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Moving an item – any item – from a transport hub to its final destination, has great potential for problems. Logistics experts have given the issue its own name – The Last Mile Problem. A report from January 2019 by the Capgemini Research Institute revealed the scale of this issue. They estimate that despite the last mile covering less than 5% of the physical distance an item may travel, it can comprise up to 41% of logistics related costs. When the last mile is this important and this expensive, choosing a courier you trust to perform that role requires special care. To help you make that decision, consider the following seven point checklist.
How fast do you need your products to arrive? Depending on the market you work in, this could vary substantially. What are your customer’s expectations? How long is your product’s shelf life? How fast are competitors shipping their goods? How essential is your product to your customer’s day to day life/business operations? The answers to all these questions, and more besides, will impact your courier speed needs.
How far will your product be going? Couriers’ specialisms range from intra-city delivery all the way to intercontinental flights. In the latter case, they will need experience dealing with customs rules and excise charges. In the former case, drivers and agents with intimate route knowledge are more valuable.
What days/times will the courier come? Some couriers offer a 24-7 service 52 weeks of the year. Some are more seasonal and some only operate on weekdays and during office hours. If your clients are other businesses that work within normal commercial time-frames, couriers that deliver on the weekend could be an extra expense you don’t need.
How big is your product? Many couriers will have an upper limit on how large/heavy an item can be. Different couriers determine this in different ways. Some will use direct measurements, while others will want volumetric weight. This is calculated by multiplying the height, width, and depth of an item as measured in centimetres, and then dividing that number by a figure specified by the courier, usually 5,000 or 4,000. Make sure you know how ‘big’ your product is by the courier’s calculation system, and whether it breaches their limits.
How will you know where your parcel is? How is it confirmed that your parcel has arrived? Couriers will give varying levels of details about a product’s movements and arrival. Some will track it mid journey – potentially valuable with highly sensitive items. Some will simply confirm that it has got there, while others will confirm exactly where it was left, who signed for it, and at what time. If this information is important, make sure your courier can provide.
No courier service is perfect, and the world can be a chaotic. Sometimes accidents happen and items get damaged or misplaced in transit. Before you hand over merchandise to be moved, determine the type of insurance your couriers use. Some will only cover specific kinds of products, or will exclude certain types of item like ceramics, electrical goods, and glass. Others will only pay out up to a certain value, or in specific circumstances. Find out all you can, so you can make an informed decision confirming the level of protection that’s right for you.
Does your courier have a good customer service reputation? If their delivery staff are curt, sharp, or in any other way rude with the people they are delivering to, that could damage client/customer relations. Try to locate reviews or other firsthand reports. If you have received items from well-mannered couriers in the past, consider investigating that firm further. Good manners are inexpensive, yet extremely valuable.
Every point on this list needs to be viewed through the lens of cost to value. Once you have investigated normally expected costs, decided what kinds of features are most important, determined which ones you can do without, and confirmed how much you are willing to pay, you have the essential formula. With that, you can to decide who will take responsibility of your goods as they travel along the last mile.
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