Explicit Instructions Solve Order Issues

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List management and brokerage companies place more than 100,000 list rental orders each year. With magnetic tapes and cartridges being phased out by e-mail and file transfer protocol, turnaround time is falling from the standard four or five working days to one or two days.


In turn, many mailers are giving brokers less time to reach absolute cutoffs and are planning merges and mail dates with less room for error. This leaves less time for order instructions to be read thoroughly and has order processors concentrating on key features like quantity, pricing and return date.


The professionals who make up this industry are up to the task and continue to process hundreds of orders correctly each day efficiently make tight deadlines. However, as many in the industry will attest, there are a few orders each year that cause us to buy lottery tickets and wish for a life without mailboxes.


Many of these are delayed by circumstances out of our control such as an error on a magnetic tape, waiting for an update, prepayment requirements, internal differences between a list owner and a mailer, or waiting for a list owner's approval. With situations such as these, there may be nothing more a list professional can do but inform all parties of the status and wait.


The rest of these orders are the ones that cause the most stress. These are the orders that take two dozen phone calls over three or four days only to find out the order will be canceled or miss a cutoff date. To reduce these rogue orders, placing detailed special instructions on any order that may be considered uncommon is effective.


Orders such as exchanges and reciprocal rentals should include extra instructions to clarify any possible confusion in the future. It is a good idea to type the exchange balance on each order to avoid going back through five years of orders and adding up each quantity. If the exchange is for something other than name for name, make sure it is typed on the order. For instance, if an order is placed for a quantity of names in exchange for space in a card deck, type the amount of cards that are being mailed in exchange for the quantity of names, and for which card deck and what dates it will be mailed.


Reciprocal rental orders can become a problem if extra instructions are not included. Though many list brokers and managers place reciprocal rentals regularly, there is no set industry definition for the term reciprocal rental. After checking with SRDS, mIn, the Direct Marketing Association and numerous other industry sources, I was unable to find an official definition. Webster's dictionary defines reciprocal as: "returning the same way." This may sound straightforward but it still leaves room for confusion if specific instructions are left off the order.


Criteria such as quantity, pricing and net arrangements should all be typed on the order. These instructions will save you from any disagreements regarding the definition of reciprocal rental. Pat Patten, a list broker at Alan Drey Co., defines a reciprocal rental as, "Equal pricing and net deal but not quantity." Others may include equal quantity in their definition. Do not assume your counterpart has the same definition as you.


While orders are being processed, you may want to write on your copy any contact names, dates and even the time of day or specific quotes so you have more than just your memory to go on if a problem arises. If you can tell someone, "I spoke to you on May 5 at 11 a.m. You told me that your boss, John Smith, approved the order and it was shipping later that day," you will have a much better chance of fixing an order in your favor as opposed to saying, "Someone there told me it should ship around May 5."


Being as helpful as possible to one another can also be a major advantage during problem situations. Many professionals in this industry have worked as both a list broker and list manager and understand the constraints put on each position.


List brokers should understand that managers are working for list owners and quite often have to wait for their list owner to get back to them with approval. Many list owners are in and out of their offices, and when they are in they have little time to approve a list rental clearance or call back a list manager.


List managers should know that brokers are working for mailers with an absolute cutoff and mail date set. Mailers may use more than one brokerage company, so a broker may have extra pressure to perform well knowing that the amount of orders received for the next mail plan may depend upon the broker's current performance.


With commissions and reputations on the line, no one likes to see orders canceled. Remember that while working through a problem order, all parties want to work out a result that will keep relationships working in the future. One order is not worth hurting future business. If an order causes tempers to flare between a manager and broker, it may be wise to have the list owner contact the mailer directly to work out a solution.


By incorporating a few extra lines within the special instructions of an order, taking more detailed notes during an order's course and understanding each other's position, you should be able to avoid a few problem orders each year and enjoy your job a little more.


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