So you have a great product line, you have worked hard on your marketing strategy, and orders are starting to happen.
Wow! Everything looks great for your business...well don't do too much celebrating yet.
The next two words are probably the two most important words in your immediate future... ‘Product Fulfillment’.
Look at it this way. You have gone out and bought a beautiful car and made sure it has all the bells and whistles. You washed and waxed it and now you want to take it for a ride.
All of that is great but now you realize that you do not have any petrol/gas to make it go.
Well, in your business model ‘Product Fulfillment’ can be compared to the gas that makes everything go.
In the same way that gas propels your car, ‘product fulfillment’ does the same for your business.
There are so many different business types out there that you will find variances of the product fulfillment process. However, there is one thing that remains the same through them all, and which is of utmost importance, and that is the customer experience.
Always remember this...
Product Fulfillment begins with the customer placing an order. With this comes a customer expectation that you are going to deliver exactly what they are expecting, in the time frame that they are expecting.
In fact, the rule of thumb for success in this area is to make sure you ‘over deliver’ on their expectations and do it all in a timely fashion.
For a business that manufactures products, ‘product fulfillment’ encompasses manufacturing your product, quality control, warehousing, and assembly. It also includes delivering the product and returns.
For a business that on-sells products that it sources from elsewhere, the manufacturing and assembly and storage of the products may not apply. However, it still needs to ensure quality control.
For businesses such as an accountant, lawyer, cleaner and the like that provide a service, you will find it different again.
A service is really an intangible product. You will not have manufacturing, assembly or warehousing but you will still have a quality control element. Of course, you will still have to at least meet your customer's expectations and delivery of your service in a timely manner.
And in addition, let me just say that ‘product fulfillment' applies to your business regardless of your business size.
You may have 100 employees in your business and require a product manager or it could be that you are the only employee. You still have to deliver on the product or service you are selling.
The Importance of Quality Control
The one factor that remains the same regardless of your business type is quality control.
It is vitally important to ensure that quality control is in place because your customer's experience usually depends upon it.
Recently I interviewed two real estate brokers, as I wanted to list my house for sale.
Both offered the same services so I chose one.
The broker gave me a list of promises and a timeframe in which these promises would be delivered.
He then turned me over to his team who were to facilitate things with me. Unfortunately, the broker did not have a quality control process in place and within a short period of time, his promises to me began to unravel.
The marketing mail-outs did not happen on time. The ads he promised to place were not placed in the magazines he promised, and so on and so on.
In the end, I fired him and his team, and moved on to another broker who is doing everything he promised.
As far as quality control is concerned you want to demand perfection. It will never always be 100% but it is so important to your business success.
You will see that I used the word 'promise' a fair bit in some of the proceeding paragraphs.
That is because you are promising your customer a product or service that matches all of the marketing promises you make that convince a customer do business with you.
Let's use an example of a plumber who offers same-day service if the order for service is placed by 11am the same day. If his team does not show up that day then he has broken his promise and you will most likely look for another plumber.
Or perhaps you want to take your partner out for dinner to a restaurant that advertises good food and great service. If your meal comes out to you and the chicken you order is pink and bloody inside, the promise of good food has been broken - because quality control was not in place in the kitchen.
As a golfer, here is one that I see all the time: Golf courses that guarantee your round will be complete in 4 hours. The quality control here surely needs to be in place for a golf course to ensure this. The start times need to be spaced properly and there needs to be Starters and Marshalls on the course to make sure all groups are moving along at the right place.
Quite a promise, but it relies on quality control to make it happen.
You may do business via e-commerce or a ‘bricks and mortar’ model. It does not matter. Quality control affects every business model.
Why? Because the success of a business depends on customer loyalty, and good quality control is essential to achieve this.
As in the real estate example above, I did not get what I was promised, so I moved on to another opportunity.
In this day and age, especially in the e-commerce arena, shopping choices are abundant and customers are fickle.
Customer loyalty can be achieved by providing a great customer experience, over and over and over again, and this can only happen when quality control is in place.
Any sign of failure here and you lose a customer.
Product Fulfillment has many moving parts so to speak, depending on your business type, but it is designed to create a great customer experience by delivering on all the promises that have been created and meeting all the expectations.
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