Talking turkey: Prepping, shipping, and porting your phone


Submitted by Oaktree on Wed, 11/23/2011 – 7:38pm


Hello!  I’m Adam Oakley.  The teams I manage here at republic wireless are in charge of order fulfillment.  Who knew my area would be such a hot topic of late in our early beta community?!

The most common question we’ve been fielding in the office is, “When will I get my phone?” Nearly in tandem is, “How is my ship date determined?”  We thought perhaps we should pull ourselves out from behind the wall of inventory we’re shipping and the mounds of FedEx envelopes to provide some information about this part of republic.


First of all, I can confirm that yes we are indeed fulfilling orders ourselves, by hand, from a, very top secret, undisclosed location.  That’s so we can design process improvements and guarantee product quality firsthand.  Early on, we expect to unearth unexpected efficiencies, new process exceptions to handle and ways to train staff.  Meanwhile, of course, we’re working with our supply chain to prepare for much greater scale than we can handle ourselves.


Our fulfillment process yielded almost 100 units in its first week, and another 100 in the first day of its second week.  That ramp has continued since (although obviously not at quite that rate!), and now we’re preparing to start a second shift after Thanksgiving.  Your estimated ship date is in large part a function of what we projected our process could yield each week, and the number of temporary staff we’re scaling up and training to operate it.  Right now, we’re actually running ahead of schedule, with over 100 members shipping one week ahead of their 11/29 estimated ship date.


Second, we do process orders in first-come, first served order.  I’m going to qualify that in just a minute.  Our eCommerce system created a timestamp based on when you started the order process –regardless of whether you completed the purchase process, placed multiple orders, or have an incomplete order.  If you submitted more than one order, a different timestamp and a corresponding place in line were set for each additional order. If you came through, but your order was only partially recorded for any reason, we held your place in line.  When we opened the self-service order management tool in the My Account portal, we gave you the opportunity to cancel or confirm orders listed on your account.


Okay, now for that qualification.  Although we do create your place in line based on the timestamp, and we do process your order based on your place in line, we can’t ship that way in every case.  Some orders require more attention than others.  Porting causes the most common delay right now.


Porting is complicated, and we have to get it right.  It is, after all, your phone number and we know you can’t be without it for even a few minutes!  It seems so simple in the store, but the systems and processes behind it aren’t.  It’s not just republic that’s involved, but your soon-to-be-former carrier and some industry intermediaries as well.  While most numbers are not a problem, not every number can be ported into our core network.  Our Hybrid Calling technology also raises some new challenges to the traditional process (not much I can say about that without revealing confidential info, sorry).


We’re building automation to make porting faster, easier, and error-free.  When our systems are ready, we’ll be in touch with you individually, via email, to verify that you want to port.  In the process we’ll also confirm the porting information that you provided to ensure everything is all set to handle upon delivery of your phone.


Under the circumstances, with all the other new things we’re building up here at republic, we decided to be conservative about porting.  That’s why the earliest estimated ship date is December 8 amongst all the orders with porting requests. No, canceling your porting request now (available soon via My Account) won’t change your estimated ship date.  Why not? Because porting is just one of many steps we take to process your phone for shipping.  Changing around our shipping schedule on the fly would just complicate and slow down shipping for everyone.


On to the rest of the story, after assigning a new number (a temporary number if for a port), we root and flash each phone individually with the latest beta build.  As Tim shared, builds may be updated frequently during beta testing, and we want to ensure your phone has the latest without having to do an over-the-air update right out of the box.  Provisioning each phone properly with a number and ensuring that went as it should with our systems and Sprint’s is another complexity we’re ironing out, automating and streamlining in these early days.


After a series of quality checks, we then repackage the phone (using boxes we’ve turned inside out in batches previously), and apply some republic “flair.”  One of you has probably already documented all of that in an unboxing video that’s out there on the web by the time of this writing. (Our marketeers asked me to pass along that they hope you like the way they used our packaging to poke a bit more fun at our larger, more traditional competition).


To close, let me reiterate that our estimated shipping dates really are just that: estimates.  We have a lot to learn, and have tried to build that into our estimates.  As human beings, I can assure you we’ll make some mistakes and miss some beats in the early going.  That might result in your receiving your phone a week or more later than expected.  Please accept my apology in advance should that cause you any trouble.


As has been noted elsewhere, we’re in beta, and climbing a steep learning curve about our suppliers, processes, and how we can be faster and more precise for you.  We hope that all our inventory arrives as it should, that our fulfillment processes yield the volume that they should, and that we’re generating the quality product experience that you should expect.  If that’s not the case, please let us know so that feedback can inform our planning.  I look forward to hearing from you!