Making the Last Mile a Differentiator
The last mile plays a crucial role in the supply chain. As consumers expect increasingly shorter delivery windows, last-mile proximity isn't just nice to have, it's a must-have. Will O'Shea, chief marketing officer of XPO Logistics' last mile business unit, shares how to turn the last mile into a competitive differentiator.
1. Involve additional players. Ask suppliers to ship some orders directly to customers. Look into sharing fulfillment operations with other omni-channel companies hoping to accelerate shipping times. Leverage 3PLs' or carriers' cross-docks, especially if they are already located close to your key consumer markets.
2. Communicate. Never assume that sending one pre-delivery scheduling message is adequate, because it could easily get lost or overlooked by busy customers. Instead, communicate the particulars of each delivery window to every customer more than once via a mix of channels to reduce misunderstandings and prevent costly not-at-homes.
3. Don't underestimate the importance of packaging. External packaging that is less than pristine may cause the customer to question everything from the product's actual condition to your company's integrity. If any item is delivered with dust or tears, don't assume your customer will overlook it. Correct it or change the packaging before it heads to the customer's home.
4. Offer to handle "some assembly required." Many customers lack the time, patience or skills required to get a large purchase up and running. Busy customers appreciate the convenience of product setup, assembly, installation, and other value-added services as a last-mile option (where permissible by state law).
5. Invest in better last-mile visibility tools. When a delivery is en route, few things are more important to consumers than location and timing. Differentiate yourself from competitors by providing real-time, last-mile connectivity within your company to give customers the visibility they want.
6. Offer rapid resolution. If a shipment is damaged, inaccurate, or incomplete, have your delivery team send a replacement request while still at a customer's home. It demonstrates to your customer that your company is working toward a swift and seamless resolution. It also can cut as much as a full day off the replacement process.
7. Cast your optimization net wider. By simultaneously optimizing deliveries across multiple stores, distribution centers, and channels, your company can realize economies of scale—and create savings you can pass on to customers through better last-mile delivery prices.
8. Focus resources on fixing problems. Even the best companies occasionally have products whose flaws aren't apparent until they reach the last-mile DC. Invest in top-notch quality assurance professionals at your warehouses who can help remedy flaws long before delivery.
9. Treat the final mile as part of your national brand. Develop a clearly defined delivery protocol working with a carefully selected team of core providers and carriers who understand exactly how your company wants to craft its brand's customer experience. Also, implement quality control measures to ensure that any delivery provider you use follows your protocol and delivery experience road map.
10. Reduce the "misery index." Show customers you respect their time by aiming for shorter delivery windows and by calling when a delivery team is 30 minutes away.