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Protecting Brand Loyalty When Last Mile Delivery of Large Items Fails

Consumers today have high expectations. Not only do they want the best price, they also gravitate towards retailers that deliver fast. Even with big and bulky items, they assume deliveries will be made seamlessly and that their orders will arrive on time and in perfect condition.

Consumers want the two-day delivery experience they receive with other e-commerce purchases to spill over to the home delivery of larger items such as office furniture and appliances. After all, whether you buy a book or a couch, the online purchasing experience is essentially the same.

Even the smallest home delivery slip up can result in the loss of customers since they will not hesitate to move on to another retailer if they aren’t happy. And the problem could grow exponentially worse if delivery missteps result in bad reviews, negative social media, and/or loss of market share and profit as your company’s reputation takes a hit. 

Amid an unprecedented supply chain crisis, there are numerous things outside a retailer’s control, from manufacturing delays to driver attrition and other unknowns. Most consumers are aware of the environment and understand the need to reschedule deliveries. In fact, rescheduling is now the norm — what separates brands in consumer perception is how they handle these kinds of disruptions when they arise. 

So where do retailers slip up and where do they shine? It comes down to communication, transparency, and meeting your delivery windows.

Here are the three ways big and bulky last-mile deliveries fail and how to avoid the all too common pitfalls.

Continual rescheduling isn’t just a challenge, it’s the norm
According to the latest Big and Bulky Last Mile Delivery Report, nearly two-thirds of large item deliveries were rescheduled at least once over the past year. More than half of those were rescheduled two or more times, forcing customers to wait several days, sometimes even weeks or months, past the original delivery date.

But it wasn’t just the delivery delays that annoyed consumers. Dealing with customer service reps who were unfamiliar with the order made the experience worse. Six in 10 expressed frustration with the overall rescheduling process. 

Instead, set realistic timeframes for product availability and delivery
To better estimate how and when businesses are able to get products to customers’ locations, it’s important to have clear visibility into the supply chain. When you have a better understanding of product availability from manufacturers, you can more easily factor that information into a realistic delivery date.

By tying this kind of connectivity and visibility into the ordering process, you can empower customers to select their preferred delivery date and time when they make their purchase, giving them more control over the process. 

Poor communication is fatal
Perhaps the biggest source of customer dissatisfaction stems from lack of communication: whether it’s about products and delivery times, ambiguous delivery fees, or what to do if an item doesn’t arrive in the right condition.

Amazon and others have set an extremely high bar, giving customers full visibility into the locations of their purchases – from the minute they click the button to buy, to the exact real-time location of the delivery truck on a map, to a photo in an email of a package sitting at their front door after delivery. The vast majority (80%) of consumers surveyed said they wanted status updates daily or even multiple times a day.

Practice x proactive communications
eep customers regularly informed of the status of their order and let them choose their favorite method(s) of communications, whether it’s by text, email, phone, or even chatbot. If products cannot be delivered in the original timeframe, make rescheduling easy. And once their delivery leaves the warehouse, provide text alerts or interactive tools, such as an online tracking portal or application, that shows the exact location and arrival time. If customers are calling into a call center, ensure customer service representatives have all the details about the customer and their purchase on the dashboard so calls can be handled quickly and effectively, without placing customers on excessive holds or making them wait for a resolution. 

Missing delivery windows is common and extremely problematic
The fastest way to lose repeat business and gain a bad reputation is to not deliver as promised. The survey noted that nearly two-thirds of consumers will not purchase from a retailer again if a previous order misses the scheduled delivery window. However, it’s not just showing up late that is an issue. Even deliveries made earlier than promised can annoy customers. They may not be ready to accept the larger items or they were planning time away from work based on the stated delivery window. 

Instead, prioritize right-time delivery
Since delivering items early can be just as problematic as being late, consider employing tools that leverage AI to help optimize routing. With AI, you can visualize the impacts of a huge number of different factors on your delivery times: the average time it takes to unload and install oversized items; how many people are on the crew and their respective skill levels; traffic, weather, and time of day; and the customers' preferred delivery window. In this way, AI-based routing can help ensure that products aren’t just delivered to consumers on time — but that they arrive at the right time.

There’s no question retailers are feeling the pressure right now. Losing customers in today's competitive market isn’t difficult. Just one mistake can turn a customer off for life and a bad review can be hard to shake. By offering more control and visibility into the delivery process, keeping lines of communication open, and delivering at the right time, businesses will not only keep their customers, they’ll strengthen their loyalty and build market share too.

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