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Tracking vital to maintaining customer relationship, says Shop Direct’s Chris Haighton

Parcel tracking is a key tool to be able to extend the customer experience, according to Chris Haighton, head of outbound logistics at Shop Direct Group.

“I believe that retailers should be maintaining the relationship through to delivery and beyond and one of the ways you do that is through tracking,” he told delegates at the recent eDelivery Expo.

He talked about the changing role of tracking and visibility at the former catalogue giant which had moved from a historical 28 day period of goods being sent out with no communication about updates of delivery status  – with the exception of high value items – to a one to two day delivery period and full visibility of where parcels are.

He said reassurance of delivery was vital to improving the customer experience. “From the point that the order is placed you need to be reassuring the customer, especially on longer-term orders. That reassurance is dramatically more important the longer the lead time,” he said.

He said it was important to set expectations and then demonstrate activity to prove that a parcel was moving through the system and talked about the company’s ‘keep warm’ communications. “That keeps the customer engaged and stops them ringing us up to find out where it is,” he said.

He also urged retailers to be proactive and to communicate with the customer at all important stages of the customer journey and especially so wherever there may be an issue.

Finally he said it was important to put the customer in control of their deliveries, offering them options such as change of date and location, for example.

Haighton illustrated communications programmes the company had run with its partner ArrowXL and said that by “putting the arms around a customer” retailers were more likely to keep the sale. “If you can land a delivery with the customer first or second time then they are more likely to keep the item. Sales protection is a massive driver for this but so is customer ease,” he said.

He said retailers should reject carriers that don’t allow them to better look after their customer experience when it comes to delivery and explained how improved communication with ArrowXL had seen problems resolved more quickly. He said of 700,000 views of the tracking page a third of journies ended there and the remaining two-thirds had moved elsewhere on the site. “So they have checked the progress and then gone on to browse and hopefully buy,” he said.

Of the views he said only 1% result in a customer call – meaning that in 99% of instances the company is answering queries on the tracking page.

The company is also working closely with Yodel to improve the customer experience and last month moved Yodel’s texts and emails and app to being ShopDirect branded and using the retailer’s language. “That’s massively important for us in terms of putting our arms around the customer,” he said. The solution uses the latest delivery data to let customers know where parcels are en route and includes a parcel map for example. “Lots of carriers do this but not many retailers do – we may be the first retailer to do this through a third party. This will keep customers coming back to our website and our app and that can only be good for our business,” he said.

“Retailers need to step up to the plate to own and design a coherent customer journey. If you don’t start thinking about it now it’will be too late,” he said.