Is your Parcel Visibility Solution Mature Enough for your Organization?
The customer expectation around shipping visibility continues to rise. Gone are the days when a shipper could suggest a date when the customer will receive a shipment and the customer would relax and wait ‒ Customers now want status accuracy and regular updates on their items.
Not all Parcel Visibility solutions are the equal. There are three key areas we would like to call out for your consideration as you assess the level of maturity needed.
- First, customers are becoming more demanding. Entry-level solutions only provide the most basic of status notifications that, in the majority of cases, are not adequate for most customer, product, or business requirements. Sure, there are situations where the customer is not anxious about delivery, but those situations are now rare.
- Second, beyond the customer’s expectations changing, most brands are investing heavily into the total customer shopping experience including delivery and the associated visibility experience. Therefore, outsourcing the experience to the carrier or even a third-party is often desired to allow for full control of the customer’s lifecycle experience.
- Third, visibility data is quite useful in other areas of the business, like Multi-carrier Rate Shopping, Revenue Recognition, Returns Process, and general carrier performance tracking.
Following is a discussion about five proposed levels of maturity for you to evaluate as a business to help determine how mature you need to be:
Figure 1: ScanData’s Visibility Maturity Model
Stage One: The Carrier Represents Your Brand
The most basic option is to outsource all notifications to the carrier. While this solution is quick and has very low cost, the shipper loses control of the brand experience. While one is tempted to argue that a carrier text/email notification or website with tracking information is not part of your brand, the reality is your customer is judging you throughout their buying process. If they have to jump to another brand experience, they are overlaying the carrier brand on top of yours ‒ which may contrast dramatically. For example, your brand may find shipping notices to be a great time to build excitement for the customer as they await the arrival of your product, rather than mundane status messages that provide “just the facts.” Or, customers may get an alert that causes anxiety because the shipment seems to be “going the wrong way.” (A reality we face as the parcel is not going to go to the customer in a straight line, it may zig-zag, or even be routed to a Hub that is further from the customer’s address than where it started.) If a shipper opts for this approach, the customer may question dedication to them as a customer and question if their business is appreciated.
Stage Two: Outsourced Customer Experience
One method to eliminate carriers from providing alerts is to outsource the process and user experience to a third-party software tool that allows you to customize messaging and design that is more on-brand, filter the types of messages the customer will receive (so they don’t see the “going the wrong way messages”), and ensure that experience they see when they do look for tracking data is as brand-consistent as possible given the third-party’s system constraint. While this type of solution seems easy (since you may not have to engage internal IT to integrate to your internal CRM, Text Messaging System, or eCommerce System), you do lose control of you customer experience, since you are not directly controlling the system. Often changes in these types of systems require change requests, longer than desired lead-times, and additional unplanned costs.
Stage Three: Integrated with Current Customer Engagement Channels
While more difficult and maybe initially more costly than Stage Two, if the investment is made to directly integrate messaging into your existing internal CRM, Text Messaging System, or eCommerce System will provide value on three fronts:
- Data can be centralized. The tracking date is actually useful for future performance analysis. Often this date is hard to consolidate with rating and invoice data when managed by a third-party.
- Changes to rules can be timely and more robust with some planning. Often you may have situational changes that cause you to want to alter your rules on-the-fly, and with the proper administration functions you can make those changes when you need them.
- You control the Customer Experience. While a third-party will simulate your experience, it is just a simulation. True integration with your internal CRM, Text Messaging System, or eCommerce Systems will give you the control to adjust as your brand dictates.
Stage Four: Advance Analytics of Data
Now that you have control of the customer experience, it is time to start using that data to power advanced prediction of delivery status. While carriers provide you status, they are not always able to actually predict when a delivery will happen. Now that you have the data you can start setting rules that help you notify a customer when YOU think a delivery will be delayed based upon historical time-in-transit, or unexpected delays in the process that you think are indicative of a potential delay.
Stage Five: Predictive not Responsive
Stage 5 is a future state. While being able to use the data provided by a carrier to predict delays or status is a huge leap forward in improving customer satisfaction, the ultimate vision would be full predictive analysis that would alter status alerts based upon seasonality, weather, and other trends.
Most would agree that customers are demanding greater levels of visibility; however, the definition of what visibility means can vary greatly. We hope this summary of how differing stages of visibility helps you determine what level of investment you should make to provide the level of customer service your customers expect. Maybe some find Stage Two acceptable given your brand and product, but maybe not. We encourage you to do that analysis to determine how mature your Visibility solution should be.
We realize this piece is very high-level, and if you’d like to drill down on any of our recommendations, reach out to us with questions or comments. We also welcome opportunities to deliberate or dispute our insights and recommendations. No conversation is off limits.
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