I’ve decided to document the process I go through while preparing to host a shipping event where over 1000 packages get mailed out in a single day. I’m doing it because I think it might be interesting to any other small businesses out there who may need to attempt something similar. I’m also doing it for my own record. Someday, when we can afford to have other people do the shipping for us, I want to be able to remember what it was like. Also there is the chance that for some future shipping event, I will be unavailable. Then this series of entries can serve as a starting point for someone else to manage the job.
So. Here goes.
Collection of orders:
Our store is managed by volusion.com. They’ve been very good to us and their customer support has been excellent. There are many other store options available, but we’ve been happy with volusion. Like any other piece of complex software, the store has some quirks. Prior to opening orders I spend a day making sure that all the products have been entered correctly. I run test orders to make sure that postage is being calculated correctly. This time we were offering t-shirts, posters, mousepads, and magnets at the same time as books. I had to make sure that the inventory tracking functions of the store were working properly so that we don’t sell more than we have of any particular item.
Then we open orders and I have a steady flow of email from customers needing help. This shows me the weak spots in the system. I answer questions and clarify product descriptions to make sure that other people don’t have to ask the same question. Helping customers is rewarding. I love being able to solve the problems with a few clicks of my mouse.
One of the challenges of a pre-order period is that some of the orders have to be held for shipment later. Other orders do not contain a pre-ordered item and need to be shipped right away. The disadvantage of our volusion store is that it is not set up to manage mass mailings. It can handle high volume, but it is optimized for people who expect to turn around and ship out orders immediately. The best way I’ve found to keep track of which orders need to go out now and which need to be mailed, is to print out the paper invoices. These invoices have to be printed anyway because they have to be included with the orders. Fortunately the store has a batch function that lets me print a stack of invoices all at once. So each morning I print out the orders that came in the day before. I go through the stack and pull out any of the orders that do not contain pre-ordered items. Those get shipped out the same day. The remainder of the invoices get put into my file box.
Each invoice has and order number on it. I keep them in numerical order, 200 sheets per hanging folder. This allows me to pull and modify invoices as customers make requests. If two orders are to be combined, those two invoices get clipped together with a paper clip. If a person is moving, but doesn’t have the new address, I put a post-it note on the invoice detailing the situation and put the invoice in the “special handling” folder. That “special handling” folder is for all the orders that have specific instructions or need special attention. I make extensive use of post-it notes to make sure that all the customer needs are clearly labeled on the invoices. This is necessary because my brain gets too frazzled to remember everything.
Once all the sketch edition orders have come in, I begin to sort. Sorting will be the topic for the next post. Phase 2 Sorting