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Improving customer service with warehouse outsourcing

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Warehouse outsourcing exponents often focus on the benefits of time and money saving. While this is certainly true we have found that many of our customers feel the greatest benefit to their businesses is the huge boost warehouse outsourcing has provided to their customer service.

Here’s an example - we have a client that sells consumer electronics. The company moved to us as their old outsourced warehouse could not provide timely updates on the status of orders being picked and packed. This was not their only issue, they wanted live and accurate inventory. Online reporting and access to tracking numbers (who wouldn't?). Their biggest problem, however, was their customer service agents had to spend huge amounts of time every day calling their previous outsourced warehouse to ask for updates on orders.

At the time our client’s customer service flow ran something like this :

customer_service_flow_chart (1)

Prioritising the customer experience

This endless back and forth by phone and email can take  a long time and be frustrating for the customer.

Most outsourced warehouses today use some kind of technology and very few still rely entirely on phone calls and bits of paper. Many have responded to the demands of eCommerce and deployed a Warehouse Management System; they regularly download orders from sales platforms and import them; they get some fancy barcode scanners and compulsively barcode everything.

Now they can provide stock reports without having to walk round the warehouse doing a stocktake - they can email this to their clients each week. Perhaps they can save the office some typing by integrating with the carriers’ labelling systems. To complete the effect, they can even put the results of their work online somewhere so the clients can download reports of what was dispatched. Although this may seem like a great step forward, it is not a good as it could be. They still have to remember to import orders at the right time; there’s still a delay between an order being packed and anyone outside of the warehouse knowing it. In terms of providing great customer service information needs to be at the fingertips of customer service workers in real time.

What’s the solution?

At James and James Fulfilment we built our systems and services from scratch. Our warehouse is run using a completely new kind of warehouse management system. We set the company up specifically to meet the demands of eCommerce. We took great pains to understand the architectures that underpin the best-in-class, consumer-facing systems. Taking that as a starting point, we then built the foundations of a fulfilment platform in the cloud.

The result is one single program online that all users access simultaneously - think Gmail versus Outlook Express. Multi-application, allows operators in the warehouses to work on the same underlying data as the clients and customer service agents around the world, at the same time.

By providing live reporting, order status updates and tracking information, we made a huge difference to clients’ efficiency at answering customer service queries, saving seven hours per week, which were spent chasing order status data. Customer service agents can answer client queries while they are on the phone.

The customer service flow now looks like this:

customer_service_flow_chart_new (1)

Where next?

While this is great improvement we are always looking to see where we can improve. Our new ViewPort feature offers retailers an even greater advantage for customer service. The moment an order is received by our system a tracking page is emailed to the end customer. This page displays all the events in an order’s journey through the warehouse, keeping the customer updated from the moment they pay to the moment their order is delivered. No need to phone, all the information is shared securely and live on the internet. Below is a video demonstrating how it works.

If you would like to learn more about warehouse outsourcing with James and James, why not get in touch with one of our fulfilment consultants today?

December 17th, 2014 by Hannah Newman

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