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Resolve delivery problems quickly, panelists advise

ATLANTA - Because the delivery of furniture can be a very emotional experience for the consumer, any problems stemming from it must be addressed promptly, a panel of home delivery experts said during Furniture/Today's annual Logistics Conference.
     Panel members said their goal, obviously, is to eliminate delivery issues using tools such as routing software, careful loading and unloading, and courteous delivery personnel. But when mistakes happen, solving the problem immediately becomes the top priority, they agreed.
     "If there is a problem, we want to address it before they put it on Facebook or Twitter," said Will O'Shea, chief sales and marketing officer at last-mile delivery provider 3PD. "Oftentimes, we are able to address it and turn a bad thing into a good thing."
     O'Shea and Satish Natarajan, president of software provider Dispatch Track, told conference attendees the worst way to handle a delivery issue is to delay responding to the consumer's call. Both said their customer service representatives are trained to respond to complaints within one hour.
     "The customer deserves a callback," said Natarajan.
     Joining them on the panel were Thomas Bolden, director of logistics for Masco Cabinetry, and Maryjane Fanizzi, vice president of operations and customer care for retailer Hill Country Holdings, which operates 25 Ashley Furniture Home Stores in three states.
     Bolden said the use of the latest technology to schedule and track deliveries is essential in today's competitive environment, where consumers sometimes have unrealistic expectations about the delivery of large, bulky goods such as furniture and cabinets.
     "It's the emotional experience behind the purchase of these products that makes the delivery experience so critical," Bolden said.

O’SheaO’Shea
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     Fanizzi said technology improvements, including the purchase of Dispatch Track software, has better enabled her company to control variables and make more deliveries within the promised time window.
     Since the software was installed, the percentage of successfully completed deliveries - known in home delivery parlance as the productive stop rate - has jumped from 70% to 92%, she said.
     The software also allows delivery crews to include a picture of the furniture once it is set up in consumer's home - a step that protects the retailer from bogus claims about shipping damage or production defects.
     "We badly needed to manage our deliveries better," she told the audience. "But it also gives us a more complete history of exactly what was delivered and where in the house it was placed."
     O'Shea said his company tries to be proactive about potential problems by calling the consumer 30 to 40 minutes after the delivery is completed. The consumer is asked if she is satisfied with the delivery and then asked to complete a brief survey.
     About 40% respond to the survey, and virtually everyone seems to appreciate the fact that they were contacted so soon after the delivery, he said.
     Natarajan said he would like to see the industry standardize major components of the delivery process - a move he believes would help it overcome its less-than-stellar reputation.
     "Holding information hostage is not the answer. We should be working together," he said.

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