If you’re running a distribution operation, chances are that customer service is pretty high on your list of priorities. Customers are demanding more accurate information, more frequent information and tighter delivery time windows. And that’s just the starting point.

Transport operations have a significant role to play in meeting these customer demands, but it can be a real challenge to stay focused on providing an excellent customer experience while 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, minimizing the cost to serve while improving your customer service levels.

More accurate routes result in more accurate arrival times

Route planning software can factor in a wide range of different parameters, including the availability of individual drivers, 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, allowing more deliveries to be slotted into 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.

A delivery service that can be tailored to meet customer demands

Whether you are delivering animal feed, fence panels or freshly baked bread, it’s 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 in front-of-house service in their store or restaurant.

Managing these parameters 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.

Catering delivery firm Marigolds & Onions uses Paragon to ensure it meets the demands of a large number of customers who need deliveries to be made within a 15-minute window.

“Using the Paragon routing and scheduling software, we have been able to add specific criteria for each client, such as specific delivery windows or detailed delivery instructions, helping us to generate feasible and efficient routes that meet contractual requirements.” John Valente, Owner, Marigolds & Onions.

The flexibility to offer later cut-off times

If you are a food or drinks distributor you may be able to sharpen your competitive advantage considerably by offering later order cut-off times.

Specialist distribution companies often plan for next-day deliveries. It is simple to transfer customer order data automatically from an order management system to Paragon’s route planning software so that 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 route planning software, specialist distributors of food or drinks can accommodate all these extra requests without impacting their regular delivery commitments.

Right first time

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. Advanced route planning software puts powerful computing at your fingertips, so that you can easily handle increasingly complex delivery operations. In fact, it is often the pressures of growth that incentivize businesses to buy route planning, to ensure they can maintain high levels of customer service while taking on more business.

Automate customer communication

For transport operations that service hundreds of customers, keeping customers informed can be a resource-draining nightmare. Automating the process of customer communication ensures customers receive the information they need to manage their day while also significantly reducing inbound calls to customer service. Updates can be sent via SMS and/or email alerts to the customer’s nominated contact (s) leaving customer service staff time to deal with complex customer queries more quickly.

Make sure your transport office is following the plan to allow for continuous improvement

If the transport office is not following the planning team’s transport plan, the service improvements identified during the route planning process will not be realized.

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.

Ultimately, good service helps you retain and grow customers

Good customer service helps you retain and grow customers, 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 six months of integrating Paragon’s route planning software with their vehicle tracking system, FFE found that service improvements brought an increase of nine percent 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, sending us an email or calling us on 972-731-4308.

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