How businesses can use the cloud to connect with their customers

How can small businesses ensure cloud technology improves relations with their customers?

By e commerce cloud specialists James and James Fulfilment

Cloud-based technology enables real-time access to potentially huge quantities of data, and is accessible from any location. That much is familiar to many business leaders today.

What is less well known is that Cloud systems are now becoming available right through the supply chain, connecting the end user with the manufacturer / supplier – with no breaks needed for slow manual processes.

Many businesses will also be familiar with the advantages of outsourcing key services, including their warehouse storage and fulfilment operations. This typically delivers economic benefits and saves time, while being more flexible for future growth needs.  However, today’s systems typically fall short when it comes to answering customer queries about the status of an order. Customer service agents need to spend time calling the warehouse to ask for updates, and this can typically take from half an hour to several hours, during which time the end customer becomes increasingly frustrated. As so often these days, Internet technology may be expected to come to the rescue. A cloud-enabled fulfilment system can deliver a fully joined-up approach, with benefits for the retailer and customer alike.

eCommerce platforms are now very slick, and customers are accustomed to a high level of service and responsiveness up to the point where they place their order. After that however, things can start to slow down.  After the confirmation of order email has been received, any further updates may have to wait until the courier has a date for delivery of the goods. An urgent requirement may trigger a phone call or email to the vendor, and events then proceed as described above, frustrating for the customer and inefficient for the vendor.

A cloud system shares the live data of a transaction between all parties in the fulfilment chain, so rapid accurate tracking of orders is possible. Cambridge company James and James Fulfilment has developed a completely new kind of warehouse management system, specifically to meet the demands of eCommerce. Starting with the architecture that underpins the best-in-class eCommerce systems, they built the foundations of a fulfilment platform in the cloud. The result is one single online approach that all users can access simultaneously – think Gmail versus Outlook. Operators in the warehouses can work on the same underlying data as the clients and customer service agents around the world, and at the same time. By providing live reporting, order status updates and tracking information, cloud systems make a huge difference to the efficiency of answering customer service queries, which can now typically be completed while they are on the phone.

Retailers are freed from the need for complex web servers with local back-up and security worries, mirrored by equally complex arrangements at the warehouse end. Each part of the chain is able to access the same data through the cloud in real time, even from mobile devices such as tablets.

While this is a great improvement, a final step is needed to join up the process completely. A new ViewPort feature from James and James gives retailers an even greater competitive advantage for customer service. The moment an order is placed by an end customer, a tracking page can be emailed to them. This page displays all the events in their order’s journey through the warehouse, keeping the customer in the picture – from the moment they pay to the moment their order is delivered. No need to phone, all the information is shared securely and live in the Cloud. Information could include batch number or freshness dating information, as well as details such as the name of the person who picked and packed the consignment, the time at each step, and so on. All data is kept completely secure through modern encryption techniques. As the Cloud system is located on servers in modern high performance data centres, high levels of uptime are guaranteed. 

Early adopters of the cloud approach include suppliers of horticultural products, luxury goods such as watches and high value shoes, e-cigarette suppliers and healthcare product e-retailers.

Retailers wanting to reduce their headaches while providing customers with a slicker, more personalised service may find the answer in the cloud.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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Cloud Technology