It’s inevitable that you’re going to face rush orders.
How you handle them can make or break your profits and reputation – and impact your customer retention efforts. Here are three proven ways you can handle quick-turn custom orders with ease and professionalism.
1. DEFINE, UNDERSTAND AND MAINTAIN PROJECT SCOPE
Define your work process, and share that with your client. Start by breaking down the details into manageable steps. What’s the promotion’s goal? What are the success markers? What are the problem areas or pain points a client has had with other distributors or suppliers in the past? Carefully addressing these issues first means getting the product designed, created and delivered on time.
Maintain a close connection with your customer, actively plan timelines and choose products and concepts that work within your timeframe. “Communication is critical – it’s important that the supplier and distributor communicate regularly and effectively for a smooth production, testing, logistics and delivery process,” says Mark St. Peter, a Greater China import executive and marketing manager.
2. TROUBLESHOOT FOR SUCCESS
You’ve handled the known factors – dates, quantities, size and function of the product and so on. Variables arise when you consider client expectations. This is an area where you can not only deliver, but also exceed projections. Even during a rush order, anticipating client needs sets you apart from the competition.
Greater China recently had a large plush project whose legal approval was delayed. “We worked around this bottleneck by producing samples prior to release of the purchase order,” St. Peter says. “Since our distributor client was already in China visiting a trade show, she was able to drop by the factory and approve the pre-production samples on the spot. When the approval finally came and the purchase order was released, the factory could go to production immediately to make the in-hand date.”
3. KEEP IT REAL
Being realistic is an often-overlooked aspect of delivering rush orders. End-buyers may need to be reined in, and that’s your responsibility. “To deliver a true rush project, there needs to be no hesitation from the distributor or their client,” says Greater China President and CEO Ben Zhang. “If your client is unsure what they need, doesn’t have a set timeline or their decision-makers aren’t prepared to make calls on function, approvals or payments, this slows the overall process, creating delays.”
Also, is your supplier aboveboard? Many distributors cut costs by working with a low-cost supplier. But saving money on one end can create extra cost on another. A reliable partner may prove more economical in the long run. Big picture thinking can save you – and ultimately, your customer – time, money and headaches. “What if the low-cost supplier comes to you last minute to say they can’t ship on time?” Zhang says. “Or the quality isn’t quite up to the sample your client approved? Suddenly you’re looking at airfreight to make delivery, and the low-cost supplier isn’t so low-cost anymore.”
Greater China recommends evaluating manufacturing partners for communication, sense of urgency, quality, ease of process and capabilities. “When a project is a rush, all the moving parts have to work together to make the project happen,” Zhang says.