The convergence of data and mobile apps offers transport and logistics managers the potential to make considerable improvements to service and efficiency, writes Tim Fawkes, MD at 3T Group.
Providing great service and giving customers what they want is crucial to the retail sector. In the current retail climate it seems that what many customers want is quick delivery. And by quick, I don’t mean within a few days or 48 hours. Online retail has made the purchasing process an instant experience and consumers increasingly want their goods as soon as possible – sometimes within less than 12 hours.
This places incredible pressure on the whole supply chain – not least the transport element. The best way to effectively fulfil demand is through the application of technology. Whilst the automation of transport processes has been gathering pace over the past decade, even some relatively recent innovations have now become obsolete and superseded. Many telematics systems used to track a carrier’s vehicles simply aren’t able to provide the information that retailers or their customers want.
What the customer really wants to know is:
- Where the consignment is.
- When it will arrive.
If it is late or is there is a problem what is the carrier doing about it
Retailers using a third party logistics provider are reliant on their transport provider for information once the product is out for delivery. However, lack of access to detailed real time information can cause serious customer service issues. To be effective, a tracking system needs to link vehicle location to the consignments on the vehicle, capturing and displaying customer consignment details with accurate delivery times taking into account multi-drop deliveries, driver breaks and also the traffic conditions of the day.
Visibility and availability of instant information within the supply chain is essential. Fortunately, the transport industry now has access to real time information on the platform of modern technology which can enable carriers to keep their customers informed. Best of all, this data can be accessed and transmitted on the move through the use a new generation of smartphone transport management applications.
This is good news for those involved in logistics. However, it is important to remember that whilst apps are operated on smartphones which most people are familiar with, it is just a form of data capture. The really clever bit is how the data is used presented and converted into live information that customer services can deal with, before the end customer sees the problem and accurate KPI data to gain a true understanding of service.
What can apps do?
The best mobile apps offer instant access and transmission of information which enhances the visibility needed to manage delivery lead times. For example, our SoloTrack app allows users to see proof of delivery (POD) as soon as the delivery is fulfilled, including capturing an electronic signature almost immediately, negating the need to scan PODs when the vehicle returns to base. The app also enables the driver to take photographs of damaged or refused goods and to capture delivery issues electronically.
This is the sort of information that customer service departments need if they are to manage customer expectation effectively. We all know how frustrating it can be when we aren’t told if something is delayed or when it is likely to arrive. If customers and end consumers are kept in the loop about the delivery process and forewarned if delays occur, they are less likely to have a negative experience or response.
These applications provide the information required to ensure that factual information about delivery performance is captured. Instead of taking the carrier’s word for it or having to locate tracking information on various 3pl websites, the app ensures that the data for all transport activity is captured and measured against the plan so that companies can understand their true performance and consumer experience.
Retailers need to ensure that they consider transport as a key part of their customer experience, looking for ways to improve the service and optimise the transport process. If carried out properly, the implementation and use of apps in the transport management process is one of the most effective ways to achieve this – and ultimately give customers what they want.