Getting things right in the first mile is critical, but the final mile is the touchpoint clients will most likely remember. The quality of your customer experience during this leg of the freight journey can make or break your business relationships.
For carriers, real-time tracking, responsive customer service, and dynamic routing can make a tumultuous supply chain journey feel smooth and effortless to your customers. On the other hand, issues during the final mile — poor data visibility, lack of communication, damaged items, missed delivery windows, and more — will result in frustrated clients.
That’s where customer care comes into play. Prioritizing a solid customer support strategy can improve your final mile, preserve your client relationships, and protect your cash flow. Let’s take a look at how.
Why is the customer experience during the final mile so important?
Customer service expectations have risen since the beginning of the pandemic. Online retail sales increased 7.7% year-over-year in 2022, exceeding $1 trillion for the first time ever. Customers across industries have grown to expect the same response times, empathetic interactions, and continuous visibility they get from top ecommerce providers.
Companies that balance a seamless final mile and meet expectations will come out on top. Because of this, supply chain companies are investing more resources into perfecting their final mile logistics, which accounts for 41% of supply chain costs. These include related fleet costs, equipment, gas prices, and technology expenses.
While shippers are generally willing to increase spending in order to offer a better final mile experience with guaranteed delivery times for their customers, this isn’t always realistic for carriers and 3PLs, who need the flexibility to modify routes if conditions change.
How can you meet your clients’ high expectations, while also maintaining the flexibility and agility that your organization needs? Much of this balancing act comes down to frequent, accurate communication with your shippers and with their consignees.
How your customer care strategy can improve your final mile
Giving your customer care team the training, tools, and support they need will help your company meet client expectations in the final mile.
Here’s what effective customer service in the final mile can do:
Eliminate customer anxiety – If clients can quickly contact your customer service team, they’ll feel more at ease, as long waiting periods between updates can cause considerable stress. This is especially true if clients try to get in touch only to encounter closed offices, an agent who doesn’t have up-to-date information, or a language barrier.
Whether clients reach out to your team outside of standard business hours or from a different time zone, 24/7 multilingual customer service ensures there’s always a live agent available to ease customer concerns.
Offer convenience for customers – Shippers expect multiple, convenient options for customer service. However, a recent industry survey found that a majority of supply chain companies provide only two primary support channels; 88% provide phone support and 90% provide email support, while only 22% and 7% offer live chat and chatbots respectively.
Expanding your support channels doesn’t necessarily require expanding your customer service team. Instead, focus on creating efficiencies, and using training and technology, to ensure your clients can get the information they need.
Offering more customer service options — including chatbots, automation, and self-service options — reduces wait times and makes your staff available for more complicated issues. When something can’t be resolved with automation, offering 24/7 access to live agents makes your company better tuned for a global marketplace.
Improve the exchange of accurate, up-to-date information – With the help of real-time tracking, your customer service team can provide proactive updates via the communication channel of the client’s choice and ensure they can give accurate answers if and when clients reach out for support.
However, visibility is often limited by what’s happening in the field. Providing your team with better data capture and transmission capabilities can enable more accurate, seamless communication between your field staff, customer service reps, and customers.
Build loyalty that withstands errors – Customer service is the first to hear about logistics errors. But you can use these errors as an opportunity to give a constructive and helpful response, provide a beneficial experience, and leave a memorably positive impression. Concurrently, your predefined and implemented procedures will standardize your efforts to intentionally use this feedback and insight into errors to improve your operations in a tangible and measurable way.
Clients who reach out for support may get frustrated by complications in the last mile. But a good customer service team can both surface solutions and de-escalate tense situations. These crucial skills help preserve your working relationships and boost your company’s reputation for effective problem-solving.
Use the final mile to strengthen your relationships and your revenue
To improve your final mile, it’s key to implement a combination of final-mile tracking tools and customer support strategies. If you can empower your team to manage customer expectations and troubleshoot issues promptly — before they become major headaches — you’ll give your clients a reason to choose your organization over the competition competition.
Drive ROI with Your Customer Service Operation
To learn more about the future of customer care expectations and forecasted challenges, download our report, Customer Service Trends in the Supply Chain.