Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


The difficulty of providing order tracking

It’s not often that you see a press release dedicated to celebrating the addition of an Order Tracking capability to a manufacturer’s website.  In fact, in the 15 or so years that I’ve been in the SAP B2B eCommerce business, I can’t ever remember seeing a single one!  So when TMI, LLC took the time to tell the world that they had done just that, I thought I’d better investigate a little further.

First of all, I need to applaud the newly appointed President and CEO of TMI, Frank J. Mummolo, for recognizing the importance of great customer service to his business.  He expressed it perfectly when he said:

“At TMI, we continually strive to provide a comprehensive and superior customer experience, from the time an order is placed and throughout the lifecycle of the product.  It is not enough to help a customer when they are placing an order.  We want to be there for them continually so that they know TMI is fully committed to their satisfaction”.

We at b2b2dot0 couldn’t agree more!  His company’s execution of this capability is an entirely different story.

I applaud TMI’s initial efforts to improve their customer service capabilities, but I sincerely hope they don’t think they’re done rolling out enhancements to their website.  While they may declare that they’ve rolled out “an advanced order tracking system”, I think they’ve just brought their website up to date with the expectations that we had in the later part of the 1990’s.  Here’s why I think so:

  1. Customers can only track orders that were delivered by only one of their shippers, C.H. Robinson.
  2. If you want to track any other shipper, according to the TMI website,  “If the Ship Via field (in your order confirmation email) is UPS or another LTL carrier, please call TMI Customer Service…”  Seriously?
  3. There is no capability to search and view all of your orders.  You have to work off of your individual email confirmations.  I’m only assuming that because there is no obvious way to “log in” to the website. 
  4. You have to navigate away from the TMI website (they provide a convenient link to do so) and go to the C.H. Robinson site to use their order tracking capability. I hope the TMI website developers didn’t work overtime to deliver this feature.  Seriously.  Navigate a user away from your website?  That can’t be good for business.
  5. You have to manually enter the Customer Reference Number on the C.H. Robinson website.  Which, by the way, according to the C.H. Robinson website “In order to search reference numbers that contain commas, you must put quotation marks around the number to receive exact results.”  That’s user friendly.  Not!

So what’s really going on here?  Bottom line… TMI spent more energy on the press release than they did on the website upgrade.

I think TMI has some really cool products and excellent customer service ambitions, but they certainly lack an eCommerce vision and are clearly not up to the challenge of executing one.  Frankly, they’re not alone.  We see this all the time in the “industrial” market.  These laggard companies barely have the energy to maintain a “brochure” website that informs the market about their products.  They are totally outclassed trying to deliver transactional support for the order to cash cycle on their websites.

That’s where we come in.

It’s now 2011 and we’ve learned a thing or two since 1996. Things really aren’t that bad in the B2B eCommerce world and we’d be more than happy to help TMI create and execute a world class eCommerce strategy.  They’d have to get on SAP first :-).


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