Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post from David Madden. David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger and ExchangerHub. These companies help manufacturing and distribution companies buy and sell used industrial packing such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, and ibc totes and industrial racks such as pallet racking, flow racks, and drive-in racks. These companies have served thousands of buyers and sellers through USA, Canada, and Mexico.
In today’s high-expectation world, it is as hard as ever for small businesses to compete with the behemoths that dominate online markets — Amazon, Walmart, and other e-commerce mega-stores continue to set a very fast pace. However, there are many measures that you can take to improve your delivery time and your customer’s satisfaction. Here are some simple shipping solutions that can help you stay competitive with other businesses, and keep your customers happy.
Set Realistic Expectations
This one may sound obvious, but it’s better to set the bar a bit low and deliver early than it is to set the bar too high and leave your customers fuming when something shows up late. This doesn’t mean you should simply lower your delivery standards, but that you should carefully analyze your business’ circumstances and provide an accurate and satisfactory delivery estimate to your customers. When making this decision, you must take many variables into account to ensure that expectations are truly within range.
Make a Habit of Recording Every Variable
During the time that passes from the placement of the order to its successful delivery, many processes are executed. If you have good records on everything that takes place, and the time each step takes, then you will be better equipped to make the best decisions for your business’ delivery process. There are many tools at your disposal which can aid you in this often-tedious task. Software can be used not only to track shipping, but also to collect large data sets that help you easily identify where things are slowing down or going wrong.
Analyze and Take Appropriate Action Regarding Dwell Time
Do you know how long the driver has to wait at your location before they are ready to drive off and deliver your package to the customer? Do you know how long it takes for your products to make it from your storage to the back of a truck? If your answer is no, then you are likely missing out on an excellent opportunity to improve your delivery process.
The dwell time can have a massive impact on the delivery time, especially if the driver has to wait so long they are forced to take another day to make the delivery due to regulations regarding hours of service. Even if this is not a factor, the driver’s willingness to complete your delivery may be diminished if they have to wait too long before they can even depart from your facility.
Create Simple and Reliable Systems
Why leave anything to chance? It pays to have a repeatable process, which makes it simple to continuously execute timely deliveries, from the placement of the order until the moment it arrives. Try breaking down the overall process into smaller, simpler tasks that can be completed effectively by different teams. Provide checklists and make sure every part of the process is allotted to the right person. Finally, ensure that the necessary oversight is present at all critical transitional points, with adequate responsibility placed at these locations.
Make Training a Priority
For the same reasons that you should aim to minimize dwell time, you must focus on training employees to be as efficient as possible. A well-prepared team can make all the difference when it comes down to the critical moments that ensure timely delivery. Proper training can also prevent late delivery due to confusion or the inability to understand the finer points of the delivery process.
Root out Weaknesses Along the Supply Chain
Once you have collected sufficient data on your processes, and you have a well-trained team which is ready for the logistical challenges that may pop up, it is time to start making the changes necessary to ensure a more efficient and smooth delivery process. This also includes looking deeper into the delivery process for potential problems in vulnerable areas. Many problems can weaken a company’s ability to run its delivery system efficiently, including issues along the supply chain.
For example, when you’re working with a new supplier, it’s critically important that you don’t assume that they will deliver on time according to the purchase order. Request acknowledgment from them after you send your purchase order. In some cases, it is better that you simply ask for further status updates along the way. From this point on, your supply chain manager should keep track of the shipment until it reaches your location.
It would be a terrible thing for a deficiency in your supply chain to affect the delivery time between you and your customer, but any weakness there, will slow down the entire process, so it is wise to take preventative measures.
Leverage computer systems, automation and software for the most critical aspects of the delivery process. A common mistake many companies make, surprisingly, is not properly verifying the delivery address. Address validation programs can help ensure the delivery is sent to the correct address. Once the order is sent, you can utilize GPS tracking, which provides precise information on the whereabouts of your delivery system, as well as an estimated time of arrival down to the minute.
Choose the Right Delivery Service
Ultimately, many of the factors that really make the difference are not within the control of you or your employees. Even if your business is situated in the ideal location, you have a very professional team behind you, and your business does not suffer from any serious managerial setbacks, you cannot take control over what happens to your delivery once it’s passed onto the delivery service. This is why picking the right delivery company is so important to your business.
If they succeed at their job, you will have no problems, but should they come up short, your customers may not be so lenient with you. Your business will end up taking the brunt of the customer’s dissatisfaction, harming the chances of repeat business, and adversely affecting your bottom line. This is all the more important in the modern world, where online reviews allow your angry customers to vent their frustrations with your business for all to see.
So, when you are choosing your delivery service, remember to consider the important factors. Are they reputable? What assurances do they offer in the case of an unexpected problem? What does their customer service record look like? Ask these questions and more to find out if the service at hand is the right partner for you.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, ensuring on-time delivery boils down to taking charge of your portion of the delivery process and preventing missteps when shipments leave your hands. Remember, if any part of the supply train is faulty, your business will inevitably suffer the consequences. However, if you are vigilant in keeping your own house in order, and in making smart choices for partners, you should find it far easier to consistently provide your customers with a great experience free of delays.