In the past, a warehouse was just a place where goods were stored and eventually processed for shipping. There wasn't much talk about how warehousing could impact customer services. A lot has changed!
With the explosive growth of eCommerce, there has been a dramatic transformation in the role warehouses and distribution centers play in the customer experience. These businesses now play a vital part in order fulfillment. So the entire focus has shifted away from just storing goods to getting them into the hands of customers as promised.
The Role of Warehouse Management in Customer Service
It's usually not the first thing that comes to mind, but warehouse management plays a large role in modern customer service. If you want to provide an exceptional customer experience, it starts with the user interface or sales experience.
But, once you make a sale, it's up to your logistics department to deliver on what you promised. Here are four ways good warehouse management can improve customer service.
1. The Right Items in Stock
When you track your inventory, you're going to have a clearer picture of what you have on hand and what you need. You will know which items are selling well and which ones are just sitting on shelves and costing you money. This makes inventory management almost seamless and improves the experience for your customer.
Customers don't want to place an order only to find out that you don't have it in stock. When you have tighter control over your inventory, this can save you time and money, which may be savings you can pass along to your customers.
Customers want accurate information from the companies they trust with their business. If you can provide real-time data about your inventory levels, this provides peace of mind that an item is on hand and ready to ship.
2. Faster Order Fulfillment
Better warehouse management also means faster order fulfillment. Some of the largest eCommerce giants now promise customers next-day and even same-day delivery in some markets. You may not be able to compete with that. But you will want to deliver orders as quickly as possible and always deliver on your promises.
If your warehouse is disorganized or you don't have visibility throughout the supply chain, it's going to be tough to deliver items quickly to your customers. An efficient warehouse management system and the right technology solutions can help you deliver the fast service your customers expect.
3. Order Fulfillment Accuracy
Obviously, customers don't want just any package to land on their doorsteps. They want exactly what they ordered and would prefer that it show up undamaged. When a customer receives the wrong item or one that has been damaged during fulfillment, you are likely going to lose their trust and future business.
Proper warehouse management reduces common errors in order picking and packing. And it can also make sure that items are handled with care to reduce the possibility of damage.
4. Better Returns System
Despite your best efforts during the order fulfillment process, customers are likely going to have returns. In fact, as much as 20% of products purchased online are returned for various reasons.
How you handle reverse logistics can impact the customer experience as well. When you handle returns efficiently and make the process easier for customers, they are more likely to purchase from you again in the future.
Warehouse Management Solutions for Improving Customer Service
Possibly the most important step towards improving customer service on the warehouse level is employing the right warehouse management solutions. Refining your processes is important. But there are a variety of solutions you can implement to work smarter, not harder, and achieve the desired results. These include:
1. Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a multi-faceted system that helps a business manage all of its warehouse and logistics activities. There are modules for inventory management, asset management, order fulfillment, reverse logistics, and more.
These are generally cloud-based systems that are accessible from any web-enabled device. They can also be integrated with other technology solutions.
2. RFID Tags and/or Barcodes
Having visibility throughout the supply chain is one sure way to improve the customer experience. Once you have your WMS in place, you can get this visibility if you also use RFID tags or barcodes.
For example, RFID tags are an advanced asset tagging solution, with a single reader being able to scan hundreds of tags at once. And the tags can reveal a ton of data about the product, such as its color, size, weight, expiration date, destination, and even order number.
Wearable devices in the warehouse can be worn on the wrist or hip. Workers can also wear headsets. Some have GPS and Bluetooth capability to connect with the WMS. Wearables can provide the worker's location in the warehouse and track activity. They can also deliver picking and packing instructions to streamline these repetitive tasks.
4. Mobile Workstations
A lot of a warehouse worker's day is spent walking back and forth from a central location to areas throughout the building for picking and packing activities. This leads to wasted time, fatigue, potential delays in order processing, and the possibility of errors.
One solution is to use mobile workstations. These mobile-powered carts can move around the warehouse with the workers, providing everything they need to be productive right on the warehouse floor.
5. Warehouse Robotics
Warehouse robotics can make your operation more efficient and help it reduce order processing errors. Some examples of robotics solutions include automatic pickers, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and mobile rack goods-to-person (GTR) robotics.
The link between warehouse management and customer service shouldn't be weak.
It's important to remember that your business will experience plenty of challenges that will impact this relationship. But it can implement various solutions to help it run more efficiently and outperform the competition. In doing so, this will improve your overall results and provide the ideal conditions for growth.