How to Ship VoIP and Networking Gear to Your Customers
Providers take one of two approaches when setting up a new hosted service. The first follows the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, where customers… continue below
Providers take one of two approaches when setting up a new hosted service. The first follows the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, where customers can use their own independently purchased hardware. The second is more exclusive: the provider operates a solution compatible with specific hardware. Unlike the BYOD approach, the responsibility falls to the provider to equip their customers.
If your service mandates the use of specific products, you will have to ship them to your customers. But finding an affordable, reliable shipping vendor can be challenging. Use the information in this article to identify the needs of your own business so that you may accurately qualify shipping vendors.
To Provision Before or After
Many distribution partners double as shipping vendors. Through them, you can purchase and send hardware directly to your customers. Besides streamlining the process, you also unlock preferred pricing and receive shipment protection.
Unfortunately, shipping through your distribution partner does not always work. If you provision equipment for your customers, you must act as the middleman. In this role, your business receives, sets up and repackages the gear before sending it to the customer. Although an extra step, provisioning does relieve technical stresses for the customer.
How to Pick a Local Shipping Vendor
If you do not use the shipping channels available through your distribution partner, you must find suitable local shipping vendors to pick up and drop off your packages.
Many providers mistakenly look at price when comparing vendors. Although cost is important, you need to assess various other criteria.
- Promptness: How frequently shipments go out and on what schedule (i.e. regular mail, express, etc.).
- Tracking: The ability to see a parcel’s location in transit.
- Preferred Pricing: Discounts available for repeat and high-traffic business.
- Insurance: Content replacement guarantees should packages get damaged, lost or stolen.
- Customer Service: How easily you can schedule shipments.
Should You Charge the Customer for Shipment?
In an interview with Entrepreneur, Steven Strauss argues: “Shipping shouldn’t be a profit center, or customers will resent it.” Sundry businesses agree with his opinion, offering free shipping programs and discounts. But is the free shipping model always feasible?
A 2010 survey by Jupiter found that 45% of its sample audience lost money in shipping while an equal segment profited. Only 10% broke even. Many conglomerates like Amazon happily cover shipping to beat out competitors, encourage large orders and build loyalty. Although a prime example for retailers, the lesson extends to service providers.
Free or at-cost shipping makes sense for service providers because it lets the customer adopt the service quickly and painlessly. The faster you equip your customers, the better. The smaller the financial commitment they must make, the more willing they are to stick with your service. There is a narrow window of time during which customers trial your solution. If it proves too expensive or difficult, they will wander.