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We’ve all been there. You order that new washing machine or TV and then ask when you can expect it to be delivered, only for a call centre voice to say, “Two weeks on Wednesday.”
Of course, like 90% of the population, you are in work that day so you ask them to narrow it down a bit.
“I’m afraid we can’t, it could be any time during the day.”
It’s little wonder really that so many working days are lost waiting for deliveries and that the logistics industry has a reputation for being, how can I put this, a tad inflexible!
However, there is good news, because the more enlightened companies in the sector are embracing the power of technology to deliver the sort of seamless experience demanded by the discerning modern retail customer.
The key is the ability to do things in real time. Embed mobile and digital communications in your delivery system and the possibilities are enormous – whether it’s managing staff rotas or sending an update to a customer.
Mobile channels are fantastic tools that open up a genuine dialogue with customers, through SMS, Facebook or email. Just ask online retailer Hermes, whose adoption of an email solution, tied to courier handheld terminal (HHT) scanners, enabled them to let customers know in real time where their parcel was and when it would be delivered – a major boon for a company handling in excess of 200 million collections and deliveries each year.
So just what can these new technologies accomplish? Firstly, an SMS, email or push notification can tell a customer that a shipment is en route or has been successfully delivered, with information on where it was delivered, when and who signed for it.
A customer with access to the right level of detail at the right time will have far less need to contact a call centre – reducing pressure on a highly labour-intensive resource, especially if they can contact the company themselves via SMS or Facebook and get a timely response.
With drivers and vehicles able to be tracked via advanced geolocation triggers, you can even programme the system to notify customers whenever their shipment reaches a particular checkpoint.
And, if a schedule does have to be changed, what better way to provide clarity and transparency to their experience than via a real time message?
Of course, it’s not just customers who can be contacted via unified systems. They’re also a great way of informing drivers and distribution centres of changes to routes and schedules. A simple SMS for example, can be sent to multiple parties simultaneously to rearrange plans in the event of a major traffic jam, for example. Or, if a customer has to reschedule a delivery at the last moment when it is already on a van, a simple text message to the driver saying “Customer has rescheduled please bring back parcel to warehouse” can save time and money.
And what about after the delivery? The latest systems can enable customers to complete a questionnaire – when convenient to them and via the channel of their choice – to give you valuable intelligence on service and help further drive up customer experience levels.
Put simply, at every stage of the process, integrating existing business systems with automated customer engagement solutions is key to optimising customer experience and operational efficiency – and to meeting service targets.
That, ultimately is what it’s all about – keeping customers informed, being flexible and not keeping them hanging around all day waiting for a delivery, when a little bit of technology can make their life so much easier.