We start every year with the best intentions. We set goals, make lists, and promise that we’ll see our New Year’s resolutions through to completion.
Then the realities of day-to-day responsibilities take over. We respond to urgent requests, deal with customer calls, and stomp out the occasional fire along the way. Before you know it, March has turned into April, and our best intentions are but a distant memory.

Take a moment now to reflect again on last year. You probably saw an increase in parcel volume. You may have experienced first-hand how more consumers waited until the last minute to place holiday orders. You might even have felt the backlash as even the best carriers could not meet all of their delivery commitments. 

Overall, 2013 proved how parcel shipping can have a significant impact on company costs and customer satisfaction. That’s why it’s so important to push the reset button now — dust off your resolutions — and take steps to help ensure that 2014 will be your most successful and profitable year. Here are five resolutions that were high on the list for many shipping and logistics professionals:

Resolution #1: Create a More Agile Shipping Operation
A recent survey found that 80% of Americans consider shipping options an important part of the shopping experience. Not surprisingly, a retailer’s ability to provide a variety of shipping options can make a difference in attracting new shoppers.

This lesson is important whether you are shipping goods to a customer or documents to a co-worker: one size does not fit all. Shippers will succeed when they have the flexibility to offer and choose the best options — balancing service times and costs based on actual needs — for each and every parcel. Every organization now requires a multi-carrier shipping platform; and many find that adding regional carriers can increase delivery flexibility, expand next-day delivery options, and even help them introduce incentives such as flat-rate shipping.

Resolution #2: Provide More Satisfying Customer Service
Satisfaction relies on your ability to set and meet expectations. As a manager, you need to understand the needs of your internal and external constituents so you can manage costs and workflow accordingly.

You’ll need ways to generate reports and validate performance. Tracking progress and results on a parcel-by-parcel basis can help you respond to issues and questions in real time; while your ability to analyze roll-up reports across vendors can help identify trends and opportunities. 

And don’t underestimate the importance of visibility on customer satisfaction. Eighty-one percent of consumers track their orders when expecting a delivery, and automated alerts are a great way to build confidence in your operation.

Resolution #3: Manage Parcel Costs More Effectively
Everyone likes to think they’ve negotiated the best rates with their carriers. However, while your average rate could be attractive, you may be able to find lower cost options when you drill down to exactly where you are shipping and when your parcels need to arrive. Having an easy way to compare rates and service levels across more carriers is the only way to help ensure you are saving as much as possible. 

Across the US, there are hundreds of regional carriers that range from “micro-regionals” to multi-state regionals. Many shippers find that by using regional carriers, they can reduce shipping costs up to 40%. And, when you consider that 49% of American consumers have abandoned a purchase due to shipping costs, you may need to add even more low-cost options. This past year, for example, the USPS greatly improved its tracking capabilities via the Intelligent Mail package barcode. With more package scans, date-specific delivery and free insurance, the USPS shipping services may now be a valuable option to consider.

Resolution #4: Utilize Technologies in Smarter Ways
Maybe we’re not quite ready yet for drone delivery, but current technologies can certainly do more to help you increase efficiency this year.
• Automate. If you are processing shipments manually or inputting any information by hand, you probably have opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce errors. If you use numerous carrier websites, you can save time and make better choices by investing in a multi-carrier system.

• Integrate. So many shipping groups operate in silos, despite the fact that information needs to be pulled in from and sent to other systems within the company. Choose a shipping management platform or system that can easily tie into other systems, such as inventory management, order processing or routing optimization.

• Regenerate. Look for systems that can grow and change as your business needs evolve. An ideal platform should be scalable and able to support both centralized (warehouse) and decentralized (branch-office) operations.

Resolution #5: Manage Incoming Parcels with the Same Level of Diligence
While every incoming parcel is critical to someone in your organization, few companies invest as much in automation and workflow management for inbound as they do for their outbound operations.

The costs can be substantial. These are not just measured by the hard costs of wasted time and lost deliveries — but also the impact lost deliveries have on your internal customers. A more automated approach can help ensure chain of custody and confirm that every item reaches its intended recipient. Best-in-class systems will simplify and automate delivery logging, reporting and prioritization for mail-center staff, and provide recipients with a variety of options for checking delivery status and location.

It’s still early enough in the year so that actions you take now can have a dramatic impact on 2014 results. Push the reset button and make this the best year ever.

Karen D’Andrea is Director, Shipping and Logistics Solutions, Pitney Bowes.