Product and price used to be the top brand differentiators for consumers—but this isn't entirely the case anymore. Most companies view customer experience as one of their most important priorities. Excellent delivery is the new battleground for winning new customers and ensuring repeat businesses.
As a result, fleet managers and dispatchers are now in the limelight as businesses strive for delivery excellence. This holds true for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) outfits.
And yet, many enterprises continue to hold on to conventional route planning methods despite the fast rise of advanced route optimization tools. If you’re dependent on outdated systems and software, you’re going to have difficulty competing with operations that have invested in the right route optimization tools.
Why You Need Route Planning Software
Route optimization software is key to providing excellent delivery services—which makes it the best way to win new customers and maintain brand loyalty. If you're noticing any of the challenges listed below within your delivery operations, then it's time to seriously consider upgrading to better route management software for your business.
Increasing delivery costs
If delivery costs are shooting up—especially as business expands—that may be a sign that your routes aren’t optimized. If you're noticing that your company is having a hard time keeping delivery expenses stable as your business grows, then it's best to start implementing the use of planning software.
More business for your company translates to more delivery complexity. Route planning that once only took a few hours might now be prohibitively time consuming. To cut down both labor and fuel costs, you'll need the most advanced tools available. This often takes the form of capacity crunches as well—i.e. it seems like you should be able to complete more deliveries with your current assets than you actually are. In these cases, you’re left with a choice between addressing your routing processes or investing in additional trucks and drivers that may not actually be necessary.
Inability to break down costs
A lack of data visibility across delivery stakeholders can cause massive operational inefficiencies. Fleet managers may have a hard time managing expenses and accounting which areas of operations are causing expenses to go up. To some some extent, this is often a question of last mile visibility, but accurate costing goes hand-in-hand with route optimization.
Lack of flexibility
Your routes might all look great on paper—but what happens when something unexpected crops up on the day of delivery? If adding a new stop to an existing route requires a Herculean effort—or if routing an order for the next day is functionally impossible—your process almost certainly has room to evolve.
What Does the Best Route Optimization Software Look Like?
If you invest in the best route optimization software available in the market, you put yourself in a position to reap serious rewards. What does that actually look like in practice? Below are just a few impacts that the best route optimization software can have.
Rapid planning turnarounds
Conventional route planning uses spreadsheets or legacy apps that take significant time to produce workable routes. With the right solution, however, route plans that used to take hours to create can be generated in minutes. Not only does this free up your staff for more value-additive tasks, it also empowers you to offer faster delivery turnarounds, e.g. same-day or next-day.
Reduction of paperwork
Manual route planning involves time-consuming data entry and note-taking. Plus, physical papers are prone to get damaged or lost. Truck routing software eliminates paperwork so you can save time and resources. Assuming you have a system where routing is integrated with other aspects of delivery management, you can get full visibility into your routes as they’re being undertaken by drivers, with a centralized cache of mission critical delivery and routing data always at your fingertips.
The transportation industry has been dealing with the driver retention problem for years. Luckily, routing software can help businesses retain drivers by empowering them to complete more stops per day (and thus, in many cases, get paid more). The best route optimizer also produces ETAs that are highly-accurate, which means that drivers aren’t constantly running late (and getting blamed for it unfairly). When the entire delivery process goes more smoothly, drivers tend to be happier.
Like we saw above, route planning and accurate delivery costing go hand-in-hand. That’s why the right delivery route software offers quicker and better KPIs and reporting, so fleet managers and company executives can determine profitable stops and identify areas for improvement. Robust reporting makes your fleet operations more accountable and transparent.
Visibility on drivers
The best route plans won't yield fleets positive results if drivers simply ignore the routes provided to them. But the right software enables dispatchers and fleet managers to monitor if their drivers are indeed following route plans by tracking delivery statuses and locations in real-time.
Improved customer service
Those who rely on conventional planning methods end up providing customers with inaccurate expected time of arrivals (ETAs). Human planners, after all, cannot compete with the computing powers of software when it comes to managing the complexities of how driver experience, traffic, load types, and more impact delivery times. The best route planning software provides fleets with realistic schedules and customers with precise arrival times. This can be a game changer when it comes to customer experience. Nothing is worse than waiting around all day for a delivery that doesn’t show up on time—if you can prevent that from happening, your customers will be eager to do business with you in the future.
The best route optimization software offers a business modeling function allowing you to analyze possible changes in their delivery operations before implementing any changes. Your software should provide accurate service and cost implications on the proposed changes to locations of distribution centers, expanding your distribution network to accommodate a new customer, etc.
Ensuring great delivery services is hard and it's only going to get harder in the next few years.
Consumers are demanding more from businesses, and the industry will continue to grapple with the driver shortage problem, increased restrictions in urban areas, volatile fuel prices, and more. Without a reliable route planning software, operating costs will continue to increase and fleet managers will soon resort to guessing on what's causing inefficiencies. Simply put, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your delivery route optimization software.