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Connecting the dots: How to engineer customer satisfaction at the last mile

| by Guru Rao
The multi-nodal supply chain is the new norm.
The multi-nodal supply chain is the new norm.

Yes, we know you know that last-mile success is all about customer experience.

But at its core, last mile delivery is also an exercise in bringing order to chaos. That chaos is manifested in the touchpoints that link all of your downstream operations. Your e-commerce and in-store retail operations. Your distribution centers. Your carriers (and their carriers). Even your John Doe sales associate who does store-to-door deliveries on his way home from a shift. And finally, the customer. 

The final mile is where you see the culmination of all your efforts in optimizing your entire supply chain. If you've connected all the dots in the most efficient and effective manner possible, the picture will look the same every time: a satisfied consumer receiving his or her product on time. 

Because whether you're in a B2B or B2C environment, the expectation is that your service will be great, and that it will be great consistently.

A triathlon like no other

Having dabbled in both for some time, I like to think there are commonalities between last mile delivery and a triathlon. Different triathlon legs have different requirements, training methods and strategies. But the end goal is to cross the finish line - that's all that matters to the customer.

Each leg has its nuances and strategies to achieve optimized performance so that you can cross the finish line first. You have to not only look at each leg in isolation, training for and perfecting each piece, but you also must consider the end goal.

In other words, if you fall behind in the water, how will you make up for it on land so that your final time does not suffer?

On uneven terrain

In the game of last mile delivery, there are three significant hurdles that every business, regardless of size, must overcome:

  • Data: You're swimming in it. And it comes in all shapes and sizes and in every package imaginable – spreadsheets, disparate mobile applications, ERPs, CRMs, TMSs, you name it.
  • Visibility: There's nothing worse to a customer than getting shuffled between a retailer and a carrier, and then to yet another carrier, because all of them have different pieces of the puzzle. The customer should not be the one doing the triathlon.
  • Resources: Some enterprises have 2,000 store, and some have none. Some have their own fleets, who have their own sub-contractors, while others rely almost exclusively on white-glove delivery. But many have a messy combination of all of the above, and a lot of trouble getting them all to play well together.

So that brings us to the million-dollar question: How do you deliver a consistent customer experience when your infrastructure is steeped in chaos?

There is no dearth of data. The struggle is in making using it to improve the consumer's experience in the final mile.There is no dearth of data. The struggle is in using it to improve the consumer's experience in the final mile.

Embrace the chaos! Crowdsource!

Even though the final mile is the last leg, it's important to have a real-time view of delivery status between all points, A through Z, scattered across the entire supply chain.

For that, you first need a way to normalize your brackish sea of data. Step one is to use a hub integrator that can imbibe the multitudes of information from the many stakeholders and touchpoints in your supply chain. If you can do this, then you can handily deal with the problem of visibility. 

That brings us to step two. Every stakeholder needs a dashboard that shows them what they need to see. A fleet manager, for instance, wants to know where her shipments are, down to the mile marker on I-65. A retailer dispatching John Doe needs to see the most efficient delivery route for that driver and if it's possible to pick up a few returns along the way to bring to a different store. Customers want to know if their product will be on time. And if that product won't be on time, they want to be notified of a new ETA through an email or text notification. All of these real-time insights must be taken from the same pool of data to which the many supply chain stakeholders constantly contribute.

Let's also not forget the customer service representatives. Even a customer that knows where his or her product is may need to speak with a CSR. If that agent can see the same data as the other stakeholders, there is no need to send the customer on a wild-goose chase for answers – and that is a beautiful thing.

Play to your strengths

"You must be able to navigate between your constellation of existing touchpoints."

So we've connected the dots between the data and the stakeholders, but what about the resources?

If you don't have billions of dollars lying around to start your own shipping venture or launch a chain of stores, chances are, you can do a lot more with what you already have than you ever realized. The solution is in using the same type of crowdsourcing capabilities that helped you overcome your data and visibility woes to intelligently leverage your existing infrastructure.

This technology needs to be location-sensitive. Where is the end delivery? Where is the nearest location that has the inventory? Is it a distribution center? Maybe it's an actual retail store. Which of these options will get the product to the customer within a two-hour delivery window, and at the lowest cost to your business?

Chances are, you already have some iteration of a network-based, multi-nodal ecosystem. But what's missing from that ecosystem is the ability to navigate between its constellation of touchpoints. You need a guide, one that is designed to route a delivery through those touchpoints and to the customer in the most efficient possible manner. And it needs to auto-correct that path in real time, so that you can provide a consistently superior customer experience despite the many inconsistencies in your supply chain.

This is not just a theory of ours. We have been doting on this problem for six years, and we have an existing solution that is already being leveraged by several large enterprises. It's called nuDeliverIt, and it can fit in the palm of your hand. 

And like a triathlete who reaches for that ever-better finish time, we'll never stop innovating for our clients, or for their customers.

We'll be here, connecting the dots where the dots need connecting. 

Guru Rao

Guru Rao

Gururaj “Guru” Rao serves as CEO and is responsible for company’s overall strategy and execution. Guru has more than 20 years of experience in organizational strategy, technology implementations and professional services. Prior to founding nuVizz, Guru worked at IBM in the Supply Chain Strategy practice and Manhattan Associates’ professional services organization. Guru received his MBA from Georgia State University and bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the National Institute of Technology, Surathkal, India.