Awake at the Wheel: Delivering Customer Satisfaction
When Sleepy’s customers got tired of short notice and missed deliveries, the specialty mattress retailer brought in a technology partner and dreamed up a solution that put those problems to bed.
Delivering thousands of mattresses nationwide every day might make you ready for a nap. But not Sleepy's. When the specialty mattress retailer needed to figure out how to sync up its distribution centers and independent delivery contractors with the needs of its customers, it was time to wake up and bring in a technology expert.
Founded in 1957, Sleepy's has become one of the largest privately owned speciality retailers in the country, supplying mattresses, box springs, pillows, bedding, and furniture to countless bedrooms. The company has grown to more than 1,000 retail locations in 17 states, and operates seven distribution centers that make about 3,000 daily deliveries.
"Sleepy's lives by a code to offer customers the best price, most convenient delivery, and most reliable service so that 100 percent of customers are satisfied 100 percent of the time," says Donald Rowley, chief information officer for Sleepy's.
With this mission as the cornerstone of operations, Sleepy's doesn't take customer delivery lightly. "We not only deliver the new mattress or other items, we also provide setup services and haul away the old mattress," Rowley explains. "Landed percentage, which measures how many deliveries are made in accordance with customer requirements, is a key metric for us." Improving this number enhances service and reduces cost.
Scheduling deliveries has always been important to the sales cycle—both for customer satisfaction and delivery fleet cost control. Before implementing a software solution, scheduling delivery appointments was difficult and time-consuming.
Sleepy's began working with The Descartes Systems Group, a technology solutions provider based in Ontario, Canada, nearly one decade ago to help improve route planning. The new technology tools gave the retailer the ability to optimize its delivery schedule, and reduce miles traveled while still making the maximum possible stops. The fuel and mileage savings benefited the bottom line, and the improvement in the reliability and timeliness of deliveries made a marked impact on customer satisfaction.
"Before using the Descartes system, the problem was that we could not communicate the delivery time window until the day before delivery, giving the customer short notice," says Rowley. If a driver was already on the road, and couldn't connect with the customer, the merchandise had to be returned to the distribution center. Not only did this negatively impact Sleepy's' relationships with its customers, but the costs associated with returning and reloading the merchandise, and rescheduling the delivery, were hard to control.
Opening the Windows
Sleepy's solved this problem in 2007, when it developed a point-of-sale system that included Descartes' dynamic scheduling and routing application. "This system presented customers with a choice of several delivery options at the time of purchase, improving the landed percentage and enhancing customer satisfaction rates," says Rowley. The system allowed Sleepy's to schedule deliveries within four-hour windows, improving its ability to deliver to customers as requested.
The improvement in customer service was largely due to the Descartes application's ability to provide improved route density and equipment utilization. Delivery appointments remained constant for the customer, but the solution might alter the route or stop to reflect additional orders and changes that could be accommodated within the existing schedule. The system knows what resources are available—including equipment, personnel, and route origin and destination points—and can optimize routes on the fly as new orders enter the system.
"Our application is dynamic and continually looks at route optimization," says Jason Read, Descartes vice president, applications consulting. "As an example, the initial choice might be Stop 2 on Route 1, but as additional orders are placed and deliveries are scheduled, the route and stop might change. But that original customer's appointment time would not."
Thanks to Descartes' application, Sleepy's avoided over- or under-committing on each route. All trucks operated with the highest possible route density, while still offering personalized delivery times.
But Sleepy's wasn't satisfied yet. "I wanted to eliminate the paper portion of the delivery cycle," says Rowley. Descartes' Airclic electronic proof-of-delivery solution was then added to the mix. The software was loaded onto handheld devices used by drivers, allowing them to handle almost all aspects of the delivery electronically. The Airclic solution provides GPS data and route-specific details to help create more efficient routes, and those routes are then pushed to the mobile application.
Information in an Instant
"The point-of-delivery device is a ruggedized handheld unit that expedites workflow for the driver and removes the paperwork," explains Read. The unit provides all the information drivers need for the deliveries sequentially loaded on their vehicles. This makes confirmation of deliveries and other information almost instantaneous.
Drivers can note, for example, delivery signatures, damaged or missing items, and other related delivery information. In addition, if the customer is not home, drivers can notify a Sleepy's customer service rep, who will attempt to call the customer and see if the delivery can still be made. If not, drivers receive a release number and can continue on with their route.
"We constantly make improvements in the software so that it can work across the widest range of devices possible—such as the type Sleepy's uses, or other devices such as smartphones," says Read.
Sleepy's continues to look for ways to improve operations through Descartes' applications. The retailer plans to use the solution to further shorten delivery windows for customers, and to build in discounted delivery fees for windows that fit better into established routes.