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Three tips to avoid customer disappointment at Christmas using SMS

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PM-03While Christmas is any retailer’s peak selling season, it also is the season to stay on top of customer care and customer management. And the key tool for this is SMS, says Paul Murphy Head of Commercial Development at OpenMarket

Recent years have seen UK retailers adopt big seasonal sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday that have become a major part of US retailer’s calendars. Whilst they deliver a welcome boost of revenue for retailers, they add additional stress to an already stretched transport and logistics sector gearing up for Christmas. Managing customer expectations during these peak periods will be a high priority for retailers at their busiest time of year.

Led by US-owned retailers such as Amazon and ASDA, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have grown from humble beginnings to become a major event. Almost unheard of in the UK prior to 2010, this year Amazon UK expects to have more than 3000 products included in its week-long run up to Black Friday – 10 times as many as 2010. Online Retailer ShopDirect cited its 2013 Black Friday event as the single largest sales day in its history. This year high street and online retailers are preparing like never before for this year’s event due to take place on November 28th.

Delivering these additional sales comes with challenges for many retailers. KPMG has argued that discounting when consumers receive their last pay before Christmas is counter-intuitive, because most are already inclined to buy the same products at full price. There’s also the recent scare that there will not be enough lorry drivers to cope with demand this year due to a change in EU legislation.

So what can retailers do to manage customer expectations and avoid customer dissatisfaction during the busiest time of the year? Here are three ways SMS can help improve customer relations and reduce costs:

Two-Way SMS Customer Alerts
Information equals power, or at least a satisfied customer. People are generally understanding and somewhat sympathetic at this time of year. But, nothing infuriates customers more than being kept in the dark about their order status… Except missing their delivery because they nipped out for five minutes.

With an open rate of 95 per cent, SMS is the obvious choice for shipping alerts and notifications. While many retailers and logistics companies use SMS alerts as a one way process for notifications already, expanding to a two-way SMS process gives customers the ability to choose a new delivery date or add special instructions – to make sure they are able to receive their order. Your customers will greatly appreciate the flexibility and being kept informed of progress. Your delivery drivers and warehouse staff will also appreciate two-way SMS alerts because they will no longer have to waste time and effort packing and trying to deliver items that are destined to be unsuccessful.

Two-way SMS interactions can be completely automated, lowering your overheads and reliance on customer support centres.

Streamlining The Returns Process
Research from Hall and Partners found that 81 per cent of customers would not use a retailer again if its returns process was difficult. So it’s essential that you give a clear and simple means for customers to return their goods. SMS can simplify the returns process for consumers and automate it for the retailer through the use of an SMS short code. The customer simply texts their unique order number to a dedicated number to start the returns process – including arranging for the goods to be collected and returned.

Driver Alerts
Another sure-fire way to irritate your buyers is to give them the ability to leave special delivery instructions that never get passed on to the driver, resulting in a missed delivery, or even worse, a lost package. There have been recent examples of this going spectacularly wrong recently, with some packages being left in ridiculous places such as front bushes or on the roof of the customer’s house!

Providing timely updates to drivers and alerts while on the road contributes greatly to a smooth delivery process. Nobody likes getting stuck in traffic, especially when it could have been avoided – delivery drivers are no different. Mobile messages with embedded GPS can provide instant traffic updates and alternate routes leading to improved customer communication and even reduced fuel consumption for a reduced carbon footprint. These messages can also alert customers as the vehicle nears its destination, providing more accurate estimated arrival times and improving the overall customer experience – as well as helping the shipper avoid late docking fees.

Seasonal sales events are only set to get bigger and bigger. There is a clear need for retailers to focus on the delivery process over the busy Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas periods – with almost one in three customers associating a bad delivery experience with the retailer, not the delivery company. Mobile messaging is a quick, low cost and effective way to do this, just remember the most important part – make sure you get your customer’s mobile number.

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