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There are ten things you can do for efficient logistics management – and then there is focus on providing exemplary customer service in logistics. It’s the latter which will eventually affect revenue, returns, customer retention, and in brief, the overall logistics operations.
The importance of customer service in logistics has been skyrocketing over the last few years, with customer experience and satisfaction often considered a key metric for performance measurement and competitive edge.
And while Indian logistics companies are regularly updating their SLAs and strategizing new ways to enhance customer experiences, it still has a long way to go. Logistics today is not only about timely delivery, it’s also about technology adoption, value-added services, and customer expectations management.
This article will talk about the role of efficient customer service in logistics management and what measures logistics companies can take to improve the overall logistics operations.
Why customer service in logistics is important?
A vital thing to understand about how logistics and supply chain systems operate is that not every situation is predictable. Yes, regular occurrences can be monitored and any gaps can be improved. But there are circumstances that are beyond planned control – and unfortunately, these too impact customer experiences.
For instance, bad weather condition and poor roads can affect delivery timelines, and in turn affect customer experience. While route optimisation is possible using suitable technology, there are accidental road blockages that may occur.
The importance of customer service in logistics management therefore cannot be ignored. Here are five reasons that explain the role of customer support services in logistics:
- It helps to acquire and retain customers by providing positive customer experiences (customer loyalty)
- It acts as a differentiator when pricing and quick-delivery do not provide an edge
- It enables logistics providers to hear the voice-of-customer and update policies and processes as per feedback, trends and business needs
- It prepares businesses to forecast demand based on sales and returns, and plan for better warehouse and storage management
- It helps logistics firms to build trust and credibility in brand through word-of-mouth and customer reviews and ratings
How logistics companies can improve customer service in logistics management
As you can guess, enhancing customer experience requires attention in several areas – warehouse and inventory, transportation, packaging, order status tracking, on-time delivery.
For a business, it is often daunting to focus efforts in multiple areas. As such, identify:
- How your logistics company works
- Primary cost and revenue centres i.e., main logistics activities for business
- Which areas need improvement and what’s working well
This will help you to focus on the aspect that’s critical for providing better customer service in logistics.
On that note, we take a look at how customer expectations affect logistics services and what you can do to improve it:
1. Build a robust mechanism for customer feedback and queries
The first thing you should work on to improve customer services in logistics is to build a robust framework for receiving customer feedback and answering queries. Timely, multi-channel communication is as important as quick, reliable delivery.
Your customers can have multiple questions about your service or in tracking the status of their parcel. Ensure you have the resources and tools to reply quickly and share the right up-to-date information. Some of the channels most logistics providers adopt are:
- Social media platforms (including platform messaging services)
- WhatsApp communications
- Email and phone conversations
- Live chat option
In addition to this, you should also adopt new technologies to streamline the process. For example, queries on transportation services provided, transportation costs, PIN codes covered, order status are some of the most asked customer queries.
By adopting technology solutions you can minimise these to a large extent. For example:
- Air waybill numbers can be provided for customers to self-track the status of their consignments
- Email/SMS updates can be sent with key order updates, product availability etc.
- Company website can have a ‘Search’ option for users to check serviceable PIN codes and costs involved
2. Identify gaps in logistics processes and make changes
Another area of impact of logistics on customer satisfaction is logistics process gaps leading to less transparency and supply chain visibility.
For example: If you are new to online and eCommerce business model, you may not have a comprehensive returns management process in place. This is sure to impact customer satisfaction as ease-of-returns and refunds is a key feature of online business. It is a logistics process gap that needs to change. Consider taking the following proactive steps:
- Collaborate with a third-party logistics provider for goods returns management
- Set clear SLA’s on how returned goods are to be managed e.g., whether returned to origin (RTO), repaired, resold, recycled, etc.
- State the returns policies and timelines on your website for visibility and transparency
- Monitor and evaluate returns process, conduct surveys for customer feedback, and revise the returns management policies and processes from time to time to keep it up-to-date
3. Enhance the delivery experience
While product delivery is only a part of the entire logistics operations flow, it is perhaps the most critical and vital. Last-mile delivery systems can be a gamechanger for any business. Put simply, it refers to the condition and time the product was received by the end users/customers and whether or not it met their expectations.
There are several steps you can take to maximise customer satisfaction in logistics:
- Optimise delivery routes
- Select the right transportation mode for delivery
- Invest in packaging to protect products
- Provide training to delivery agents to use GPS tech, handle packages, and communicate with customers
Optimising delivery routes and selecting the right transportation system can not just enhance customer experiences but also save business money. For instance, for 8-10 pallets of goods to be shipped from Mumbai to Patna, it’s more economical when you choose partial truckload services.
To improve the delivery experience, also consider taking immediate feedback. Most eCommerce businesses have aced this. They usually send a SMS/email feedback form based on a 0-10 rating scale with 1-2 subjective questions (optional). This data helps in improving logistics performance and planning.
4. Optimise supply chain operations
Supply chain involves the comprehensive operations starting with procurement, and continuing into receiving goods into the warehouse, inventory, stocking, order fulfilment, shipping, labelling and delivery.
Better customer service can be provided when supply chain is optimised. There are key steps involved in optimising supply chains (i.e., supply chain design, planning and execution), collectively contributing towards reduced costs, better performance, higher profits, and greater collaboration with vendors and suppliers. It also helps to create customer delight, factored by customers having visibility on product availability, price, and delivery timelines.
E-commerce business can be considered as an example of customer service in logistics. They usually use advanced software to manage warehouse and inventory, have their platforms integrated with multiple digital tools to send automated updates to customers and different teams, use GPS and IoT sensor enabled vehicles to monitor packages, collect feedback in time, mostly have a same-day or next-day delivery system, and also follow a well outlined reverse logistics process.
In the end
In the end, your customers will remember the experience they had when doing business with you. They will remember how sincerely you resolved their queries, how transparent you were, how systematically you kept them updated on their parcels and any unforeseen changes. Efficiency in customer service will not only help you to gain a happy customer, but a loyal one.
Finding new customers is a challenge but keeping them loyal is not so easy. As a logistics company owner, work on what can help you retain customer loyalty.