30 July 2014 | Phil Lavin
Customer satisfaction is a key factor in any business. While the main focus is on the quality of the purchased product, the second concern is reliable, on-time shipping.
What really irritates customers isn’t necessarily an actual delay, but the uncertainty about the status of their order. Customers who feel up-to-date are not just less dissatisfied, they may even perceive proactive communication about delivery updates as an extra service. Who would have thought shipping delays could actually generate greater customer satisfaction and retention? Perhaps it’s time to see shipping delays as an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction instead of a problem.
But tracking the status of a shipment can be complicated and time-consuming. Consolidating data from various transport partners and presenting it in a unified format is a tremendous challenge, because different systems are involved and there is still no global standard for such data exchanges in supply chains. That’s where IT solutions in the form of collaboration or visibility platforms come in. They speak the languages of the various service providers, enabling companies to allocate information from disparate sources and formats. They can obtain information on the status and content of individual packages and shipments, and make it available to all relevant supply chain partners.
Giving customers access to such platforms means they can log on whenever it suits them to track their orders and check the latest delivery updates. Access rights management ensure customers only see their own order data, and receive automated alerts by email or text message in case of discrepancies. Customers can also access shipping documents such as delivery notes, invoices or customs clearance paperwork even before the shipment arrives.
But visibility platforms can add even more value to businesses: powerful performance and analysis tools support companies in optimising their own logistics processes while creating transparency for customers. By mapping predefined milestones, updating statuses and monitoring when they are reached, the software identifies the source of problems and initiates corrective actions. Visibility solutions can also generate reports and analyses to evaluate the reliability and on-time performance of service providers.
Repeated violations can trigger the appropriate actions – including prompting new contract negotiations based on latest performance numbers or replacing unreliable carriers. In short, using visibility solutions to optimise internal logistics processes can make companies more efficient, reliable and responsive, which in turn increases customer satisfaction even further.
☛ Phil Lavin is sales manager at AEB (International)