August 26, 2004, 12:00 AM

Fulfillment companies fill in customer service blanks

As more web merchants outsource their picking, packing and shipping program to a third-party fulfillment company, they also expect their fulfillment provider to play a larger role in customer service, says NewRoads.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Internet retailers have a new ally in helping them improve customer service: Third-party fulfillment companies.

Increasingly, as more web merchants outsource their picking, packing and shipping program to a third-party fulfillment company, they also expect their fulfillment provider to play a larger role in ongoing customer service, says L. Michael Shelton, executive vice president of sales and marketing for NewRoads Inc. in Alpharetta, GA.

That particular kind of help can take many forms. For instance, NewRoads is working with one major online retailer to add more merchandising information to its product pages after an analysis of customer service information revealed that 30% of shoppers wanted more new product information and photos.

"If we operate a call center for a web merchant and serve as their fulfillment provider, we are in a good position to help them analyze multiple data touch points and make site improvements," Shelton says.

Because they specialize in order management and processing, fulfillment companies also help web retailers expedite customer service through better branding and multi-channel initiatives.

Bluefly.com, for instance, a long-time NewRoads client, wants each order packed in its own branded merchandise bag that gives Bluefly shoppers the same customer experience as if they had shopped at a trendy Manhattan apparel boutique.

Another NewRoads customer, AmericanEagleOutfitters.com, worked with NewRoads to design and implement a new label and packing slip program that emphasized the fact that customers needing to make a return or exchange can do so in a variety of ways, both on the web and in a regular American Eagle Outfitters store.

"The labels and packing slips feature this information very prominently and we have to package the orders in a way that make sure an American Eagle Outfitters customer knows that they have several customer service options," Shelton says. "As a fulfillment company there is lot we can and are doing to help retailers enhance service and the customer experience."

 

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