When a consumer orders sneakers on Zappos or a book on Amazon, they expect to receive a confirmation email within seconds and to get their package, as ordered, when it is promised.
What is happening at home is bleeding over to the business world - customers are expecting the same level of service in the workplace that they have become accustomed to receiving during the delivery of personal orders.
A missed delivery time window, the wrong type of product or a damaged product is not acceptable - and ultimately the burden of these supply chain inefficiencies is transferred to the customer. Bad service will drive businesses to find new vendors and will quickly result in lost business.
Control in the Custody Chain
Today, logistics paradigms are changing as businesses are offering a wider variety of products and delivering them to customers in a shorter turnaround"”in many cases the next day or even the same day. Just adding a single new product line or faster shipping can increase logistics complexity and stress the systems you already have in place - from data management to the fleet itself. It is clear that businesses can no longer profitably handle all the logistics necessary by relying on their traditional technology solutions or, in many cases, exclusively their own internal fleets.
The traditional tools companies have used to manage fulfillment, such as warehouse management systems and transportation management systems, don't give shippers/brand owners the visibility they need when complexity such as cross-docking enters into the equation.
It is up to suppliers to ensure that their customers are getting what they need, when they need it. On the surface, it is not a difficult concept. But, even if everything is executed according to schedule and plan"” when you look at the piles of orders, tracking and delivery receipts and the dozens of opportunities for human error or mishap along any delivery route - keeping customers happy can seem an almost insurmountable task.
Knowledge is key to making better business decisions. Strong mobile logistics and electronic point of delivery (ePOD) software is the only way that companies can manage their product distribution effectively, especially with the increased use of 3PLs and local carriers. Utilizing data and business intelligence to manage the business and execution layer more intelligently and cover logistics horizontally from the back office to the dock worker will guide informed decisions.
Even with technology in place to help drivers stay informed and knowledgeable, the role of the individual driver in customer satisfaction cannot be over-emphasized.
Role of the Individual Drivers
Individual delivery drivers have direct contact with each and every customer that receives an order. Drivers are literally and physically, driving customer satisfaction.
In the past, the same drivers would service the same businesses every day, developing strong personal relationships with those they delivered to. These relationships helped protect against any overage, or short or damaged goods, ensuring that the company/brand's goods they were delivering were protected as well. In today's world, it might not be the same person making each delivery - and to protect your company/brand, you need to make sure that it is delivered how, when and where you direct.
Given the high volume of driver turnover and the need for increased use of 3PLs and local carriers to ship more products faster, technology can ensure that proper instructions are documented and followed, no matter the driver. Technology can also enable "clean invoicing" at the point of service to reduce collection periods and disputes. Clean invoicing allows drivers to update invoices in real time throughout the day as they make stops to ensure that customers have the most updated invoice in hand when the delivery is made and don't have to wait days for an incorrect invoice to be rectified after passing it back through a corporation's billing system for adjustment.
When your relationships are dependent upon deliveries being done in the correct manner, on time and billed correctly at the point of service, it's important that all representatives of your company do things the right way.
Suppliers' Line of Defense
There are several things suppliers can do to ensure that their business customers are getting what they need, when they need it:
"¢ Automate workflows to handle orders appropriately, use efficient technologies to look at the delivery process accurately and deliver a heightened level of customer service.
"¢ Develop strong, detailed service-level agreements (SLA) and hold 3PLs to them.
"¢ Don't do things quickly at the expense of accuracy. Using electronic versus paper-based tracking of deliveries and supply chain activities helps to increase accuracy.
"¢ If you can't measure something, you can't improve it. If you aren't monitoring how often orders are late, short or damaged, then you won't know what areas need improving. Using data and business intelligence analytics to understand how often SLAs are being met will ensure that information is being used to improve the business performance and customer satisfaction.
Companies want to effectively manage the experience of their customers"”both their interactions with the brand and their orders as they move throughout the chain of custody. A lack of information leads to an inability to rectify supply chain issues in a timely manner.
Technology solutions that give companies the ability to gain visibility and control over the last mile of the supply chain are important - and can be the difference between a lost customer and the great customer experience that comes with a perfect order. From delivery errors to 3PL deliveries, electronic point of delivery solutions provide information to help ensure your customers are getting the level of service they expect and allows actions to be taken to make sure those relationships are protected.
Keywords: logistics services, logistics management, 3PL, third party logistics transportation management, logistics & supply chain
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