The most economical approach to improving customer delivery satisfaction is to invest in quality at every step.
What percentage of your sales orders result in a service call related to product or delivery quality? For over a year I have asked that question at every opportunity and the results have been astounding! The best performing retailers have 3% or less, typical retailers average 6% and many are between 10 and 20%. With customer expectations for their furniture purchase at an all time high, retailers who provide superior delivery have clear competitive advantages for repeat sales and profitability. Flipping the coin, retailers with poor delivery quality jeopardize customer goodwill and have to devote costly management and manpower resources to avoid customer returns and clearance center challenges. A reasonable goal is under 5%.
To improve customer delivery satisfaction, the most economical approach is to invest in quality at every step from the manufacturer through receiving, warehousing, prep or deluxing, and customer delivery. Retailers are well advised to review their operations, measure performance and take appropriate actions with their vendors and internal operations. Do it right the first time. Regardless of the approach taken to resolve excessive delivery problems, it should be transparent to the customer.
Rarely is there a single reason for an excessive percentage of service calls. Some are caused by improper loading and damage enroute to the customer, but most relate to problems that should have been handled earlier.
When was the last time you personally went out on the dock before loading and showed that you care about this important mission? Checking products on the dock that are supposedly ready for delivery will disclose numerous problems that will be spotted almost immediately by customers, such as:
If your people are missing manufacturer defects, inflict product damage through poor warehouse practices and fail to properly prep or deluxe the goods before releasing for shipment, your profitably is being compromised.
For example, the operations with the lowest number of service calls usually do the following for all wood products:
Thorough receiving practices.
Remove all packaging.
Assemble all components and inspect in good lighting.
Wood repair as needed.
Group sets to check finish match.
Vacuum or wipe all drawers.
Check lights in curio cabinets.
Place all chairs on leveling table.
Delivery team checks product onto truck and is accountable for subsequent actions.
Skills required for a craftsman making any necessary repairs are shown in the box.
Similar steps are defined for the customer homes.
Whether the retailer performs warehouse and delivery in-house or outsources these functions, isn’t the real issue. Each can succeed or fail based on management skills and practices throughout the operation. It is also very important that everyone involved clearly understand their responsibilities up front. You rarely hear about the outsourcing successes. There have been numerous outsourcing failures, some with lawsuits, but I am not aware of any public settlement involving furniture warehousing and delivery. The primary reason stated for outsourcing these functions is to focus retailing efforts on merchandising and sales through contracting with professionals possessing the necessary core competencies. I cannot overstate the importance of performance standards for both retailer and contractor.
There has been significant growth in outsourcing a portion or all of the warehouse and delivery functions for retailers of all sizes. There are numerous small business entrepreneurs providing local services and there are large regional and international firms. The following snapshots of a few companies are not intended as endorsements but will give you ideas about the marketplace. More complete information can be obtained directly from each company.
- Training in paperwork and customer service.
- Progresses from apprentice to craftsman until certified.
- Remove and install new recliner mechanism.
- Remove and install new sleeper mechanism.
- Leather and fabric care product application.
- Replace right or left facing arm fabric.
- Re-stuff part of a recliner or sofa.
- Reinstall zig-zag springs or clips.
- Install new T-nut for leg replacement.
- Install seat cushioning cover and core.
- Burn-in and Touch-up of wood surfaces.
- Complete mattress inspection.
- Level dining room table.
- Do various upholstery stitching.
- Install dust cover.
- Install buttons.
- Install inside back cushions.
- Attach new sofa skirt.
- Replace outside fabric.
Purnell Furniture Services, Inc. provides dedicated or shared distribution services throughout East Coast and Southern states. Clients use one or more of the following services: inbound and intra-company transportation, warehouses, receiving, inventory control, storage, prep/deluxing services, shop repair services, home delivery services, in-home service. www.furniture- services.com or 800-787-6355.
Joseph Cory Companies, Inc. provides dedicated or shared distribution services throughout Northeast and Southeastern states. Clients use one or more of the following services: inbound and intra-company transportation, warehouses, receiving, inventory control, storage, prep/ deluxing services, shop repair services, home delivery services, in-home service. www.corycompanies.com 201-795-1000
Riche’s The Final Touch, Inc. provides deluxing services, in-shop repairs and in-home service in approximately twelve states. The client usually opens the furniture in a staging area before the deluxing zone. Repair technicians assess and repair all furniture and bring it up to the process standards agreed upon by Riche’s and the client. In-home service is also provided. Delivery services are by the retailer or contractor. www.richesfinaltouch.com or 800-375-4585.
U.S. Quality Furniture Services, Inc. provides a range of services from complete distribution center operations to a simplified open and inspection program. Client services may include receiving, warehouse management, prep/deluxing, shop repair and in-home services. Delivery services are by the retailer or contractor. www.usqfs.com or 713-943-7016.
Gilbert Home Delivery, a division of The Gilbert Companies, provides home delivery for catalog, e-commerce and national chains for furniture, weight machines, BBQ equipment, etc. A significant focus is California. They operate a large cross dock and consolidation center in California and provide drop shipping transportation between manufacturer’s and distribution warehouses through a network of independent local moving companies and installers. These agents provide the deluxing, delivery and setup at the ultimate consumer’s home. www.gilberthomedelivery.com 800/497-4535
Exel Direct is part of Exel Logistics, a multinational supply chain company. Exel Direct provides approximately 100,000 home deliveries weekly in the USA and Europe. Their home delivery operations in the USA were previously known as Merchants Home Delivery. In addition to their traditional base in home delivery, Exel Direct is opening facilities to provide shared home delivery service for very large retailers in major metropolitan centers. www.exel.com/direct 614-890-1730.
Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.