Descartes engaged Indago to conduct a short survey on the role of electronic customer engagement during the delivery lifecycle. If the limited results are any indication of how companies engage their customers, then it is clear that many are missing a huge opportunity to improve delivery experience, capture customer feedback and—equally important—reduce delivery costs. Let’s look at the results of the five questions we asked.

Question 1: When do you start engaging with customers about their deliveries?

The good news is that 45% of the respondents answered that they began engagement during the buying process, which is good practice. The remaining 55% of respondents began sometime after that and no respondents indicated that they did not provide electronic delivery notification. If this were the only question that was asked, then we could assume that most companies are in decent shape when it comes to electronically engaging their customers during the delivery process; however, the results of the remaining four questions paint a completely different picture.  

Question 2: What kind of estimated-time-of-arrival (ETA) do you provide?

The good news is that only 5% of respondents do not provide an ETA. The bad news is that 90% of respondents provide an ETA based on standard lead times—and the ugly news is that only 5% indicated that they dynamically calculate ETAs using real-time GPS. Standard lead time has been a base expectation for years and is certainly not a customer experience differentiator. Missed here is the value to customers in terms of how they manage their businesses when the lead time is more accurately measured than in days. For example, a number of distributors in the building materials industry are using real-time ETAs to help their contractors optimize crew utilization by knowing exactly when their materials would arrive.

Question 3: Do you allow customers to… [Check all that apply]

Sadly, half of the respondents said they don’t allow their customers to see or do anything themselves concerning their deliveries. Only 40% allow customers to view delivery details in a customer portal and, when it came to customer self-service actions, reschedule (20%) was the highest result, followed by provide location-specific details (15%), confirm (10%) and cancel (5%). So, where do customers go to make changes when self-service isn’t available? Your call center. If there is one way to dramatically reduce call center costs and increase customer satisfaction, it is with self-service customer engagement solutions.

Question 4: When do you send post-delivery surveys?

Sadly again, 55% of respondents said they do not send post-delivery surveys and only 20% said they send them immediately after delivery. In essence, 80% of respondents aren’t measuring customer satisfaction at the most important time. If there is ever time to recover from a bad delivery experience, it is immediately and proactively after the delivery. If the only way to know if the delivery experience was bad is for the customer to call customer service, then too many companies are missing the greater number of customers who silently go elsewhere for future purchases. One chilling response to “other” was “We don’t handle actual delivery, so not relevant.” The customer still holds you accountable for a poor delivery experience whether it’s your fleet or a commercial carrier—and you need to know the good or bad immediately after delivery. This is why it is so important to use surveys to reduce customer loss and improve delivery performance.

Question 5: Which of the following benefits have you experienced by engaging with customers electronically about their delivery? [Check all that apply]

The trend is likely clear by now: the results of question #1 don’t hold water. For this question, 45% of respondents said they don’t see any benefits because they don’t engage with their clients electronically about deliveries. However, 55% do see benefits: increased customer satisfaction (30%); reduced customer calls about delivery status (30%), disputes and claims (25%) and failed deliveries (10%); and improved in-house fleet or carrier delivery performance (10%).

There are three clear lessons learned here. First, far too few companies are using electronic customer engagement as part of their delivery process and are missing the opportunity to significantly improve customer experience and delivery and customer service costs. Second, those using electronic customer engagement during the delivery process are benefiting in many ways. Finally, it certainly appears that there is plenty of opportunity to differentiate using electronic customer engagement because many companies are overlooking this strategy. How is your company using your logistics data in customer engagement solutions to make a difference? To learn more about electronic customer engagement, watch this video with Adrian Gonzalez from Talking Logistics and Gary Taylor of Descartes.