4 Ways Retailers Can Exceed Customer Delivery Expectations

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Featured in My Total Retail, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, & Furniture Today.

When it comes to same-day delivery solutions for big and bulky items, there’s a lot that can go wrong. But there is also a lot that can go right for those retailers who take the time to understand what their customers really want. Of course, on-time delivery is always the goal, but there is so much more to implementing a same-day delivery solution that can exceed customer expectations, and help retailers improve their NPS at the same time.

And with the Covid-19 pandemic forever changing consumer behavior and accelerating the shift to e-commerce exponentially, expectations are higher now than ever before. Those retailers that can implement solutions that will exceed these expectations are the ones that will find themselves leading the pack. It takes a combination of factors to achieve and maintain this goal; below we outline the four most important.

1. Align to new expectations

Customer expectations, likely conditioned by years of receiving low-cost (or even free) delivery within one or two days of nearly any item available on the market, have significantly changed over the years. The typical experience when a customer is shopping for a big and bulky item, like a new couch or large appliance, is that the retailer sets the delivery date and time according to when it’s most convenient for the carrier to provide a delivery based on the efficiencies of their network, often a week, or even two weeks, from purchase date. Plus, the delivery is usually scheduled for sometime in a four-hour or more window to adjust for driver routes, meaning your customer may have to take time off work, radically adjust their schedule, or just wait around never knowing when their purchase will actually arrive. Customers are no longer accepting of this practice. 

Customers want, and even expect, same-day or next-day delivery for these items. And they want a time-definite delivery, where the items are delivered on their schedule, at an exact time, not in a four to six-hour block. That’s just not convenient. By not being able to offer this immediacy and convenience to your customers you are likely to lose out on sales, customer loyalty, and overall satisfaction. According to a 2021 survey of 6,000 consumers across the globe, 45% of US respondents said that if a delivery or pick-up of an item is more than two days, they will look elsewhere. This aligns closely with our own data, which shows that more than 80% of Dolly customers receiving a big and bulky delivery from a retail store want to receive their item within three days, with the majority (more than 60%) wanting to receive their item within 24 hours. 

But there are ways to ensure you continuously meet and exceed your customer’s expectations and ensure your customers are always put first. One of the easiest, and often quickest, ways to set this new standard in motion is partnering with a delivery solution provider that can offer same-day or next-day delivery to your customers on their preferred schedule in a way that is efficient and seamless. A good delivery partner has already perfected their approach to last-mile delivery, and can offer omnichannel flexibility and capacity at scale that works for your business, be it one store or locations nationwide–and takes the burden off your team to quickly hire and train resources for a new or upgraded delivery protocol. A best-in-class delivery experience that exceeds expectations will ensure that your brand is protected and customers stay loyal.

2. Clear Communication

Being realistic with customers about their delivery, along with providing seamless communication, is key to setting expectations correctly both leading up to and during delivery. Of course customers want an on-time delivery, but much more important than that is a retailer who offers an honest and responsive delivery experience.

It’s critical to remember that delivery is always a fluid situation – there will always be elements that are outside of the retailer’s control, especially if the retailer is using a delivery partner, so be sure to communicate any changes of delivery status to the customer effectively and quickly, or better yet, work with a partner that takes on these communications for you and provides real-time tracking of all your deliveries, for both you and your customers. By offering a delivery experience that tells your customers down to the minute where their items are and when they can expect them to arrive, you are ensuring the customer is at the center of the transaction with a clear purview of the delivery, and not just a byproduct of it. 

Allowing a two-way communication experience for the customer where they can speak or text with the driver directly will help facilitate this process, as will an abundance of accurate information before, during, and directly after the delivery. So, even if the delivery is running a bit off schedule, your customers will appreciate the clear, honest communication and the fact that they are being made aware of exactly what is going on with their purchase. 

3. Total Operational Integration

While integration of delivery and POS systems can, at times, be complicated, it offers retailers trying to implement a same-day delivery solution for big and bulky items a number of benefits. Most critical is that such an integration enables retailers to update customers in real-time about the state of their delivery via an automated, integrated system, but a TMS can also help you manage fulfillment operations with ease and empower your employees. Separate systems risk data being difficult to locate and misaligned, which can lead to slower response times, misinformation being given to a client (or driver) and challenges in addressing delivery issues. Integrated systems can easily overcome all of these issues by providing a single source of truth for customer service personnel seeking to ensure customers have the seamless experience they expect even if things don’t go exactly according to plan. Plus, a TMS can offer integration across all store locations under a single corporate account. Ultimately, this means you can access analytics and business insights across all deliveries, even customer reviews, and quickly and easily key performance indicators or identify areas for optimization.  

Seamless set up of deliveries at checkout, real-time tracking down to the minute on your customer’s schedule, and metrics important to your business–a fully loaded, integrated TMS is integral to creating a delivery solution that exceeds your customers’ expectations. And best of all, it doesn’t have to break your budget. There are plenty of inexpensive, even no cost, delivery platforms available that provide all the right features and benefits for every retailer, from SMB to enterprise-level.

4. Meet the customer where they’re at

As e-commerce continues to dominate the retail environment, particularly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s critical for retailers seeking to implement same-day delivery solutions for big and bulky items to meet the customer where they’re at.

But what does this mean? When it comes to buying, your customers want and expect options. Whether you have a digital storefront, brick-and-mortar space, or, ideally for shoppers, a combination of the two, your customers want to be able to access your inventory when they want and how they want. And they want a choice in how their purchases are delivered to them. Your customers want to be able to choose the most convenient option for them, whether that is buy online and pick up in-store, contactless, curbside home delivery, or full, white-glove service. In fact, according to a 2020 PSFK report, over 80% of retail customers have said they are more likely or much more likely to purchase from a brand with multiple delivery options. And they will want those items to arrive on their schedule, when it’s convenient for them–not just a date in the future in a four-hour window, but tomorrow, at 10:30 am, when they requested it. 

So, if you’re not offering a variety of services, including a smooth and easy reverse logistics experience, and ultimately prioritizing delivery as a success metric for customer service experience, your customers are going to consider other retailers that are. Gone are the days when customers had few options for purchasing big and bulky items like furniture, large appliances, or big-screen TVs. To keep customers happy and coming back, you need to always put them at the center of the transaction, and consider their positive experience as the utmost goal, even if it may not be the most cost-effective or convenient for you as a retailer. And by offering more immediate, time-definite delivery options, you are setting yourself apart from other retailers that aren’t doing this yet.

This is why working with a third-party delivery partner can mean the difference between an exceptional customer experience and a “just okay” one. Experts in creating a seamless, omnichannel solution for your specific needs, a delivery partner can be your competitive advantage that boosts revenue and helps keep your customers loyal. And by freeing up your resources and time by allowing a provider to take on the last-mile puzzle, you can pivot focus to other key areas of your business.

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