I was recently thinking back to the presentation myself & Lynne gave on innovation in our business over the past 13 years.
We broke our talk down into 4 main components: Product, Process, Delivery & Service so I thought I'd do a quick recap of how we got on in 2014. Each year always culminates with our busiest time of year, Christmas, when the strategies you have in place are really put to the test.
Product - we were better prepared than ever this Christmas, with the majority of baskets and hampers being in stock earlier & at all times. Certain lines didn't sell as well as previous years, and other lines sold better than before so there was a certain amount of reallocation of resources that had to go on. We are always happy to accommodate changes/additions to gift baskets, although this is more difficult in December when many hampers are pre-packed. A change means creating a basket from scratch & so this is more time consuming. We also faced a problem of the bamboo hampers we had ordered not arriving in the numbers we needed. This is when we came up with the idea for the attractive lid to seal the basket as a hamper instead as we hadn't been as happy with the quality of bamboo compared to the more expensive wicker hampers.
Process - the processes of production and dispatch were also more streamlined than ever before. New flooring and the rental of addition space on a temporary basis helped the warehouse to operate at full capacity. There was still an incident involving the keys to the forklift being temporarily misplaced, but we'll not focus on that! We focused on rewarding our core staff members for working additional hours as well as bringing in extra casual staff. We had learnt from previous years that fewer full time helpers are more productive that lots of part time helpers, as they can't get up to speed quickly without continuous shifts. Website and IT improvements also made ordering to multiple addresses more fluid for our customers & locating orders within the production process faster for our staff . We also had extra printers available this year to enable our office staff to print the delivery paperwork more quickly as more people could work on the same courier system without the risk of mixing labels up.
Delivery - This year we added another delivery company into the mix and were able to deliver right up until Christmas Eve. We were also able to keep the next day delivery option on further into December than ever before, as our turnaround time was faster than usual for that time of year. In December we cannot usually offer the full tracking service we do throughout the rest of the year, but still provide our customers with the details so they can track orders themselves. This year we persuaded our IT & Design Students to expand their skills into Customer Services and assist with tracking & re-delivery requests.
Service - Our new live chat and phone system was a major improvement for us this year, as it meant we could have multiple Customer Services reps assisting on the phones & chat system at once rather than an engaged/busy tone/sign. This increased the number of orders we could take and the number of customers we could assist who had questions prior to or post ordering.
In conclusion, we were more organised and efficient than ever before. When you are planning for Christmas you need to estimate the number of sales you are going to make and have the stock in place to fulfill these. Then when the orders start coming in you need to be careful not to overtrade and take more orders than you can cope with. In 2013 we turned sales off once we reached a point of saturation, whereas in 2014 we could have continued trading further due to our organisation & stock availability. The aim for 2015 is to go for that growth now that we know we have the processes in place to succeed at fulfilling even more Christmas hamper orders.