All wrapped up
eParcel from Australia Post
Article courtesy of Australia Post (Priority magazine, Apr/May 2009). Copyright Australian Postal Corporation. Photo Richard Whitbread.
From online retailers to large manufacturers, thousands of businesses are using Australia Post’s eParcel service to deliver parcels around Australia.
Developed in the early 1990s, when electronic freight management first came onto the scene, eParcel has been constantly evolving to keep pace with increasing customer expectations around delivery.
eParcel is currently one of Australia Post’s fastest-growing parcel services – a fact that doesn’t surprise Chris Koo, Australia Post Group Manager, Parcels.
“eParcel is incredibly easy to use for businesses of all sizes. Most businesses choose to use our online application and complimentary labels that can be used in any office laser printer. We also offer a full integration service for larger companies who want to integrate their existing systems with the eParcel service, and we provide support with setup and testing,” explains Chris.
Ongoing support for all eParcel users is then provided via either the nationwide customer call centre or an Australia Post account representative.
According to Chris, eParcel’s delivery reach makes it an immensely popular service. “eParcel reaches an extensive network of homes, businesses and post office boxes around Australia. It’s also cost-effective and has no hidden charges, such as account management fees, minimum consignment charges, re-delivery fees or fuel levies.”
“eParcel is an economical way for businesses to send freight to other businesses. Prices generally compare very favourably with traditional ‘road express’ services from our competitors.”
Stay on track
One of the key benefits of eParcel, available for businesses sending more than 1,000 parcels per year, is the ability to print off address labels assigned with a unique barcode number. Because the barcode is scanned throughout the delivery process, businesses can use the Internet to track the delivery and view proof-of-delivery signatures.
A large number of businesses use the consignment number generated with their eParcel lodgement to send to the recipient so they can independently track the parcel’s delivery status.
“Significant upgrades are being made to eParcel’s tracking system this year, which will mean customers will get an even greater level of delivery information.”
eParcel also reduces the paperwork that is usually associated with sending out multiple or large volumes of parcels.
“Businesses using eParcel constantly comment on how simple the process is, because everything from printing address labels, manifests and customs documentation through to calculating postage rates is done electronically,” says Chris.
The service also enables consignment files, such as customer details, to be imported and it is possible to store name and address details of regular customers, which means no re-keying of data.
“We’ve also built in additional functionality for customers using eParcel, including the ability to instantly obtain delivery charge and time estimates. This feature is great for businesses that want to let their customers know the exact cost of a delivery and the time it should take to arrive.”
There is also a range of add-on options for businesses using eParcel, including the ability to send parcels using the Express Post next business-day delivery network.
“Being able to access Australia Post’s Express Post service has been a real boon for customers wanting to send out large volumes of parcels using a fast delivery method,” says Chris.
The eParcel Cash To Collect option allows goods to be sent to a customer and the payment to be collected by Australia Post and transferred electronically back to the business.
Businesses can also access Australia Post’s range of international service options, including Express Courier International; Express Post International – Parcels; and Air Mail – Parcels. Labels and manifests are electronically produced and customs documentation is printed making lodgement of international orders easy.
And, for those after peace of mind, Transit Cover provides insurance for loss or damage up to $5,000. “This is popular with our mail order wine clients, who like the security of knowing that they are covered for any mishap,” says Chris.
“We’ve been extremely pleased with the strong uptake of eParcel and the feedback we get from our customers. Our focus for the future is about adding new functionality and options, and rolling out our new tracking system.”
Making it as easy as possible for Australian customers to access a repair-and-return service was top of mind when Apple set up its mail-in repair service with Australia Post four years ago.
Using Australia Post’s Post Return service, Apple customers can bring items such as iPods, iPod accessories and computer peripherals for repair to one of Australia Post’s 4,453 post offices around the country. When ready, repaired items are then returned to the customer via e-Parcel.
The process starts with the consumer logging on to the Apple website to establish whether their item is still under warranty. After answering a series of questions, the customer is prompted to print a Post Returns label, which includes instructions to take the item to the nearest post office.
At the post office, the item is packaged at no cost to the person lodging the parcel and sent to Apple’s central service centre. The customer is given a receipt as proof of lodgement.
Apple then returns the item to the customer using Australia Post’s eParcel service. “This solution has been the right fit for our business model,” says an Apple spokesperson. “The use of Australia Post’s retail network and eParcel service gives us the security of knowing the items will be handled professionally and in a manner that meets our commitment to customer service.”
eParcel’s ability to obtain signature on delivery and provide delivery status via the Internet is a key benefit to Apple. Australia Post helped to set up the third-party logistics IT systems with eParcel to ensure that the return of customer products is fully integrated with Apple’s business process.
Bargain hunters have fallen in love with online retailer DealsDirect. With the claim of offering its stock at up to 80 per cent less than retail prices, the Sydney-based business is today sending out around 1.5 million orders a year and servicing a customer base of more than 500,000 active buyers.
So what has been the secret to this online department store’s success and astounding 40 per cent annual growth rate? The company’s new CEO, Simon West , whose previous role was as managing director of a large direct marketing business, attributes a lot to creating a useable website and providing outstanding delivery.
“Our website has excellent functionality: it’s easy to check out and we’ve put a lot of thought into the layout of the key navigational functions,” he says. Live chat was introduced last year to enable real-time response to customers and there are updates to the site on a daily basis.
DealsDirect has also been an industry leader when it comes to implementing customer relationship marketing campaigns. “We have a number of activities underway to make sure relevant offers are presented to customers based on demography, behaviour and their life stage as a customer,” he says.
Logistics have been a key focus since the business started in 2004 (it operated for five years previously as AuctionBrokers Australia on eBay).
“We worked hard to set up a logistics model that remained flexible to meet increasing volumes and also fed into quality suppliers,” Simon explains.
Today, DealsDirect offers around 5,000 different products across 27 categories, which equates to a busy and complex fulfilment process. The online retailer has established a dedicated 22,000 square metre warehouse that handles the picking, packing and despatching.
“We chose eParcel to handle the majority of our online orders,” explains Simon. “It has made high volume distribution to consumers very manageable for us, especially as we continue to grow.”
Express Post eParcel was used during Christmas 2008 to enable customers to order right up to the last minute.
“It was a great option for speedy delivery and we will definitely use it again,” says Simon.
According to Simon, the key features that impress DealsDirect customers include signature on delivery, the ability to check delivery status online and the safe keeping of parcels at the post office if no one is at home. “We also get excellent account management.”
“Maintaining a positive customer experience through our third-party suppliers is important and we’ve been impressed with the service provided by Australia Post,” says Simon.
As for the future, Simon is particularly optimistic. “We’ve got our core business working well and there are many positive technology developments that will boost online retailing, not to mention the time when generation Z become credit card holders!”
Simon West, CEO of Deals Direct