Why a telematics solution makes for better deliveries and happier customers

In this article in association with UPS, Giles Margerison considers how effective fleet management technology can help SMEs gain a competitive advantage by improving their service delivery.

In this article in association with UPS, Giles Margerison considers how effective fleet management technology can help SMEs gain a competitive advantage by improving their service delivery.

SME companies in the delivery and service sectors need little reminder of the importance of meeting customer expectations and service-level demands. Consumer confidence can all too easily be dented – and once lost, a firm’s reputation can be extremely difficult to salvage.

Good service delivery relies upon effective planning. To calculate how many jobs mobile workers are able to attend in a day, managers need to know how long jobs are likely to take and how much time they are likely to spend on the road, journeying between customer sites.

While companies can estimate job times based on past experiences, journey times for a majority of firms are less easy to determine, and hard to manually record.

According to TomTom Telematics research, traffic is one of the biggest obstacles to getting where they need to be, preventing firms from attaining first-class standards of customer service. Ninety per cent of van drivers admitted to arriving late for customer appointments in the study – with traffic cited as the major cause by 93 per cent of respondents.

Conducted among mobile workers operating as part of a company fleet, the study found that 27 per cent of drivers are regularly late. All of those questioned claimed traffic had an impact on their weekly job schedule, with 81 per cent stating congestion was a regular source of disruptions.

Fleet technology holds the key

Although traffic cannot be controlled, its effect can certainly be mitigated. Advanced fleet management systems or service dispatch software, incorporating live traffic information, allow companies, whether small or large, to plan around delays and dispatch employees to jobs based on quickest arrival times, not simply who is closest to the customer. Having this capability, with jobs or orders dispatched directly to drivers’ in-cab terminals, means businesses are able to respond more rapidly to customers as job requests are made.

The technology provides the tools needed to alleviate driver stress and make employees’ jobs easier. Smarter navigation and routing means less frustration, helping drivers to avoid congestion with live traffic information relayed automatically to their navigation devices en-route. Coupled with smart navigation, factoring in not only traffic flows, but also traffic lights, roundabouts and other obstacles, this can mean journey time savings of up to 15 per cent.

Workflow planning can take journey times into account for specific routes or times of the day, meaning customers are provided with accurate ETAs and are quickly informed in the case of delays or changes to the job schedule.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated – particularly given that in a separate TomTom study a quarter of consumers said unspecified appointment times are the biggest failing of service companies. Ninety-six per cent of British consumers are not typically given precise appointment times by delivery and service companies, with three-quarters usually being given morning or afternoon timeslots at best.

For office equipment supplier Danwood, for example, better route planning increased the average number of customer visits per day by seven per cent from 4.5 to 4.8. Technology services company Telent has enjoyed similar success achieving an 80 per cent improvement in response times, on top of the previously mentioned cost savings, cutting the time taken to allocate jobs from 75 to 15 minutes.

Streamlining business operations

SMEs will be mindful that improving standards of customer service must be balanced with managing costs and optimising productivity. From the perspective of a mobile workforce, achieving these goals can go hand-in-hand.

Fleet management technology can not only help improve customer service, it can reduce operating costs, improve administrative efficiencies, increase productivity, an organisations’ green credentials and its duty of care to its employees. Furthermore, recent advancements in the technology have resulted in a growing suite of applications designed to help managers achieve these goals and further improve the customer experience. It is now becoming easier than ever to connect business hardware and software with fleet management technology.

In the past, the costs associated with technology integrations meant this was out of reach for smaller businesses. However today out of the box software integrations mean  back office systems are seamlessly connecting with vehicles and mobile workers in the field without the need for expensive IT consultancy.

In the office, software integrations are possible with a range of applications such as routing and scheduling systems, CRM and ERP.

When an order is received by a company, for example, the details can automatically be passed from an e-commerce platform or CRM to a fleet management dashboard. This allows mobile operations managers to view outstanding orders and dispatch the most appropriate van drivers to jobs based on how long it will take them to arrive. Directions will be immediately sent to the drivers’ navigation devices and when jobs are complete, data can be sent from the vehicle back to the office, allowing the final details to be added to the CRM or invoicing software.

In the field, mobile printers – paired by Bluetooth to the telematics box in the vehicle – can be used to print receipts, invoices, barcodes and RFID labels enriched with data such as GPS location and job information, generated by fleet management software.

Similarly, signature capture devices can make use of the same data for proof a delivery was made to an exact location at a specific time by a particular driver. All data collected in the field can then transmitted back to the office via the in-vehicle telematics device.

Accessed via fleet management software, this data can be shared with back office software, including routing and scheduling and workflow management systems. Managers are able to ensure jobs or deliveries are completed punctually and customers notified in advance of precise arrival times, with work schedules planned in the most efficient manner, taking into account factors such as traffic or proximity.

Businesses are already able to realise ROI on fleet management technology within six to eight months but greater harmony between business systems could ensure this comes even sooner – and that the benefits are even longer lasting.

Author: Giles Margerison, TomTom Telematics’ director, UK & Ireland

Further reading on logistics

Related Topics

Fleet Management

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