Online furniture and appliance categories are growing at lightning speed, with Wayfair and Amazon leading the way in customer growth and loyalty. Superb customer experiences are driving brand loyalty and consumer trust, perhaps none more than the delivery experience. In our annual survey, we found that 98% of shoppers hinge their loyalty on their shipping experiences.

While many are faced with challenges such as delivering big and bulky, damage-prone items through third-party carriers, successful brands have been able to differentiate themselves by adding visibility and control to a crucial point in the last mile experience: the home delivery appointment. 

The vast majority of big and bulky home deliveries require a delivery appointment, whether that’s a room of choce, threshold or white glove service selected by the customer. This part of the delivery experience is costly and prone to failure.

Why Delivery Appointment Scheduling Can Be Costly And Result In Customer Churn

According to Convey data, 38% of large-item delivery exceptions are due to appointment scheduling issues, making costs add up for retailers.

Why is delivery appointment scheduling so costly?

  • 3 of 10 large item shipments require multiple contact attempts to schedule an appointment.
  • More than 28% of the delivery attempts still fail, even after an appointment has been made.
  • On average 4.64 additional days are added to transit time, where an item is just sitting at the destination terminal (and not with the customer).
  • It adds on a minimum of $69 (on average) in costs for the retailers.

In addition, this experience is a frustrating one for consumers. In a typical scenario without automated scheduling, customers may have to wait weeks without visibility into when their order will arrive. When the item finally gets to a terminal, they will receive a call from the carrier — an unknown number — and both have to exchange data manually. 

However, more often than not, carriers struggle to connect with their customers and shipments become consigned at destination terminals, racking up shipping costs, transit days, and frustrations for customers. 

Make Delivery Appointment Scheduling More Efficient For All

Technology clearly has a role to play in providing a positive customer experience, but what that looks like is still evolving, with some retailers and carriers more sophisticated than others. While retailers have turned to Interactive Voice Response systems (IVR) in the past, customers often ignore calls from toll free numbers, and the information communicated can be vague and confusing. Customers expect a better experience and retailers must deliver it.

In fact, relatively few LTL and White Glove carriers provide some type of web form for self-service delivery appointment scheduling today, and even fewer provide true API-based delivery appointment scheduling. Once items arrive at the destination terminal, many white glove vendors still rely on daily phone polling once to see if customers are available. The lack of efficiency in this model is evident in the average success rates for delivery appointments today — as mentioned above, 28% of delivery attempts still fail, even after an appointment has been made. 

As large item categories continue to be an area of strategic growth for retailers, working with carriers to improve efficiency and investing in technology around delivery appointment scheduling will be pivotal. Retailers can innovate in the large-item delivery experience by holding carriers to a higher delivery standard, offering appointment scheduling, confirmation calls, product details, and customer satisfaction surveys.

3 Tactics That Can Make Or Break The White Glove Delivery Experience

Retailers who have no visibility into the white glove delivery experience, and no ability to proactively resolve delivery issues that ultimately rack up costs will be left behind in the dust. 

Delivery appointment success will require:

    1. Giving Customers Definite Delivery Windows
      Nearly three quarters of shoppers (73.2%) expect that they will be given a delivery window that is at minimum morning or afternoon, while 45.1% expect a two hour window or less.It’s time to move beyond simple AM vs PM delivery options, and let customers pick a four-hour (dare we say even two hour?) delivery window on a particular date.
    2. Adding Increased Flexibility And Control Over the Delivery Appointment
      According to our most recent survey, shoppers increasingly expect the ability of self-service, especially true when it comes to making changes to delivery appointments. According to our most recent survey, 55.2% of consumers reported needing to reschedule appointment windows at least 20% of the time, creating additional orchestration challenges and increasing the risk of failed experiences.In order to accommodate this customer expectation, retailers can offer shoppers the ability to schedule the delivery appointment through the tracking page, allowing shoppers to schedule — or re-schedule — at their convenience. Many best-in-class retailers are communicating this to their customers using a multi-pronged approach that includes SMS and email notifications, and a retailer-branded web page that is mobile-optimized. As an added bonus for customers, some retailers are even providing estimated delivery dates for delivery appointments as soon as the item is dropped into the delivery cart. Home Delivery Appointment Tracking Page Convey
    3. Removing Human Intervention From the Equation If Possible
      If your team is scheduling the delivery appointment manually, they’re taking your customers through a long process. They have to identify the optimal time to schedule a delivery appointment with your customers, constantly monitoring inventory status. This causes supply chain planning and route optimization challenges for carriers — delaying delivery even more.Not only is this process long, but it’s also error-prone, eventually mounting to customer frustration and added costs for the shipper. With automated delivery appointment scheduling, exceptions such as delays, incorrect addresses, and failed attempts are less likely to happen due to controlled data quality. As an added benefit to customers, they can spend less time waiting for a carrier to call them, and more time dreaming about how beautiful their home will look.

Want To Retain Customers? Be A Leader In Large-Item Customer Experience

Especially for high-value orders where maintaining customer loyalty is a top priority, it’s crucial to use automation to remove error from the equation. After all, 83% of customers will not return after just one poor delivery experience. 

The large-item furniture purchase and delivery process is one of the more personal relationships retailers have with their customers. Shoppers can’t physically look and feel the items that will eventually be featured in their homes, the items are more expensive, and the delivery process is more involved. Significant time commitments, coordination, and emotions at stake. If anything requires a personalized touch and transparency, this does.

Automation and self-service are just two ways retailers can provide their customers with more control and satisfaction in the large item delivery process, and are quickly becoming best practices among leading retailers in the space. These capabilities should be key criteria in your RFP, carrier/partner selection process, and clearly understood in terms of the service level commitments and approach when establishing new delivery agent partnerships.

As more furniture and large-item retailers invest in Delivery Experience Management — and gain the ability to see data, take action on issues that may affect customers, and improve customer experience for the future — those who provide anything less than stellar first impressions will be left behind. 

What can your team do to improve your large-item customer experiences?  

Learn how Delivery Appointment Scheduling software can benefit your team, or learn how to overcome the large-item delivery challenge.

This blog was originally written on 5/18/17 by Kassidy Bird, and it was updated on 6/25/19 by Christina Singh.