We just finished our conference, Descartes Evolution 2019, where the theme was Transforming the Customer Experience. I reflected on a session where our customer explained how they were transforming the customer experience in a unique way in logistics: by extending the planning horizon. The retailer significantly improved its ability to complete repairs on the first visit, and correspondingly cut overall response time, by providing better schedule visibility to technicians in advance of actual service dates. The company recognized that speed was important, but so was providing forward visibility to be better organized.
The company also provides electronics and appliance repair and, as a retailer, these value-added services are a strong part of the value proposition to consumers. They, and many other organizations, used the traditional approach to batch plan jobs for their service techs the day before the work was scheduled. This gave the techs little time to evaluate the customer’s problem and stock the proper parts on their vans prior to the first visit. Given the breadth of products the company services, it is not practical to stock all parts on the vans. As a result, techs would get to the customer and, once they determined the exact problem and required parts, realize that they often didn’t have what was needed, which forced the planning of a second visit. Not only were they not satisfying the customer on the first visit in many cases, they were also paying for expensive revisits and lost productivity.
The Switch to Continuous Optimization
So, what provided the extended planning visibility? For tech service planning, the retailer switched from batch to continuous optimization, which starts the optimization process once orders are entered. This allowed the company to share service schedules with the techs as they were being built over multiple days, as opposed to the night before with batch optimization. Techs could make smarter decisions (e.g., parts and preparation) and be more organized before they arrived at the customer. The likelihood that a tech would have the right parts and knowledge increased and so did the retailer’s first-time completion rates. Not only did the customer experience improve, but so did the productivity of the techs because the organization eliminated a lot of second visits to complete repairs and covered more appointments with the same number of resources. The retailer also reduced repair lead times by almost half and decreased call center volume as many customers no longer needed to check the status of their second repair visit.
Visibility is such a hot topic today and we clearly see the value in areas such as providing real-time truck tracking. Visibility, however, has a much broader meaning, and this is a great example of other ways to apply the visibility concept. By using a solution that could plan service over a horizon instead of a day and providing that to the community most impacted, this retailer was able to transform its customer experience and its own operational productivity. What a win-win.
How is your company using advanced logistics optimization solutions to transform your customer’s experience? Let me know.
As Executive Vice President, Marketing and Services, Chris Jones is primarily responsible for Descartes’ marketing and professional services organizations. With over 30 years of experience in the supply chain market, Chris has held a variety of senior management positions including Senior Vice President at The Aberdeen Group’s Value Chain Research practice, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Development for SynQuest, Vice President and Research Director for Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions at The Gartner Group, and Associate Director Operations & Technology at Kraft General Foods.