This is the second article in a three-part series on how retailers deal with last-minute delivery issues.
I recently wrote an article about New York Times-bestselling suspense author Jeff Abbott, who experienced major visibility-related delivery issues when he attempted to refurnish his home after a fire.
“We ordered a large dining room table from a national furniture brand, but the wrong table arrived,” he says. “They couldn’t tell us if our table was sitting in a warehouse or delivered to another customer. They didn’t know. There was no data, no action, no resolution.”
Brands need actionable visibility. Not only does the brand need to be able to see and access delivery data, they also need to be empowered to resolve service issues before they become customer-facing nightmares, like what Abbott experienced.
To better understand consumers’ expectations, we recently conducted a consumer study. We found:
- 93% want to stay informed throughout the delivery process—from in-transit status to final arrival date.
- 47% will not order again from a brand with poor delivery visibility.
- 44% said brands are not creating positive delivery experiences, while 98% said delivery is a key part of their brand loyalty.
The message is clear: Brands need better insights to see all shipments, across all carriers, in real time. That will enable them to identify risks before they impact customer satisfaction and retention.
Getting actionable visibility involves three key strategies:
- Make fragmented data consistent and actionable. All delivery data is not equal. Data types and formats vary widely depending on factors such as the shipper, the carrier, the leg in the delivery journey and the freight mode. They may include emails, bar code scans, shipping pages, tracking pages, truck telematics and mobile device updates. But without a way to “normalize” all these different inputs and see updates in one place, it’s hard to understand early warning signals and implications before they become potential customer problems. That’s not to mention, visibility data is not always delivered in real time. Legacy technologies such as EDI and portals may give useful milestone data, but do not provide real-time insights or more detailed analytics needed to address an exception, according to Gartner. For a consumer, a brand’s inability to address a delivery problem is worse than being a day late with a delivery. In fact, we’ve seen retailers who proactively identify and communicate with a customer to solve a problem receive a three-point higher Net Promoter Score than retailers that have no delivery issues at all. As Abbott put it, “When the retailer could not tell us where our table was, it made us feel like we’d made a huge mistake in ordering from them.”
- Use visibility data to drive insightful actions. It’s bad enough not knowing the status of a customer order. Not being able to act on an exception is even worse in today’s climate of stratospheric customer expectations. Delivery experience management tools can offer real-time insights, workflow, collaboration and tracking capabilities that help retailers take control of last-mile delivery so they can uphold brand promises and protect the bottom line. With increased visibility into shipment data, and the ability to take action on it, it is possible to tell a transportation manager they need to get shipments placed on another flight to avoid a weather issue. It can also empower customer care teams to reship, divert or reschedule a time-sensitive delivery while keeping the customer fully informed and reassured. “Our table fell into a black hole,” says Abbott. “We were stuck in a limbo of waiting and feeling powerless to do anything about the problem. It felt like no one in the chain of command was talking to each other, or had any sense of urgency about communicating with us.”
- Increase loyalty and lower costs with actionable visibility. In the Abbotts’ case, the retailer ate their margin on the wrong table delivery, giving it to the family as a loaner while they waited for their “real” table to arrive. Sadly, this situation is not uncommon. Brands today increase inventory because they know shipping exceptions result in losses that require free replacements. This constant erosion of profits has to stop. Why not find a way to reduce exceptions and build customer loyalty instead? Consumer packaged goods brand, Grove Collaborative, did just that, and the results were impressive. Using delivery experience management visibility and collaboration tools, the retailer increased its NPS by 9.4% and reduced its issue response time by 77%, all while saving $64 per damage claim and $23 per incorrect address. Just imagine if the Abbotts’ retailer had taken the same approach by giving them real-time tracking information with personalized alerts and self-service delivery options that enabled them to decide beforehand if they wanted to accept temporary delivery of the “wrong” table while their “real” table was delayed, or being replaced with a new one.
Real-time, actionable data insights help customer care teams and carriers collaborate to resolve problems. From the manufacture of orders to stock levels to shipping options (perhaps rewarding the most efficient carriers based on performance metrics tied to customer expectations), data that informs decisions and actions to meet customer expectations can prevent loss of margin, overstocking of backup inventory, and the selection of poorly-performing inefficient carriers.
If brands want to increase loyalty and contain costs, they must move beyond visibility-oriented solutions toward real delivery experience management.
And as for the Abbotts, they will not be ordering from that retailer again.