Magazine Article | April 1, 2002

Enhance Your Brand, Wow Your Customers

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

When done correctly, outsourcing the fulfillment process to a trusted partner will leave your customers smiling and your company profiting.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, April 2002
Stephanie Roussel-Dupre

By its purest definition, customer relationship management (CRM) is the process by which a vendor manages its customers. Of course, technology marketers would have us believe CRM is a software application that addresses this process. But for the companies who are trying to relate with their customers, CRM is really about satisfying the people who keep your business afloat.

By many accounts, CRM is overused as a phrase and underutilized as a practice. Satisfying, much less delighting, the customer is more than a technology solution and a well-populated database. It's a matter of understanding and supporting the customer's expectations with the right brand exposure.

In many cases, vendors must rely on a trusted partner to be that critical link between the brand and the consumer. This partner handles all the business processes associated with fulfillment. Selecting a capable and proven partner can be an essential part of your brand image. The real solution is finding a business outsourcing partner that can maintain the set of values established by your brand, while also exceeding your customers' expectations on a consistent basis.

Extend Brand Experience Through Fulfillment
When a customer orders from a leading specialty food company's catalog or Web site, a partner's logistics solution checks the weather and temperature forecast at the destination. Then, the partner adjusts the packaging and shipping process to ensure the product will arrive in perfect condition.

Before the specialty food item ships, inventory is stored in a climate-controlled environment. The product is cooled and brought to the correct temperature prior to shipment so that it arrives ready to eat. Custom packaging might include dry ice if the shipment is destined for Phoenix in August, or just normal packing material if it's destined for Portland, ME, in December.

One retailer of discounted high-fashion merchandise has a specific goal in mind regarding this process. It wants to make the experience of opening the shipped package just as enjoyable as returning from an upscale department store with a shopping bag in tow. Thus, the merchandise is carefully placed into branded shopping bags, with complementary tissue paper; these are placed into custom-sized boxes that perfectly match the shopping bags. Add a little protective and decorative packaging to complete the experience, and the box is sealed.

Creating the "wow" experience is about understanding a company's brand and exceeding customers' expectations. Ultimately, protecting the brand experience means customers get what they want, when and how they want it. Only in a reliable, trusted business outsourcing partnership could this promise be fulfilled. The role of an outsourced fulfillment partner should be to enhance your brand reputation, utilizing the value of your company name to your business' advantage.

Five Questions About Your Fulfillment Partner
1. Can your partner be trusted with your brand image, your inventory management, and your customer relationships?

2. Can your partner provide you with a solution that allows you to optimize your resource, time, and capital investments, while giving you the freedom to focus on your core business agenda?

3. Does your partner have a proven track record in providing the best practices, management know-how, and technology solutions to support your business model? Its capabilities should include supply chain management, CRM, knowledge management, order management and processing, product fulfillment, and returns handling.

4. Does your partner provide the flexibility and scale that will support the changing needs of your business as well as your future growth plans?

5. Are you confident your partner can support today's needs, while also providing you with a level of strategic planning, innovation, and new value-added services over time?