While Lockdown Level 4 saw online shopping reintroduced for essential goods only, Level 3 has seen an almost entire reactivation of the sector. With all allowable goods becoming available online once again, this has led to a substantial surge in cyber shopping which many consumers feel is safer.
However, stresses Aimee Miller, Sales and Marketing Manager for online retailer, Teljoy: “Social distancing requirements for online shopping are as important as those for within shops themselves.
“It’s imperative for even online operators to have the strictest safety protocols in place for collections and deliveries between warehouse and customer. This is key to protecting the health and safety of both retail teams and the households to whom they provide goods and services.”
Although Teljoy has been in the business of providing electronics, home appliances and furniture on a rent‐to‐own model for more than 50 years, it also has extensive experience in online retail, having moved its entire operation from bricks‐and‐mortar stores to an exclusively online operation in 2014.
Because of this, many of the ways in which Teljoy operated even before Covid‐19 has enabled the company to move smoothly into a safety regime, but in turn it has now also put into place even more stringent safety protocols in line with regulations across its entire delivery chain.
To ensure consumers across South Africa are protected as far as possible during online deliveries, Miller therefore has the following suggestions for them to check with their online suppliers before engaging in online purchases and subsequent deliveries.
- How will payment be handled?
Miller suggests that an exchange of actual cash be avoided, and customers should rather deal with suppliers that enable payments via EFT or from within an online shopping app. “Transactions with customers, from their placing of orders, to setting up monthly debit orders for month‐to‐month contracts, and keeping them informed of the progress of their orders and deliveries, should ideally all be done online. There should not be an exchange of cash at any step along the way.”
- What safety measures are in place for deliveries?
All drivers and delivery staff will be wearing masks and face shields, and have with them and use hand sanitiser.
“We encourage that delivery team members be trained, so that when they arrive at a home to deliver and often even unbox and install big ticket items like fridges or television, customers are encouraged to stand two metres away during the process,” says Miller. “They should also ask that any other people in the house remove themselves from the area of installation.”
If, for any reason, the customer chooses to unbox and install the item themselves, Miller recommends that the customer sanitises the unit as a precaution and wipes it down with a soft cloth, noting that: “Sanitizing and hygiene protocols must be checked and followed specific to the product guidelines or care instructions as recommended by the manufacturer.”
And in terms of the delivery team returning to a depot (or the warehouse), or indeed at any time of the day including when they arrive for work in the morning, it should be mandatory that their temperatures are checked. “The same should be done whenever they leave the premises,” notes Miller.
- How will customers sign for goods?
There should be no need for any physical contact whatsoever during the delivery process, including signing to acknowledge receipt of the goods or the exchange of any paperwork.
“Retailers could, as an example, ask the delivery team to take a picture of the ID of the person receiving the goods if necessary,” explains Miller. “With Teljoy, we have also brought in a courier partner that uses GPS pin drops as proof of delivery.”
Proof of delivery would then be emailed to the customer thereafter, adds Miller, enabling a completely contactless, seamless process.
- Is there a system in place for the exchange, repair or refund of goods?
In some instances, if there is a need to replace or correct an order, or even return goods for a refund, the customer may be obliged to organise their own courier service.
“In a case where any of the items provided by a retailer needs some attention, the customer should have the liberty to simply make contact with the companies’ customer care line, says Miller. “For example, with us if a customer calls us (or emails) and we believe a repair may be all that is required, we will send one of our own technicians to repair the goods onsite – following similar safety protocols. Alternatively, we will take the unit away for repairs and, if the goods are essential to the household, such as a fridge, also deliver a loan unit until theirs is returned.”
Our process works just as smoothly if a customer cancels a contract, notes Miller: “As our contracts allow for cancellation and a request to return the unit at any time, we will once again send our own team to recollect the item, under the same stringent safety regulations.
“Invariably, we’re delivering big ticket items into people’s homes, so we are very diligent about our safety protocols. And we have both our customers to think about as well as our staff, who are part of our family. We’ve got to keep everyone safe.”