On time delivery and quality of experience - itÂ’s all about the brand
Current research suggests that approximately 12% of deliveries fail to attain the ‘1st time, on-time’ delivery mark, and that the cost of this reaches £851m per annum in the UK alone. This level of performance is clearly inadequate and is also unsustainable. The industry needs to make some serious changes: aim for the ‘perfect order’ success rates of 99.99% and best practice, provide transparent communication at every stage of the delivery process and proactively manage exceptions to transform the customer experience.
Weak operational control damages brand experience
For any consumer or business waiting for an online order to be fulfilled, the quality, timeliness and completeness of the delivery has a fundamental impact on customer perception. For a brand entrusting its customer experience to a third party delivery company, there is little point competing on price or product quality if a bad experience caused by the delivery process deters the customer from buying on its site again.
Research indicates most parcel delivery companies are achieving at best 90% successful first time deliveries. That means a huge number of parcels each day are undelivered as expected, damaged or, even worse, result in the dreaded 'collect at your nearest depot’ card. In no way can this performance be described as world class. In reality it is not even acceptable.
These failed deliveries have a vastly detrimental impact – not just on the way in which the brand is perceived, but on its business operation. From a customer service perspective, how many calls does that prompt to the brand’s call centre? How much time are Transport & Logistics Managers then spending in tracking and chasing critical deliveries? What is the cost of resending a failed delivery – and who bears the real cost; the parcel company or the brand?
Furthermore, even those deliveries that are completed are rarely achieved with a slick, smooth customer experience. A text to inform a customer that the expected parcel is ‘out for delivery’ and should arrive sometime within ‘the next few days’, for example, does not constitute a quality experience. It adds no value to their world, or to the brand.
However, despite the recognised inadequacy in the last mile of the parcel delivery process, brands are more than ever reliant on parcel companies as consumers, and businesses, increasingly purchase online.
So why the bad experience?The reality is that while the market has expanded dramatically over the past decade, the vast majority of parcel companies are still using the same dated technology and paper based processes that were introduced in the early 2000s. Can it really be efficient and smart to have each individual driver manually map out his own route each morning; make his assessment of the best way to deliver all of these 'brand crucial' deliveries to many different locations; then attempt to match his preferred delivery path with the arrival time expectations of the end consumer? Even assuming the driver has good local knowledge – and that is a big assumption – the entire process is time consuming, inefficient, prone to error and provides the business with no way of measuring or guaranteeing performance.
And it is all based on paper. Despite an investment in handheld devices to record customer signatures and the availability of an excellent 3G network, organisations and drivers are still heavily reliant on paper. No wonder the quality of customer experience is so often poor; and the percentage of perfect deliveries so far below even acceptable practice.
Given the quality of the wireless infrastructure available there is no excuse for this level of apathy. Organisations may baulk at the cost of investment but consider: not only are drivers routinely wasting up to one hour out of every working day simply getting in and out of the depot, but brand reliance on the quality of service to reinforce rather than undermine reputation is about to seriously fragment the market.
Those parcel delivery companies who recognise that delivering a higher quality experience, who can offer reliable delivery slots with exceptional, transparent communication, and who can track the entire process seamlessly are set to steal a march on the competition – fast.
Accuracy and traceability at every stage of the supply chain are essential – from validating the initial arrival of goods all the way through to capturing not only the name & signature of the individual that received the goods; but also a picture and a timed GPS co-ordinate to provide full proof of delivery.
The ability to validate information throughout the delivery process, achieve an irrefutable chain of custody, and flag up errors and problems for early remediation enables the parcel company to provide brands with the ability to proactively manage the customer experience. Furthermore, with full confidence that the right goods have been received and processed at each point in the chain of custody and are on the right vehicles at the start of the day, it is a simple process to determine the time each delivery will be made – and inform the end customer accordingly. The over-reliance on driver knowledge is avoided; and the time taken to get in and out of the depot each morning and night is massively reduced, enabling far better productivity. Operational efficiency and effectiveness is not only a delight for the parcel delivery company, it is a blessing for the end customer, and therefore becomes a USP for the brand.
Parcel companies are doing far more than just delivering a parcel – they are representing the brands that are paying for the delivery service. Poor service will damage those brands – and brands will go elsewhere. It is time for management to top shirking responsibility and passing the buck to the drivers. Parcel companies of every size need to proactively take control over the last and every, mile of delivery.
Pól Sweeney, Managing Director Europe & CTO, Airclic
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