Minimising the damage

 

A company’s resolved to lose business, revenue and reputation, so it strikes on a strategy which sees its customers receiving damaged goods. It proves to be an incredibly successful model and there are handshakes all round.

This is a ridiculous scenario, of course. So why then, do goods continue to arrive damaged on such a seemingly regular basis, speaking as it does of a startling disconnect between a retailer and the minimum expectations of its customer base?

After all, how hard can it be to get an item delivered? Well, quite hard actually, but customers are an unforgiving bunch and are not interested in whether goods were damaged during the fulfilment process or by the courier: their ire will be reserved for the retailer alone. Delivering damaged goods is like hitting the commercial self-destruct button, since the customer will be solely focused on the identity of the infuriatingly incompetent retailer responsible for this injustice.

The situation is worse than useless for the retailer, as they now have to get with the triple whammy of damage, loss and claims, and also for the end user, who’s hopping mad by now, and obliged to go through the rigmarole of seeking recompense.

Fortunately, while it cannot be eliminated completely, the size of this problem and its adverse impact on both bottom line and reputation can be significantly reduced through retailers forging stronger partnerships with suppliers and transportation providers.

And this doesn’t mean printing “Handle with Care”, “Fragile” or “This Way Up” on the box, since a combination of machine sorting and productivity pressures for parcel sorters ensure kid gloves are not much in evidence during transit. It would probably do just as well to write “Handle Roughly”, “Unbreakable”, or “Any Which Way” for all the difference it can make.

Rather, it’s about exercising due diligence to ensure partners’ facilities and fleet are fit for purpose and that their operations are not predicated on quantity at the expense of quality. Moreover, it means collaborating with partners across the supply chain to ensure products are packed, stored and transported properly, and that handling is reduced as far as possible. Ideally, it means those at every stage having a vested interest in delivering a blue-riband service.

Informed by such cooperation and incentivisation, the usual culprits of improper loading and load securement, and of degraded or insufficiently robust packaging, can largely be mitigated.

So, retailers must endeavour to spread their risk, and if that’s not possible there’s even more reason for them to make sure packaging becomes a priority – the right box, internal and outer packaging for the right job; items wrapped separately; adequate clearance from the corners and sides of the box; and properly trained staff. That way, when items are subject to abuse in the quest for swift fulfilment - as undercover footage taken at a leading UK courier’s operation tells us they so often are - the goods are resilient enough to withstand it.  Accordingly, it shouldn’t matter whether the courier is DPD, boasting 83% customer satisfaction in a Which survey from October 2014, or Yodel at 67%.

At their peril, many ecommerce retailers fail to comprehend the rigours involved in getting products to their customers, focused as they are on everything virtual. The distribution environment is, however, a very real and physical place, full of shocks, vibrations, impacts and pressure. 

 

 

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