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How poor service comes at a price - and some tips for best practice delivery

Last week saw Yodel controversially raising prices for service to meet consumer service demands and match the ever-increasing need for flexibility.

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The UK's largest parcel delivery company put the price hike down to the enormous growth in online shopping, and enhancements to its service, including a six day a week, increasing to seven days during December, with the removal of premium charges for weekend deliveries, and standard pricing across the UK. It also referenced other technology enhancements such as SMS and an improved online service. All good enhancements, which unfortunately backfired.

The outcome was public outrage and a host of negative comments from consumers who had experienced poor service, and demonstrated how bad service can damage a brand and come to the forefront at the first opportunity.

It would be wrong to comment specifically on Yodel, however, the situation has caused us to reflect again on the challenge of managing a large service organisation.

Imagine a fictitious large delivery company with 1,000s of mobile employees working across the country with a customer service issue. Management want to tackle the issues but what can they do?

Let’s consider some typical issues and complaints raised:

1. Item was not delivered:

  • Card not left
  • Card left, but someone was in at the time card says it was left

2. Not delivered when promised

3. Can’t provide any estimates of delivery

4. Poor driver service

The starting point is for the management to be very clear of the standards of service they expect. Second point is to recruit and train people against those standards. Third point is to then use systems and technology to manage performance against those standards.

In terms of how the job is carried out there are many things that can be done to address the above-mentioned issues.

Item was not delivered

So for this issue there might be a number of scenarios. Did the driver go to the (right) location? Did the driver get out of the van and go to the door (with the parcel)? And if he did, did he knock on the door / ring the bell and wait to see if it was answered?

Technology can really help here – let’s start by trying to make sure the driver gets to the right address by providing a mobile device with the details of all the deliveries required, and the routing to get them there. Having done that, the company can check through using geo-codes (generated by the driver handheld device or in cab tracking) that the driver did indeed drive to the correct location. Better than that, in the event of non-delivery the company can insist that the driver take a photograph of the door of the delivery location on their mobile device with the photo being tagged with the time, date and its geo-location. All of this will provide the company with evidence to address any issues with drivers who are deliberately skipping deliveries or have training needs – and the existence of these checks will in many cases encourage drivers to do the right thing.

Let’s assume all of this gets the driver to the right address and to the door of the property, hopefully having done this much the driver will then bother to knock / ring and in the event of it not being immediately answered the delay of having to take a photograph will give the owner a little more time to respond. Finally, if the door isn’t answered then the device could be used to print a card with the failed delivery details on it – these will be correct removing another possible source of customer aggravation.

Item not delivered when promised

Let's consider the issues of delivery times and estimates. Decent scheduling software can help here and should enable accurate estimates of delivery times to be made.

Can't provide any estimates of delivery

To address this point, real-time feedback on delivery completion should make it possible to provide updated estimates if a customer phones up to enquire about progress. So there’s lots that can be done to improve service delivery in the field. What can we now do to provide management with better information and what is going on and the ability to intervene and take action when required?

This is when service performance management solutions come in. Simple dashboards which enable delivery statistics to be tracked at different points in the organisation hierarchy (looking at different regions, depots and teams) and reasons for non-compliance (address not found, door not answered) can enable problems to be identified quickly and action to be taken.

Poor driver service

Finally, in this scenario, employee performance management systems are critical. These allow the performance of individual employees to be tracked and monitored. Through the use of this, drivers who persistently don’t knock or ring will be spotted (as their delivery stats will be lower) and rude and / or scruffy drivers identified through a low customer satisfaction score, thus addressing issue 4.

So there are some very clear answers to the problems Yodel has faced with regard to its service issues. The real challenge is getting the processes in place to address them, before the reputation is marred by inconsistent customer experience. It may be the minority, but once the complaints hit mainstream news, the perception to many sadly becomes the reality.

 

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