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Peoplevox Updates

How to fix one star reviews: when fulfilment hits the fan

Will Grove
  • 02 March 2018
  • 5 min read

The things that an e-commerce brand needs to do to gain advocacy sound simple. Have amazing products, make the buying experience enjoyable and deliver accurately and on time. To the consumer, this process should easy. Painless. Get it right, you’ve got someone who may well recommend you.

Get it wrong, and you wind up with sworn enemies. The truth is, some of that negativity is fully justified. There are a huge number of missteps that can happen during the fulfilment process, which makes treading the line between advocacy and antagonism incredibly treacherous. You’re walking on a knife edge; you don’t want to slip up. Because when you do, this is what happens...

The problem


“Don’t order online.” There’s no caps lock activated there. There are no exclamation marks, no screaming. There is, however, a worn down and fed up customer who has taken to TrustPilot after a month to shout into the void. If you’re reading this, ‘Unhappy customer’, the void is shouting back at you with an explanation. A few, actually. There are three main points to pick apart from this one star review:

  • They were sent the wrong order.

This is clearly a sign that there are major issues with pick, pack and despatch within the warehouse. The fact that the mispick wasn’t picked up on at any other bench is a strong indicator that this retailer isn’t using appropriate technology to track the movement of inventory around its warehouse. When relying on the human eye, mistakes will happen. Particularly if that eye is working in a fast-paced, high stress environment.

Which, in this case, it is. The company that the customer is complaining about runs a large operation. They have a strong presence in the physical retail space and have a significant e-commerce arm. With thousands of orders to deal with every day, it’s more likely that errors like this will slip through the net if the ground staff aren’t being properly supported.  

Solution: This retailer needs to invest in real-time inventory management. They need to be able to accurately track every single item within their warehouse in order to prevent future mispicks.
  • This isn’t an isolated event

“Similar to the other reviews.” This isn’t just one disgruntled customer. This is a pattern. The main question here, really, is why? From reading between the lines of this complaint, there’s a pretty clear picture developing of a multichannel retailer failing to appropriately adapt for e-commerce.

The ways that a physical retail warehouse and an e-commerce warehouse should be managed are vastly different. For one, it’s not the end of the world if some of the wrong items are delivered to a store. It’s not ideal, but they can still be sold. And for another, the amount of unique data points that go into each e-commerce transaction far increase the complexity of each pick. E-commerce needs its own Warehouse Management System. It’s likely that this retailer hasn’t quite twigged that yet.

Solution: Diversify the technology at use in the warehouse. Acknowledge that e-commerce customers have wildly different needs to retail stores and work hard to stem the tide of negative reviews. The first step is recognising the complex requirements of digital consumers. The second is investing in a WMS that will help to match them

  • Their replacement order “got lost”

Two things might have happened here. The first: it could have been a problem with the carrier, and not the retailer. The second: they haven’t made an effort to remember the customer, to personalise their shopping experience. If the second is true, then they need to become more data obsessed. This is an item that’s being sent out again after the initial mess up; they should have the customer’s details on file without her having to repeat them.

And this is a process that should be automated. Her details should be stored on file, ready to be automatically printed out and labeled when her (now hopefully correctly picked) shoes reach the packing bench. The customer expects this process to be simple. Warehouse managers should expect this process to be simple as well, because it can be with the right technology in place.

Solution: If the issue was with the carrier, the retailer needs to do all that it can to make sure that this doesn’t become a recurring issue. If the issue lies at the door of the retailer, it needs to embrace software automation. It’s a brave new world out there, but it works.

Of course, buying in the right technology isn’t going to cure all of the one star reviews. If, as it appears, there are a lot of problems with this company’s e-commerce arm, it needs to put some more time into improving its digital transformation strategies. The problem with big businesses is the distance that can exist between departments; getting them to collaborate more and working with shared goals will help to improve things.

But that won’t happen overnight. For now, having the right technology in place will help.

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