Ask a retail chief executive what differentiates their business and nine times out of ten the response is service.
Customer service is undoubtedly hugely important in retail – John Lewis has built its reputation on it.
However, in this multichannel age, the shop and the staff who work there are no longer a retailer’s main touchpoint with the customer.
In fact, for many online shoppers, the face of a brand is the driver who delivers their parcels. The service they get at the last mile is what makes or breaks a customer’s experience.
And now for my rant. So, I had a parcel delivered last week from a certain online retailer.
My buzzer rang, I answered it and let him in. I opened the door to my ground floor flat to receive my online order, only to see it thrown in the passageway as the front door slammed shut.
I know drivers have tight timeframes to hit, but that was a truly dreadful experience. Absolutely no service and the parcel was treated with no care whatsoever.
“Setting stricter targets for drivers is not the answer. If anything, I’d urge them to invest more in this area and allow drivers to offer a better, more personalised service”
Regardless of whether the driver works directly for a retailer or their third-party logistics provider, they represent the brand. That service would not be acceptable in stores; why is it acceptable for home delivery?
Times are tough in retail. Consumer confidence is resting on a knife edge, wage and rent bills are battering many businesses and the slump in the value of the pound post-Brexit vote has pushed up sourcing costs.
Inevitably retail bosses are looking to make efficiencies.
However, setting stricter targets for drivers is not the answer. If anything, I’d urge them to invest more in this area and allow drivers to offer a better, more personalised service.
The Ocado effect
Ocado is another retailer famed for its service. The John Lewis of the pure-play world, if you will.
When it comes to recruitment, it prioritises customer services expertise over driving skills.
In fact, the job description of an Ocado delivery driver reads: “We are looking for drivers who can offer our customers the best service possible.”
The job spec lists experience in customer service as a key requirement for the role, while prior experience of working as a delivery driver is deemed merely “desirable”.
This focus on service shows. One of Ocado’s greatest strengths is its drivers – Lee in the Raspberry van, in particular – and a reason why I personally shop with the etailer.
Squeezing more orders into a driver’s shift may bring efficiencies, but cutting down on service will inevitably lose customers. Treat drivers like the ambassadors they are and allow them to make your brand shine.