The online buying revolution is not limited to items that neatly fit inside a parcel delivery box. Even the most “industrial” of businesses are shifting their marketing and fulfillment operations to cater to the online buyer.
Unlike most products, large, heavy items, like building materials and furniture, are either too large or heavy to be capably handled by the average parcel carrier. Plus, their delivery stakes are weightier, because each time a big-ticket delivery goes wrong, companies risk losing everything, from money to repeat business.
That’s why the following heavy goods fulfillment “DOs and DON’Ts” could prove to be so useful. Although they won’t help your company prevent every potential mistake that can be made while shipping larger items, they should help you steer clear of the worst.
DO place additional emphasis on inbound damage control
Whether it’s scratched, torn, cracked or broken, a large item that’s delivered with damages will almost always result in an expensive request for re-delivery, not to mention considerable customer annoyance.
Your fulfillment professionals can head off many of these issues at the pass by adopting a more rigorous inbound inspection processes during receiving. This will help hold your inbound LTL carriers more accountable for any damages they cause and compel them to handle your products more carefully. It also will allow your company to request replacements sooner rather than later.
DON’T forget a careful pre-shipment inspection
process in the warehouse
Large items are just as susceptible to damage at the last-mile stage, so ask your fulfillment professionals to put some damage-related checks and balances in place on the outbound side, too.
We recommend taking photos of goods just before they’re shipped and using a distinctively colored shrink wrap to protect and secure products. The first helps verify that a product and its packaging were undamaged and intact when they left the facility, so that any subsequent damages can be traced to a last-mile carrier, cross-dock or customer. The second helps ensure that carriers don’t damage product packaging or alter packaging configurations and then simply cover it up by affixing new shrink wrap (and yes, that does happen).
DO make sure your fulfillment centers are customer-friendly
The ability to offer customer pick-up is particularly important in the heavy goods arena, where deliveries usually cost a significant amount and many buyers are eager to avoid the extra expense.
In light of this, keep customer service needs top-of-mind as you choose your large-item fulfillment centers or providers. This doesn’t mean that you have to make your fulfillment warehouse look like your showrooms, or bring In HGTV to give a makeover. But it does mean that providers should have clean, well-marked and safe loading areas for customers, as well as adequate personnel on hand to greet customers and assist them with loading.
It also means that these centers should operate during the hours or days of the week that are most convenient for these customers’ work schedules.
DON’T forget about soft skills
A truly customer-friendly, heavy goods fulfillment operation isn’t just about having adequate infrastructure and personnel in place. It’s also about making sure that your fulfillment associates have strong customer service skills, because heavy goods deliveries or pick-ups typically involve a higher number of phone calls, emails or in-person interactions. The last thing you want is to have these interactions handled by people who are as “cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel,” unless you’re okay with customers deciding to purchase big-ticket items from a competitor the next time around.