No One Ever Got Fired for Using FedEx or UPS. But What About Couriers?
I recently had a conversation with an executive at a well-known distributor about why they use FedEx for customer deliveries instead of the local delivery and courier industry. Despite agreeing with me that couriers would provide greater flexibility, faster service, and, in many instances, more competitive rates, he quoted a line from decades ago explaining why customers paid a premium for IBM: “No one ever got fired for using FedEx.”
This underlines a valid concern about the difference between the customer service provided by a large national transportation provider — whether a parcel carrier such as FedEx or UPS, or a less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier such as Con-way — and the experience provided by couriers. In the former case, customers get real-time, detailed tracking info; deliveries are consistently made on time and without damage; drivers are professional and courteous; and, should any quality issues come up and a customer need to call, the company offers great customer service.
How do couriers compare? Historically, couriers have struggled to provide the same quality. However, they have laid a foundation in the last decade from which they can start to build a comparable customer experience. This is thanks to two factors: the adoption of mobile technology and the use of full-featured dispatch software. These give couriers the information to manage their businesses better and provide FedEx- and UPS-like visibility to shippers and end customers.
Despite these improvements, the industry’s fragmentation means that a company with a courier network covering the top 20 markets might require several dozen integrations to achieve visibility, as well as investing in the systems and people to maintain real-time, accurate, standardized information. With FedEx, UPS, or even a national less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier such as Con-way, only a single integration is required to gain the same level of visibility.
When it comes to those other elements of the FedEx and UPS customer experience — rapidly identifying and resolving quality issues, addressing a driver’s performance issues early, and providing responsive customer service — couriers have a long way to catch up. Amazon has invested millions in building the software and the team to help them get close to the couriers they use for Prime deliveries, while other companies with long-standing courier relationships, such as Cardinal Healthcare, have built systems themselves or customized existing ones, and tasked resources in each market to work with its couriers. The bottom line is that, without a software platform that specializes in local delivery and couriers that is specifically geared toward controlling quality, closing these customer experience gaps can take a long time, requiring significant expertise and a lot of money. Can you afford to take that risk?