Each year, American adults catch an average of two or three “common” colds. Although there’s no quick cure for this malady, some studies suggest that taking Vitamin C can help.

It’s a fitting analogy for what’s going on in the world of last-mile logistics, where having a less-than-perfect home delivery experience is a common theme for countless consumers. 

Thankfully most symptoms associated with these substandard deliveries can be treated with the logistics industry’s own version of Vitamin C – all administered in the form of the five best practices detailed below. 


If you made an appointment for a haircut, and the barber booked you for sometime between noon and five, would you show up without complaint? Just as important, if he didn’t call your name until 6:30, would you still let him cut your hair?

That’s precisely what happens to many home delivery recipients. Not only are they assigned wide delivery windows of four hours or more, they often find themselves impatiently waiting well beyond those windows for their deliveries to arrive. 
As your company schedules deliveries, remember that people frequently have to take time off work or rearrange their schedules in order to be home for a delivery, and that some of them can’t afford to be kept waiting any longer than necessary. Aiming for shorter delivery windows of less than two hours – and then actually arriving within those windows – could earn you a lot of brownie points.


Like it or not, we live in an era where customers are virtually linked at the hip to their cell phones, iPod Touches, Blackberries and other communications devices.

On one hand, this ultra-connectivity means any pre-delivery messages your company leaves are more likely to get lost in the crowd. On the other, it means you have more ways to keep your customers in the loop about their shipments. Regardless, it’s all the more reason for your company to communicate with customers more frequently via multiple communications channels about their delivery scheduling.

The additional outreach will go a long way toward reducing the missed messages and misunderstandings that can lead to costly redeliveries.


It’s easy for those of us who work in logistics to forget that receiving a shipment isn’t something most customers do every day, especially not if that shipment involves a large product such as an appliance, electronic device or piece of furniture. 
Many people won’t think to do things like reserving freight elevators in their buildings, measuring doorways, and clearing the delivery path of toys unless your company clearly reminds them to. So make sure your customers are truly ready to accommodate your delivery teams – and the products they’re delivering – by providing some definitive delivery guidelines and helpful hints ahead of time. 

These guidelines can take many forms – a brochure, one-page flyer or step-by-step e-mail – provided they address all of the relevant delivery “do’s.”


There are many different routes to buyer’s remorse. But one of the fastest is to purchase a product that turns out to be difficult to unpack, assemble, install or operate. 

Your company can head off a lot of this by offering more than just the typical menu of delivery services.

For example, instead of merely dropping items off at the doorstep, consider providing product unpacking and disposal of packaging materials. Give customers the option of having your delivery teams haul away any old product that their new purchase might be replacing. And by all means, make installation, assembly and product instruction routinely available. 
All in all, the easier you can make it for customers to receive and integrate a new product, the more likely you are to see them again when it’s time to make a similar purchase – or to be recommended to their friends.

Contingency Management

Product flaws aren’t acceptable or desirable. But they do happen, even to the best-run of organizations.
Should these flaws be discovered while products are at your distribution center, don’t even think about proceeding with delivery unless you like hearing from disgruntled customers. Instead, consider making repairs in-house, exchanging damaged products for an identical, unflawed version of the same SKU that you might have at the DC, or contacting corporate headquarters and requesting a replacement ASAP. All will result in your customers getting the picture-perfect product they deserve. 

And on those rare occasions when a flawed product does make it to the customer? Suffice it to say that authorizing your drivers to offer pre-established damage allowances may help you save that sale -- or the high cost of a product return. 
Granted, these damage control measures or discounts may cost your company a little more money. However when you consider how much it costs to attract a customer it’s money well spent. And when it comes right down to it, the desire to preserve our customer relationships during these tough times is something we all have in common. 

Will O’Shea is chief sales & marketing officer for 3PD, Inc., one of North America’s largest providers of large-product, last-mile logistics services.