How To Improve Pickup And Delivery For Your Customers

October 15, 2021
View from the rear drivers-side corner of a white delivery van parked on a suburban street. A man in jeans, puffer jacket, baseball cap and mask is carrying a brown paper bag and looking across the front of the vehicle towards a house.

What’s the secret to a successful business? Having satisfied customers!

How do you get satisfied customers? By fulfilling their orders and delivering them quickly and seamlessly. 

And how do you do that? By managing customer expectations while balancing business productivity. 

If you offer order pickup and provide in-house delivery services, there are many ways you can increase the efficiency of this value-add service for your customers without costing you more money.

What makes a great delivery experience for your customers, and what are the benefits to your business? Here are some helpful tips to improve your pickup and delivery experience and increase customer happiness while quickly scaling your business.

1. Optimize order fulfillment and logistics

The first step to happier customers is to look at your order fulfillment and packaging logistics. This may mean:

  • Having a dedicated stockroom for pickup and delivery orders
  • Ensuring you stock sufficient packaging supplies 
  • Dedicating staff to focus on making pickup and delivery order fulfillment as efficient as possible once placed in delivery vehicles, looking at elements such as location, routes, package sizes, etc.
  • Customer service staff to take orders or deal with inquiries or complaints
  • Having your front-of-house team ready to handle customer pickup orders 

Another way to streamline order fulfillment is through automation. You can implement a delivery route optimization platform to automate your delivery route planning and driver management. If you offer in store pickup in addition to deliveries, you can print the pick & pack list for your pickup orders at the same time as your delivery orders. This streamlines your fulfilment process and minimizes manual errors.

2. Maximize efficiency with same-route pickup and delivery

If your business does pick-ups and deliveries to the same business, can you optimize your delivery schedule to do the pick-ups and deliveries at the same time?

For example, if you have a laundry service, you could arrange to pick-up soiled laundry every Friday, and leave a batch of cleaned laundry at the same time. If you are delivering replacement watercooler jugs, you can pick up any used jugs when you drop off the next filled one. 

Doing this helps you combine 2 trips into one, saving you time and transportation costs.

3. Optimize delivery routes

You might be surprised how much time and money you can save when your driver routes are optimized using a route planning or route optimization software. For example, our users have shortened their routes by up to 40% by switching from manual to automated routing, using Routific. Drivers that don’t use optimized delivery routes may end up driving back and forth around town—increasing the cost per order significantly. 

You can plan your driver routes to do pick-ups and deliveries for the same address at the same time (like the laundry and water examples in tip #2 above)

Route optimization software maps out multi-stop routes according to distance, arrival times, delivery time windows, vehicle capacities, and more. This means drivers can focus on the road rather than mapping out the route to their next destination. And because routes are efficiently optimized by algorithms, you’ll save money on fuel and driver wages. Plus you’ll be able to fit more stops in each route. 

Plan routes ahead

Schedule routes in advance so you can plan for things like driver shifts or vehicle capacities. But if you have any last minute changes, don't worry! A good route planning software will allow you to re-optimize your routes with any last minute changes like an unexpected order or when a driver calls in sick – even if your drivers are already on the road.   

Scheduling routes ahead of time also helps you better prepare for large influxes of orders, like during a promotion or holiday shopping season. It would be terrible to have a large promotion and not have enough drivers to make all the deliveries on time. Instead, when you know a busy time is approaching, you can run a simulation using a route planning software to see how many drivers you need while being confident that you aren't over spending in wages or fuel.

At Routific, we’ve taken this into account and help you plan for the unexpected.  We make it super simple to re-optimize scheduled routes; so even if you have any last minute orders, you can make these changes easily through our platform, cutting down on the time needed to plan ahead.

4. Maximize delivery truck space

This comes down to infrastructure and logistics. First, maximize space in your delivery vehicle with shelving, bins, or other methods to store more packages. 

When possible, organize your orders into the vehicle in the order they will be delivered and picked up. For example, you could organize bins by delivery zones or areas. If a geographical organization is difficult, organize them by size or type, with the first orders at the top or front.

Do everything you can to maximize capacity in the delivery vehicle and ensure that your drivers know how to retrieve the exact package they need as quickly as possible, so they don’t waste time rummaging through boxes to find their next package.

5. Consult with your drivers

Unless you’re on the road, it can be hard to know all the challenges or delays encountered by your drivers. If you don’t ask, they are less likely to provide you with their perspective on how they see increasing delivery and pickup efficiency. Consider going on a ride-along with drivers once in a while to observe what their day looks like. 

You could also ask them what their most common challenges are:

  • Perhaps a specific regular client is a bit too chatty, so they end up staying there longer than they should
  • Is there a long-term road work project causing delays in a specific neighborhood? 
  • Maybe finding a suitable, legal parking space near some locations takes too long.

Asking for their feedback helps them feel like an integral part of the team. You can use this feedback to amend your systems or processes so your business can deliver more packages faster. This can help boost driver compensation, especially if they get a commission or bonus per delivery.

6. Offer delivery and pickup options

Today’s consumers want options. Improve your delivery service efficiency by allowing your customers to choose how they want to receive their order: curbside pickup, contactless delivery, or flexible delivery windows.

Warehouse and curbside pickup

This option works great for smaller orders and is a popular choice for consumers. There are many reasons a customer may prefer to pick up their order, rather than have it delivered; They may live in a building that makes it difficult to receive deliveries or they may be unsure when they can receive an order. Having flexible options for order pick up can improve customer experience and reduce order cancellations or missed deliveries.

Curbside pickup is growing in popularity. The biggest thing to get right about curbside pickup is to provide clear instructions to the customer, so they know how to get their order. This may include:

  • Curbside pickup instructions included in confirmation emails
  • Signage on your store/warehouse window or door
  • Dedicated parking stalls marked for curbside pickup only 

If you offer curbside pickup options, be sure you have staff to help bring orders to your customers' vehicles as promptly as possible. The longer customers wait in the parking lot, the quicker your customer satisfaction levels will drop. 

Contactless delivery

The COVID-19 pandemic changed buyer behavior significantly. As a result of the pandemic, 87% of consumers say companies need to continue offering contactless delivery and curbside pickup options. Companies that don’t have contactless delivery and curbside pickup options may be missing out on sales.

For customer convenience and safety, include the option for contactless delivery services. In your customer order form, be sure to ask where the package should be left. Remind your customers to choose a secure location and to retrieve the package from the pickup location as soon as possible to minimize the chance of theft. 

Flexible delivery windows

Some customers might be happy to pay a premium for short time windows so they can receive their delivery at a convenient time. While other customers may be happier with a longer delivery window  to save a few dollars or for less urgent orders. This flexibility can save your business money because it gives you more room to strategize your driver route each day.  

For example, less urgent orders can be scheduled on specific days when you can only deliver to certain communities to minimize crisscrossing between towns while delivering packages. 

7. Provide location-based customer updates

Customers like to know when to expect your driver. Businesses like yours can improve the pick up and delivery experience for your customers by providing real-time arrival updates via phone SMS messages.  

This is especially helpful if you transport items of high value or perishable goods like meat, produce, fresh foods, or flowers. If the customer needs to be present to accept delivery orders, they know exactly when they need to be available, so they’re not left waiting all day for their delivery to arrive. 

In the past, pick up and delivery drivers could manually call or text each customer with their delivery updates, but that was quite time-consuming for the driver. Look for a platform to automate SMS message notifications to communicate:

  • When the order has left your premises 
  • When the driver is nearby to the customer location
  • When the order was delivered

8. Have a customer-feedback system

Provide a way for customers to provide feedback on their orders. You should include a review link on invoices and even on a brochure or flyer inside your packages. 

This is the best way to see the areas that need improvement from your customer’s perspective. It also helps you determine if issues are one-off (like a traffic accident causing delivery delays) or more consistent (like packages that are damaged because the driver mishandles them while delivering) .

David Nowacoski, cofounder of online grocery store Delivered Fresh, uses automated email delivery notifications as a way to stay in touch with his growing customer base.

Delivered Fresh aggregates and delivers more than 500 products ranging from milk, bread, eggs, meats, vegetables, and health products like soap, sanitizer, and masks, from 57 local farmers in Pennsylvania.

"I can’t tell you how many respond to that email… I get a 30-40% response rate with messages like: “‘Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try the bread this week.’ It’s just been a fantastic way to start conversations with our customers and gather more feedback.”

Responding to customer complaints

When you receive a complaint from a customer, do your best to contact that client personally to apologize, offer compensation, and explain the steps you are taking to prevent the adverse event from happening again. It’s just good business sense!

Personally taking the time to deal with complaints is the best and quickest way to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer. Because you responded to their criticism with care, they will be more likely to buy from you again and refer you to others.

How to improve pickup and delivery route planning

When you follow these tips and combine them with the right order fulfillment and delivery system, you can potentially lower your delivery costs, attract more customers, and grow your company faster than your competitors. Pickups and deliveries don’t have to be costly when you have the ability to schedule the best driving routes and provide real time updates to your customers. 

Routific provides last mile delivery software solutions to help small- and medium-sized businesses optimize their pickup and delivery routes. When you incorporate it into your order fulfillment process, it makes planning local delivery routes effortless and profitable so you can more easily scale your business.  

Check out our free 7 day trial with no credit card required to see how it can help you scale your business. 

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The easiest-to-use route optimization platform for growing delivery businesses.

Portrait of Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes has a PhD in History and a background in Journalism. She is the Lead Content Strategist at Routific with a focus on delivery management, delivery experience, route planning, and the last-mile industry in general. She has a passion to help delivery businesses scale with her craft of storytelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

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