As CEO of Convey, a final-mile delivery software company, I’m a tough critic when it comes to shipping.
Last Mother’s Day, I ordered a pair of earrings for my wife and experienced firsthand just why speed, accuracy and customer service are so critical in the e-commerce delivery journey. Above my shopping cart, a banner guaranteed the earrings would arrive on time if ordered by midnight. Unfortunately, the delivery was unexpectedly damaged en route, putting the on-time promise date at risk.
Lucky for me, this retailer has a real-time tracking and analytics system that detected the issue through their carrier data, proactively notified me and expedited a new pair of earrings just in time to surprise my wife.
As someone who interacts with supply chain teams on a daily basis, I know that’s not always the case for every shipper out there.
The Maturity Model
While exceeding customer expectations is a key priority, many delivery teams struggle to do so without breaking the bank. Recently, the team at Convey created a four-stage maturity model to help teams of all stages develop progressive best practices to achieve final-mile excellence.
At most organizations, improving customer experience requires a fundamental shift in culture, key performance indicators (KPIs), technology and processes. We’ve broken down the steps along this journey into the following four phases:
React, Anticipate, Prevent, Automate
The React Stage
It’s easy to imagine what a stage one (“react”) company looks like. Siloed teams largely work independent of each other, focusing more on managing costs than improving customer experience.
In this stage, brands are typically limited to a short list of delivery carriers and service levels, further limiting delivery and customer service options. Additionally, most shippers can only capture basic delivery status data, impeding their ability to anticipate issues or redirect around a potential problem. From what I have seen, the majority of brands still operate within stage one capabilities.
Shifting From Reacting To Anticipating: A Focus On Culture
In stage two (“anticipate”), shippers may put more emphasis on customer experience, but there is still limited collaboration between transportation and service teams.
To mature from the react to anticipate stage, you need to instill a cross-functional focus on customer experience and truly understand what a customer’s delivery journey looks like. Armed with this data, leaders must be incentivized to use real-time insights to drive better outcomes.
Effectively utilizing the voice of your customer is also crucial to shifting into stage two. Empowering customers with self-service tools to control their experiences, such as branded tracking pages and delivery notifications, can help drive loyalty and reduce customer support costs. A brand in stage two will be able to successfully communicate with customers, giving them the security that their package is on the way.
Shifting From Anticipating To Preventing: A Focus On Collaboration
I ordered my wife’s earrings from a stage three (“prevent”) retailer whose ability to break down informational and cultural silos provided a highly differentiated, personalized delivery experience.
In the prevent stage, cross-functional delivery teams can access and act upon in-transit shipments in real time, tying them back to commitments that matter to each customer. This information can be used to ensure packages arrive on time for a critical date like Mother’s Day, and to create a positive delivery experience that extends my lifetime value as a customer (because I’m definitely going to order from them again next year!).
Shifting From Preventing To Automating: A Focus On Self-Service And Automation
The most important factor in maturing from the “prevent” to “automate” stage (stage four) is giving customers the ability to control their own delivery experience. Not surprisingly, one of the primary points of failure in large-item delivery occurs around delivery appointment scheduling. Increasingly, best-in-class retailers are offering self-service tools that allow customers to set their own appointment schedule.
Some successful freight shippers in stage four are even starting to monitor the time to first attempted carrier contact as a way to measure and incentivize carrier performance, while successful parcel shippers have implemented in-transit rerouting for incorrect address delivery exceptions.
Achieving Supply Chain Excellence
A positive last-mile delivery experience is directly correlated with the investment a company makes in their delivery management. No doubt, there was a significant investment behind getting those replacement earrings to my wife on time at the last minute — an investment that was very much appreciated.
While customer expectations are rising faster than supply chain systems can evolve, the stages in this maturity model can help you identify key areas for final-mile delivery improvements and new opportunities for vendor-carrier integration and innovation. Companies that make this a priority will likely be most successful and, ultimately, provide the most amazing delivery outcomes.
What are the most challenging shifts your company has had to make? How have you worked to collaborate across teams, with external partners and to access and share data?