F. Curtis Barry & Co.

Avoid Fulfillment Woes
September 1, 2006

How to use a warehouse assessment to improve customer service and decrease costs. Your warehouse this past holiday season was near capacity; you made it through the season, but it wasn’t pretty. The marketing plans for the new year and next holiday are up considerably. The executive committee of your multichannel company has made a decision that the company must meet the aggressive sales plan, and you have to find ways to stay in this facility for at least one more year. You have two months to come up with a new operational plan. What are you going to do? A key starting point

Operations: Two industry veterans share their insights on using Benchmarks & Best Practices
March 1, 2006

A catalog executive suffers from no shortage of metrics to watch for: from average order value to e-mail inquiry turnaround times to indirect labor costs to number of calls answered in 20 seconds or less. The real questions, though, are how to use the numbers, and if the metrics even are appropriate to track for your operations. Comparing operations solely on numbers can be misleading. Is it better to establish a set of best practices and then hold your staff accountable to them? Donna Loyle, editor in chief of Catalog Success, asked two catalog operations experts for their thoughts on such questions:

Get Ready for the Holiday 2005 Sales Season
April 1, 2005

Facilitated largely by the Internet, consumers have been ordering gifts later in the holiday season. Indeed, 20 percent of consumers reported they started their online shopping later in 2004 than in 2003, according to the 2004 Shop.org/BizRate.com Online Holiday Mood Study. Shop.org also reported that 46 percent of online retailers offered express shipping promotions the week of Dec. 19, no doubt adding more pressure to their already full holiday workloads. These trends can cause some rather drastic spikes and accompanying problems in any catalog business. During the past several years, we’ve heard horror stories of poorly planned operations resulting in excessive order

Stow It for Less
July 1, 2004

Absolute productivity has declined in many companies in recent years. Indeed, in conducting our benchmarking surveys (which we’ve done since 1996), we’ve discovered that many metrics, such as orders processed per full-time warehouse worker, have remained flat, while dollars of sales processed per warehouse square foot have declined. In turn, labor rates have increased from an average of $5.50 to $10.50 per direct labor hour.* To help you boost productivity at your catalog, I’ll focus on the warehouse audit process and the application of a few key warehouse success factors. An Operations Audit When trying to reduce costs and boost customer satisfaction

The Customer Touchpoint
June 1, 2004

Hiring and retaining qualified staff in the right numbers can be perennial problems for those who own and manage catalog contact centers. With more and more emphasis on customer service as a competitive differentiator, finding and keeping the right staffers to deal with your customers is critical to cataloging success. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer or approach that can work for everyone. But here’s a list of best practices and software solutions that may help. Best Practices for the Hiring Process • Pre-employment testing. This can predict how an individual will react in certain situations and his or her style of relating to others.

Roundup: Catalog Fulfillment and Operations
April 1, 2004

Inside you’ll find: cost-cutting strategies for your fulfillment operations; how to protect your inventory from internal theft; how to assess your catalog systems options; and how to determine your optimal IT spend. Get Lean Successful cost-cutting strategies for your catalog fulfillment operations. By William J. Spaide Lackluster operating performance in your catalog’s fulfillment operations can result from a combination of factors: poor productivity, inefficient processes, and unanticipated marketing and merchandise results. Failure to identify early warning signs of trouble and, more importantly, not addressing these problems decisively and effectively, are common characteristics of the operational “also-rans.” It all comes down to a

Contact Centers: Keep the Hub Humming
April 1, 2003

No doubt your catalog’s customer contact center has changed dramatically in the past five years. Your employees probably now support e-commerce initiatives, respond to e-mailed correspondence, track outbound customer shipments, access digital product images via the Internet or terminal-based systems, and much more. Before you plot your contact center’s future strategies, answer these three basic questions: 1. How are you defining, measuring and improving customer service? Every cataloger preaches the gospel of customer service, but how does your corporate culture uniquely deliver it? 2. With your increased use of technology, have your productivity levels also risen? In many companies, productivity rates

Develop Better Shipping Plans
March 1, 2003

The following is a checklist to help you develop cost-effective and customer service-oriented shipping plans. The direct-to-consumer in-dustry finds itself at a crossroads in terms of shipping and handling (S&H) policies and charges. Specifically, some studies show consumers are refusing to place orders if the S&H charges are perceived to be out of line with those charged by competitors. But S&H is a necessity for most catalogers. It often represents 8 percent to 10 percent of a catalog’s average order and net sales, and it offsets some of the pick-and-pack labor, outbound freight charges, and packing materials needed to ship consumers their orders.