How to get your last mile deliveries running like clockwork

The delivery business involves managing multiple moving parts, from data-driven decisions and driver schedules. What does it take to make your machine’s cogs fall smoothly into place?

The delivery business involves managing multiple moving parts, especially for logistics and e-commerce managers. And the last mile is the real crunch. Here, everything from data-driven decisions to driver schedules needs to be spot on. Otherwise, overseeing quickly becomes fire-fighting. With a last mile that runs like clockwork, however, you gain back the headspace to think bigger. Focusing on business development and improving your customer offering, rather than simply trying to pull the basics together. Perhaps even sitting back once in a while, to see the business grow. 

So what needs to happen behind the scenes to reach this streamlined state? We’re sharing tips to help your machine’s cogs fall smoothly into place. On the logistics side, minimising fleet, driver and warehouse issues, for smooth operations. And for e-commerce, optimising customer offerings with dynamic delivery, integration and strategic automation.

1. Train and engage your drivers 

True engagement and commitment come from offering employees a positive, welcoming experience. For this, a quality onboarding process is key. This ensures your drivers have the information they need to find their feet in your company. Once your onboarding flow is set up, it will help reduce time spent on recruiting and preparing new drivers. Thorough training, too, is vital. So drivers know your system, and what’s expected, inside out. Ensuring both they and the people they deliver to have a good experience, from day one. What’s more, engaged drivers tend to attract other drivers with the same mindset. Word of mouth is a powerful thing! So, ensuring your drivers’ employee experience is positive is crucial to growing your business.

Mixing digital and in-person onboarding and training can be optimal. The digital approach offers speed and convenience for employers and employees. And the in-person aspect is vital for building a true team. There are so many interlinking parts in a delivery operation that we all need to see ourselves as part of something bigger. With everyone doing their bit to help their colleagues at the next stage of the operation. Personal contact is key for morale — especially as solo delivery driving can get pretty lonely. The human touch is essential!

2. Utilise dynamic time slots

Increase e-commerce efficiency by moving away from static or manual time slot management. This avoids overpaying for capacity you don’t need while still meeting customer demand. With dynamic time slot management, all you need to do is ensure you add enough people at the packing and delivery stage. Then, your customers will automatically be offered more time slots for delivery.

Especially when it comes to scaling, dynamic time slot management is a real asset. If you’ve built your whole system based on 10 vans, scaling is a huge technical workload. So it’s wise to choose a delivery tech solution that’s built to scale, right from your early stages. With a ready-made scalable backbone, you’ll just need to adjust a few parameters. Then sit back, and watch the business grow!

3. Use an efficient and scalable tech solution

For your last mile to run smoothly, you need a tech solution that works efficiently. Simple as that. Efficient delivery tech cuts through administrative work, making your teams’ lives easier. It creates a better experience for your end customers, too. If they’re able to add delivery instructions and track their driver in real-time, they’ll need less help from your customer support team. This is particularly useful as you scale. With increasing order volumes, deliveries and customers, the last thing you need is an avalanche of customer confusion and complaints. Real-time tracking — and helping recipients to help themselves — is key.

Following on from our previous tip, tech scalability isn’t just fundamental for growth. It’s vital for business model evolution, too. Being able to tweak parameters easily is key, say, for moving towards an e-fleet. With cities tightening traffic regulations, you’ll likely need to adapt your vehicle usage. With delivery software that’s designed to scale, you’ll be able to update your fleet options quickly and easily. Smoothing the transition towards sustainability while keeping your show on the road.

4. Streamline software and automate processes

For a last mile like clockwork, avoid too many systems. Are your warehouse management, customer support, route optimisation and driver app currently separate tools? Then it’s time for a rethink!

An all-in-one system brings multiple benefits. To name just one, you’ll only be paying a single provider. You’ll also avoid the risk of data loss, corruption or error that comes with importing and exporting between systems. With the right tech solution, you’ll have all the data you need in one place. Smart delivery software will also enable you to minimise manual steps. Let your tech take care of automated route planning, customer notifications and much more.

5. Leverage your data to be prepared

A seamless last mile means being smart about staying ahead of the game. Using your forecast and historical data, you can prepare for your next peak. With automated processes, too, you can easily gather input for updated dashboards. This will set your team up with the insights they need. No need to waste time trawling through multiple files and systems!

With the right tools in place, you can focus on scaling and improving your business. Not putting out fires — which logistics managers find themselves doing too frequently! Knowing peak weeks in advance ensures you can scale up warehouse and delivery staff, then readjust for lower volumes. That’s useful forecasting in the short term. But it’s vital for longer-term questions, too. You need hard data to make the call on investing in additional fleet capacity, for example. Or justifying investing in switching to only e-vehicles, opening an additional warehouse, or entering another national market. Strategic decision-making hinges on knowing what lies ahead, as far as possible.

6. Ensure customers know you’ve got things handled

If you’re in the driver’s seat, it sets your customers’ minds at ease. This depends on you ensuring your systems and processes are well-aligned enough that you can handle any logistics challenges. Intercom is great for help articles, for example. Likewise, creating a detailed FAQ. Proactively providing these resources will save you time, ensuring you aren’t answering the same questions for multiple customers.

We all appreciate the chance to be independent and resourceful, too. If you provide customers with information, they can take the initiative to find their own answers. Reducing their dependence on you, and reducing your workload. Win-win! Of course, that’s true for your internal teams, too, from drivers to customer support and operations.

Of course, there will be times when recipients need to get in touch with drivers and your support team. Contacting them if a delivery has an item missing, for example. Or enquiring as to why a delivery is late. For these scenarios, having a well-equipped, well-trained customer support team is key. Plus, your drivers need easy contact pathways with your end recipients.

7. Automate Customer Experience communication

Automating customer experience brings a host of benefits. A key example is automated updates if — unavoidably — a delivery is delayed. This happens, of course. The key is letting customers know what’s going on. It’s being left in the dark that causes real upset and frustration. Naturally, deliveries will ideally be on time. But by going the extra mile to keep customers informed when they’re not, everyone can make the best of the situation. And automated notifications mean your drivers can focus on getting back on schedule, rather than wasting further time updating customers as they go.

8. Don’t sacrifice quality to cut cost

The last mile is expensive, yes. And balancing costs with quality is a tricky task. However, it’s simply not worth cutting costs to the extent that your last-mile experience suffers. It might be a quick fix — but soon enough the cracks will show. Driver engagement, scalable tech, customer relationships and leveraging data are investments truly worth making.

It’s time for your last mile to run like clockwork

The dynamics of the last mile are unique to every business. To get yours running like clockwork, the Gordon team is on hand to help. Let’s talk!

Picture of Rasmus Hallgren Sánchez

Rasmus Hallgren Sánchez

Marketing Manager at Gordon Tech. Rasmus is passionate about all things marketing, e-commerce, and digitalisation. Has an almost incurable predilection for hockey and tacos.

Gordon is a cloud-based platform that empowers retailers to manage, track, and optimise their last mile deliveries.