Improving the efficiency of on-time delivery is an ongoing commitment shared by the U.S. Postal Service and most companies in the distribution industry. But until recently, it has been difficult to pinpoint the factors that consistently contribute to delays in delivery. The largest obstacle has been the accessibility of data since tracking was not done on all Postal Service deliveries, it was difficult to determine what point or points within the process were contributing to the delay.


However, with the rate increase on June 30, we now have unprecedented access to 100% delivery confirmation data on packages over one pound. The icing on the cake is that this service that used to cost 12 per package has now been bundled into the rate increase; this represents increased service at a reduced cost for those shippers who previously had been paying a premium for the service. But just collecting the data isn't going to offer any insight; the data needs to be analyzed and examined in order to be of any use. Therefore, this expanded accessibility to data also raises many key questions: What is the best way to turn all that raw data into something insightful and useful? What objectives should be top-of-mind when analyzing the information? What exactly are we looking for anyway?
The answers lie with using a systematic approach to analyzing data in order to identify and improve any potential problems in the delivery process that may be acting as a barrier to on-time delivery. The end result? Radically improved delivery times and increased customer satisfaction, a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Accessibility of Data
The data collected from delivery confirmation provides greater visibility into a package's path through the postal stream. This increased visibility offers retailers a great way to step up their customer service offerings. Not only will they be able to view their shipments within the postal stream, they will also be able to share this information with their customers. Delivery confirmation provides retailers with an excellent opportunity to achieve two objectives: improving customer satisfaction while increasing future sales through their Web sites.
By driving consumers back to their own Web sites, merchandisers have another opportunity to market additional incentives to the customer and generate impulse buys, increasing the likelihood of additional sales within a short span of time. As an added bonus, customers who have the ability to self service their package inquiries are less likely to contact the retailers call centers, and reduced call-center volume translates into increased cost savings for merchants down the line.
More than just a valuable customer service, online package tracking has become a marketing necessity for retailers. Simply put, retailers who are not offering package tracking on their Web sites are missing the boat. If customers can't track their packages on the retailers sites, they can still resort to calling the customer support center or tracking their packages on the Postal Service's Web site. But by driving consumers elsewhere, merchants lose a prime opportunity for building repeat sales and customer loyalty. Either way you look at it, retailers who do not offer package tracking on their Web sites are sure to experience a negative impact on their bottom lines.
The Postal Service Enters a New Playing Field
While the opportunity for improvements based on 100% tracking data are exciting, there is a bigger opportunity at stake. With the implementation of 100% delivery confirmation, the Postal Service is finally at parity with carriers such as UPS and FedEx who already offer delivery confirmation. This means the Postal Service can operate on a comparable service level by providing customers with trackable delivery at the lowest cost while continuing to provide a high quality of customer service. It stands to reason that many retailers will reexamine the services of the Postal Service and its consolidation partners as being the most cost effective, reliable means of delivering shipments to their customers.
Whether you are a consolidator, a retailer or the Postal Service, customer satisfaction is the number-one goal. This means that it is necessary to continuously examine delivery processes for areas that could be improved in terms of reliability and cost effectiveness. A systematic approach to data analysis can put real measurements on those processes, helping to identify where errors are occurring and determine what steps need to be taken to correct them. Once corrected, new standardized processes can be applied enterprise-wide to make sure the results are optimized.
By continuing to work together to share information and improve processes, we can ensure that all customers are receiving the high level of service they deserve.
Melissa Conway is marketing communications manager for R.R. Donnelley Logistics. She may be reached by phone at 800-800-SHIP or via the Web at