This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
You might not think about how important transportation and logistics are to a sale, but you should: you cannot make a sale unless you can get the buyer and the product together. Companies like FedEx, Amazon, Zappos and others have concentrated on logistics for a long time. Those companies are involved with getting the product to the buyer; many times, local businesses instead need to get the buyer to the product. Don’t underestimate how important this can be.
When a potential customer is on the phone, there are two important probing questions we ask in the self-storage business. First, we ask, “Do you know where we are located?” This allows us to highlight the convenience of our location, keep the customer from getting lost and take some stress out of the initial process. Many sales can be lost because the potential buyer takes a wrong turn, miscalculates how long it will take to drive to a location or feels overwhelmed by figuring out directions.
We also ask, “How are you getting your things here?” We do this to make sure the potential customer has thought through the logistics of bringing belongings to the storage facility. If the customer does not have a plan for transportation, the whole deal could fall apart. We want to know up front if the customer does not have a good plan so we can help solve that issue with advice, a referral to a mover or a truck rental.
Think about what transportation issues can trip up your business. Unless you’re doing deliveries in your normal course of business, maybe you’ve never thought of that. Even in a city as manageable as Columbia, there are times a person does not want to go from one end of the city to another to do business. Ask your potential customers pertinent questions about travel, directions and logistics. Have a good solution to the common problems you hear about. Many times, all you have to do is to suggest how simple it is to get to your location, and you’ll put a client’s mind at ease.
If your business involves shipping things to people, then you already know how important logistics can be. Are you setting reasonable expectations for people so they are pleased at how quickly their deliveries arrive? If you are not managing expectations for deliveries, then you leave yourself open to disappointing and annoying your buyers.
If you visit people’s homes for service calls, it is even more important to manage expectations. Let customers know if you are still running on schedule, and give them notice when you are backed up — we all know it can be frustrating to wait on a service call. Anything you can do to minimize that frustration helps your business in the long run.
Pay attention to how transportation and logistics affect your business. You’ll be happy with the resulting customer satisfaction and the repeat business you experience.