Managing the Final Mile Delivery
Of all the steps in an outbound logistics management process, only one step really matters.
That's the last step, when the end customer gets the delivery into their hands. The customer doesn't care about any other details of the journey. They're not interested in your efficiency metrics or your sophisticated tracking techniques. They only care about getting their delivery on time and in perfect condition.
Nobody wants their entire fulfilment process to fall at the last hurdle. That's why final mile delivery has become an increasingly important focus for logistics companies.
If you want to ensure the success of your final mile delivery, you need to a logistics partner that offers visibility and control in the delivery process. You also need three things:
- Site profiles
- Delivery checklists
Let's talk through how each of these items can be implemented as part of your logistics management strategy.
A good logistics management strategy accommodates the customer, rather than vice versa. Each end customer has different needs and capabilities, so your final mile delivery has a better chance of success if you have a clear picture of their requirements.
To do this, you need to build a profile of each site, with as much information as possible about the client, including:
- Hours during which deliveries will be accepted
- Location of deliveries entrance
- Vehicle access restrictions
- Security procedures for incoming deliveries
- Special equipment requirements
- Location of persons authorized to sign off on deliveries
- Location of persons who can assist in the event of any queries
- Directions if the site is in a remote or difficult to find location
- Any hazards of which the driver may need to be aware
- Any other information that may impact the delivery process
Your final mile delivery agent will need access to this site profile, so that they can get to the right place at the right time without having to stop and make calls for assistance. This makes it more likely that the delivery will be on time and proceed smoothly
Your delivery agents also play a vital role in maintaining these site profiles. Make sure that you have a debrief process at the end of each delivery that allows the delivery agent to amend the site profile with updated information, such as a change in opening hours or if deliveries are now accepted in another part of the building.
For a first delivery to any site, you will almost certainly want someone from your office to call the site manager and find out as much as possible about the delivery. This will help you to build your initial site profile, and on later calls you will be able to confirm that your site profile is still correct.
A pre-call will also allow you to discuss things on an individual delivery level. This is especially important if you are dealing with hazardous goods or time-sensitive deliveries.
For final mile delivery, you should try to speak to the end customer themselves – the person who will ultimately take ownership of the items being transported. They may have to consult over details of the internal logistics procedures of their own organization, but they are still the best person to ensure that the delivery arrives where it needs to go.
Have a checklist ready before making the call and ask questions such as:
- Will someone be on site to sign for the delivery?
- Are there any safety precautions that need to be taken with the delivery?
- What safety precautions exist on site?
- For large or complex deliveries, will someone be on site to assist the delivery agent?
- Is there a critical delivery deadline that must be met?
- Any other information that may impact the delivery process
At the end of the call, ensure that the person to whom you're speaking knows how to contact the delivery agent so that they can communicate directly if there are any issues during the delivery process.
Checklists can serve multiple purposes in your logistics process. Primarily, they help to streamline the entire procedure, ensuring that your delivery agent follows the instructions agreed upon with the end client.
They also serve as a client satisfaction survey. By agreeing to the steps of the delivery process in advance, you can ask the client to confirm that all of their expectations were met. Where there is a failure to meet expectations, you can look to improve the process with training, better communication and building more detailed site profiles.
You might choose to have a single generic checklist, but you should aim to include as much client-specific information as possible. Items on the checklist might include:
- Item loaded to the delivery vehicle as per client instructions
- Delivery arrived within the pre-agreed timeframe
- Items delivered to correct location, including correct entrance
- All required steps for unloading were followed
- Items received in excellent condition
- Supporting documentation in order and signed by the correct person
- Transportation records provided and contain no anomalies (for cold chain management, etc)
- Item successfully completed final mile delivery and was received by end client
Prepare the checklist prior to issuing the delivery, so that the delivery agent can follow it during the final mile delivery process. Have them tick each item as it is completed and take notes if they failed to meet any of the requirements. At the end of the process, get the client to sign off on the checklist and confirm that all of their requirements were met. You can also gather feedback from the client at this stage to find out if there's anything that could be improved next time around.
A checklist like this shows that you are a company that pays close attention to detail and leaves nothing to chance. By taking such a thorough approach, you will demonstrate a commitment to understanding your client's needs, and that understanding will form the basis of a lasting relationship.
Beyond the final mile
When looking at logistic partners, you want to find a company that provides excellent value. However, as stated in Pegasus' report on The Benefits of Dashboard Visibility:
"Value isn’t just monetary — it’s relational to customer retention, the increased ability to liberate their resources for better use, and that which promotes their productivity and operational flexibility."
Clients may not always report back to you if they are dissatisfied with your logistics management. Instead, they may simply vote with their wallet and place their next order with a rival firm.
That's why visibility is key to success in final mile delivery. You need as much practical data as possible to help monitor freight in transit, so that you can see that cargo is arriving on time, in good condition and according to client requirements. When the process is breaking down, you also need visibility so that you can respond quickly and rectify the situation before it impacts your client relationship.
Remember – your logistics management can't be called successful until the delivery is in the hands of the person who needs it.
So, what's your opinion on final mile delivery? Have you had any excellent – or not-so-excellent – experiences of logistic partners who helped to ensure client satisfaction at the end of the delivery process? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to download the free report.