consumers from making future purchases with a brand. This statistic underscores the paramount importance of the delivery step in the customer journey. While many businesses might take a sigh of relief after a successful purchase, the truth is, from the customer's viewpoint, the experience is just entering a critical phase. It's in the moments of using the product, potentially returning it, interacting with customer service, and most importantly, the initial receipt of the product that the customer's lasting impression is formed.
What makes this phase particularly precarious is the shift of control from the vendor to third parties. Herein lies the crux of the risk: entrusting an essential aspect of customer experience to external parties that may not embody the brand's values can lead to disastrous outcomes.
What are the most common causes for delivery downfall?
In the process of crafting my book, "Customer Experience Unearthed," I embarked on a journey fueled by 156 stories shared on the CX Therapy couch. A substantial portion of these stories shed light on delivery failures, unveiling a range of issues that spanned from delivery personnel showing a lack of care for the delivered items to concealed fees and unexpected customs charges. These tales also unveiled the frustration stemming from overly broad delivery windows that seemed to consume customers' time, the absence of proactive communication regarding delivery status, inflexibility, and a litany of other recurring delivery mishaps. It's essential to note that these issues aren't confined to physical items alone; even digital files suffer from poor delivery management, with complications arising during the download of purchased digital items.
Let's take a moment to delve deeper into one such scenario, the first one mentioned. Picture this: you've eagerly anticipated the delivery of a long-awaited item, and the day arrives amidst pouring rain. As the clock ticks away, there's no sign of a delivery person at your door. Later in the day, you receive an email notification claiming your parcel has been successfully delivered. Armed with an umbrella, you check your mailbox only to find it empty. Frustration mounts as you venture into the rain-soaked yard and discover your parcel, not safely tucked inside the mailbox, but unceremoniously tossed over the fence, resting in a pool of mud while the rain continues to drench it. How could such a calamitous experience not tarnish the entire customer journey?
Now, the pressing question: why do these unfortunate incidents occur with such frequency? At the heart of a significant portion of delivery failures lies a fundamental factor—control, or rather, the lack thereof.
In their quest for efficiency, most vendors entrust the crucial task of delivering items to third parties. While this outsourcing may appear cost-effective and streamlined, it inherently relinquishes a crucial aspect of customer experience management to external entities.
These third parties may not share the same values, commitment, or dedication to customer satisfaction. It's important to recognize that you, the vendor, are their customer. Your end customer, however, is not their customer, and as a result, they may not prioritize the customer experience to the same degree you would.
What is the impact of poorly managed deliveries?
From the customer's perspective, the ramifications of poorly managed deliveries are deeply felt and can have a lasting impact on their overall satisfaction and trust. An eagerly awaited product that arrives damaged, wet, or late instantly extinguishes the initial excitement. It's not solely about the item's potential physical state; it's the sentiment of neglect that accompanies such an experience. Customers often feel undervalued, taken for granted, and left in a lurch, eroding the trust they had in the brand. This negative encounter lingers in the customer's mind, causing them to think twice before making future purchases from the same vendor. The implications are clear—customer trust and satisfaction hang in the balance.
For businesses, the repercussions of mishandled deliveries are equally significant. It's a direct hit to their reputation, risking the alienation of loyal customers and potential lost sales or returns. Even if the actual delivery process is outsourced to a third party, customers typically blame the company they purchased from, viewing the entire transaction as a unified experience. The damage extends beyond financial losses, encompassing brand credibility and reputation, which can be far more challenging to rebuild than lost sales. In today's interconnected world, disgruntled customers often take to public platforms to vent their frustrations, amplifying the negative impact. The consequences of a poorly managed delivery reach far and wide, making it a make-or-break factor in the post-purchase customer journey.
What can brands do about it?
Recognizing that relying on third-party distribution is at the heart of most delivery issues, it's important to acknowledge that the ideal scenario would involve vendors taking full control of their deliveries and managing them in-house. However, practical limitations, especially in terms of scalability, often make this an unattainable goal for many businesses. Nevertheless, there are proactive steps that businesses can take to significantly enhance their delivery quality and minimize the potential for mishaps.
Building Feedback Mechanisms: Implementing a structured feedback system focused on delivery quality can be invaluable. This system allows businesses to assess the performance of their third-party delivery partners comprehensively. It provides a deeper understanding of the general quality of the service offered and enables informed decisions regarding partnership improvement or exploration of alternatives.
Offering Proactive Communication: Transparency is key to managing customer expectations effectively. Businesses should proactively communicate all potential costs and fees, even those as unpredictable as customs duties and taxes. Informing customers about these potential charges in advance helps build trust and minimizes unpleasant surprises. Similarly, timely communication about delays or issues through well-timed emails or SMS can go a long way in maintaining customer satisfaction. Employing tracking systems to keep customers updated not only enhances transparency but also facilitates dispute resolution.
Ensuring Customer Service Accessibility: Accessibility to customer service is vital. Concealing contact details or employing call avoidance tactics only exacerbates customer frustrations. Businesses should make it effortless for customers to reach out and seek assistance. Additionally, it's essential to avoid outsourcing delivery support to suppliers. Customers expect the business they transacted with to be the sole point of contact, responsible for managing all issues on their behalf.
Adding Responsibility Clauses: Whenever feasible, businesses should work on contractual agreements with third-party delivery services that hold them financially or contractually liable for mishandling products. Such clauses promote a higher level of care and professionalism during deliveries, contributing to a better overall customer experience.
Making Digital Access Seamless: For digital products, especially time-sensitive ones like event tickets, instant accessibility post-purchase is essential. Consider providing direct download links in confirmation emails or offering simple, user-friendly dashboards for accessing digital purchases effortlessly.
By implementing these strategies, businesses can take proactive steps to enhance their delivery processes, reduce the risk of delivery issues, and maintain customer trust and satisfaction even in the face of third-party involvement in their delivery operations. For a more in-depth exploration of this topic and other critical issues impacting the customer experience, I invite you to delve into my book, "Customer Experience Unearthed."
Julien Rio is AVP, International Marketing at RingCentral and the author of "Customer Experience Unearthed," a comprehensive guide rooted in real-life customer experiences, designed to empower businesses in enhancing their customer journeys. As a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), he leverages his extensive 15-year marketing expertise acquired from diverse regions such as Asia and Europe.
In 2021, Julien co-founded CX Therapy, a dynamic vlog series dedicated to exploring and dissecting real-world customer experiences across various sectors. His profound insights into the realm of customer experiences have earned him recognition in the industry.