Business owners share invaluable tips for saving time and cementing customer relationships.
Some of the most creative ideas for saving time and money and standing apart from the competition come from your fellow UPS customers. Here are nine powerful tips from three experienced entrepreneurs that you can use to run a better business, whether you ship a handful of boxes or hundreds.
Use these ideas to ship smarter and faster.
Founder and President Ayal Latz couldn't get the kind of fulfillment service his small family toy company needed. So, 14 years ago, he set up a2b Fulfillment as an offshoot to his toy business. Since then, his Georgia-based operation has expanded to serve all kinds of companies needing either direct-to-consumer or retail distribution, both in the United States and internationally. His secrets:
- Turn up the dial. "The faster you get your product to the customer, the lower your overall costs, and the higher your customer satisfaction," Latz says. Use technology to capture orders quickly and get products picked, packed and shipped the same day. "Then you can ship using low-cost solutions, like ground versus two-day air."
- Boost warehouse efficiency. Rank products based on their order volume and sales forecasts. Position fast-movers nearest to the packing station to save back-and-forth time. "You can ship more orders faster, with fewer resources."
- Consider kitting or assembly. Watch for patterns. If you often ship the same items together, assemble them in advance. Then when it's time to ship the assortment, you're picking one item instead of all the individual components.
Profits at this Middleton, Wis., jewelry-design firm support microloans and small business training programs for women struggling to overcome poverty in the United States and around the world. Each piece in the firm's jewelry line, sold through retailers here and in Canada, is named for women whose lives have been changed as a result. You can read more here. Sarah J. Smith runs the business and related charity and shares these ideas for other businesses:
- Reuse and recycle. The company reuses boxes and packing materials obtained from local retailers, nonprofits and even neighbors – if the materials are in excellent shape. Smith puts a note in each outbound box explaining that it's part of the company's sustainability mission.
- Consolidate international shipments. Originally, each individual box shipped to retailers in Canada triggered about $40 in brokerage fees, plus shipping costs. That became an obstacle that held down sales. So Smith arranged for a Canadian buying group to take delivery of a single monthly consolidated shipment, break it down and reship in Canada via standard ground service at dramatically reduced rates. "That tremendously increased our Canadian business because retailers only have to pay domestic shipping rates now, not international," Smith says.
- Trade product for peak-season shipping help. During the holiday season, Sarah's Hope Jewelry hires stay-at-home moms who come in at night or on weekends to help with shipping and other projects in a "Work for Jewelry" program. Note: The value of redeemed product has to dovetail with hours worked, use taxes must be paid, and careful records kept. "You have to handpick the people you bring in for this," Smith says. "It could be a longtime customer or someone else you know well."
Avid photographer Jesse Genet came across a unique dye formula as a 16-year-old high schooler. After eight years of trial and error, she and industrial designer Stephan Angoulvant formulated Inkodye and what's called the Lumi process. Inkodye lets you print digital photos onto fabric using only the power of sunshine. No screens or expensive equipment is required. Watch a related video. Now, Lumi Inc. ships Inkodye and related supplies all over the world. Genet and Angoulvant passed on these tips:
- Recommend UPS My Choice®. Lumi urges business and individual customers to sign up for UPS My Choice. "People have busy schedules, and UPS My Choice lets our customers choose when they want something to come in," she says. "That helps both sides because we don't have to deal with as many problems."
- Offer partnership programs. Lumi sets up special accounts with schools and other institutions and conducts classes that teach both digital photography and the Lumi process. "We work with them to offer special pricing and address all their needs from a customer service standpoint," Angoulvant says.
- Connect using social media. Lumi's customers talk to the company on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. "These tools allow us to have a more one-on-one relationship with people and understand where they are coming from," Angoulvant says.
Do you have any tips? Share them below?