Signed, sealed and delivered!
In today’s world, one of the most critical differentiators an organisation can have is the customer experience it delivers. In fact, one could easily make the case that delighting your customers has never been more vital. For freight forwarders and third-party logistics firms in particular, customer service in logistics has never been a more essential aspect of their performance.
Hilton Eachus, chief customer officer of DPD Laser, which currently trades under the Dawn Wing brand, indicates that there are a number of attributes a company requires if it is to be a successful logistics provider. Firstly, he says, you need consistently high quality of service, adding that as a courier business, this is not only DPD Laser’s bread and butter, but that without it, the rest of its approach becomes largely redundant.
“In order to achieve this, you need, among other things, a reliable team of disciplined and intelligent people. Secondly, it’s imperative that you innovate, by offering additional services, entering new market sectors and evolving your operating model. If your internal rate of change is slower than the external rate of change in the market, you have a problem,” he says.
Thirdly, you need technology.
“The days of courier companies being manually run businesses with truckers in caps and overalls are long gone. The companies that are successful in today’s environment are those that have great technology. Without it, you simply can’t communicate well enough with customers, be accurate enough, or efficient enough to compete successfully.”
The last factor, Eachus suggests, is that organisations seeking to stay ahead need the ability to invest continually. DPD Laser, he states, is fortunate to have DPD group – a European player in express parcel delivery – as a majority shareholder, which means DPD Laser has access to investment capital.
“Our single biggest investment in the last six years has been in technology. The first is technology that allows easier graphical representation in application development. Having spatial views of data and allowing operators multidimensional views of situations is vital.
“The ability to not only read a text description of the location of a vehicle, but to be able to see it on maps and drill into the detail, combined with additional information such as next stops, traffic, pending pickups and drop offs, is a game changer.”
Using the same technology, he continues, the company can visually assess and analyse distribution patterns, sales statics or revenue production.
The second innovation is the progress and improvement in tools that facilitate application data interchange. “We can now integrate and exchange data more easily, securely and in real-time, to a level the industry hasn’t been able to achieve in the past,” says Eachus.
Consumer and business demand for intuitive, convenient and aesthetically pleasing technology and simplified user interfaces is increasing rapidly. This means that any way a company can use these new technologies to enhance the user experience is important.
“Route optimisation tools are another technology that has become non-negotiable in recent years, as these ensure the best utilisation of one’s assets – from planning load capacity, fuel usage and route planning. With the current price pressures that all logistics providers are facing, you simply can’t afford not to maximise your efficiency and minimise wastage, and route optimisation plays a critical role in achieving that,” notes Eachus.
“Modern route optimisation tools are extremely effective, and have largely replaced the old legacy operations management tools. The new systems rely on systems learning, AI and complex route solvers to ensure the most optimal last mile routes.”
Route optimisation tools are another technology that has become non-negotiable in recent years.
Of course, while efficiency is the name of the game for courier businesses, he adds, security is obviously critical as well. DPD Laser employs a number of strict security measures that ensure its people are kept safe at all times and its customers’ parcels are delivered.
“Our vehicles, for example, are closely monitored from a high-tech central control centre, and are equipped with advanced tracking and telematics tools. These use geofencing and other notification methods to alert operational teams to deviations from planned routes, longer-than-expected stops and so on. We also make use of various in-parcel trackers to randomly follow parcels, while our operations team has a strict set of security protocols that they adhere to.”
The 'new normal'
There can be little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic affected the courier business, and 2020 proved to be a tough time. This was true for all logistics companies, particularly those that remained operational to support healthcare and other essential services customers.
“Fortunately, we were able to adapt many areas of our business to the new way of working. We took a strategic decision a number of years ago to diversify our service offering and build bespoke solutions for industries like e-commerce and healthcare. This worked out well for us as these sectors experienced significant growth during the pandemic and enabled us to essentially ‘ride this wave’.”
He does indicate that there have still been challenges created by Covid-19, not least of which is having to physically hand over a parcel, and get the recipient to sign for it, all while ensuring social distancing.
“Luckily, our technology has enabled us to adapt to these changes by switching on our ‘contactless delivery’ process. Upon delivery, we send the recipient a link to their mobile device, which allows them to sign for the parcel on their own device, using their finger or pen or stylus. This ensures exactly the same proof of delivery quality as we had before the pandemic and is a watertight delivery process that is effectively no different to how it always was. There are many versions of contactless delivery out there, from drivers signing on behalf of the recipient, to PIN code verification, but they all have their flaws.”
Asked what he thinks will be some of the ‘next big things’ that will impact the logistics sector, Eachus says some of these have become a reality long before anyone expected them to.
“Options like on-demand and pickup point services are now here to stay and this opens up many new and exciting opportunities. The food and fresh produce space is awash with service providers scrambling for market share, and the demand for auditable, temperature-controlled deliveries that conform to specific regulatory requirements is growing exponentially, as are areas like B2B e-commerce.”
“Suffice to say, we’re excited about what lies ahead, and strongly believe that there is ample opportunity for logistics businesses in South Africa to continue to be successful.”