Things like software integration and connectivity can sometimes feel like they’re at a bit of a remove from on-the-ground considerations like delight your customers with right-time deliveries—especially if you already have complex systems in place to get data from one part of your operation to the next. Sure, the integration between your ERP system and your last mile routing software might require some manual intervention, but that’s more of a back-office problem than a potential customer satisfaction issue, right?
The real answer to that question might not be so cut and dried. While your end customers—regardless of whether they’re individual consumers or other businesses—probably aren’t going to leave negative Yelp reviews complaining about the lack of bidirectional data moving between your PoS and delivery management systems, they often do feel the effects of a lack of connectivity. They might feel those effects in the form of late deliveries or unexpected changes—or even in the form of long delays before they receive their invoices.
Ultimately, when you invest in more integrated systems, what you’re really investing in is customer experience. Here are three ways that you can leverage that in last mile deliveries:
Keeping Your Customers in the Loop
When you think of connectivity in the last mile, the first thing that comes to mind most readily is often going to be connectivity between you and your customers. This is a hugely important part of keeping your customers happy, and it doesn’t require a technological highwire act. If you can provide customers with real-time order tracking plus calls, texts, and emails about their order statuses before, during, and after the delivery, you can keep them looped in, engaged, and excited. All it takes to make this happen is to ensure that your automated customer communication tools are closely aligned with your routing and real-time tracking capabilities—since many of these features can be found within the same solution, that’s an easy win.
But if you want to go above and beyond when it comes to engaging customers throughout the delivery process, connectivity can be a powerful tool. For starters, if you want to customize the post-delivery experience, the ability to integrate with third party survey tools can be valuable, especially if you’re using those same tools at other touchpoints. If delivery management is also a big part of client management, connectivity between your delivery software and your CRM could add significant value.
Imagine if you could leverage a workflow in which potential delays and other order exceptions on the day of delivery are transmitted directly to sales reps within their CRM portals: rather than waiting till the day after a late or missed delivery to do damage control, the sales rep could immediately reach out to the customer to smooth the situation over and arrange a workable solution. All of a sudden, you’ve turned a late delivery into an opportunity to provide better engagement and more personalized service to valued customers—this is the power of connectivity in a nutshell.
Integrating Planning and Execution
There’s no end of imaginative ways that businesses can go above and beyond for their customers. At the same time, it’s hard to overstate the value of simply crafting an effective plan and executing it seamlessly. What customers want most across the board is simply for businesses to make promises and deliver on them consistently. In that sense, the ability to seamlessly blend delivery planning and execution is a huge part of ensuring customer satisfaction.
What does that look like from a system connectivity standpoint? It starts with having close data integrations between all the systems that play a role in delivery planning, for instance:
- Warehouse management systems
- Telematics solutions
- Point of sale systems
- Transportation management systems
- Enterprise resource planning solutions
Every enterprise is different. Every business has its own set of processes and its own technology stack, often one that’s been pieced together over many years as operational needs have changed and business goals have evolved. In the modern era, where customer satisfaction is the holy grail and delivery operations are becoming more competitive, you need a way to harness your existing technology towards the ultimate goal of delighting customers and keeping delivery promises.
When different systems integrate easily and seamlessly, that’s exactly what happens. When you can look at your delivery management software and be absolutely certain that you’re working with complete, accurate, and up-to-date data, you can plan with confidence. You can be sure when you start your routing process that you’re working with the most recent order information. Not only does this mean you can be sure that the routes you’re dispatching to your drivers for the next day actually represent your business needs—it also means that you can keep accepting orders later into the day.
In the same way, integration with telematics solutions can give you the ability to monitor driver locations on a much more granular level from the comfort of your delivery management platform. This might help you spot potential delays that much more quickly, such that you can take quick action to keep your plans on track.
Of course, the power of this kind of connectivity also cuts both ways. When you have information gathered during the delivery process flowing back into your ERP or other systems, you can make smarter plans and execute on them more effectively in the future. Costing is an area where this can be particularly impactful: when you can estimate cost per stop in your delivery management platform and then utilize that information in larger transportation planning contexts, you can delight your customers in the most cost-efficient possible way.
Powering Right-Time Delivery
The specific benefits you can draw from different forms of connectivity are numerous:
- WMS integration ensures that you’re only scheduling deliveries you can actually fulfill and adding visibility for any reverse logistics or return management.
- Integration with ERP solutions helps you perform more effective route accounting and ensures smarter resource usage.
- By integrating with telematics solutions you simplify compliance and better integrate reporting processes between systems, saving person-hours across a number of back-office processes.
The list goes on and on. But connectivity among systems that relate to delivery isn’t just about gaining individual benefits—it’s about powering a holistic approach to delighting customers. When everyone has access to the right data in the right place at the right time, you can orient all the processes that go into a successful delivery around customer-centric “right-time” deliveries.
What does this look like in practice? That answer will differ from one enterprise to the next, but the basic idea is the same: you leverage connectivity across systems in order to give customers an integrated experience that delights them from end to end.
If your systems are connected, every decision can be based on the same data and the same guiding principles. This means that at every touchpoint, the customer gets the same attentive and engaging service, with consistent information, a consistent feel, and a consistent standard of service. At the same time, every function is interworking efficiently with every related function, meaning that you can get more out of your delivery capacity and improve performance. You can achieve real “right-time” delivery success by consistently getting the right product to the right customer at the right time—no matter the complexity. This is the most important thing you can aspire to when it comes to boosting customer satisfaction across your last mile deliveries.