When your customers are trying to coordinate a delivery of parts with the arrival of the team that’s meant to do an installation with those parts, the stakes are high for delivering at the right time. Show up too early, and there may not even be someone around who can accept the order—show up too late, and your clients are potentially paying for contractor time while they sit around and wait.
Obviously, showing up at the right time comes down to how effectively you’re able to plan your delivery routes and how accurate your ETAs are. At the same time, it really is about more than that. It’s about making promises that work for the customer and showing your work so that they can be confident that you’ll actually keep them. Meeting a haphazardly generated delivery ETA is one thing—but scheduling a delivery for the exact right time for the customer to coordinate the delivery’s arrival with an upcoming installation and then providing constant updates to show you’re is the ideal. In a competitive environment with demand clients, providing the latter kind of experience is crucial.
That’s why building materials delivery organizations need to pay particular attention to how they approach customer communication. With that in mind, here are a few best practices:
1. Enable Smart Self-Scheduling for Building Materials Delivery
Building efficient delivery schedules that make the best use of your delivery capacity can be a challenge under the best conditions—and when you start factoring customer time window requests into the process, you can easily wind up running your trucks at half capacity just to try and keep customers happy.
While this might keep customers content, it’s obviously less-than-ideal for your bottom line, since you’re not using your delivery capacity optimally. That’s where smart, capacity-aware customer self-scheduling comes in. When your first communication touchpoint after an order is placed is a message giving customers the chance to choose a delivery slot based on options that have been generated by your routing system to account for existing schedules, driver availability, route efficiency, and more, you can maintain efficiency even when fielding time window requests.
This obviously requires you to have routing capabilities that can back up this process, which is a topic for another section (see “Back Up Your Delivery Processes with AI” below). But by incorporating this kind of touchpoint into your customer communication cadence—and doing it automatically—you can make your clients feel like they’re receiving bespoke, attentive service.
2. Leverage Frequent Delivery Alerts
Knowledge is power—nowhere more so than on construction sites. That’s why great customer service in building materials delivery comes down to effective communications just as much as anything else. That’s why it’s a best practice to have a whole slate of different delivery notifications ready to go through the fulfillment process. This might include:
- Delivery schedule confirmations once an order has been scheduled
- Route start notifications when the truck has left the warehouse in the morning—these can and should include precise ETAs for when to expect delivery
- Next stop notifications when the customer should expect the delivery imminently
- Arrival notifications when the delivery has actually reached the job site
- ETA notifications any time there’s a change in the expected delivery time from what was originally promised.
You’ll want to customize this cadence based on your customers’ preferences, of course, and you’ll want to customize the communications themselves with your branding and messaging. In this way, you do a lot more than provide updates—you keep customers engaged with your brand and help them to associate successful deliveries with your business and values.
Here, you may also want to find a way to segment your communications based on different audiences or delivery/service types. The more specific you can be—e.g. specifying whether it’s a delivery or a service call, giving special instructions based on what’s being delivered, etc.—the better the experience for the customer.
3. Offer Live Tracking
Notifications are critical to keeping customers in the loop, but giving them a self-serve delivery tracking option can also add significant value. Delivery expectations have been ratcheting up in the past few years, and the demands of consumers in B2C delivery contexts have been seeping into B2B expectations as well. If a contractor can access live, up-to-the-minute delivery updates from a real-time tracking portal when they buy a new mattress for their home, why shouldn’t they be able to expect the same experience on a job?
That experience is exactly what modern building supply delivery organizations can provide with the right tools. When you have delivery management technology that enables you to track deliveries in real-time with ongoing status updates from drivers (not just GPS coordinates, but actual delivery information), you can turn that delivery visibility around to your customers and empower them with the data they need on their own devices.
When you combine live delivery tracking, self-scheduling, and frequent delivery notifications, you lay the groundwork for a customer delivery experience that inspires confidence and gives your customers the info they need to keep things running smoothly on their jobs. At the end of the day, this is a huge part of the value that a supplier can provide to customers who are working hard to coordinate job site schedules and keep their projects running on-time and on-budget.
4. Back Up Your Delivery Promises with AI
Effective communication isn’t just about making promises—it’s about making promises you can keep. No number of delivery alerts is going to make up for a truck showing up two hours late, which is precisely why it’s so important to make sure that when you’re sending information and updates to customers it’s based on a strong planning foundation.
How do you make that happen? It starts with route optimization. Specifically, route optimization that leverages AI and machine learning to generate delivery ETAs that are actually accurate. This means finding a tool that can account for time window requests, truck and driver capacity, travel and service times, driver/technician skill, traffic, and more and then use all those parameters to create delivery schedules that ensure on-time delivery while maximizing capacity.
In this way, you lay the building blocks not just of on-time deliveries, but of stellar delivery experiences.
5. Don’t Forget About Customer Pickups
For most building and construction supply companies, delivery isn’t the only fulfillment method that matters. In many cases, customer pickup at store and warehouse sites is just as important to getting the right goods to the right customers at the right time. Unfortunately, even businesses that put a lot of thought into the best way to handle deliveries wind up drawing a blank when it comes to optimizing pickup logistics.
We might chalk this up to a comparative lack of available solutions on the market. But here’s the important thing: virtually everything we’ve said above about communications around delivery also applies to pickup logistics. Sure, there’s no routing involved, but you do want to offer:
- Customer alerts when items are ready for pickup
- Customer alerts around changes in schedule or delays
- Real-time information across the board
Simply put, the pickup experience should be just as seamless and high-touch as the delivery experience—which means leveraging the same kinds of communication best practices we discussed above to keep customers in the loop and prevent traffic jams in your parking lot.
Successful building materials delivery is high-stakes. Your customers need the right orders to show up at the right time, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Luckily, with the right communication cadence and best practices, you can go beyond simply delivering on time: you can deliver at the right time, in the right way, to keep your customers coming back for their supplies.