Welcome to the fifth and final part of this 5-part e-course on drop shipping and how to use it to your advantage. Step 5 involves building a positive relationship with your client.
Drop shipping is a wonderful, relatively simple way to make money on the Internet. However, you can only make money if you can sell the merchandise you are offering. In Section IV we talked a bit about the special issues of product promotion with drop shipped goods. Now let’s look at how to work with your customer and, in particular, how to be sure that your customer is satisfied even when you do not control the supply chain.
Customer experience on your website
This is your expertise. Be sure that your site is designed to catch people’s interest, the text speaks to their needs in ways that make sense to your target market and the pages are easy to navigate.
As we discussed in Section IV, your pictures should be crisp, detailed and, if possible, depict your product in the right setting.
Product descriptions should give all the necessary information to make a decision about buying the product. For example:
- If you are selling clothes, be sure that you have a size guide. Clothing sizes should be fairly standard but they are not. You may want to add a screen that matches measurements to sizes. Or, amend descriptions to say, “generously sized” or “made for a smaller frame; if in doubt, order the next size larger.”
- Provide dimensions, weight, material used (is that figurine resin or ceramic?) and any other defining characteristics.
- If your product is a consumable, made for children, needs to be used with caution, etc, be sure those issues are addressed, For example, “no peanut products involved in the preparation of this product” or “Small parts – not suitable for children under the age of three.”
- If you are importing goods, be absolutely positive that the merchandise meets all relevant safety standards in the customer’s location.
Your ordering process should be easy to use. Be sure that your customer can move in and out of their “shopping basket” to look for more goods, decide on shipping options and so on. Many resellers lose customers at this point, just when they’re ready to buy, because the ordering process is cumbersome. Remember, you are probably not the only vendor selling these products. Customers who place a high value on ease of use will pay a higher price elsewhere rather than wrestle with a bad ordering system.
Explain the shipping options clearly. If you are using a variety of distributors, there may be several separate shipping charges that add up to more than your customer is willing to pay for shipping. You should either negotiate the same rate with all your suppliers or create an ordering system that accommodates S&H calculations using a variety of different structures. It’s a sticky problem that you will have to solve the best way you can, given your particular circumstances. As we emphasized in Section III, keep your suppliers to the minimum needed to conduct your business.
Be sure that both you and your customer receive tracking information as part of the supplier order confirmation process. Even if the customer can do the tracking, you want to be able to answer the phone and speak authoritatively about the status of the package, just as if you shipped it yourself.
Some drop shippers also handle complaint resolution directly so you are truly out of the loop. Yes, that means no hassles for you but it also means that you don’t really know if your customer is satisfied with the transaction. If you plan to build your business on repeat customers, you need to be absolutely sure that your customer is satisfied. One way to do that is to handle customer complaint resolution yourself. Another is to monitor supplier performance on a regular basis.
- Become a “mystery shopper” on your own retail site. Order a product to be sent to a cooperative friend. Track the order to monitor delivery time. Inspect the packaging to make sure it matches your agreement with the supplier. Inspect the merchandise to be sure that you and your customers are getting exactly what you have sold them.
- Pose as a customer and call with a problem. Evaluate how well you are handled.
Out of Stock, Back Orders
One of the most frequent problems with drop shippers is a delay in shipping because they are out of stock on an item. Unless your drop shipper offers real time inventory reporting, i.e., when the customer selects an item to purchase through your site, their electronic inventory is searched to assure that the item is available, there will be a delay in feedback about stock outs. If real time inventory reporting is not available, your customer will place an order with you and make electronic payment. The out-of-stock notice will come after you place the order with the supplier. To make this unpleasant situation easier, use the following approach:
- Be sure your supplier sends an immediate confirmation to you and the customer.
- Communicate with your customer immediately upon discovering an out of stock or shipping delay situation. Offer options such as money back or substitute item.
Delays and out of stocks happen, even with large suppliers. Your job is to manage the situation with your customer to make a difficult situation bearable.
What have you learned?
By the end of this section, you should know:
- Effective communication is the key to good customer service; communicate about products, about policies, about concerns.
- Make sure your website is easy to use.
- Don’t let the supplier substitute their relationship with your customer for yours; that relationship is the lifeblood of your business.
To our success working together,