‘It’s time to prepare for peak season!’ is a common refrain once we get to this time of year. Yet the most effective holiday preparation takes place long before your average consumer has even started thinking about the holidays.
Whether it’s planning a seasonal unboxing experience or deciding what inventory to wow your customers with, brands need to think several steps ahead to ensure a smooth transition into the busiest part of the year.
But what does it mean to prepare for peak season when you have a 3PL partner? And what role does Customer Success play in helping brands achieve their vision of success?
To answer these questions (and many others) we caught up with Leslie Karr, Group Director of Customer Success at Ryder E-commerce:
Q: Hi, Leslie! First off, what makes Customer Success different from customer support?
Leslie: “The key difference is that unlike Customer Success (CS), traditional customer support is reactive; it doesn’t kick in until after a customer reaches out with a question or problem. By comparison, Customer Success teams work with the customer from day one of their onboarding to understand their needs and how we can meet them. This allows CS to build a more proactive and strategic relationships than customer support can.”
“For example, a customer’s motivation for finding a new logistics partner could be “I need a 3PL that can keep pace with my growth.” or “I need a solid return management platform.” With this information, we can steer them towards the right solution to meet their goals and accompany them every step of the way.”
Q: What role do Customer Success teams play in getting customers ready for peak season?
Leslie: “The idea of ‘preparing for peak season’ can be something of a misnomer. Customer Success teams are hard at work with customers throughout the year – peak season certainly isn’t the exception.”
“Ultimately, it comes down to ensuring that our teams understanding a customer’s needs and how these might change during the holidays. CS needs to take a holistic view of a customer’s activities and what strategies they can implement to improve communication and remove roadblocks. Obviously, fires can still happen – even when you’ve done really good peak season prep. But this exercise helps to reduce the unexpected and minimize the number of situations where you need to be reactive.”
Q: How should brands effectively communicate their changing peak season needs to their 3PL?
Leslie: “Proper planning and communication with your 3PL is always key. A 3PL should be asking for a comprehensive peak forecast that goes beyond expected order volume. This includes asking for any changes to SOPs or value-added services, such as different packaging. However, it’s generally not a good idea to implement these changes during peak, when outbound package movement is the priority.”
“This is why our teams begin working with customers in July to obtain relevant forecasting, so we can implement these changes ahead of time. Forecasting requires different levels of coordination between internal teams and takes time to compile, so this gives us plenty of time to prepare.”
Q: What are some common challenges that brands encounter during peak season, and how does Customer success help to remedy these?
Leslie: “Probably the biggest difficulties brands face are related to shipping, whether that’s with increased costs due to peak surcharges or delays in transit. We help brands prepare for these challenges in advance by ensuring they have the latest info from carriers on pricing and shipping cut-off dates and help them adjust their shipping strategies to overcome them. Another challenge is when seasonal inventory doesn’t arrive on time. It’s really important that a 3PL has access to up-to-date scheduling to understand how this aligns with forecasts for outbound packages. This helps us decide how labor levels should be allocated and what needs to take priority.”
“Another common challenge is the increase in customer inquiries that happens during the holidays. If parcels are delayed, anxious customers will start filing support tickets. One way we address this is by educating teams on how to find tracking info. Many parcel delays will resolve themselves, so we teach personnel when the right time is to contact parcel carriers to avoid unnecessary claims.”
Q: What are some top tips for being better prepared for peak season?
Leslie: “There’s a lot of small steps that we recommend our customers take to avoid speed bumps during peak season. For example, implementing address validation helps to avoid the most common causes of failed deliveries. Yet growing brands don’t always have these systems in place, because their tech stacks are very young.
“One of the biggest advantages of partnering with a 3PL that has a dedicated Customer Success team is that they connect with the teams that manage various parts of your fulfillment strategy – Operations, Product, Parcel – to ensure good collaboration on your behalf, so you can focus on what your business does best.”
Q: Why is it so valuable to partner with a 3PL who is dedicated to customer success?
Leslie: “What every brand wants is a 3PL partner that is dedicated to their needs and their business. Having a proactive Customer Success division onside means a business isn’t constantly pushing to get things done or having to respond reactively to events and conditions. Our CS team is here to ensure you get the most value out of your relationship with us. Ultimately, we are an extension of your brand not just during peak season, but beyond.”