Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Business Chat - Your shipping system.

Oh boy! You’ve opened your inbox and found an order from your website! Yay! Since you’re starting out it doesn’t happen as often as you’d like yet but it’s getting busier every week! Time to fill that order! Wait, first you should let the customer know you’ve received that order. Or maybe you should wait until it’s shipped? How did you word that email last time? What do you do first? 

When the sales start coming in from your online efforts it’s really exciting. It takes a LOT of work to get your online shop to the point of making sales. So when the orders do come in you feel like the work is done. Think again. Now you have to ship the product and that is work. 

There is a way to make it less work, implement a shipping system. 

Systems are incredibly important in keeping your little biz and you sane. A good system means that you’ve thought about all the steps you need to take to get a task done. The best way to work out a system is to put on your Employer Hat and imagine explaining to someone how to do the job. Now write it down. Then put on your Employee Hat and imagine that you are doing this for someone else. Could you do the job from those written instructions? Now put on your Customer Hat, would you be happy with the way you are being treated? 

The biggest advantage of a good system is that once it’s in place you don’t have to think about it anymore. When an order comes in, you just follow the system. No more waking up at 3 am wondering “oh crap, did i remember to email her the tracking number?” 

A lot of people don’t create systems because they don’t feel like their company is big enough. With shipping it’s a good idea to have system before you start selling online. Waiting until your first order and then thinking, what now, is just creating stress where you don’t need it. 

A good system will also help build trust with your customers. Many people are still a bit nervous about shopping online. How do you feel when you order something from someone for the first time? You click that buy now button and then.... nothing.... did they get your order, is it shipped, what’s happening. The more you communicate with the customer and keep them informed the more they will trust you.  

So I thought I would demonstrate how a shipping system works by showing you my system. This works for me, it may not work for you because you are not me. Always remember that it is YOUR business and only you can create what works for you. That said, I’m happy with the way this works and if you want to use it, go right ahead. 

First I sat down and thought about each and every step in the process. I wrote this down in a document called “How to Ship”. This is posted above the area where all my packaging is. 
  1. Print the order out.
  2. Staple an Order Info to it
    1. the Order Info is a half sheet of paper that has a checklist on it. It tells me the steps to take and I have to check off each step (like sending emails to the customer) - see below
  3. Send an email to the customer that I received the order.
    1. I have a standard email that I can copy and paste. 
  4. Pack the order.
    1. my How to Ship document has all the details on exactly how everything is packed including filling out customs forms for USA or international shipments
  5. Order goes to the post office.
    1. I do have stamps in stock. If the package is within my normal parameters (regular size envelope and weight, yes I have a scale) then I know how much postage is and can stamp it myself. But I like going to the post office because it’s beside the ice cream shop. 
  6. Send an email to the customer telling them it has shipped and when they can expect to receive it.
    1. If this was shipped with a tracking number send it to them. 
    2. again, I have a standard email that I cut and paste just changing the dates. 
  7. Record the order in my spreadsheet.
    1. I track orders by the date received, sent and the amount. 
  8. File the order in the Sold file. 

My Order Info sheet lists the following:
  • date received
  • date order received email sent
  • date sent
  • method
  • tracking number
  • date shipping email sent

I like doing it this way. I have a hard copy of every order in process and shipped out. I have a record of all the emails that I sent to the customer about the order. And I have an electronic record of this as well as an updated sales record.

The thing I like best about this system is that by following it I don't have to think and I don’t drop as many balls. 

As a small business owner being an amazing juggler is a required skill. 

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