It usually takes a lot of work to turn a prospect into a first time buyer, let alone a customer. After all of that, why do so many organizations drop the ball at the one yard line and fail to properly fulfill the order?
Cases in point:
In the current (2008) Presidential Campaign, MoveOn.org is soliciting interest by offering free Barack Obama stickers and buttons on various web sites and search advertising. Curiously, especially for the late stages when the campaign is in high gear, the buttons come with the qualification that they will take 4 to 6 weeks to arrive. More curious, is that at the time of this posts, 10 weeks, they still haven’t arrived (If they ever do, we’ll update this posting). Neither the McCain campaign nor the Republican National Committee appear to offer anything for free, so we couldn’t go a comparable test. Clearly non-delivered buttons are not influencing undecided voters.
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation, created a lot of interest and buzz, when it announced its initiative to provide cheap portable computers to children in developing countries. Its $100 computer subsequently became its $200 computer, which cost $ 400 in the US, because a buyer had to donate the value of one computer to get the second one for himself. Regardless of the price, a significant number of the computers, were frequently lost, shipped to the wrong address, or simply not delivered. OLPC’s reputation and donations suffered. (They have formally acknowledged that fulfillment is not their competence and are outsourcing this to Amazon.com.)
All of us could add to this list. What gives? From our work with direct mail catalog merchants, we’ve seen that packing, shipping, tracking, taking returns, not to mention managing inventory, are demanding yet unglamorous. When fulfillment works, we seldom reward or even acknowledge it. On my wall calendar, October 22 is unclaimed. Perhaps we can make it National Celebrate Fulfillment Day.