For many years, it seemed as though the carrier has had the upper hand, dictating terms and defining the services merchants can offer to their customers. This is counterintuitive because the carrier does not own the customer, the merchant does. The packages leaving your distribution center are not just boxes – they are customers. Each one must be handled with great care, and your company must have the ability to provide your customers with the best shopping experience at the lowest possible cost, without sacrificing quality.
So what should a shipper look for as they consider new shipping options?
Today’s reality requires the shipper to look beyond just the sticker price to find a solution that not only protects the bottom line, but also produces a positive ripple effect across all areas of the business.
Newgistics will exhibit at PARCEL Magazine’s Forum10 October 5-6 in Chicago. Be sure to stop by our booth, #413, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
Guest Post: Cynthia Cottingham; Director, Solutions Services
When I was first approached to describe what I do at Newgistics as Director of Solutions Services, I wasn’t sure where to begin. Returns or deliveries? Internal or external operations? And then it hit me: “Customers come first.”
At Newgistics, our ‘customers come first’ philosophy carries through every department, and mine is no exception. These aren’t just boxes coming into our SmartCenter facilities, they are customers. Since I joined Newgistics nine years ago, I have watched our “customer service” department evolve into something much more than a department tasked with answering simple inquiries; it has truly become a full-service solutions department that puts the needs of our clients—and ultimately their customers—first.
When we started this business, the idea of having robust visibility and the ability to track postal packages online through customized tools revolutionized an industry due to the impact this had on our clients’ ability to manage their labor and inventory costs. As we have continued to evolve, our solutions have expanded to include online reporting where our clients are able to go online and see what is scheduled to be received in their facility each day. This provides advance knowledge for planning how many workers will be required to handle the volume.
We also provide customized daily reports in which we are able to extract and analyze data from SmartCenters across our network, providing concise, high-level reporting of all shipping activity within our clients’ environments. Through these processes we are able to estimate transit times, project inbound volumes, and provide updates when any unforeseen delays are encountered, (e.g., winter roads). It’s all a part of the added value we provide our clients, and because we assign a dedicated person to handle a client’s individual needs, it’s much more personalized than the automated customer service ‘solutions’ some of our competitors provide.
The Solutions Services Department runs as a cross-functional coordination between our clients and the assigned Solution Services Specialist member from Newgistics who will follow the account from implementation through day-to-day operations, providing their clients a fully customized experience. There is no one “right way” to do it, except the way that best suits the customer’s needs. Throughout the day, my Solutions Services Specialists are compiling reports, monitoring shipment status and maintaining dialogue with the key contacts within the operation. We’ve implemented new communication tools that make it quick and easy to send branded messages and updates to any group of constituents across each organization. We always try to go the extra mile to take care of our customers.
We have the unique privilege of serving and working side-by-side with very talented and professional clientele. When we first began in 1999, Newgistics was the first to capitalize on the opportunity to create a network where returns are a revenue-driving opportunity that improved service for the consumer. As we have continued to build the business and expand our services in the areas of deliveries and freight, the focus of our business has not changed. In fact, we have continued to improve many times over. The satisfied feedback I get from my clients who have been with us since the beginning – and in a sense have grown up with us – makes me passionate about always putting them and their customers first.
For retailers, peak season is a short month that can make or break a year—that’s why proper preparation is key.
Newgistics helps retailers maximize business during peak season, and we know it’s a year-round process. With a little research, communication and planning, you can ensure peak season is as painless as possible.
1. Do your homework
Create a forecast by taking in as much information about the season as you can: survey marketplace trends, note competitive intelligence, examine internal data, review historical performance, reach out to your partners to see what they’re expecting, and put that data to work. To keep your forecasts up-to-date and as accurate as possible, you’ll want to continue to monitor all the information you have available throughout the season.
2. Keep in contact
Reach out and share your forecast with your major partners to keep them in the loop about what you anticipate for the season. See what they’re expecting, and consider how that may affect your business. When you’re actually in peak season, communication is key. Constant contact is essential to get a good view of how the next day is shaping up, and it allows everyone to make adjustments as necessary.
3. Practice like you want to play
It may be inevitable that difficulties arrive in peak season, but with the proper preparation you can make those bumps invisible to your customers. To help achieve this, plan mock peak activities to raise your capacity; put operators in contingency situations to test their abilities to prioritize; and get your process as agile as possible. Define your top risk points and ensure you have back-up solutions in place.
4. Look back at lessons learned
Once things cool down, perform a post-mortem review of the season and bring your business leaders from across the organization together for a day or two of face-to-face time discussing lessons learned. What did you do well, and where can you improve next season? Were the forecasts accurate, and how can they be improved? What surprised you? Once you have all this information compiled, you’ll have a good roadmap for next year’s peak season.
Newgistics Director of Marketing Kevin Brown will be presenting at the Kewill Accelerate 2010 Customer Symposium. Kevin will discuss the value of a comprehensive small parcel strategy Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 3:45–4:30 p.m.
Accelerate 2010 is a one-and-a-half day customer symposium hosted by supply chain software provider Kewill offering networking opportunities and messages from industry experts. This year’s symposium is in New Orleans from September 15–16.
To register for the Kewill Accelerate 2010 Customer Symposium, visit www.kewill.com/events/accelerate2010.
Newgistics is a Kewill partner, offering support for Kewill’s Flagship and Clippership solutions to deliver the industry’s most robust USPS shipping environment to customers ranging from small merchants to large enterprises.
“I look forward to this event every year,” Kevin said. “As a Kewill partner, I am pleased to share how a good logistics strategy can improve customer satisfaction, and thereby increase revenue, through a better shopping experience.”
If you have been reading The Gist over the past several weeks, I hope you have taken a few minutes to follow our five-part series on Newgistics’ values in which we have discussed “Customers Come First” – and “Continuous Improvement Through Bold Innovation.” Near the conclusion of our last discussion, I provided a glimpse into the direction of future discussions when I said, “Newgistics will continue to lead, innovate and strive for excellence in everything we do” — which is the topic of this week’s post.
Every day, Newgistics is committed to “Excellence in Everything We Do.” As I have stated in previous discussions of our values, shipping is a relatively straightforward process to the layperson. Nothing could be further from the truth for our clients, as their ultimate success is largely dependent upon our ability to put a product in to the hands of their customers on time and under budget. And it is a major driver in a consumer’s decision as to whether or not they will purchase from a merchant again. So whether a client ships several hundred or several thousand packages a week, they rely on us to help them exceed their customers’ expectations.
But simply making a statement is not enough if a company is to succeed, and Newgistics has continued to succeed because it truly lives its values. In demonstrating “Excellence in Everything We Do,” our entire team is committed to:
It sounds simple enough, but it is a task that each member of our team focuses on every day they come to the office, process and ship packages from one of our SmartCenter facilities, or spend time with our clients in an effort to identify areas of improvement even when things are working smoothly. Forgetting the reason as to why we are in business to begin with will cause failure, even if for only a brief moment, so we must strive to always look for opportunities to improve. We must be committed to “Excellence in Everything We Do.”
I hope you will continue to follow our discussion of Newgistics’ values, and, as always, we welcome your thoughts and comments. Please join me in two weeks when we discuss Newgistics value number four – “Embrace the Team, Respect the Individual.”
Bill Razzouk; President & CEO