<- Back

How to Improve Last Mile Logistics

red brush mark
How to Improve Last Mile Logistics - Man delivering a package
Vince Montanaro
Vince Montanaro
March 10, 2023

Figuring out how to improve last mile logistics can reduce transportation costs, improve customer satisfaction, and drive repeat business. As one of the most customer-facing elements of your company, last mile delivery strategies need to work well the first time. Failure in last mile delivery operations results in unhappy customers and can lead to costly re-delivery attempts. However, there are many ways to improve your operation to exceed customer expectations while minimizing costs.

Managing the Final Leg

Delivering packages

Last mile delivery encompasses a product's journey from the distribution center shelf to the customer's residence. The final delivery is often the most costly part of the supply chain. This is due to fuel costs, traffic in urban areas, excess miles between rural deliveries, parcel weight, and, of course, the driver's time. However, this is a great opportunity for your company to stand out by adding extra value for your customers. That might include rapid delivery, assembly services, white glove treatment, or even human customer service representatives.

Depending on your product and location, you might require the customer to be present to accept the delivery. If this is the case, delivery service becomes more complicated because you must coordinate delivery times with the customer. As complicated as this is, the customer accepting the delivery in person reduces the risk of package theft. It also ensures that everyone agrees on the product's condition upon delivery.

Upgrading Software

One of the fastest ways to find inefficiencies is to integrate your last mile delivery process into a single software application. With all your data in one place, you will see what works for your company and where you can improve. It will be easier to make decisions when all your insights are in one place. Your customer service representatives will also be faster in answering customers' questions.

Automation is another quick way to boost your last mile delivery service. With automation, route optimization ensures your drivers make deliveries as efficiently as possible. Dispatch automation can help your delivery drivers avoid traffic problems in real-time. In addition, this can give your last mile logistics more flexibility. If a customer needs a different delivery window while their product is on the truck, automated systems allow a driver to skip that destination until the customer is ready seamlessly.

While automation can significantly improve operations, it is important to remember that it is not a panacea. When complicated problems arise, the human factor is still important. Automating customer service might lead to exasperated customers and delivery failures. Your workflow and business model depend on determining the right balance for your company. If you’re still wondering how to improve last mile logistics, upgrading your software is one to the top ways to accomplish this.

Communicating with Delivery Drivers

Manager explaining the route to the driver

Building a good relationship with delivery drivers is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce last mile delivery issues. If they do not already exist, establish feedback loops so that you learn about what is and what is not working. As front-line workers, delivery drivers see potential problems before they erupt. Listening allows you to prevent bigger issues.

Evaluating what metrics you track on delivery drivers also makes a difference in your last mile delivery effectiveness. Drivers should be rewarded for courtesy, safety, and the number of deliveries made daily. Remember that, as a customer-facing function, this is the last chance to make a good impression on your customer. A delivery driver who drives aggressively or is unpleasant during delivery can make a bad impression and prevent repeat business.

Improving Company Policies

If you have already implemented other ways to improve last mile delivery, try exploring upstream solutions in your supply chain. Surprisingly, packaging can play a prominent role in last mile delivery satisfaction. Large products that arrive in multiple boxes are more likely to get lost than those that arrive in a single box. After all, a single missing box is enough to result in an unhappy customer.

For products delivered to customers in bulk, having the right pallets can save you a lot of money. Pallets made from kiln dried heat treated lumber means less moisture in the wood. Because pallets constructed this way have less water, your delivery vehicles are hauling less weight. With less weight, you can expect lower fuel costs. For specialty products, it might be worth exploring custom pallets as well.

Distribution center location can significantly impact last mile delivery performance. Look at where your customers are located and where your delivery drivers are going. If there is a high enough customer concentration elsewhere, relocating your distribution center to be nearer your customer base might be worth relocating. Combined with other strategies, this can result in same-day delivery and increased last-mile flexibility. Of course, relocating a warehouse is only an option for some companies.

Thinking Outside the Box: Innovative Delivery Solutions

While only right for some companies, exploring nontraditional delivery options might work for your products. If you have a brick-and-mortar location near customers, offer pickup as a possibility. Storage pickup lockers are another option. Partnering with gig-based delivery services during peak season can save your company money on last mile delivery operations.

Although not readily available in the market, new technology designed to minimize the challenges of last mile logistics is on the horizon. That technology includes delivery drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles. Knowing what tomorrow's technology promises can help you make the best decisions for your company today.

Keeping Customers Happy

Woman happy to receive her package

By providing a superior customer experience, last mile deliveries are your chance to set your company apart. Learning how to improve last mile logistics and meet customer demands is a lot easier when you share everything you can with the customer. That means giving the customer a tracking link and extending the option for automated status updates. Providing driver tracking allows customers to see their deliveries in real time. By giving your customers self-service tracking, your customer service representatives can focus on more complicated issues instead of giving status updates on the phone.

If in-person deliveries are required for your products, letting the customer select the delivery window will improve your successful delivery statistics. By owning delivery times, the customer is more likely to be present when your driver arrives. Knowing what customers expect in your industry can help your company meet their needs. For instance, many customers are happy to pay additional money for faster delivery. Offering expedited or same-day delivery for an extra fee can help offset the increased delivery costs.

Delivering on Great Expectations: How to Improve Last Mile Logistics

Online shopping, expedited shipping, and free delivery services have gone from an extra perk to industry standard. Even though the last mile delivery process is among the most expensive parts of the supply chain, customers are beginning to expect this for free. Companies need to minimize costs and maximize efficiency to meet consumer demands and stay profitable.

Engineering your last mile logistics to serve your customers best means analyzing every element to establish best practices. As a customer's last interaction with your company, last mile logistics are the last chance you have to encourage a repeat customer. The best solutions for your company include automation, creative pickup solutions, or even upgrading pallets to better suit your needs. Building a relationship with a reliable pallet industry supplier could save your company money.