The vast majority of big and bulky item home deliveries require a delivery appointment, whether that’s a curbside, threshold or white glove service selected by the customer. This part of the delivery experience is also one of the most prone to failure, with carriers struggling to connect with customers, and shipments consigned at destination terminals, racking up costs and inefficiencies. IVR systems can help, but customers often ignore calls from toll free numbers, and the information being communicating can be vague and confusing. Customers expect a better experience and retailers must deliver it.
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.
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. In fact, some curbside vendors still rely on daily phone polling once to see if customers happen to be available once an item has arrived at the destination terminal. The lack of efficiency in this model is evident in the average success rates for delivery appointments today:
- 3 of 10 large item shipments require multiple contact attempts to schedule an appointment
- Additionally, more than 28% of the delivery attempts still fail, even after an appointment has been made
- This equates to an average 4.64 additional days of an item sitting at the destination terminal (and not with the customer), and a minimum of $69 on average in added cost for the retailer
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. Amazon is already gaining ground in the sale of bulkier items. They’ve invested 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. Other retailers of big and bulky categories will need to keep pace or be left behind.
Success will require:
1. Moving beyond simple AM vs. PM delivery options to let customers pick a four-hour (dare we say even two-hour?) time block on a particular date.
Self-service delivery appointment scheduling requires API-based carrier integrations, which are still fairly limited. This forces retailers to be creative in what services they offer.
2. Proactively communicating that a delivery appointment needs to be scheduled.
Here a multi-pronged approach is recommended that includes SMS, email and a retailer-branded web page that is mobile-optimized.
3. Assigning a CSR resource – or delivery “concierge” – to monitor appointment status.
This includes knowing when appointments are required, if they are being scheduled, and if not, reaching out to understand why. This is particularly important for high-value orders (ie, outdoor furniture), where maintaining customer loyalty is a top priority.
Identifying the optimal time to schedule a delivery appointment with your customers. While it can be tempting to schedule delivery appointments at checkout, any retailer testing this approach should continue to monitor success rates. The reality is, this can present inventory- and supply chain planning challenges, not to mention route optimization challenges for the carriers. Furthermore, delivery appointments set this early in the process are more frequently rescheduled than those set later on.
One approach that improves the experience but avoids some of these challenges is to prompt the customer to schedule delivery as soon as the carrier provides an update that an appointment is ready to be scheduled. Many best-in-class retailers are already starting to monitor time-to-first-attempted-carrier-contact with regards to measuring carrier performance.
The large item purchase and delivery process is one of the more personal relationships retailers have with customers. The decision to buy is more considered, the items are more expensive and the delivery process is more involved, with significant time commitments, coordination, and emotions at stake. If anything requires a more personalized touch and transparency, this does.
Automation and self-service are two ways to provide customers 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 and carrier selection process, and clearly understood in terms of the service level commitments and approach when establishing new delivery agent partnerships.