Author: 15 Nov 2022minutes read
Few merchants launch a business because of their passion for backend operations. However, finding ways to streamline how a business runs is important so merchants can stay focused on providing experiences that make customer happy. But before you let operational concerns distract you from innovating and expanding, rest assured that there are ways you can simplify your operations without letting them run your life.
We sat down with Nick DeLong, a Senior Program Manager on Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner team, to get his take on how to streamline business operations. Nick and his team focus on the health of network logistics, and below are some takeaways from the conversation.
Set an intent for what your business is now and what you want it to be in the future. Businesses often skip this step, making it difficult to plan for operational needs. Asking tough questions such as: Do I want to sell one product in a specific vertical or do I eventually want to expand my products and sell into new verticals? What are my revenue goals and how much am I willing to work and spend to get there?
And, operational planning isn’t just about products. Planning is important to understand what you’ll need to bring your business dreams to life. Consider questions like: Am I comfortable hiring teammates to manage my operations or do I want full control over my business? Which responsibilities am I comfortable delegating and which do I want to manage yourself?
These, and many other questions, can help you plan for today and tomorrow, while giving you a clear sense of what you’ll need to get there.
Take the time to understand and document every step that’s involved in getting an order to your customer, including who is responsible for each step and how each step is communicated, both externally and internally. Consider this a living document as you’ll need to stay flexible so you can handle unforeseen events and to ultimately improve your operations.
Mapping out your processes will not only help you identify gaps or blockers that might exist in your operations flow, but also help when it comes time to hiring staff, whether seasonally or year-round. It’s easier to train employees when there’s documentation for your business operations, rather than having to explain it every time and hoping employees remember.
Once you have that operations map in hand, now you’re ready to identify single points of failure where something can (and often does) go wrong. For example, if your business doesn’t have enough shipping materials to fulfill purchases promptly, who is responsible for ordering more? What routines or mechanisms can you implement to avoid these breakpoints?
As you make small changes to your operations, try to include quantifiable metrics that help you assess the efficacy of each change. Sometimes the smallest change can have an over-size impact; conversely, you might be spending a lot of time and effort on changes that don’t have a significant impact in the end.
No matter how well your operations are running, something, somewhere will probably go wrong – you can’t plan for everything. This is where clearly defined service-level agreements (SLAs) come into play, ensuring that an errant package or defective product doesn’t lead to an unhappy customer. By clearly defining your SLAs, your business can avoid creating further issues with customer service, giving shoppers an easy path to get help if something goes wrong.
Be transparent and let shoppers know how you’ll resolve issues as they arise. For example, telling customers who have requested help through your Contact Us form that they’ll receive a response in “the next few days” can create a sense of uncertainty. Instead, clearly state when customers can expect a response—and the sooner the better—such as “within 24 hours.” Being explicit with a reasonable SLA sets customer expectations and helps establish trust.
You probably didn’t get into business because you love packing things in boxes. But the reality is that many merchants are shocked to discover that the bulk of their workday is spent micromanaging operational needs, instead of thinking about the big picture.
That’s where a service like Buy with Prime comes in. Letting Amazon handle your ecommerce site’s fulfillment needs not only has the potential to help your bottom line, but also allows you to focus on the areas of your business where you actually want to spend time.
Learn more about how Buy with Prime can help you streamline your operations and grow your ecommerce business.