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This is a guest post by Andrew Chan from AfterShip, a great Startup Weekend (Hong Kong) company that has gone on to refine an awesome product. This post explains why many online retailers are missing out on a great customer service opportunity after shipping takes place. The original post can be found here.

Inspired by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Still receiving a tracking number or a link to track your online purchase? It is so 1990s… Zappos and most online retailers send customers a tracking number or a link to track their order at shipping courier websites (like UPS, Fedex, USPS). Such customer service is passive – online retailers simply abandon customers to find out where is the package and let them wait for the package to arrive.

Zappos – FAQ – How can I track my order?

Once an order has shipped out, we will send you an email with the tracking number. Just click on the link and it will take you to the UPS, FedEx or USPS website, depending on who shipped your package.

In this post I am going to tell you what the ecommerce industry have overlooked the customer service after shipping and how Zappos or other ecommerce businesses should address the problem to gain more loyal customers.

Why do customers track their order?
Customers worry if they miss a delivery and want to know exactly when the package will arrive. Especially when buying gifts or expensive items, customers concern if the delivery is delayed or package gets lost or damaged.  According to a survey from Limelight in 2010, 79% of online shoppers rank “the ability to track shipments” as the most important customer service feature.

Usual Practice = Passive Customer Service
Sending out a tracking number or a link cannot fully address customers’ concern about package delivery.  Tracking a package is time consuming as one has to keep visiting the courier website for any update of delivery status. Customers forget tracking numbers or some even don’t know how to track. If the package is delayed, lost, undelivered or dropped at the front door, no one will inform them.

Active Customer Service After Shipping
Online retailers, large or small sized, should keep a close eye on all their packages and start taking care of customers after shipping.

1. Tracking Number Shipping Notifications
Online retailers should instead notify customers through SMS, email or other means when the package is on the way, out for delivery and delivered. By actively informing customers where is the package, online merchants further engage with customers and save customers’ time in tracking packages by themselves. If you don’t get this, look at what airlines provide for flight tracking (e.g. Cathay Pacific – my favorite airline).
Benefits for online retailer: It saves their time and money by reducing customers’ questions about the status of their purchase delivery.

2. Closely Monitor Any Shipping Problems
No matter customers pick a cheap or premium delivery method, as long as there is a tracking number, online retailers should find out any lost, damaged or undelivered packages, and take actions before customers find out the problems.
Benefits for online retailer: Fewer customers’ complaints about shipping problems, and…can request refunds from shipping couriers on those late or lost deliveries.

3. Allow Customers to Track at Store Website
Online retailer should avoid asking customers to track packages and in case they want to track, it should be done at the store website itself rather than sending customers to the courier website. The major couriers like UPS, Fedex or USPS actually provide APIs to allows online retailers to integrate tracking tools at their own website for customers to track packages.
Benefits for online retailer: Increase traffic to online retailer website

What do you think?

If you are an online shopper: do you want your online stores send you those notification messages? Or prefer to keep the old way: use the tracking number to track at the courier website?

If you run an online retail store: do you receive customers all the time about package delivery? How do you handle those questions? Do you agree with my suggested way to serve customers after shipping?

 

 

Mitchell Cuevas
(@mcuevasm) I am the Sr. Marketing Director here at Techstars, am passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and am obsessed with finding, playing with, and implementing all the best new marketing (and other) technology I can get my hands on.