If you are running a distribution operation, the chances are that customer service is pretty high up your list of priorities. Customers are demanding more accurate information, more frequent information and tighter time windows. And that’s just the starting point.
The transport operation has a significant role to play in meeting these customer demands but focus on providing an excellent customer experience must be balanced with keeping control of rising transport costs. In other words, you’ve got to do more for less.
Let’s have a look at how route planning software can help you improve the efficiency of your transport operation and minimise the cost to serve.
Route planning software factors in a wide range of parameters from the availability of individual drivers to customers’ preferred delivery windows and the length of time it takes to deliver specific products.
Advanced algorithms then use this information to create feasible and efficient routes as well as a schedule with accurate arrival times. Excess slack is cut from the plan and more deliveries are slotted in to the working day. The result is a transport plan that makes the best use of your available resources while meeting business KPIs and customer delivery requirements.
Whether you are delivering animal feed, fence panels or bread products, it is likely your customers expect more than just an AM or PM delivery slot on a day designated by you. Perhaps customers want deliveries after 11am so that staff have time to complete other tasks before the delivery arrives, or before 8am to prevent disruption to service levels in their store or restaurant.
Managing this manually is time-consuming, to say the least. Advanced route planning software allows you to offer tighter time windows but it also allows you to enter the relevant delivery restrictions against each customer…once. The algorithms will then take care of meeting each customer’s request so you don’t have to worry.
If you are a food or drinks distributor you may be able to sharpen your customer proposition considerably by offering later cut off times.
Specialist distribution companies like Matthew Clark plan for next day deliveries. Customer order data is automatically transferred from an order management system to Paragon’s route planning software so deliveries can be quickly and efficiently planned on a next-day basis. However, restaurants, pubs and hotels still want the ability to place additional orders late in the day from a diverse product range including wine, champagne, spirits, beer and soft drinks. This is especially true during peak periods such as Mother’s Day or sudden spells of sunny weather.
Using Paragon’s Multi Depot routing software, Matthew Clark can manage all of these extra requests without impacting their regular delivery commitments.
Having to reschedule a delivery because your vehicle couldn’t access the site, or having to rearrange because the customer isn’t available to take receipt of the delivery, is a poor experience for the customer and an expensive mistake for your transport operation.
During periods of growth or change it can be even more challenging to ensure service levels remain consistent. When AMP Clean Energy’s business grew rapidly being able to maintain high levels of customer service was a real driver for buying route planning software.
“With 900 deliveries a week in the peak season, it is vitally important to the efficiency of our operation that the right vehicle is used for each delivery. Our planning team has to factor in a number of parameters to ensure deliveries are achievable, but also to ensure that they happen on time, every time.”
Tony Vick, Logistics Director, AMP Clean Energy
For transport operations that service hundreds of customers, keeping customers informed can be a resource-heavy nightmare. Automating the process of customer communication ensures customers receive the information they need to manage their day while also significantly reducing inbound call volumes. Updates can be sent by SMS and/or email alerts to the customer’s nominated contact(s) leaving customer services staff time to deal with complex customer queries more quickly.
If the transport office is not following the planning team’s transport plan then the service improvements identified during the route planning process will not be realised. Most transport operations now have vehicle tracking systems so it makes sense to integrate your vehicle tracking system with your route planning software. Doing this allows you to capture real-time data at an individual driver and vehicle level which can be fed back in to the planning process to improve operational efficiency. Integration also allows you to automate the process of sending delivery updates to your customers as the day’s plan progresses. For example, you can provide a two-hour delivery slot the week before and then reduce that to a 30-minute window on the day of delivery.
Good customer service helps you retain customers and grow but it can also help you avoid competing purely on price. For Frozen Food Express, fulfilling promised delivery times had become a real struggle. Within just 6 months of integrating Paragon’s route planning software with their vehicle tracking system, service improvements resulted in an increase of 9% in year on year sales.
The delivery service you offer plays an important role in a prospect’s decision to buy, or a customer’s decision to stay with you. Changing the way you plan your deliveries may be a big step for your operation but doing nothing could damage your reputation in the market.
If you are ready to find out more about offering a better delivery service with confidence, then get in touch with our team by completing our simple web form or calling us on +44 (0) 1306 732600.
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