Earlier this month I attended the Home Delivery World, Click & Collect Show USA, and ETail Show USA joint conference in Atlanta. One of my favorite parts of these conferences is getting a new perspective on an existing problem. And more importantly, I get to learn from my peers who are implementing creative solutions. One such presentation at the conference was from Jim Hourigan, Chief Operating Officer at BuildDirect. BuildDirect is an online retailer where customers can review, sample, and purchase, heavy-weight home improvement products. This includes flooring, decking, building materials, outdoor furniture and landscapes, kitchen and bath accessories, and doors. One problem BuildDirect ran into was deliveries. While many customers enjoy deliveries since the products can be delivered directly to the job site, these deliveries are expensive. The company can generally only make one or two deliveries an hour, and most of the deliveries are a two-man job.
So BuildDirect looked at a new way to fulfill customer orders that is not as commonplace in the heavy-weight home improvement category: click and collect. According to Hourigan, by adding click and collect, the company would be able to adapt their supply chain, optimize warehouse and facility management, and reduce costs while ensuring high customer satisfaction. Many customers would be happy to pick up their orders, as it is something they have most likely done at other retailers (albeit, for an entirely different product category). BuildDirect knew that once they dug into the details that the difficulties would become apparent. For that reason, the first step in the process was a lengthy planning process.
Planning for click and collect is a little different at a warehouse than it is for a traditional brick and mortar retail location. The first consideration had to be a staging area. When designing a staging area, the company had to look at where is the most efficient area for the warehouse as well as the customers. The inside of a warehouse, especially for heavy-weight home improvement products, poses safety concerns for both employees and customers. The company had to make sure that employees could safely perform their tasks while servicing customers, and the customers had to remain safe while picking up their orders.
Next, BuildDirect had to develop time windows for pick-ups. This ensured that normal operations could continue, and that customers had clear expectations of when they could pick up orders. The company also developed standard operating procedures for rush and same day pick-ups. Finally, the company installed clear signage for customers as well as an FAQ on the website to answer any questions they may have about their click and collect order.
Once the processes were developed, BuildDirect developed a mantra for their click and collect processes: “make it easy for the customer.” Aside from ensuring that the warehouse has a standard operating procedure, the company outlined three key ways to make things easy for the customer and ensure a seamless shopping experience: over communicate, set the right expectations, and get feedback.
BuildDirect firmly believes in over communicating with their customers. It is one of the easiest ways to make things easy during the process. For BuildDirect, over communicating involves a lot of signs. When customers pull into the warehouse parking lot, there are signs alerting the customer to where they are and where they need to park. The company places signs on the appropriate door for customers to enter. There are signs inside the warehouse letting the customer know which window is for click and collect purchases. By using these signs, the company is making the experience as simple as possible for the customer.
BuildDirect’s strategy for making things easy for the customer is to set the right expectation with the customer ahead of time. This includes telling the customer exactly what is required when they show up at the warehouse (photo ID and order number). The company also gives a time window for when the order will be ready as well any specific vehicle needs to pick up the products. BuildDirect provides a detailed map from the nearest highway to the right door (which goes along with their over communication philosophy) and a contact phone number in case the customer has any questions.
Finally, BuildDirect solicits feedback from every customer about their click and collect experience. Every BuildDirect employee reads the customer feedback every morning as part of their job. The feedback is shared with the warehouse and used to make improvements. The company aspires to fix every error or bad experience a customer has.
In conclusion, Jim Hourigan, Chief Operating Officer at BuildDirect, outlined how his company is leveraging click and collect capabilities to provide a seamless experience for customers. While it is not the norm for heavy-weight home improvement products to fall into the click and collect category, BuildDirect has developed a strategy to ensure that they manage the process efficiently. By planning at the warehouse level, from staging areas to signage for customers, the company was able to establish firm standard operating procedures. Using its mantra of “make it easy for the customer,” BuildDirect over communicates with customers, sets the right expectations, and uses feedback to make continuous process improvements.