April 27, 2004, 12:00 AM

Sudden action: How FreshDirect alerted customers of a delivery interruption

When an unexpected problem rendered it unable to fulfill 3,200 next-day orders on time, online grocer FreshDirect used an outside web-based service to immediately notify customers through automated phone and e-mail alerts.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

When an unexpected problem rendered it unable to fulfill 3,200 next-day orders on time, online grocer FreshDirect used an outside web-based service to immediately notify its customers through automated phone and e-mail alerts that their orders would be re-scheduled for a day later. “When we have an unplanned service interruption, it is important that we take a proactive role in informing our customers,” says senior vice president Staci Warden.

FreshDirect called on EnvoyWorldwide, which specializes in sending out automated alerts to clients’ customers. Many of Envoy’s clients, including publishers of anti-virus software, subscribe to its alert service to keep their customers constantly informed of new viruses and software updates.

But FreshDirect contacted Envoy to handle a particular case as the problem occurred, an Envoy spokesman says. Within a few hours, FreshDirect had uploaded a file of 3,200 customers to a protected section of Envoy’s web site, the spokesman says. Automated telephone messages went out the same day to the 3,200 customers, followed by a second round of calls and an e-mail blast the following morning. FreshDirect has a base of more than 170,000 customers.

"It would have been impossible for us to manually contact all of those customers in time,” says Warden. “Our approach generated goodwill with our customers and really helped us manage inbound calls the next day, which saved us enormous amount of time."

Envoy provides a template voice message that its clients can modify with their own voice-overs; it also provides an e-mail template that clients can modify with their own message and logo. It also tracks how messages are delivered and received.

Although neither FreshDirect nor Envoy would comment on the cost of FreshDirect’s project, Envoy says its costs typically run $20,000-$50,000 per engagement, including set-up fees and a per-transaction fee based on the volume of phone calls and e-mails.

 

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