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8 Ways Your Small Business Can Improve Its Delivery Service

roberthall

Do you deliver goods to your customers’ doorsteps? Your delivery service is a valuable delivery serviceconvenience to your customers, but it’s important to do it right. Botched deliveries reflect poorly on your company and can even cost you customers. On the other hand, going the extra mile to improve your delivery service will usually result in increased business and improved customer loyalty.

Here is a roundup of the top eight things you can do to make sure your company’s deliveries reflect well on your business:

  1. Use addressing software. It’s surprising how many companies don’t double-check their customers’ addresses. This is a mistake, because a false address can result in delayed deliveries or even failure to deliver. Even if the addressing mistake was not your fault, any problem with delivery will usually reflect poorly on your company in your customer’s mind. Running your mailing list through address validation software will help ensure delivery to correct address. It will also format the addresses properly for the postal service, improving delivery rates for mailed items.
  1. Implement systems for delivery. Don’t leave your delivery service to chance, or assume that your employees will do it right on their own. Think through every step each shipment must go through, from order through delivery. Create step-by-step checklists your employees can use to make sure everything is done correctly. Pay special attention to any “transition points” where the responsibility for the order transfers from one person or department to another. It also helps to appoint one person to head your delivery service.
  1. Use telematics. GPS tracking is an indispensable tool for optimizing your delivery fleet’s performance. Tracking your vehicles will help you cut fuel costs, monitor drivers for responsible driving behavior and optimize routes for greater efficiency. By knowing exactly where each vehicle is at all times, you can also provide your customers with down-to-the-minute ETAs, and quickly respond to last-minute requests.
  1. Outsource where appropriate. Even if you own your own fleet, it may be more efficient to outsource certain deliveries. For example, if you normally run regular routes with your trucks, using a courier service to deliver to areas where you have few accounts may provide those customers with better service, and be more cost effective for you as well.
  1. Communicate clearly and often. Use emails and/or texts to keep customers informed of their order’s delivery status. (Be sure to get their permission before texting.) Let them know when the order has been processed, when it has shipped and the estimated time of delivery. If an item has to be dropped off and no one is home, you can send a delivery notification. It’s also a good idea to follow up to make sure the item was received and that the customer is satisfied with the purchase and delivery. This is a proactive way to head potential problems off at the pass.
  1. Train your drivers in customer service. Your vehicle and driver represent your business. Make sure they are clean, neat and clearly identified. (If you are outsourcing your deliveries, expect the same of the service you use.) Train your driver to smile, greet the customer properly and thank them before leaving.
  1. Send extra perks with each delivery. Including a little thank-you gift with each parcel will make your company stand out as special. Try a few pieces of candy or a handwritten thank-you note. Or, include a sample of one of your other products or a coupon for future purchases.
  1. Solicit feedback. It’s hard to know what your customers really think about your delivery service, unless you ask them. Every once in a while, send a survey requesting anonymous feedback from your customers. It will let them know you care, and their frank comments will help you improve.

Delivery doesn’t directly generate cash flow, so it’s easy to overlook its significance. However, from your customer’s point of view, your delivery service is vitally important. In fact, it may be the only direct contact they have with your business. If you are already implementing many of the ideas above, you probably already enjoy the excellent customer loyalty and repeat business a top-notch delivery service can help you achieve. If not, try them out, and see for yourself how improving your delivery service can boost your business.

Robert J. Hall is the president of Track Your Truck, headquartered in New Lenox, IL. Track Your Truck is the primary provider of GPS vehicle tracking software for small and medium-sized businesses. 

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Why You Should Bring Diversity Into Procurement, Where It Belongs

Susan Galer

Many companies agree that diversity is a good thing, but connecting buyers with minority-owned suppliers has long been a challenge. Rod Robinson, CEO of ConnXus, founded his company out of his growing frustration as a government procurement officer and small business owner.

Speaking during an expert roundtable at the recent SAP Ariba Live 2017 event, Robinson explained why partnering with SAP Ariba supports both companies’ shared purpose-driven mission.

“I created ConnXus after realizing how inefficient and under-invested the market was,” he said. “Bringing technology to bear on the problem to shine a light on the data was the first step. Being able to attract a partner like SAP Ariba is the second. I knew we’d begin as a direct channel to customer, but to truly change the world for greater efficiencies and effectiveness, you have to partner with world’s largest business network.”

The partnership aims to help companies improve supplier diversity whether it’s because of direct or unconscious bias, or lack of awareness of their existence. Jon Stevens, global senior vice president of Business Networks at SAP Ariba, said that companies want diversity not only in their workforce, but also across suppliers for speedy innovation.

“Small, diverse companies are nimble and very responsive. Having a diverse supply chain allows you to react quickly,” he said. “The other major benefit is having diverse opinions and points of view, which lead to greater innovation at a faster pace. One of the challenges our customers have is awareness of diverse suppliers. Our partnership connects the largest business network to the largest diverse network.”

Unlike past diversity solutions, which often reported to human resources, Robinson said integrating it with procurement produces stronger results. “We’re focused on bringing diversity into procurement where it should be,” he said. “What differentiates ConnXus is that we’re staying true to our expertise.”

Process innovation is just as important

Robinson shared examples of how companies are using the network to innovate faster by developing both new products as well as “new ways to approach old problems.” One supplier responded to an RFP opportunity with an idea for changing the buyer’s product specifications that would significantly reduce costs. Stevens discussed the collaboration network in the context of post-apartheid empowerment programs in South Africa. He cited how two sisters operating a cleaning service used the network to develop new offerings by working with a broader set of customers.

Diversity that makes a difference

As companies expand, many want to track diversity spend for preferential procurement programs or meet geographically specific objectives. Robinson said ConnXus is supporting these demands, along with others including “matchmaking” within a company’s larger supplier base, as well as a subscription-based model for small and midsize business. One new offering provides impact results to buyers reporting on outcomes like jobs and wage rates.

IDC research predicts that by the end of 2018, 90% of manufacturing supply chains will use B2B commerce networks as the primary collaboration tool for demand, supply, service, and new product development. That’s just one sector. Cloud-based B2B networks like are the innovation growth engines for the new economy.

Follow me: @smgaler

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Live Product Innovation, Part 3: Process Industries, IoT, And A Recipe For Instant Change

John McNiff

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how in-memory computing affects live product innovation. In Part 2, we explored the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data on smart connected products. In Part 3, we approach the topic from the perspective of process industries.

Digital this, connected that. Smart whatsits and intelligent doodahs. Those of us who talk about IoT are often reminded that not every manufacturer makes products per se. But IoT isn’t only about the addition of sensors to products. The principles of live product innovation are equally relevant to process manufacturing.

In fact, the “data refinery” offers the potential to manage the Internet of everything — including traditional Big Data sources in tight conjunction with business processes. If your products are food, packaged goods, or chemicals, the promises of live product insights are still compelling. It’s only the data sources and dimensions that are different.

Live and compliant

The complexity of regulatory compliance in process industries continues to grow — whether you’re talking about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.K. Food Standards Agency, trade embargoes, or hazardous substance management. And compliance isn’t getting any simpler to manage across jurisdictions and industry sectors.

What’s more, customers increasingly demand shortened delivery cycles and highly targeted or even personalized products. That means you can no longer wait till after you formulate a product and release a recipe to determine whether you can actually sell it. You need instant visibility, whether you’re talking about nutritional safe levels assigned by a particular region for food products or volumes of hazardous substances for supply and transit.

But that’s the advantage of live, compliant product innovation. It enables you to perform analytics on previously disconnected data. And it allows you to manage real-time embedded processes across previously disparate systems.

Product data is everywhere

In our last blog we explored the advantages of smart connected products — the ability to link everything from initial product concepts through downstream product delivery. Now let’s apply that to process manufacturing.

Let’s say you see two factors coming together for the SoySnak product you sell in North America and Asia. Your sales data shows that American consumers want 10Kg packages, while Asian customers prefer smaller multipacks. At the same time, your compliance database alerts you that new regulations on salt levels are about to go into effect in several of your target markets.

You want to respond before the regulations are implemented, for several reasons. You’ll need to update recipes, specifications, labels, and packaging. You’ll need to inform your suppliers, manufacturers, quality planners, financial controllers, logistics providers, and retailers. And you’ll need to get the replacement product into the affected markets, with auditable compliance with salt level requirements. Otherwise, you risk producing a large quantity of unsellable inventory.

This example shows us several things:

  • Insights must be as instant as possible.
  • Those insights might come from a variety of sources that your R&D folks didn’t previously have real-time access to.
  • Your products must be localized to a very granular level.
  • Even a minor change affects everything from recipes to packaging specifications, costs of materials, regulatory reporting, logistics providers, retailers, and on and on.

And that leads us to several conclusions:

  • Product data isn’t mission-critical only to R&D. It’s linked to every downstream business process.
  • A live, compliant, and collaborative environment, with the ability to instantly adapt to change, is a business requirement.
  • To achieve that requirement, product data must be part of business processes.
  • The platform the R&D team relies on must be linked to downstream platforms, and it must allow you to leverage and act on real-time insights.

Digital product innovation platform

Of course, the streaming of sensor data from connected things is still relevant in process industries. But for process manufacturers, the most important use cases are more around traceability, supply chain logistics, and product innovation. At some point, data from connected goods will allow new models that more tightly couple the supply chain with innovation cycles.

But a live and compliant product innovation platform achievable today. The question is whether you’ll get there before your competition does.

Come to SAPPHIRE NOW 2017 in Orlando, Florida from May 16 – 18th, 2017, and check out my session “Boost Visibility into Operations for Connected Products with SAP Leonardo” on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 from 1-1:40 p.m. in Business Application BA324, or check out our R&D sessions.

Follow the conversation on @SCMatSAP and #SAPPHIRENOW.

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John McNiff

About John McNiff

John McNiff is the Vice President of Solution Management for the R&D/Engineering line-of-business business unit at SAP. John has held a number of sales and business development roles at SAP, focused on the manufacturing and engineering topics.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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Unleash The Digital Transformation

Kadamb Goswami

The world has changed. We’ve seen massive disruption on multiple fronts – business model disruption, cybercrime, new devices, and an app-centric world. Powerful networks are crucial to success in a mobile-first, cloud-first world that’s putting an ever-increasing increasing amount of data at our fingertips. With the Internet of Things (IoT) we can connect instrumented devices worldwide and use new data to transform business models and products.

Disruption

Disruption comes in many forms. It’s not big or scary, it’s just another way of describing change and evolution. In the ’80s it manifested as call centers. Then, as the digital landscape began to take shape, it was the Internet, cloud computing … now it’s artificial intelligence (AI).

Digital transformation

Digital transformation means different things to different companies, but in the end I believe it will be a simple salvation that will carry us forward. If you Bing (note I worked for Microsoft for 15 years before experiencing digital transformation from the lens of the outside world), digital transformation, it says it’s “the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” (I’ll simplify that; keep reading.)

A lot of today’s digital transformation ideas are ripped straight from the scripts of sci-fi entertainment, whether you’re talking about the robotic assistants of 2001: A Space Odyssey or artificial intelligence in the Star Trek series. We’re forecasting our future with our imagination. So, let’s move on to why digital transformation is needed in our current world.

Business challenges

The basic challenges facing businesses today are the same as they’ve always been: engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and reinventing the value offered to customers. However, what has changed is the unique convergence of three things:

  1. Increasing volumes of data, particularly driven by the digitization of “things” and heightened individual mobility and collaboration
  1. Advancements in data analytics and intelligence to draw actionable insight from the data
  1. Ubiquity of cloud computing, which puts this disruptive power in the hands of organizations of all sizes, increasing the pace of innovation and competition

Digital transformation in plain English

Hernan Marino, senior vice president, marketing, & global chief operating officer at SAP, explains digital transformation by giving specific industry examples to make it simpler.

Automobile manufacturing used to be the work of assembly lines, people working side-by-side literally piecing together, painting, and churning out vehicles. It transitioned to automation, reducing costs and marginalizing human error. That was a business transformation. Now, we are seeing companies like Tesla and BMW incorporate technology into their vehicles that essentially make them computers on wheels. Cameras. Sensors. GPS. Self-driving vehicles. Syncing your smartphone with your car.

The point here is that companies need to make the upfront investments in infrastructure to take advantage of digital transformation, and that upfront investment will pay dividends in the long run as technological innovations abound. It is our job to collaboratively work with our customers to understand what infrastructure changes need to be made to achieve and take advantage of digital transformation.

Harman gives electric companies as another example. Remember a few years ago, when you used to go outside your house and see the little power meter spinning as it recorded the kilowatts you use? Every month, the meter reader would show up in your yard, record your usage, and report back to the electric company.

Most electric companies then made a business transformation and installed smart meters – eliminating the cost of the meter reader and integrating most homes into a smart grid that gave customers access to their real-time information. Now, as renewable energy evolves and integrates more fully into our lives, these same electric companies that switched over to smart meters are going to make additional investments to be able to analyze the data and make more informed decisions that will benefit both the company and its customers.

That is digital transformation. Obviously, banks, healthcare, entertainment, trucking, and e-commerce all have different needs than auto manufacturers and electric companies. It is up to us – marketers and account managers promoting digital transformation – to identify those needs and help our clients make the digital transformation as seamlessly as possible.

Digital transformation is more than just a fancy buzzword, it is our present and our future. It is re-envisioning existing business models and embracing a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create more for their customers through systems of intelligence.

Learn more about what it means to be a digital business.

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About Goswami Kadamb

Kadamb is a Senior Program Manager at SAP where he is responsible for developing and executing strategic sales program with Concur SaaS portfolio. Prior to that he led several initiatives with Microsoft's Cloud & Enterprise business to enable Solution Sales & IaaS offerings.