How did it start? I got an email asking me to pre-order this book at a special price. I am sure many of you got the same email. Nothing better than a discount on a great product available on pre-order! Who wouldn’t want to read the exclusive biography of the man behind the rise of one of the most successful companies in the world? A few clicks and I was through. I chose Cash on Delivery which is really simple and elegant. This was followed by a short phone call (one of the shortest I have ever had with a customer care executive) and that was it. Next morning and I had forgotten about this transaction. I knew the book would take a while, to release and reach me. And I did not need it urgently.Exactly a week later, I got an email with the expected time of delivery for my order. Honestly, I did not expect that. But I felt thankful for being kept in the loop. Regular communication is always a great practice.
Cash on Delivery is a buying option that most customers probably like the most. With multiple occurrences of payment gateway failures and wrong deliveries, it’s the best bet. You would never have to go back and forth between the e-commerce company and the bank figuring where your money got lost or fight endlessly for a refund. Even for people with no net banking option or cards, it’s a boon. Also, you don’t accept the consignment if it is not what you ordered for, or it arrives later than the promised date. Cash on delivery is no doubt a hassle free way of purchasing things online. That’s what we have done for centuries in India, isn’t it.
About a month after the purchase, I got a message that my book had been shipped and that I would receive it in 2-3 working days. I would be able to track my shipment using a link in the message or call customer center for more details. This was all I needed. I was definitely excited about the book. Reading Steve Jobs’ biography should be fun. Two days later, a new message told me my package would be shipped tomorrow. The email mentioned that the warehouse of the company was closed due to Diwali with a brief apology for the inconvenience caused. That was fine, still a day remaining. I wasn’t angry – probably because I knew the reason for the delay and was kept in the loop. The point here is that as long as a company understands whether a delivery is urgent (which it wasn’t, in this case) and keeps me in the loop,, a minor delay is okay.
A day later (the next day of Diwali), the delivery man arrived with my book but there was nobody at home to accept it. No worries, I got a call and we fixed another time that worked for me. Same day in the evening, I finally got my book. But, I had forgotten to withdraw cash! It was when Card on Delivery came to the rescue and the company amicably provided me the flexibility to use it.
The point that I am trying to drive here is that from the moment I made the purchase to the point my order arrived, I was kept in the loop about everything. I was informed of the minor delay, of the shipment moving out of the warehouse, and of the tracking mechanism being activated. That’s power in the hand of consumer. That’s saying that you care about him, his order and you want him to know what is happening. This is something not all e-commerce brands (or even companies in other sectors) understand - that regular communication with your customers (or your team members, employees and partners) helps them understand your hitches and goes a long way. You might be doing a great job but if you don’t keep the stakeholders in the system informed about it, it might work against you.
An online retailer also needs to understand what it is promising. Are you, as a company, specifying a delivery date or time period, do you track if the order is a gift the customer has bought for someone, or if it is a product that needs to be consumed quickly. Maybe, you can ask the customer to specify these (in an extra field on the transaction page) when he places an order. I think small changes and regular emails updates like these will go a long way in building a valuable respectable enterprise.
About the author
Sarabjeet Singh is a technology and startup enthusiast with interests in Internet and Consumer products. He is an alum of IIT Kharagpur where he majored in Mathematics and Computing. Sarabjeet used to run a student news startup Letmeknow.in till a year ago. He also helped build Samhita.org and has worked closely with a social venture incubator, Acara Institute.