The changing face of customer service within logistics

I have read the logistics press with interest throughout January and saw many articles on the success of peak 2016. The omni-channel environments within retail distribution, appear to have excelled, delivering exceptional service levels to customers over both Black Friday and Christmas. The lessons of previous years appear to have been learnt and both omni-channel distribution centres, and parcel-to-man home delivery providers, have ensured that 99%+ service levels are now the norm within the industry.
However, as the market and customer expectations evolve, what challenges are now being faced within the sector for 2017? As part of my role within PageGroup Logistics, I have spoken with many senior leaders within the third party and in-house retail and parcel distribution sectors over the past three weeks. The questions I have asked are, “What’s next in the evolution of customer shopping patterns, and what are the challenges for 2017 that they face?”

A common theme has emerged

The customer’s expectations are now being met on service.  The item is ordered, the email confirmation is sent instantly and the track and trace online software is excellent. The item arrives at the stated or agreed time, therefore meeting the customer’s expectations and expectations are managed. However, consumers are demanding people. They have raised the bar of expectation further and the focus is shifting more towards customer service and the entire shopping experience.
Having started my career within retail as a graduate with Asda, customer service has always been a high priority, especially within a customer focused industry such as recruitment. The introduction of the ‘greeter’ role into every Asda store in the early 2000’s came following the realisation that customer satisfaction and a pleasurable shopping experience will facilitate loyalty and repeat business.
Fast forward to today’s world and the delivery driver is now also the face of the retailer, the facilitator of the final jigsaw piece of the customer experience process.
Many of the senior business leaders I’ve engaged with spoke about the increasing need to ensure that the experience of the customer is replicating that of the customer’s expectations when entering a retail premises.
Having analysed the profile of the roles we have recruited for at PageGroup Logistics across 2016, we have seen a distinct rise in demand for both distribution centre based customer service managers and driver trainer roles, especially within ecommerce and omni-channel focused clients.  Many of our clients are already focused on the next stage in the development of the ecommerce revolution.
With a national shortage of drivers constantly being reported within the trade press and online articles, the answer would appear to be re-training the driver population to ensure that they are meeting the expectations of the customer base. The creation of a customer service department, taking ownership of the end-to-end consumer experience is another trend we have witnessed amongst our recruitment patterns.

Summary

The broader challenge of how the entire warehouse environment needs to be customer focused appears to also be high on the agenda of many senior leaders. Retailers and third party providers are evolving the distribution centre culture to replicate the environment seen traditionally within retail stores.  This is being done in order to address the need to motivate and inspire pickers and packers, reinforcing the importance of the direct role they play in the ecommerce supply chain, and ensuring they recognise the value that their role has with the end customer.
Peter Simmonds
T: +44 114 263 6024
M: +44 774 701 5123