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Two-man-deliveries — improving customer service and saving money with multi-stop route planning software

Retailers that use two-man delivery teams to deliver furniture and other bulky items such as home-appliances are under increasing pressure to improve the quality of their service. Customers expect an outstanding experience at a convenient time of their own choosing. Multi-stop route planning software can help retailers – or 3PLs delivering on their behalf – ensure that every delivery experience reflects positively on the brand, by streamlining operations and providing customers with accurate delivery times they can count on.

With the continued expansion of online shopping across all categories, delivery can be the only face-to-face interaction the customer will have with your brand. Delivery is now a vital part of the brand experience, and the buying process. In fact, if you don’t offer convenient delivery slots, your customer might not even buy your product in the first place. If the delivery experience disappoints, they will go elsewhere next time, and their negative reviews might scare off other, prospective customers. Online reviewing tools, such as Trustpilot, are there for people to evaluate and judge your delivery service after the experience. And they don’t hesitate to do so.

How to vanquish the trials of two-man deliveries

Achieving the required level of service without costing the earth demands a careful balancing act between service and cost. Two-man delivery operations are complex and expensive. Maximising the efficient use of your vehicles and drivers while reducing the cost to serve is essential, but the planning parameters are varied:

  • Appliances and some items of furniture require specialist installation or assembly skills on the part of the delivery team, making planning more challenging because you have to make sure you have the right staff with the right skills.
  • Product delivery can vary in its complexity – a bookcase might take five minutes; a king-size bed that needs assembling could require more than an hour. Often, the new item is replacing an old one that needs to be taken away. The accurate time spent at each location needs to be factored in to ensure your schedule is achievable.
  • The delivery location itself can be challenging. Residential parking can be a real headache. Navigating narrow hallways and doors can cause delays. Apartments can have limited access, with tiny lifts or stairs.
  • Larger items such as kitchen-appliances or sofas are often custom orders, and take weeks to manufacture or transfer into a local distribution centre, suddenly demanding delivery ASAP.

Multi-stop route planning software ensures an even and fair delivery schedule, making the most of your drivers’ time and vehicle availability. Often, companies mistakenly feel confident they’re operating efficiently because vehicles consistently leave the store or distribution centre full. But, without advanced planning, one vehicle and team could have completed its deliveries by midday, with the other one out until late at night – not an efficient use of resources.

With the addition of route execution software, you can monitor the real-time progress of your vehicles on the road, feeding that information back into the system so that it can quickly and responsively amend planned routes as needed.

Communication is at the heart of the delivery experience

While you’re juggling all the complexities of multi-stop deliveries in order to streamline operations, your customer’s priority is to receive accurate and up to date information about when their delivery is going to arrive. The good news is that the two can go hand in hand. When you use multi-stop route planning software to optimise route plans deliveries become more predictable, increasing the accuracy of the information shared with the consumer.

An improved customer experience

When items requiring two-man delivery are ready to schedule, multi-stop route planning software allows the customer service team to provide the customer with an estimated delivery time-window, via text or email, days in advance. Then, when route planners are creating the plan for one or two days out, they can generate delivery predictions within a tighter window – typically two hours.

Customers also benefit from the software’s capacity to take account of packing materials that need removing or old items that need to be collected, including any disconnection time. The schedule is planned so that time is allocated for all this activity ensuring that the scheduled plan remains accurate and achievable.

Further, using route execution software that tracks the drivers’ progress, customers can receive an alert when the delivery vehicle is a pre-defined time away, greatly enhancing the customer’s experience.

Add an ePOD system, and the customer can even track the delivery vehicle online themselves in real time. At the customer’s home, the ePOD system allows drivers to capture proof-of-delivery data such as photos, as well as notify the company’s customer care centre of any issues as they arise, so disputes can be resolved quickly. Further, a sophisticated ePOD system like fleXipod will also help set standardised protocols, such as ensuring delivery staff wear shoe-covers or fill in a risk assessment form before delivery.

Getting better visibility and control

Barker and Stonehouse – a rapidly-growing furniture retailer in the UK – has been able to increase its delivery frequency, serving nearly 90% of the country on a daily basis, six days a week. Previously, the company used staff at individual stores to plan deliveries, using a fixed planning matrix that only served certain postcodes one day of the week. This meant vehicle resources were being underutilised, and the company had no central visibility of how the delivery operation was performing.

Now they use their resources more efficiently, have increased visibility of delivery performance and are also able to offer customers a wider choice of delivery time slots, whether they are buying online or ordering in one of the company’s stores.

Saves money, too

Users of multi-stop route planning software report measurable results, including:

  • Improved stops per vehicle
  • Reduced transport costs
  • Reduced planning time

All of this leads to significant and ongoing savings for your company. The broad estimate of cost savings in in a typical delivery operation through implementation of advanced route planning software is 10-30%. Because of the complexities of two-man delivery operations, the savings in this area are likely to be at the higher end of that range. It is estimated that the cost of a single, at-home, two-man delivery is in the region of £200. If you can streamline operations to fit in even one additional delivery on your daily multi-stop route, the savings quickly add up.

For more information about how multi-stop route planning software can help save money and improve customer service, contact Paragon, from Aptean.

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