8 Practical Ways To Improve Delivery Efficiency In Your Business

January 11, 2023
A series of sealed, unmarked cardboard delivery boxes moving towards the viewer on a conveyor belt.

If you’re running a home delivery business, you know efficiency is key. You’re taking orders, managing drivers, and making sure customers get their orders on time: every minute counts! How do you get rid of inefficiency and streamline your operations?

In this article, we offer eight practical ways to boost your delivery efficiency. Whether you're just starting out or looking to grow your existing business, these tips will help you improve your delivery management processes, your customer satisfaction and your profitability! 

1. Identify and track your key metrics

As the old saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So identify the metrics that are most important to your business, and track them monthly, weekly or even daily. That way, you’ll know when you’re getting better — or when you need to try something different to increase delivery efficiency. 

Total number of deliveries

How many deliveries do you make per day, week or month? This is the base metric on which everything else is based. 

On-time deliveries

On-time deliveries make for happy customers. Late deliveries, on the hand, lead to complaints, inconvenience and possibly extra costs for you. They’re also a warning sign that your delivery process is inefficient — so this is a really important metric to track. 

Average time per delivery

How long does it take for your drivers to make each delivery, from starting each leg of their route to finishing the next drop-off? Cutting time per delivery, for example by more efficient route planning, is an obvious way to cut inefficiencies.

Average time at stop

How long does it take your drivers to park, unload, drop off the order, get proof of delivery and return to their vehicle ready to start the next leg? If you’re tracking this metric, you can identify ways to reduce the time, and thus get more stops per route. 

Average cost per delivery

This is your total number of deliveries divided by your total cost of making those deliveries. Include driver wages, fuel, vehicle maintenance, insurance, back office and other costs to make this as accurate as possible. Decreasing cost per delivery is your sign that your delivery system is getting more efficient. 

Driver performance

Are your delivery drivers choosing the most efficient routes, using their stop time effectively and keeping on time? Using delivery management software to track driver performance can help you identify opportunities for training and improvement. 

2. Invest in the right delivery vehicles and equipment

The right vehicles and equipment can make a huge difference in your delivery efficiency. Choose vehicles that are well-suited to your needs – small cars or even cargo bikes might be a better choice than trucks in a dense urban area, for example. Choose small vehicles for small numbers of local deliveries or larger vans for bigger items or larger volumes. Consider factors such as fuel efficiency, load capacity, and durability when selecting your delivery vehicles.

Investing in equipment and tools to help deliver drivers efficiently load and unload packages, improving your “average time at stop” metric. Equipment might include dollies, hand trucks, or other specialized equipment that can make the job easier and safer.

3. Load vehicles in order of delivery

If it’s going to be delivered first, load it last. This is another way to make your delivery drivers more efficient (and less frustrated!) and reduce your time per stop. 

The easiest way to load in order of delivery is have your route planned and printed out, or sent to a driver’s mobile phone using a driver app, well before loading starts.  

4. Plan efficient delivery routes

One of the best ways to ensure you’re offering an efficient delivery service is to use delivery management software that offers excellent route optimization.  The shorter your routes are, the lower your average time per delivery. Shorter distances also mean lower fuel consumption and less wear and tear on vehicles, so your cost per delivery will come down as well. 

If you’re ready to try specialized route optimization software, make sure you pick a system that meets the specific needs of your business. Choose an app that can handle the number and type of deliveries you make, enable you to offer delivery time windows to your customers, and takes the size of your vehicles into account.

5. Improve dispatch and delivery management

Last mile delivery is the most expensive part of the supply chain because there are so many variables, and so much can go wrong. Traffic congestion, a sick driver, a last-minute order or pickup –  any of these can cause havoc with your delivery schedule. 

Use dispatch and delivery management software to give your drivers the resources and information they need to complete their deliveries on time and efficiently. Look for software that:

  • Dispatches delivery routes directly to a driver app or their mobile phone
  • Allows you to easily add stops or change routes
  • Tracks delivery progress in real time
  • Makes it easy to communicate with customers

6. Create an excellent customer experience

A stressed customer is an unhappy customer! Uncertainty and lack of information are the biggest causes of stress, so the key to customer satisfaction when it comes to delivery experience is accurate, timely information. 

If you’re looking at delivery management software, the most important information you need to provide to ensure a great customer delivery experience is:

  • Accurate ETAs
  • Convenient time windows
  • Real-time notifications and updates
  • Proof of delivery

It’s also important to provide contact information that helps people quickly reach an actual human who can solve any problems they have. But the ideal – and most efficient – solution is that your customers should never need to call you or your drivers with routine delivery questions at all. 

7. Hire good drivers, train them and treat them well

The quality of your delivery drivers can make or break your business. An experienced driver knows traffic patterns, convenient parking spots and repeat customer preferences. That’s all knowledge that can help improve your delivery efficiency and your customer experience. 

But delivery driving can be a dangerous and lonely job and turnover is high, so focus on driver retention by:

  • Planning routes in advance
  • Using route optimization to cut driving distances and time
  • Create driver territories to keep drivers in the areas where they have most knowledge and feel most comfortable
  • Dispatching routes via an easy-to-use app
  • Providing training in efficient packing, app use and advanced driving techniques
  • Scheduling reasonable breaks
  • Setting clear expectations and performance goals – for example, on-time delivery KPIs
  • Rewarding excellent performance
  • Setting up customer notifications so drivers don’t have to deal with customer calls on the road

8. Vehicle maintenance

It’s boring, but essential! Regularly check and service your vehicles to avoid breakdowns and delays, maximize fuel efficiency, cut gas costs and keep your delivery drivers happy and safe.

It’s also important to keep your vehicles clean and well-organized, especially if they are branded. They are your driving billboards, reflecting the quality of your brand and product.

More efficient delivery systems can boost your profitability

The delivery experience can make or break an online retail business. Investing in the knowledge and tools you need to make your delivery operations more efficient is well worth it. Good systems get more important as you scale, so don’t wait until things are breaking before devoting time and attention to delivery efficiency. 

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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.