Everyone loves a silver lining.
At this point I must, however, make it very clear that I feel deeply for all the lives and businesses that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that this piece in no way makes light of the negative impact of the current situation.
Nor am I trying to force-feed anyone a sales pitch. I just want to put out some insight on what can be a challenging decision, especially for people coming at this for the first time.
What has been heartwarming to see at this difficult time, is the extent to which businesses large and small have been creative about adapting the way that they sell and deliver their products and services.
From companies for whom delivery was a small slice of how they reached their end consumers, to businesses who have never attempted to do what they do remotely, innovation is sweeping the business world, and much of this innovation is directly related to logistics.
Needless to say that it is a challenging undertaking for a company to grab the last-mile delivery bull by the horns and get the results they want, but here are a few of the way people re getting it done:
This is where a lot of the changes start. Companies are updating their websites to capture orders and feed them to an operations person or team who will then organise the delivery of the necessary products or services.
Thankfully most website builders, or CMSs (content management systems is the technical term) make this fairly easy to implement. You plug in a payment gateway (PayPal, Visa, Stripe etc.), and you can be taking orders and payment online in under a day.
This is where things get complicated. Different goods and services have different expectations on how they are delivered, so it is important to make sure that systems are in place to get orders out to your customers in a timely manner.
With goods that need to move quickly (prepared food is the big one here) you need to make sure that your delivery personnel know where they need to go, and how best to get there. This is where you need to lean on technology.
While everyone has Whatsapp and Google readily available on their smartphones, doing any meaningful amount of deliveries using these (to be fair, powerful in their own right) bits of technology, is difficult at best, and chaotic at worst.
Something as simple as a driver having to go back and forth between the two can take up valuable time that they could be spending ‘on the road’.
Moreover, the information is not being organised in a central location, as Whatsapp won’t enable you to pull a report on all of the jobs you do in a day/week/month. You need something built for purpose.
CHOOSING YOUR DELIVERY MANAGEMENT TOOL
For many businesses, this has been the first time they have even thought about purchasing technology like this. These are referred to by many names: Order management systems (OMS), delivery management systems (DMS), transport management systems TMS), order fulfilment software, and more.
So here are a few things everyone should bear in mind:
- Order Management: Ideally you want a system that can pull orders directly from your website. Low-cost software like Preoday integrates with your website and can feed orders directly into your order management system. This saves a lot of time and reduces the risk of human error.
- Visibility: It really helps to be able to see where your drivers are at all times. Using Whatsapp to find out where your people are taking a lot of time from both parties.
- Clustering/Consolidation: You will be much more efficient with your resources if you can cluster deliveries that are nearby each other. Don’t make lots of individual runs if you can put several orders on one vehicle and deliver like a milk run (believe it or not this is actually a technical term).
- Delivery windows: The system you choose should give you control over delivery windows. You need to be able to attach a delivery schedule to each order so that the drivers/riders know when they need to deliver. Being able to manage this makes a massive difference to customer satisfaction, and the more specific you can be about drop-off times, the better the customer experience will be.
- Problems will occur: Despite the best efforts of even the biggest and most established delivery companies in the world, deliveries sometimes arrive late, or not at all. This is where the software you choose can have a massive impact on whether a customer feels looked after, and buys from you again, or has a bad experience and leaves you a negative review. If you have the ability to know if a delivery is in danger of being late, you can be proactive about reaching out to your customers to fix the situation or at least manage their expectations. Have you ever stayed home to accept a delivery only for it to not arrive at the allotted time? It’s frustrating, as you feel your time has been wasted. This can be avoided.
- Subcontractors: Most businesses who are new to this will not have teams of drivers on the payroll, and will inevitably need to work with third parties. Choosing a solution that enables you to pass work to other people and keep them accountable is a big consideration. To the point above about problems occurring, a customer doesn’t care if a package is late because your subcontractor messed up, it still looks bad on you. Harsh, but true. Getting this bit right will help protect your company’s reputation, and keep customers for longer.
- Contactless delivery: This one is a double whammy. It goes without saying that we want to minimise contact between people at this time, and delivery operations by no means get a pass. So having a solution that will enable you to confirm deliveries without the need for physical contact is a must. The second major benefit of electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) is that you don’t have to spend valuable time sorting and reconciling messy paperwork. Better still, delivery is confirmed at your base of operations instantly. So again, no need to Whatsapp your drivers to check if they have arrived.
I literally could go on for another couple of thousand words, but if you’re reading this then you almost definitely have more important things to do.
I’ll stop here by extending an invitation to anyone who wants to chat about getting this right.
I have been speaking to people day in day out about how to get the best out of their delivery operation, and I’m more than happy to talk about what you’re doing and lend some advice.
Importantly: I’m not going to push our solution if it doesn’t work for your business, so you don’t need to worry about a hard sell from me.
Happy to give some insight and guidance, or point you in the direction of someone who can by filling out our contact form here.