This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of PARCEL.
Far too often, parcel intelligence reporting is underused — if used at all — by even the highest-volume parcel shippers. Shippers tell me they know their shipping costs because they can pull all that information after the shipments leave their facility each day. Or they say, “I need to focus on getting the packages from our warehouse. I don’t have time to sort through my parcel invoice data.” These sentiments are understandable; the day-to-day is demanding enough without digging into the minutiae.
But when it comes to your parcel data, what you don’t know can hurt you. Much of the cost of parcel shipping is affected by what happens after the package leaves your location. The good news? Relevant, actionable data is more accessible — without exhausting time or resources — than you might think.
SOLVING THE REPORTING CHALLENGE
Raw carrier invoices are data-rich files full of detailed information. But invoices aren’t designed for easy, meaningful analysis or on-demand and data-driven parcel decision making. These files are hundreds of columns and rows deep. They’re often header-less and otherwise unformatted. And they tell a story, as my data science colleague Travis Rhoades has written for PARCEL, when you know what to look for — and how to look. (Editor’s note: If you would like to read Travis’s article, please visit PARCELindustry.com/DataStory)
A DIY approach is doable, but will take time and require manual parsing to pull out meaningful data. Another option is to enlist the support of a credible parcel intelligence provider — one with years of meaningful parcel benchmarking data and a large, diverse client base — to provide immediate visibility and expertise without undue burden on your team.
YOU’VE RUN THE REPORT. NOW WHAT?
Even when you have the data at your fingertips, the time to review and make the most of those insights perhaps seems non-existent. But if you can budget just 30 minutes a week to reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs) important to you, the return on that half-hour investment could be a game changer.
Consider starting with reporting on these “quick hitters” to drive immediate data-driven decision making.
As I mentioned earlier, a significant portion of the cost of shipping a package is accrued after it leaves your location. These accessorial fees can include residential surcharges, address corrections, delivery area surcharges, and additional handling. Without visibility into these additional charges, you could be overlooking as much as 25% of your parcel spend with your carrier. For a shipper with one million dollars in annual volume, that’s $250,000 in hidden costs.
If you’re not accurately accounting for shipping as a percentage of the total cost of your goods, it’s likely eating into your net income projections. Don’t forget that when working with a carrier, everything is negotiable. They know the full scope of your shipping fees. You should, too.
Many parcel shippers use third parties, perhaps a manufacturer, to directly ship packages to a client on the shipper's behalf. While this practice can improve efficiency, it includes some risk. Maintaining visibility into shipments tied to your carrier account, but sent via a third party, is important for addressing mistakes or misuse. Providing a carrier account number to a third-party shipper requires trust, but that trust shouldn’t be blind.
Rate compliance monitoring
The choice of service type is a key determinant of overall shipping cost, which explains why many parcel shippers establish service type guidelines for their logistics departments. But guidelines are just that: guides. Without access to reporting, effectively tracking compliance and maintaining accountability is nearly impossible.
Because the role of the carrier is so fundamental to the entire shipping process, carrier performance is sometimes overlooked in the drive for data analysis. Upon a package’s departure, your expectation — and the carrier’s guarantee — is that the package will arrive to your customer at the agreed-upon time. We know this expectation is not always met, but how often it falls short isn’t easy to pinpoint if you’re a high-volume shipper.
Start by viewing the customer's experience holistically because it doesn't begin when the carrier picks up the package, but rather when they place an order. Pair your internal order entry time data with the carrier's time in transit for true end-to-end visibility into the customer experience — from initial order, to fulfillment, to delivery.
Acting on such data can make all the difference between happy, repeat customers and negative customer satisfaction. It’s your brand, not the carrier, whose reputation is on the line when promises aren’t met. Reliability tracking provides you the data to spot trends and performance weaknesses or otherwise ensure carrier accountability.
NOW GET STARTED
With the increasing prevalence of big data, the breadth of information shippers have at their disposal is stunning, if initially daunting. Start here and you’re on your way to better business decision making.
Jason Reeves is the Product Manager for the VeriShip’s parcel intelligence platform and works with shippers to understand and optimize their reporting and data analytics processes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913.933.3535.