No one likes paperwork
One of the major headaches with downstream partners is gathering, organising, and reconciling the delivery confirmation paperwork. This alone can take up a considerable amount of resources, runs the risk of human error, and delays time to arrange payments.
Perhaps even worse, if your subcontractors are sending you confirmations via email, the danger is they get lost among the barrage of emails that many of us encounter every day.
Working with downstream partners often comes with a lack of visibility over ETAs, and worse still, a lack of visibility over missed commitment times.
To put it bluntly, if the first thing you hear about a delivery window being missed is a phone call from the end consumer, a lot of things have been missed, for example:
- No visibility over the potential for lateness from driver to dispatcher
- No advance warning to the customer from the subcontractor
- No communication of potential for missed commit time to upstream partner
- No ability to be proactive in managing customer experience
The potential for damage to your brand is huge, and your competition is always lurking in the shadows to snap up disgruntled ex-customers.
He said she said.
To follow on from the point above, it can be very hard (without the right tech stack) to understand what exactly happens when deliveries go awry. Just getting to the bottom of the issues that arise can take up valuable time and resources.
Why do we need downstream partners?
Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re in the fantastic position where the abs and flow of demand for your business is predictable enough that your owned fleet is always sufficient during your busiest periods, but never a burden during your quietest. If that is the case, you can feel pretty good about yourself, that is genuinely impressive.
Most businesses are not so fortunate, with unpredictable spikes in a business requiring the quick orchestration of downstream partners to handle the additional volume. Most logistics companies have been in this position at one time or another (and many every month), so it follows that any company would want the best out of those engagements, for them and for their customers. Ideally from a customer experience standpoint, there should be no palpable difference between when your owned fleet delivers and when a subcontractor delivers.
Command and Conquer
There is also a much more proactive reason why a company would use subcontractors, and that is to aid expansion.
When logistics companies are expanding to new territories it can be very hard to predict demand. Without being able to predict demand it is very risky to invest in a large fleet. Instead, companies set up sales and marketing arms in a new area and subcontract business until they can meaningfully predict demand.
Here perhaps more than ever, ensuring that your downstream partners can deliver the same level of service as your owned fleets in other areas is key to establishing your brand value in a new region. It is essential that you make as many good first impressions as possible, and fluid communication with your subcontractors is the best way to ensure that this happens.
Warning, nutshell arriving
Maintaining visibility on your downstream partners can add value to your business whether you are bringing them on to manage seasonal spikes in volume, or if you are expanding to a new region.
As Peter Drucker famously said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, and the same holds true for your fleet, and you subcontractors.
Being able to stay ahead of what is happening in the field can mean the difference between catching an issue early, and delivering a great customer experience by fixing things before they happen (or at least managing expectations and showing you care) and losing a customer forever.