Here's what your delivery team needs to learn from the on-demand economy

If you are in the business of delivering things, you've probably been looking over your shoulder a lot recently. While a lot of attention has been given to the effect of ride sharing on the taxi industry, a long queue of contenders are busy trying to do the same in every industry. 

When Uber announced that their delivery service - Uber Rush - would graduate from experiment to mainstream, traditional couriers got a wake up call. Uber Eats, Deliveroo and others are changing the food delivery game and there are a host of other examples in every industry that delivers. With slick delivery software and bundles of cash behind them, it's no surprise that business as usual is changed forever. Some are questioning whether even delivery juggernauts like Fedex are immune from disruption (see for instance this piece in Business Insider - Uber is unleashing a delivery service, Uber Rush)

Can Your Delivery Software and Tools Meet the Challenge?

The on-demand economy startups are out to get you, but in 2016 the incumbents have been fighting back by learning from these startups to smarten up their act, to the point where many Uber of X companies have started falling off the perch. To survive and thrive you need to have modern tools, slick delivery software and a business process to match. So what lessons can you take from the on-demand economy to make sure you stay relevant?

1) Use Smartphones

If your drivers are carrying specialised hardware and not a smartphone, you are paying more to be less flexible and you probably have dated delivery software. Smartphones have GPS and accelerometers as good as specialised vehicle tracking devices, and enough computing power to power sophisticated delivery software. Setup costs of smartphones are non existent because drivers have them anyway and you can add new subcontractors to your team in seconds. Basically all smartphone-based delivery software has free trials, so you can shop around and find the right system for you before spending a cent.

Smartphones and the delivery software they power can be updated seamlessly to meet changing customer requirements. Need the driver to take a photo of the delivery and make it instantly available to the sender? No problem. Need a signature? Easy. Need navigation support? Link to the Google Maps or Apple Maps apps. Need to communicate with the pickup or dropoff contact? It's a phone! Need any other weird and wonderful customer requirement met? There's an app for that.

Strategy 1: Ditch the old fashion delivery software system and use smartphones.

 

2)Provide Live Tracking to Customers

Can your customers find out the current status of their delivery other than "Delivered" or "In Transit"? If not, you are creating unnecessary problems and stress for your clients. In the last month I have received deliveries from two major transport firms and neither of them managed to find my office. Drivers from both of these firms came to the right place and left again without delivering and without my knowledge. The drivers gave up because neither delivery software system showed or notified me that the driver had arrived. There is also no way to communicate directly between driver and receiver. The delivery took an extra 2 phone calls and 1 day for one provider, 3 extra phone calls and 4 days for the other. Really?

To be competitive in the next tech cycle your delivery software needs actual realtime transparency. If a vehicle sets out with a package, the sender recipient should be able to see the location of the vehicle in real time if they want. When the vehicle gets to the drop off, the recipient should be able to check the map to make sure that the driver is in the right spot and make direct contact with the driver if they are not. Problem solved on the spot.

Strategy 2: Get genuine realtime visibility of your deliveries

 

3) Communicate with your customer

Poor communication is the biggest cause of lost time and lost cash when making deliveries. You also cause confusion and annoyance for your customers. Your delivery software must have realtime visibility of the delivery's current location and status, but the job contact should also be getting timely status updates so they know what's going on. Coarse, unhelpful updates are old news. Your customers need updates when a driver has finished their previous delivery and is en route to the drop off with an ETA, or when the driver arrives to collect or deliver or other customer-specific circumstances.

Knowing when someone is on the way and when they are likely to arrive means you can make sure someone is available and plan around the delivery rather than growing anxious about the timing of your delivery. Knowing someone has arrived means you don't miss them and have to negotiate to arrange another delivery time on another day.

Strategy 3 - Don't leave your customers with huge delivery windows wondering when you are going to show up

 

4) Add Value

Smartphones do cool stuff, so your delivery service should be taking advantage of that (not using smartphones? See #1). Uber uses phones for payments, ratings, bookings and random special features like ice cream or puppy days. There is huge opportunity for innovation in the delivery game: if you deliver flowers, take a photo of the happy recipient and provide it instantly to the sender. If your drivers must carry documentation, it should be at their fingertips on their phone. If you transport people's pets, send the owner a video of a happy puppy en route.

Adding an extra layer to your service improves customer engagement. Especially personalising the interaction between sender, receiver and driver. Engaged customers stick around. Impressed customers tell their friends how awesome you are.

Strategy 4: Surprise your customers with cool features they tell people about

 

5) Subcontracted Delivery Vehicles Outside of Your Delivery Software Make You Look Bad

As if track and trace wasn't limited enough, what about when you need a third party to help out with part of the journey and your system status reads "drop off to be completed by someone else - no proof of delivery expected". In other words: "good luck".

You need a strategy for linking data across your supply chain.

Strategy 5: Get Connected

 

Summary

The strategies above are no longer disruptive - in fact they are getting close to basic customer expectations and are available in dispatch software today that probably costs less than your current system. There is virtually no barrier to you, or your competitors big or small, adding these features - so don't get left behind.

The time for incremental change has passed you by. Get serious, get advice, get modern smartphone-driven delivery software and get on top of your delivery process.