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    We are amidst a sort of mini-revolution in grocery shopping where online grocery stores are changing the way grocery shopping is getting done not only in India but all across the globe. People are finding convenience and value in doing their grocery shopping from the comforts of their home.

    In addition, the COVID situation has forced people indoors and more people are opting for online grocery stores to get their weekly shopping done. While there may be an increased number of people opting for online grocery, there is tough competition among the existing players in the market. One of the factors that would determine the winner on this turf is going to be customer service.

    The e-commerce brand that is likely to offer better customer service is likely to be the most influential in the market and among customers. This write-up seeks to shed light on the creation of customer service SOPs for online grocery stores and seeks to interest business owners who are on the look-out for systems that can streamline their customer service processes.

    Importance of Customer Service in Online Grocery/ Dark Stores

    When thinking about customer service, one may get the notion that it is all about pacifying a dissatisfied customer or customer service inquiry is just “another ticket to deal with”. However, the scope of customer service extends beyond our basic understanding of the practice and can be vital to acquiring new customers and retaining the existing ones.

    A business especially online business must understand that a customer is in need of support even when they browse through the product catalogue. One of the impediments in online shopping is the customer’s inability to physically sample the product. This can be overcome with good customer support wherein customers can be kept well-informed about products through good customer service preventing them from switching over to an alternate e-commerce brand.

    Customer service becomes even more essential in a post-sale scenario where customers with concerns about the product or service would need access to appropriate channels where they could raise their concerns and grievances. Such an arrangement is immensely beneficial in cementing a relationship based on trust, which can turn customers into active brand loyalists.

    Need for Customer Service SOPs in Online Grocery/ Dark Stores

    Now that we understand the importance of customer service, let us try and decipher the areas where standard operating procedure for customer service can play a critical role in online reputation management and taking the company to the next level:

    • Order Management: One of the key areas where customer service process flow chart can play a vital role in online grocery is order management. This specifically pertains to last-mile delivery, order-related queries, and returns. An e-commerce brand will be well served if it is able to have in place standardized procedures for all these processes. Although every e-commerce brand would have guidelines in place for all such processes, it can make them even more effective with well-articulated SOPs which would leave no room for ambiguity for customer service agents. They would know exactly what needs to be communicated to the customer.
    • Grievance Management: Every e-commerce brand would have customer concerns during the pre and post-sales period. And it becomes essential for the brand to offer customer service to such customers in a seamless manner. Having said that, there will also be occasions when the customer service agent would not be able to figure out how to handle a customer concern. In such a scenario, SOPs can be instrumental in articulating the necessary action needed in the situation. A well-written SOP will have solutions to contingencies that could be of tremendous help to the customer service agent.
    • Communication Guidelines: All customer service agents and delivery executives are the front face of the organization. And it becomes vital for them to have a predefined set of procedures to bring in a level of consistency in service. Well written SOPs can serve as the vital link in establishing guidelines for the support and delivery staff to follow. Such written SOP procedures will ensure there are no lapses or mistakes from members of these teams.  

    Need for Customer Service SOPs in Grocery Stores

    Now let’s delve into the details on how customer service processes and procedures can make a difference in brick and mortar grocery stores. Although most of these stores do not have a separate section for customer service.  All team members on the floor are meant to provide the customer with a smooth shopping experience. And a good understanding of customer service through SOPs can improve their business prospects both in the long and short term. Let’s look at each one of them one-by-one:

    • Customer Service Communication: A standard set of procedures or SOPs can ensure that all team members on the floor of a grocery store are providing top-notch service to the customers. This will help the store in acquiring new customers and retain the existing ones.
    • Home Delivery Facility: Staff members who are entrusted with the responsibility of providing home delivery must be communicated about the stipulations concerning home deliveries. A standard SOP could serve as a guiding document for the staff to make decisions by themselves on home deliveries without the intervention of the owner as a part of customer service. At times, there can be situations where such a value-added service (home deliveries) can be detrimental to business interests in terms of distance and quantum of purchase.  
    • Mobile Based Ordering: With the rise of e-commerce companies, more grocery stores are accepting customer orders on mobile phones. But such an arrangement can backfire if there are no standardized procedures implemented. Grocery stores must be able to cater to customers even when there is a substantial rise in orders. Such situations can be remedied ideally if there is a standard set of procedures in place for mobile orders. The document would make the staff fairly conversant in providing better customer service to the customer.

    Effectiveness of Customer Service SOPs for online & offline Grocery Stores

    Here we are going to focus on the effectiveness of customer service process improvement for both kinds of grocery stores i.e. online & offline:

    •  Reduced Customer Grievances: Once an SOP document is in place for customer service agents it becomes relatively easy for them to handle any kind of situation. This will reduce the number of dissatisfied customers, as their concerns would have been solved amicably by the SOP trained customer service team.
    •  Improves Customer Satisfaction: When every customer is served well in accordance with their preferences and sensitivities, it will substantially improve the level of customer satisfaction. It will significantly help in retaining a large chunk of customers, who could help spread the word about the brand through word-of-mouth.
    • Increased Probability of Retaining Customers: Customer service process map can be instrumental in gaining a dissatisfied customer. The SOP trained customer service agents will be able to act with a lot of tact and understanding in offering corrective measures to the customer. Such practices go a long way in enhancing the customer experience preventing any loss of sales from dissatisfied customers.    

    Conclusion

    Companies that are serious about offering exemplary customer service must embrace the idea of Process Manuals / SOP. An SOP for the customer service department is integral for improving customer service process management at the grocery store (online & offline). They are not required to do it on their own, rather they have to partner with a supermarket consulting firm like Your Retail Coach (YRC) who has in-house experts with academic training and experience in devising system-integrated SOPs for both online and offline grocery stores.

    If you happen to be a grocery brand that seeks to improve customer service and take it to the next level then consider partnering with retail consulting firms. YRC have in-house expertise in online reputation management, brand reputation monitoring, customer care automation, customer service process flowchart, customer service process map, customer service process improvement, and customer service process management.

     

    PROCESS AUTOMATION

    The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

    In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

    Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

    Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

    YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

    VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

    No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

    Photography includes the following steps:

    • Cataloguing your products
    • Cataloguing your images
    • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
    • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

    DIGITAL MARKETING

    Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

    Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

    These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

    Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

    This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

    IT INTEGRATION

    Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

    YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

    IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

    This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

    Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

    WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

    • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
    • Where should your Warehouse be located?
    • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
    • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
    • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
    • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
    • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
    • How much space do I require for warehouse?
    • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

     

    At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

    We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

    Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

    UI & UX DESIGNING

    This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

    Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

    From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

    Part 2: UX Designing:

    “UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

    UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

    “As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

    An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

    Part 3: UI Designing:

    UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

    A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

    The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

    If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

    At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

    SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

    This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

    In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

    Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

    Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

    Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

    Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

    Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

    Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

    PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

    Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

    Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

    • In-house Design Team
    • Freelance Designers
    • Outsourced Design Team
    • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

    At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

    These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

    If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

    Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

    BRANDING

    Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

    Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

    It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

    ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

    Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

    SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

    At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

    CRITICAL PATHWAY

    Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

    CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

    CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

    At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

    BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

    Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

    Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

    Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

    YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

    MARKET RESEARCH

    Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.