Paul Ridden, Managing Director of UK-based parcel tracking and mobile workforce technology firm Skillweb, discusses the growing consumer power in social media and emerging technologies that are making it happen.
The advance in mobile computing and emerging technologies in recent years has significant impact on the home delivery sector in terms of first time delivery, customer choice and operational performance. Customer experience has become the latest battlefield within the sector as operators look to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and strive for the hearts and minds of the often hard to please and demanding shopper.
As a result, many B2C courier and parcel businesses are looking to take mobile computing to the next level, whilst take advantage of emerging communication conduits such as social media.
Shopper communication remains a key challenge for carriers faced with how best to meet and manage their expectations whilst keeping costs to a minimum.
First time delivery rates are at their highest ever level and a progressively wide range of standard and premium delivery options available are providing ever greater choice, but most operators are looking for new ways of building a closer relationship with the consumer to give ease of delivery and value.
The Internet has become something of a double-edged sword for the home delivery market. On the one hand it is the source of growing volumes that continues to increase year-on-year.
In July alone the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail sales index estimated online spend at £6.5 billion – boosted by changeable summer weather and the Olympics – equating to an average of £128 per person within the UK.
However, the Internet also provides an effective way for dissatisfied customers, whether justified or not, to vent their anger.
The rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter have only aggravated the situation, making it easier for the consumer to voice their frustration about poor service or a package that hasn’t arrived. We have all seen videos of dubious delivery methods go viral in recent years and this clearly demonstrates the potential damage that can be caused to a business’s reputation and brand.
Many operators are now recognising the significance of social media and trying to build a presence online to communicate positive messages and engage with the consumer.
As a result, customer service queries are now tweeted to carriers in preference over more out-dated routes that are often seen as being slow or unresponsive. However, with people generally more likely to complain about a poor service than praise a successful experience, it has created a slightly lopsided online view of many of the leading home delivery firms.
Embracing the channels
With this in mind, the home delivery sector needs to be looking at ways of taking on these online and mobile communication channels to enhance the customer experience, protect brand reputation and even increase revenue.
“The vast majority of consumers are more accepting of a delay or disruption if they receive timely warning”
For this to happen companies need to see social media as a further channel that is simply an extension to their existing communication practices and take a seamless approach that focuses on providing value to the consumer.
In recent years, mobile computing has supported a host of advances from parcel tracking and proof of delivery to communicating directly with the consumer via email and SMS.
More recently some carriers have tested QR (quick response) codes and at least is now using this type of matrix bar code printed on their calling cards to help consumers quickly and simply rearrange deliveries.
The next step is to create an application that can be downloaded to a smart phone or tablet to engage directly with the shopper.
This type of app could form the platform for all customer communication across the entire delivery process and enable a carrier to develop an ongoing relationship. In the first instance, it would give an effective means to provide imminent delivery details, further boosting first time delivery rate, whilst providing access real-time customer service via direct messaging or web-chat.
Meanwhile, assimilation with social media would enable consumers to be encouraged to post or tweet about a successful delivery experience as part of an automated notification process.
This would not only increase the volume of affirmative messages appearing, but also cut the level of negativity by providing a closed channel for unhappy customers to receive real-time response and support from the customer service team.
This integrated approach could also give an added opportunity up sell to generate revenue.
By taking advantage of the growing use of Internet-enabled devices, it would be possible to communicate with the consumer instantaneously after an online purchase to offer premium services, upgrades and add-ons such as specified time slots or evening deliveries that were not available via the retailer.
Furthermore, carriers would have the ability to promote other services such as consumer-to-consumer, returns and collection point solutions.
The majority of consumers are more accepting of a delay or disruption if they receive an appropriate warning of a situation. Sitting around not knowing is a sure way of creating acrimony, so the challenge for any home delivery operator is catching things before they get too bad.
Embryonic technologies such as web-chat, mobile applications and social media simply offer a new range of communication tools to boost the consumer experience. However, they will need to be embraced and integrated with existing processes and ways to meet the desired results.
Paul Ridden is managing director of Skillweb, which provides technology to help organisations manage their mobile workforces and track the movement of goods. The company is responsible for more than 50m transactions each month, with clients including Yodel, Guernsey Post, Jersey Post, Isle of Man Post Office and SingPost.
Source: Paul Ridden, Skillweb