The final part of the supply chain has always been a costly and time-intensive process, which companies recognise as vital to the consumer experience.
In a market place more crowded than it has ever been, companies know that in order to be successful they need to get deliveries right or risk customer churn. Consequently, a significant number of organisations are now taking painstaking steps to ensure the smooth running of their supply chain from the outset. This often includes best-of-breed order-processing systems, well-organised delivery fleet equipped with the latest SatNavs, and implementing many other technologies designed to improve internal supply chain efficiency at a high monetary cost.
However, many still get hit financially when they reach customers doorsteps and find that no one is home for collection. Companies waste millions each year on customer no shows; for large organisations delivering thousands of items each day, an unsuccessful delivery rate of just five percent can translate into a vast expenditure. While companies know that making advanced calls to notify customers of their delivery time or reminding customers about pending deliveries is the best way to reduce no shows, this is considerably expensive and labour intensive. Provisioning contact centre agents to do this has high labour costs, exacerbated by the fact that agents waste a large proportion of their time actually trying to reach customers in the first instant. Some companies are experiencing rates of as low as 20 percent in terms of reaching the right person in the first call. Agents tasked with delivery notifications often come at the expense of being able to complete more revenue-generating activities.
While using voice remains the most effective means of reminding customers about pending deliveries, having skilled human agents do this is not an effective use of resources. Instead, organisations should look to new messaging technology to do the work for them. New messaging technology can send out personalised voice messages with as much or as little customer information as needed and can be tailored to each individual recipient, including their name, address, what is being delivered and a delivery time. Moreover, this does not need to be a monotonous computerised tone, but can be recorded in any human voice carrying all the emotional overtones a business wishes to convey, thus ensuring the personal touch is not lost.
These solutions include interactive elements which allow recipients to input whether or not theyre happy with the proposed delivery time. If the delivery time is not suitable, customers can then be directed to an agent to rearrange a more suitable time. The interactive element can also allow companies to frequently validate its data, by asking customers to confirm their address. This does not mean that companies can or should fully automate their services if the customer requires further assistance, needs to re-arrange a delivery or discuss any issues, they still need to be able to speak to an agent. By ensuring that messages offer the option of connecting to a human, companies can optimise the time their agents spend answering calls, using them only as needed. And in most companies, 97 percent of the time the message terminates without an internal member staff having to get involved, which frees agents up for other valuable tasks.
These technologies have been proven to help organisations reach 33 percent more customers and reduce traffic for call centre operators. This is essential in the current financial climate where companies often have limited contact centre resources or where financial pressures have led many to offshore. However, some businesses have suffered a customer backlash against offshoring. For those companies wishing to retain UK-based contact centres, reducing the labour and resources required will help them keep costs low and avoid the financial need to offshore, representing an affordable way to retain a UK presence and limit churn. Furthermore, reducing the number of no shows will also lower over-resourcing, such as the number of trucks on the road and the amount of warehousing needed, all of which have a strong influence on cash flow measures.
In industry research, McKinseys 2007 study Improving field service productivity found that by using an outbound calling solution, companies doubled the amount of jobs completed per day and reduced customer waiting times by 30 percent. It also found that these solutions reduced no shows from more than 12 to two percent. In addition, contact centre agents freed up from delivery notification tasks can complete higher-value activities like sales or marketing calls, creating new opportunities and ultimately directly impacting the bottom line.
In the crowded market, companies need to differentiate themselves by providing customers with a high level of efficiency. They need to meet customers expectations throughout the whole process right through to making deliveries where and when specified. With so many inconveniences associated with deliveries, customers simply will not tolerate inefficiency. As a result, customers are more willing to churn if they do not get the standard of service they expect.
Companies using these messaging technologies have seen the cost of confirmations drop by as much as 90 percent. This massive saving not only improves efficiency, but translates to significant savings and profitability opportunities in other areas. It also brings deliveries in line with other areas of supply chain optimisation. With deliveries being a costly part of the supply chain and the most important customer-facing aspect, companies simply cannot afford to get stung at the tail end of it.
Mark Oppermann (pictured) is business development director at interactive voice messaging solutions specialist VoiceSage.