The top CX lessons to learn from Black Friday
After a longer buildup than ever before, this year’s Black Friday is almost upon us. For some businesses, the comparatively long Black Friday shopping season will no doubt ease the capacity crunch and make it easier to deliver on time at scale. For others, the aftermath of the nationwide shopping spree will be just as busy as ever. Either way, customer expectations will be ratcheted up, and it will be incumbent upon everyone who’s offering Black Friday deals to find some way of ensuring that customers get a great delivery experience that matches their expectations.
This can be daunting, but it’s also potentially instructive. All of the hype around this event and its pitfalls can actually make it easier to narrow one’s focus to the elements of customer experience that really matter in periods of high-volume deliveries, and it can illuminate the most crucial best practices for giving customers an experience that they’ll want to repeat.
Make sure your technology and processes scale
If Black Friday teaches us anything, it’s that in order to get the right orders to the right customers at the right times during peak season, you’ll need a seamless fulfilment process that enables you to easily take in orders, schedule them in a way that maximises on-time performance, and ensure constant visibility to customers. That’s why it’s so important to start from a position in which you have the ability to scale easily.
In practice, there are a few crucial ways to make sure that scalability isn’t an issue:
- Ensure that you can create daily delivery plans quickly. If your current route planning process, for instance, takes hours, then you’re setting yourself up for failure when more orders than usual come in.
- At the same time, make sure that your technology doesn’t slow down or grind to a halt when it’s asked to route more stops or send out more notifications than in a typical week. If you’re using on-prem rather than SaaS technology, this can be difficult to ensure.
- If you use third party fleets or drivers at this time of year, make sure you have an easy way of sharing data bidirectionally between your operation and theirs.
Optimise your routes
Another big piece of the puzzle when it comes to meeting increased demand is leveraging your delivery capacity without risking late or failed deliveries. This is where route optimisation comes in.
Not only should a robust route optimisation process give you the ability to rapidly calculate the sequence of stops that involves the shortest total driving distance, it should also enable you to predict the delivery ETA at each stop with high precision. When you can make that happen, you can much more easily avoid assigning too many stops, or too few, to a particular driver. These two elements combine to ensure that you’re getting as much out of your routes as possible without risking the delivery chaos that comes when drivers are always running late.
Give customers multiple fulfilment options
It might seem hard enough to fulfil a huge volume of orders without the added complexity of letting customers choose their own timeslots, but it can make a big difference in terms of customer experience. Here are a couple of ways to make this work for you:
- Offer customer pickup options. This obviously won’t be feasible for every business, but if you have a brick-and-mortar store and can roll out a smooth pickup logistics workflow, you can take some of the pressure off your drivers and give customers more convenient options at the same time. Likewise, some customers might find it more convenient to have the option to pick up from delivery locker locations.
- Enable capacity-aware scheduling. When customers have carte blanche to pick their own delivery windows, things tend to bunch up on the weekends, but when you’re presenting options that have been dynamically generated based on your capacity, that problem vanishes. And once you have a system like that in place, you can choose to incentivise delivery options that make life easier for you, e.g., by offering a discount for customers who choose a later delivery time.
There’s a lot you can do right now to prepare for dealing with Black Friday, to say nothing of the holiday shopping season that’s waiting in the wings. But there’s also no way to plan for everything in advance. There will always be disruptions, last-minute cancellations, vehicle breakdowns, and other unplanned-for events, no matter how carefully you’ve optimised your last mile logistics processes, especially around periods of high demand.
That’s why, no matter how much planning goes into your logistics processes, you need to find a way to stay flexible. The ability to quickly spot potential problems, update your plans on a moment’s notice, and keep customers and drivers apprised of changing conditions in real time is paramount.
Here, it also pays to empower your drivers with a certain amount of flexibility throughout the delivery process. If they have the power to communicate with customers and process returns and order updates on the spot, they can provide a great customer experience that goes above and beyond expectations. At the same time, drivers will feel more empowered at work (more like a brand ambassador than a driver) and will thus be less likely to churn right in the middle of your busiest period.
If you can make all of that happen by putting the right technology and processes in place, you can delight your customers around Black Friday and beyond.
Alex Buckley is general manager of EMEA and Asia Pacific operations at DispatchTrack. Alex is a CX industry expert with more than 25 years of e-commerce, SaaS, and software experience. Prior to DispatchTrack, he served as the Chief Customer Officer and Strategic Advisor for Customer Service Action. He has held a variety of executive roles at...