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GUEST COMMENT How mobile can transform the final mile delivery service

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Wayne Holgate, director at Paragon Software Systems examines how mobile is changing the delivery experience for customers.

The use of mobile and mobile data has transformed the way that retailers engage with their customers. Location, preferences and shopping history can all be used to provide a personalised experience for the customer via email or app, driving engagement and sales volumes. But what about the final mile delivery experience?

Historically, deliveries were the poor relation of customer service, but now with the delivery increasingly becoming the only offline touchpoint the customer has with a retail brand, retailers have had to think more carefully about how orders are fulfilled. A frictionless delivery experience is just as essential to a positive customer experience as the search, selection and purchase process.

Retailers have embraced mobile functionality, offering customers choice and convenience in pursuit of loyalty. With the widespread uptake of smartphones, retailers large and small have been able to take advantage of the always-on nature of the internet to drive sales. But with this added connectivity comes the expectation that information about product availability or delivery options will also be accurate and up-to-date across all channels. The ability to provide regular updates to confirm that the order has been placed is on its way and has been delivered is now just the norm. Access to real-time tracking data is also becoming increasingly common. This can be a win-win for both the internet shopper and the retailer. Regular and accurate communication not only gives the customer a greater sense of confidence that their delivery will arrive but also helps the retailer to increase first-time success rates and reduce inbound call volumes to the customer service team.

Enhancing the experience

When it comes to the delivery itself electronic proof of delivery devices are starting to transform the customer experience in a number of ways. The majority of mainstream retailers have already replaced paper notes with some form of electronic proof of delivery. However, many could improve the customer service experience further by going beyond “sign on glass” functionality to capture a wider range of data.

Let’s think about scenarios where deliveries need to be left in a safe place. Once the delivery is complete, the driver can photograph the item in situ using a mobile ePOD device. The photograph can then be used in a customer notification to confirm that a delivery has been made and the package has been left in the nominated safe place.

The same functionality can also be used in the event of a damaged or incorrect item. A customer service team can immediately review images sent by the driver and then reorder the item or approve a discount, resolving the situation quickly and efficiently for the customer.

Standardising the delivery process

Taking the same approach regardless of the delivery channel ensures a consistent brand experience whether the delivery is being fulfilled by a one-man or two-man service. The added depth of functionality now available from proof of delivery software means retailers should be able to easily adapt the workflow that the driver follows during the delivery process.

Each driver can be guided step-by-step through their tasks via prompts on a handheld device. The prompts can be varied on an individual product basis, for example, “remove an old item from customer property” or “unpack the new item and take away packaging”. The ease-of-use of the software, compatible on a wide range of different mobiles devices, means drivers will be able to quickly adopt the chosen system and provide a positive delivery experience for the customer. This flexibility also makes it easier to scale up with temporary drivers during peak trading periods, ensuring a consistent service at all times of the year.

It is common for retailers selling furniture, appliances and kitchens to outsource their deliveries, but this does not mean that customer service should be compromised in any way. Today’s ePOD applications can be configured to meet the needs of the retailer, irrespective of who the third party logistics provider is delivering for.

The ability to capture a wide variety of data is also helping retailers to respond more quickly to feedback in order to address recurring issues. Data from the drivers is automatically captured and reported centrally, so trends can be quickly identified and cross-referenced with other information such as incoming customer complaints. If a television, for example, is constantly getting damaged, it suggests there is either something wrong with the packaging or the delivery procedure itself. The added insight can be used to either identify the exact nature of the problem or prompt further investigation, so processes can be quickly changed to eliminate the problem.

Retailers are fighting a constant battle for share of wallet and customer loyalty. A positive last-mile experience can be a clear point of differentiation with consistent communication providing the customer with confidence in the retailer’s ability to deliver. Mobile and mobile data is now integral to the customer experience, contributing to an improved brand service with accurate, real-time information. Retailers that harness new opportunities to gather a wider range of data will be able to streamline their operations and benefit from being able to offer a better brand experience at every stage of the customer journey. While retailers that fail to offer this level of information and engagement will increasingly stand out as lacking a customer-centric approach.

Data from drivers can be captured and reported centrally so trends can be quickly identified and cross-referenced with other information such as incoming customer complaints

Mobile in action

Dreams , the UK’s leading bed specialist, adopted Paragon’s fleXipod electronic proof of delivery system to further enhance its customer-centric order fulfilment operation. The software is used by the retailer’s two-man delivery teams, responsible for handling more than 12,000 orders each week, to ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction and delivery success. This has been achieved by improving communications on the day of delivery while simplifying the last mile administrative processes and keeping track of orders in real-time.

fleXipod enables Dreams to electronically capture useful information from both deliveries and collections, as well as record the removal of packaging from the customer’s home, in a fast and simple manner. By replacing a previous paper-based system, the retailer provides a more efficient and professional on-site customer experience with live updates into a central management console. This allows Dreams’ customer service function to have a complete view of all orders and respond immediately to any delivery issues.

Dreams also intends to improve customer communications by using a combination of fleXipod and vehicle tracking data to send automated delivery notifications based on the latest location of the delivery driver. Once a proceeding delivery in the schedule is marked as completed on the mobile application, an SMS text message will be sent automatically to the next customer providing a reminder and arrival time update. As well as keeping the customer informed of their upcoming delivery, this added functionality will drive operational improvements and savings within the Dreams customer service team.

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