Focus on onsite supply chain processes is usually extremely meticulous. How then can it be ensured that the physical transport of goods to the customer is executed to the same standard, particularly when this is with a third party who also has additional focal points and priorities? Lewis Marston, CEO of Rocket Consulting, writes for eDelivery.
As the final phase of the customer purchase cycle, it is critical that the logistics function presents the right image and offers the right service. A late delivery or a vehicle whose appearance is not cohesive with the rest of the brand can result in the overall transaction being perceived in a negative light by the customer, however good the other constituent elements of the process.
Statistics reveal the true risks. A customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related, rather than connected to the price or product (Source: Bain & Company). It is also six to seven times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one (Source: Forrester).
But suppliers are taking action to guard against this possibility. Logistics is increasingly recognised as a way to raise customer satisfaction and retention, and the focus is on flexibility, adaptability and service. Key to this is the need for one easy-to-use source of centralised, real-time information so that customer service can be managed proactively.
Real-time logistics, combined with high quality service and a consistent image generates maximum added value for the customer, and minimum risk of them going elsewhere. With that in mind, the following attributes, already being adopted, will be standard practice for delivery services of the future:
- Vehicle checks before each journey ensure maximum compliance and safety, eliminate negligence and reduce the risk of delays on account of poorly maintained vehicles. They also verify that vehicles are well-presented and representative of the brand.
- Pre-departure checks, such as the scanning of products loaded so that vehicles leave with the correct items, pulls forward the opportunity to identify and solve potential problems and maximise the ability to adhere to the delivery schedule.
- Electronic, interactive driver schedules that are continually updated support flexibility and flag in advance deliveries that are at risk of being late so that the situation can be managed proactively.
- Optimised routing by vehicle type takes live vehicle location and traffic conditions into account and helps to maximise on-time delivery. Using this detailed level of planning is a crucial step in minimising the impact on the end customer.
- Real-time delivery progress is essential for accurate customer notifications, such as text messages to confirm the adherence to the scheduled booking time.
- Electronic proof of delivery and collection simplifies administration and exception management. It also provides a professional and branded point of service to the customer and offers the opportunity for immediate feedback.
- Immediate customer feedback helps to record service issues that might otherwise go unreported so problems can be rectified before they become critical, and service-related patterns identified and resolved.
- Opportunistic returns enable returns to be made or arranged as an integral part of the delivery cycle, thereby saving the customer time and reducing reverse logistics cost.
The new breed of mobile logistics applications that enable these and other competitive advantages bring together features that have previously been fragmented across separate systems into a single, end-to-end business process that operates in real-time. They are flexible so that they meet the specific needs of each user and scalable in order to be easy to manage regardless of the size of the operation. They also integrate into the wider ERP and supply chain systems.
But for truly leading edge logistics, technology must be combined with attention to details such as how to present the business during the delivery phase, from delivery packaging to vehicle and driver liveries. Smart operators know that in the eyes of the customer the final mile of the purchase process is every bit as important as the activities that led up to it.