2017 was a year for learning. Over the course of the last 12 months we have learned a lot about accounting like we talked about last week, and next on the list is customer communication/inventory management. We have come to realize, that in this industry people are generally kind and understanding. The very nature of the business being in Children’s apparel lends itself well to people generally being caring and involved in families, etc.
With this said, we realize that when we do have problems we just need to communicate well. We had some small problems here and there with small mistakes that we made, but the biggest issue that we had that affected customers was our inventory management. In hindsight, I am realizing that inventory was the main issue, but I turned it into a bigger issue when I didn’t communicate with customers quickly.
Why did we have inventory issues? The long and short of it is that we weren’t handling orders correctly. We receive orders from reps, our retail website, our wholesale website, emails from customers, and phone calls. There were times that I received an order and I wanted to get it out immediately, and I did! The problem was that with orders coming from all these different places, we didn’t make sure that all orders went through one spot.
The one spot that orders go through now is our inventory management system called trade gecko. It is a great tool for managing orders and making sure that all inventory is accounted for. Even after we put this in there were sometimes that I would enter sales directly into quickbooks. This made a mess! At the end of all the inventory issues, it really was a matter of tracking inventory in one place and processing orders in one place. We aren’t perfect yet, but we have made some great improvements and are on our way to making sure we streamline the way we process orders and make sure that we take care of our customers.
So that was the source of the problem, but the real issue came when it was time to communicate with our customers. I would write down the issues we had with orders and put it on my desk. There were too many times that our customers received the orders before I called them to let them know we had an issue with inventory. This caused a lot of confusion and a lot of feeling of “They are trying to take advantage of me” type situations.
So what are we doing about it? First and foremost, we are working on fixing the problem at the core. We are managing our orders better than before and we have become strict about if an item is being taken out of the shelf, it must have an order entered. Secondly, we are communicating more quickly. If we have an issue, we want to send an email at the time it is shipped so that you know what to expect.
We hope you are hearing this message loud and clear by now, but we want you to be successful. We find that this is a very serious issue that when you are unsure about what is going on with your order, it will take time and energy away from the rest of your business. We are committed to working hard for you and we have begun to communicate better than we ever have.
Thanks for joining us this week and have a great weekend!