Inventory management is a complex operation in a warehouse. It’s a way to cut costs and boost efficiency and profitability. And it can improve customer satisfaction when customer care and inventory management are aligned.
Maintaining the right amount of product in your warehouse is a delicate balance. Seasonal trends, changes in market conditions, and even viral social media can change consumer demands rapidly. Too little product can leave your online store looking sparse and your customers departing for your competitors. Or too much product, and it could be months or even years before you can move that inventory.
Accurate inventory reporting is critical to customer satisfaction. You might be asking, why would my customers care how much product is in my warehouse? Without a full inventory count, your inventory management system might show more products than is really on your shelves. Every warehouse experiences shrinkage over time. This can be caused by various factors, including loss, theft, miscounting, spoilage, or damaged goods. So when your customer orders a product, it can be a genuine disappointment when the order is canceled due to insufficient supply.
Implement Cycle Counting Methods to Avoid Unhappy Customers
“Cycle counting is a process where warehouse staff counts a small inventory section at regular intervals to forecast the total amount of inventory of that item. The nice thing about this method is that it can be completed during normal business operations, takes less time, and can target only certain items if a full inventory count isn’t needed.”
Inventory Management Software
Your software system plays a significant role in the accurate reporting of your inventory. Sometimes called Warehouse Management Systems, look for a solution with live inventory monitoring, reorder notifications or auto-replenishment, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get warehouse layout planner, complex picking rules that support gift-wrapping and personalization, and logic for autosuggestion of stocking tasks.
The right software solution, along with great fulfillment operations, leads to winning customer experiences.
Integrated Customer Contact Center
Customer care starts before an order is placed. From your social media advertising to the final unboxing, your customer’s experience is a reflection of your entire team’s efforts and is part of the product. Customer support agents ensure that customers receive information and support when they need it. A robust customer care function enhances customer loyalty, plus it provides opportunities for upsells, cross-sales, and other order enhancements.
When you outsource your customer care, consider choosing a partner that can also handle your warehouse and fulfillment. Integrating customer care with fulfillment leads to notable improvements in customer satisfaction. When under one roof, warehouse staff can keep the contact center apprised of any problems or delays in shipping or announce the arrival of new products.
Strategies for Turning Canceled Orders into Winning Customer Care Moments
There might come a time when a retailer must cancel an order. Perhaps the product is no longer available from the factory or was damaged and irreplaceable. Here are a few tips for turning these moments into a win for both you and your customer:
- Apologize – It was your error. A simple apology is the best way to address mistakes. A recent study found that 96 percent of respondents would continue buying from a company if the company apologized and rectified an error.
- Expedite a Replacement – Perhaps your warehouse doesn’t have the item, but your competitor does, or your factory is willing to ship directly from their location. Consider instituting backup plans for when your inventory is short unexpectedly. If done correctly, your customer may never know there was an issue in the first place.
- Offer Comparable Items – As styles change, so does your inventory. If you accidentally sold too many of an item than what was on your shelves, offer a substitute product. When substituting, it’s a best practice not to charge the customer for the error. If there is a cost-saving, pass this along to your customer and make sure they are aware you’ve just saved them some money on their purchase.
- Offer a Future Discount – Along with your apology, consider offering a significant discount on a future order. A sizable offer will incentivize your customer to return instead of looking to your competitors.
- Surprise and Delight – Consider sending a personal note from the customer support agent who assisted the caller or send free product samples as an apology for the error.
Working Together to Improve Customer Service
Providing great customer experiences involves warehouse and customer care staff working in harmony. Inventory management is one area of retail operations that touches just about every part of the business and is essential to get right.