The holiday season is almost upon us and customers are waiting to test the mettle of your supply chain. It’s time to iron out any holiday shipping frustrations now to avoid unpleasant surprises of what is likely your busiest time as a business. Your vendors—and, subsequently, your vendor management practices—are your first line of defense against the three great customer reputation-killers. Here's why solid, consistently performing vendors are worth their weight in GPS-tracked gold.
1. November is not the time to find inventory discrepancies.
You've got the hottest item in your industry; you're selling it at a brisk pace, and when fulfillment starts doing what it does best, your pickers are reaching into an empty bay. Your last shipment didn't have as many items as it was supposed to have. Iin the rush to take in inventory and get it prepped for sale, your system was populated with higher numbers than you actually had on hand. Poor record-keeping, packing or logistics on the vendor's side of things started this chain reaction of supply / demand issues. And, guess what your unhappy customer will be the one to end it by taking their business elsewhere!
2. Forecasting to Minimize Backorder Woes
Even if your vendor shipments and invoices are correct on paper, they can still cause you a lot of frustration with backed-up fulfillment. "Backordered" is a dirty word in sales, especially during the holiday rush, so you need vendors that are as anti-backorder as you are.
Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, explored the importance of dual-layered sales forecasting in Multichannel Merchant, citing the importance of realistic planning numbers—for both you and your vending partners. Ask and understand:
- How much do you expect to sell?
- Are your vending partners ready to commit to that level of fulfillment?
- Can your vending partnerspromise consistent, timely fill rates?
If the vendor’s response is plucky and optimistic in tone as opposed to professionally reassuring and targeted, you may be in for trouble when the orders start rolling in. Your vendor management practices need to treat supply chain nodes as extensions of your own business, rather than a means to an end. That means checking the stability of their supply chain—as much as possible—before you need to blindly depend on it. If you've got the right supply chain team set up, you'll be able to forge fearlessly ahead into the holiday season.
3. Customer Complaint Reactions
You may be familiar with the “reach-for-the-aspirin” moment: when a customer complaint starts to sound too familiar versus an isolated incident. A great vendor partner will see the problems as their problems and will spring into action to minimize the impact of a poorly-packaged product or faulty component. With a proactive supply chain partner and implementation of rapid shipping options, such as in-store pickup, a potentially huge problem can be worked down to a simple irritating blip on the radar. Don't get caught adrift when an angry customer comes knocking at your digital door; have a candid conversation about the assistance each vendor is willing to provide if their stock proves problematic. The time to discover your company has paired with an absentee partner isn't in the midst of the holidays, but well before any assistance will be required. Even if you're getting your products or components at an enviable rate, consider the impact of vocally-displeased customers on your future sales. Is it worth the risk for a discount in the short term?
The right vendors will make sure you get exactly what you need for the holidays:
- high fill rates,
- excellent shipping practices,
- and support if and when it's needed.
Don't set yourself up for coal in your logistics stocking this year. Make sure your vendor management practices are ready to combat these three holiday shipping frustrations!