It’s said that the recession made the consumer more demanding. Referencing its New Consumer research, Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster’s chairman famously quoted, “The days of the compliant consumer are well and truly over.” And that’s particularly unwelcome news if you’re in the personalised gifts game, because customers aren't necessarily aware of the additional challenges and don’t amend their delivery expectations accordingly.
While the recession might be partly responsible, these expectations continue to increase as personalisation sites, and the production and logistics capabilities that support them, become ever more streamlined and refined. Barclays’ “The Last Mile - Exploring the online purchasing and delivery journey” recorded that 70% of consumers believed couriers should deliver on a Sunday, and almost 45% said they’d order more online if delivery services were improved – which just goes to prove what a hurry they’re in!
Keep customers waiting, under-deliver or just generally disappoint and you can expect to face both their wrath and their departure. In a research study of 2,000 consumers by customer experience management experts Thunderhead, 24% said they’d take more than a year to forgive a company if it had broken their trust, while 23% said they’d never trust the company again.
So, what skills and technology are needed to achieve the 24-hour turnaround on personalised gifts that the commodity suppliers are so much better placed to achieve?
In the early 90s the term “Lights out” was coined by IT professionals whose dream was for computers to look after themselves, without any human intervention. Thirty years on and sophisticated manufacturing equipment and practices have caught up so that 7-days a week, and around the clock, production continues driven by orders and demand, rather than by shift patterns or working schedules. Because, as the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report points out, “With the exception of a few big ticket items, customers now expect everything from next day click and collect to speedy returns – and few are happy to pay much for these premium services.”
“Without human intervention” shouldn't be confused with “without human skills”. An ability to let the technology take care of itself relies on it having been specified and programmed correctly in the first instance and, critically, having a raft of well trained and experienced staff that deliver the supporting customer service.
Ordering in bulk to trigger a volume discount is SO last century. A need for small quantities, or indeed those personalised one-offs, can no longer be prohibitively expensive. So automatic production batching, driven by Service Level Agreements that limit your customer’s waiting time, and that keep costs down and timescales tight, is a must.
Excellent API integration makes sure an order and its data segues in to the workflow, continues along with the product and on to the ordering customer or gift-recipient, seamlessly. Any glitch, hitch or missing information not only causes delay but has a negative impact on their experience. A whopping 92% of those in the Thunderhead survey said they felt negatively towards businesses that required them to provide information multiple times. Worse still, 21% said that that alone would be enough to make them consider leaving for a competitor.
So, while the quality of the gift can’t be underestimated, ease and speed for the gift-buyer are very much of the essence!