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Opinion: Live supply chain information: the route to customer satisfaction


As customers strive for maximum satisfaction and flexibility, live progress updates from delivery vehicles on the road are increasingly important for retailers and yet many retailers are missing out. Lewis Marston, CEO of Rocket Consulting explains how mobile logistics management can help. Lewis Marston
Real-time information enables proactive decision-making and allows businesses to optimise customer performance and reduce the risk from ever-increasing competition. Despite this, many organisations lack real time visibility of supply chain activity, instead relying on anecdotal information and even guesswork. This is reinforced by the use of third party logistics providers. Here are the challenges that can be faced:

  • Road traffic conditions

It is almost impossible to predict road traffic conditions in today’s environment. Traffic flow can peak due to accidents, breakdowns, weather conditions and various other factors that are out of the control of the supplier, who must, nonetheless keep impacts that are costly to fleet utilisation and customer satisfaction to a minimum.

Accurate delivery times drive customer convenience and, in turn, efficiency, with heavy penalties often incurred when vehicles are unable to adhere to booking windows.

  • Vehicle visibility

Visibility of vehicles out on the road is often masked, which reduces the opportunity to optimise their use for additional deliveries. This can lead to the use of ad hoc service providers who, despite potentially not having a full understanding of the supplier’s business requirements and processes, or have been audited or fully-briefed, interact directly with customers as they fulfil the ‘final mile’.

  • Driver route knowledge

Typically drivers were assigned fixed routes to maximise their familiarity with them and the customer locations. But as lead-time continues to be reduced, drops to new locations are often required. Unless the driver has turn-by-turn directions, key instructions and advanced notification of hazards and significant delays, there is a risk of late delivery, ultimately at the expense of customer satisfaction.

In addition, cost increases exponentially as mileage goes up and drivers come under increasing pressure to make up for lost time, which further reduces vehicle performance and efficiency.

  • Communication on route

Often drivers are unable to take calls from back office colleagues looking for the latest update on progress, while third party drivers can only be contacted sporadically. Customer service staff are forced to make ‘guesstimates’ when responding to queries on delivery times, further damaging the supplier’s credibility.

  • Meeting delivery metrics

Suppliers can perform better if they know that vehicles are carrying the right amounts of the correct products to facilitate delivery in full to reduce the risk of customer disappointment and missed key performance measurements. In addition, where products are damaged in transit replacement needs to be swift and with minimal delay, while making sure the back office has visibility to maximise the opportunity for rework and resale as opposed to consequential loss.

How Mobile Logistics Management (MLM) can help:

MLM tackles these issues, ensuring the opportunity for delivery performance is maximised. It must be integrated with back office systems, but then allows for live management of the supplier’s own and third party delivery fleet, with the following key benefits:

  • Routing systems capable of providing both historic and live traffic conditions ensure that the estimated times of arrival at customer locations are as accurate as possible, allowing customer expectations to be managed accordingly.
  • Vehicles can be proactively rerouted to avoid significant traffic delays, in turn maximising performance and reducing risk.
  • Live central progress updates from fleet in the field ensure key communication is effective because it reflects the latest events and conditions, thereby increasing customer confidence.
  • Portals and dashboards provide B2B customers with access to key details of a delivery’s progress. By reducing the need for direct communication, the supplier has more time for added value performance management and collaboration.
  • Back office systems are configured to send emails or SMS messages direct to the customer to provide updates in real-time, reducing unnecessary administration time.
  • Visibility of available stock in real-time, significantly reducing the need for buffer stock to ensure customer orders can be fulfilled.
  • Accurate information on customer profitability (incorporating detailed itemisation of charges by customer) enabling proactive decision-making to optimise business efficiency.

Customer satisfaction = competitive edge

It is easy for businesses to lose sight of the importance of accurate and timely Information, and the knock on effect this has on operational performance. A central source of information allows critical updates from vehicles out on deliveries to be proactively managed, which optimises the customer experience and provides the opportunity for added-value decision-making. Profitability is directly impacted because happy customers are the essence of competitive advantage.

Put simply, Mobile Logistics Management is the route to the future.

Lewis Marston is CEO of Rocket Consulting

Image credit: Fotolia

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