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How many hedges received an unexpected parcel this Christmas?

It’s no surprise to learn that the run-up to Christmas 2013 proved to be a record-breaking period for online shopping, with the vast majority of parcels and presents delivered on-time. However, two logistics firms (neither of them Cognito customers) have been singled out for careless and thoughtless actions on the part of their delivery drivers.

How many hedges received an unexpected parcel this Christmas

According to reports in both the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, rogue drivers have been caught losing packages, stuffing them into bins and hurling them over fences. The British Online Retailing Association (BritORA) has gone so far as to call for a reform of the parcel delivery system - dubbing the current system a 'Wild West'.

 It’s clearly not in any retailer’s interest to allow its reputation for customer service to be tarnished by systemic failures on the part of the specialist delivery organisations to which it subcontracts. It’s also obvious that these subcontractors face particular challenges in scaling up their operation with temporary or part-time workers to meet peaks in demand over the pre-Christmas period.

The vast majority of these workers want to do a good job. Many of them will, in turn, be sub-contracted or franchised rather than directly employed by the delivery companies. This further distances them from feelings of commitment or loyalty to either the retailer or the consumer to whom they are delivering. So how can managers detect and correct instances of rogue behaviour before it damages their reputation and that of the retailer?

Anyone who has taken delivery a parcel over Christmas will have noticed the almost universal implementation of mobile technology to manage the process. But the root of the problem lies in reward systems and the task-centric nature of the processes and metrics behind the devices.

Often the measure of success is based on quantity or time. That is, the driver is targeted on a number of deliveries per shift, or a short time window in which to make the delivery. Neither of which focuses on the satisfaction of the ‘customer’ (either retailer or consumer), who simply want their goods delivered, safely and securely, on-time and to the right place. The systems typically define the process as a set of tasks to be performed, rather than a set of behaviours to be adopted. This makes it hard for managers to see what’s actually happening at the front lines of their business – in this case on the doorsteps and driveways of the nation – or to do anything about it.

Traditional systems simply don’t provide enough information or intelligence about the situation on the ground. They neither capture worker behaviours nor give sufficient guidance and insight into the behaviours that are expected. This is one of the reasons why we’re seeing a growing acknowledgement of the value of activity- and behaviour-based approaches to mobile workforce management.

If managers are to manage; if they are to encourage the desired behaviours, and diagnose and deal with rogue worker behaviour they need to have much more detailed information about what’s really going on - plus the ability to identify patterns of behaviour. They can then encourage and support those who are delivering on the company’s mission to deliver for their customers.

An activity-based approach won’t eliminate an individual worker behaving badly - but it will promote the right behaviours and make it easier for managers to react before too many more Christmases are ruined.


Photo credit: Library of Congress - http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3h00057/

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