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The delivery process opportunity

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The delivery process opportunity
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“Nothing changes until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.”

— Tony Robbins

I love this quote because it’s true. It can literally take a painful disruption like the COVID-19 virus to make the “pain of remaining the same” exceed the “pain of change.” Although it feels painful now, the silver lining can be found in the better businesses we create when we embrace this as a time to see opportunities for improvement rather than a time to recede in fear and confusion.

I’ve written and spoken about COVID-19 forcing our industry to work remotely and how this new environment created an opportunity to track metrics and productivity. The follow-up meetings and conversations I’ve been a part of, due to my recent article and webinar, have allowed me to assist numerous companies as they start tracking activity-based metrics for off-site team members. I’m excited to share that one coincidental side-effect kept occurring—we had real data to explore and envision new opportunities for improvements to productivity as a result.

In addition, the way we communicate has also drastically changed since the start of this outbreak. Many of our existing routines and habits within our day-to-day business communication have become inflexible over the years. Although routines can support productivity and provide comfort, they can also stifle our imagination and our ability to think outside of the box. Tell me if this situation from the past looks familiar to you, or maybe it’s familiar from this morning?

Emergency order

The sales rep panics (rightly so) and wants to raise the urgency level of this situation to everyone in operations, so the product can arrive on-site and avoid disaster. In the past, he had tried to create an order and send an email, too, when it needed that extra attention, but the product still didn’t hit the jobsite till late afternoon, and he got burned.

The dispatcher tells him that he can’t do anything until the order is actually created, and he will “do his best.” The salesman walks back to his office, creates the order, and calls the dispatcher to tell him again how everyone needs to drop everything to get this completed.

In this situation one unplanned event ruined the morning for the sales rep, slowed the dispatcher down three times, and interrupted a driver while unloading material. Working remotely in the current environment, many sales reps are not able to walk to dispatch. In fact, many dispatchers are working from home too, and they aren’t completely aware of their operational capabilities, because they can’t “see” the drivers loading and the yard picking orders. This situation is the perfect opportunity for us to evaluate our delivery processes and recognize sometimes, our lack thereof. When looking to craft a lean process for delivery with stronger communication in your company consider these priorities:

1. Eliminate your guesswork

Create a list of delivery expectations that eliminate the need for the sales team to “check on things.” Improve the expectations with simple clarity like, ‘If you do this, then you can expect this.” For example: We guarantee a maximum four-hour turnaround on orders under 2,000 pounds within 30 miles of a store.

If this expectation would have been in place, the sales rep in the scenario above would have been able to create the order, choose this delivery option and fully expect the product to be onsite without the need to hound dispatch with personal visits or numerous calls.

2. Allow operations to carry the “communication” ball

Build a culture where internal and external customers can expect their orders to be on time and completed for scheduled deliveries. And when there is a problem, they call the sales rep and/or the customer BEFORE they miss the time. Too many companies have a culture where operations “can only do what they can do,” and it’s up to the sales reps to make sure there aren’t emergencies. How many sales reps feel forced to deliver the product themselves if their customers needs aren’t taken care of by operations? There’s opportunity cost in addition to salary expense to consider when we allow a sales rep to deliver material, because then they’re not prospecting for their next sale which is really the lifeblood of our future revenue.

3. Leverage technology

Most ERP systems now have delivery notifications as an option in their setup that automatically log the time the driver leaves the yard and when the driver drops the load. They also have the ability to estimate arrival times on these orders based on GPS mapping and scheduling. Match this with the customer applications that ERP systems offer, and your customers can look on their app as needed to check the ETA of their delivery and even contact the driver themselves.

We want our sales reps taking care of customers by entering an order, but not babysitting it afterwards. We also want dispatchers scheduling loads rather than acting as customer service agents to sales reps. A well-designed SOP for your delivery process eliminates wasteful communication, inefficiency, and negative internal/external customer experiences. It also turns your culture from reactive to proactive, which is the difference between mediocre and excellent customer service.

Shane Soule consults with LBM and component companies to increase productivity and profits, and improve the experience for both customers and team members. You can reach him at shanesoule21@gmail.com