Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Find the right last-mile solutions for operational relief

Scott McWilliams
Scott McWilliams
Sales Director

In the last-mile delivery game, worry is all around.

Drivers are anxious about meeting delivery windows, and back-office teams are scrambling to maintain visibility from miles away. On the other side, customers are eager to receive their orders in a timely fashion to meet demand and please their own customer base. While some may take this not-so-fun game of "pass-the-panic ball" as an inevitable reality in last-mile delivery, we are far too advanced in the technology timeline to feel overworked and overburdened by outdated systems or processes.

With the right business planning, you can significantly eliminate worry in your operation, so delivering to customers feels seamless for everyone.

It all begins long before you reach the last mile

It can start as far back as months in advance of every last-mile delivery.

Let's look to the Super Bowl for a timely analogy. When teams play, they don't plan their game strategy on the spot. Sure, they will modify and make specific plays and calls as they go along, but effective coaches will strategize well before their teams take the field. They'll analyze their team players' strengths and weaknesses and compare these factors to the opposing team's. In doing so, they'll develop the most thorough and best-suited plan of action for their team.

Strategic planning works the same way. You can analyze your fleet's players, including the drivers, customers, loads, and routes, and interpret historic delivery patterns and seasonal trends to orchestrate a high-level and effective delivery plan for the territories on your schedule. With the right tools, you can better understand your customers' changing dynamics, particularly over the past twelve months. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Did your customer base change over the past year?
  • Did your customer base expand due to increased demand, or did it contract due to COVID-related shutdowns? How did this affect resource planning and utilization?
  • What does the next 6-12 months look like if COVID-related restrictions start to ease?  Will your customer base continue to expand or contract?

What happens to a coach who goes into the nation's arguably most beloved annual sports event without a plan? Chances are the coach and players would feel highly uneasy at the start of the game, jeopardizing their winning chances. The same applies to last-mile delivery — a muddled beginning increases the risk of an unfavorable ending.

Route optimization strategies for the last mile

Manual route planning can cost you months' worth of time and money. By utilizing an algorithmic route optimization model to gain route efficiencies and streamline your day-to-day planning, you can quickly uncover the most cost-effective and efficient routes.  Flexible route optimization tools also allow you to employ different strategies for static, dynamic, and hybrid routes.  

With route optimization, you can easily tackle last-minute orders and new customers, streamline the late placement of orders to existing routes, and add new customers at the lowest cost. This can be achieved while maintaining route integrity and by adhering to customer-specific delivery policies and time windows. 

You can also streamline communication between drivers and dispatchers, so they can easily exchange real-time information and prevent unnecessary disruptions to a planned route.

Prioritize convenience for today's customer

"I love spending hours on the phone tracking my order," said no customer, ever.

And yet, something as simple and beneficial for your business as order tracking is still not as prevalent as it should be in the digital age. Giving customers visibility into their order lifecycle is possible with the right approach.

"Where's my order?" calls can frequently disrupt your operation. To combat this, you can provide instant communication to your customers with customizable alerts via email or SMS messages for delivery information and ETAs. This way, they're not overwhelming your customer service teams with repetitive questions on the status of their orders, and your teams can designate attention to more unique customer issues and diverse responsibilities.  

Customer asset tracking isn't the only important convenience factor to consider when orchestrating successful deliveries. Today's business leader also needs to account for the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Something as simple as collecting a signature for a package delivery — a common day-to-day endeavor in our industry — is now laden with an extra layer of sanitary considerations. You can go the extra mile by utilizing a contactless mobile application to electronically provide proof of delivery via embedded photos. While it's highly unlikely your customers will stop doing business with you over signing for a delivery with their pen or finger, many will be especially appreciative of contactless delivery options that account for their health and wellbeing. Customers and delivery personnel who feel cared for are more likely to be loyal to your business in the long run. 

For more last-mile reading, download our eBook to learn how to optimize beneficial transportation networks to orchestrate an even better customer experience.