How small business can avoid parcel delivery meltdown this Christmas

How ready is your small business for this festive season? Will it be a season for your small business to be jolly or to freak out under pressure?

The challenge for all small businesses at Christmas is bringing many different elements together for success, often juggling business relationships and staffing demands to make it all work.

In my decades in delivery transport, I’ve noticed the parcel delivery component comes under particular strain – demand for stock soars, late orders come in and the roads are more congested than ever. This makes it more likely deliveries will be late, damaged or misplaced.

This is not just a B2C problem, it’s also a big B2B issue because failure to deliver at this crucial time can irreparably damage reputation and business partnerships. In many ways, your ability to deliver amid this pressure is a litmus test for how good you really are.

If a delivery transport system has weaknesses, the cracks will show during the festive season. Get it right and your business partners and customers will love you.

Small business should see it as an opportunity to see how good they are under pressure, and as a chance to improve so the next big spike in demand becomes a breeze. This festive season, pay attention to the following areas:

The care factor: If you’re shifting bulky, unusual or fragile items, avoiding breakages and returns is paramount. Trusting these special or unusual items to courier companies is a recipe for disaster because they are not set up to handle them. Couriers may seem cheap, but if you experience broken items it will soon become clear it’s false economy, as damaged items will cost you more. The care factor is about delivering items in full, undamaged, and on time. You must also look for adequate proof of delivery to protect your business.

Delivery fleet responsiveness: Small businesses often blend owned transport solutions and outsourced solutions, which may include a dedicated team or some ad-hoc suppliers. The festive season is a good opportunity to understand your delivery transport mix. Watch for any weak points over the festive season – are some areas repeatedly letting you down? Are your drivers coping with the load? Talk to them, and analyse strengths and weaknesses. You need a mix which can adapt when the orders come flooding in.

Efficiency: You may experience a nice business surge, but are your costs out of control? Efficiency is key to understanding your delivery fleet’s responsiveness. For example, if you are resorting to couriers or ad-hoc suppliers too often, the cost impact could be eating into your profit margins. Delivery transport costs can easily blow out and are often underestimated – those businesses which understand all the costs involved will have a true measure of their efficiency and be best placed to profit from the next spike in demand.

Communications: When the festive crush intensifies, your business partners and customers may be the ones freaking out. Are you keeping them informed? If they are calling or emailing you regularly to check on their delivery status then something is wrong – a good, efficient delivery fleet will get on the front foot to keep customers informed, using telematics technology to track deliveries and provide regular updates. The same technology increases accuracy and also provides proof of delivery.

Walter Scremin, General Manager, Ontime Delivery Solutions

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