Why Driver Satisfaction Matters in Last-Mile Delivery

Creating a superior customer experience has become a significant competitive differentiator across many industries. Yet, many companies overlook a critical contributor to customer experience — their delivery drivers. In fact, in a survey of 28 leading parcel/package delivery companies conducted late last year, almost 90% of the respondents agreed there is a direct link between driver satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

So, why does driver satisfaction matter, and how does it impact customer satisfaction? What actions can companies take to improve driver satisfaction? And how can technology help? Those are the main questions I discussed with Jerry Ballenger, Owner and Founder at American Newspaper Solutions, and Jason Fry, Senior Business Development Manager at RouteSmart Technologies in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.   

Driver Satisfaction is a Critical Link

I began our discussion by asking Jerry if the survey results mentioned above were a surprise and why driver satisfaction is important. Jerry stated he was not surprised since he sees drivers as a critical link between upstream processes and the customer. 

“It’s the last link in the chain and it can positively impact the chain upstream or at the end of the stream,” he says. “It has the magnitude to take a shipper’s relationship with the user of their products and change the outcome. So, it’s critical.”

Why Driver Satisfaction Matters

Driver satisfaction matters because “drivers are in the relationship business,” notes Jason. But he indicates it goes beyond their role in customer satisfaction. “All industries are struggling to find drivers. A survey by Modern Shipper reported that 37.8% of last-mile delivery firms in North America said finding qualified drivers to hire is their biggest issue. Finding drivers was significantly more important to them than improving operational efficiency.”

Jerry adds that the hiring problem got harder in 2020 due to Covid issues, but has intermingled with other issues since, including the need for technology-savvy drivers which are harder to find. And with a shrinking labor pool due to Baby Boomer retirements and declining birth rates, retaining current drivers is equally important.

Measurement is Lagging

Despite the importance of driver satisfaction, 57% of the delivery companies surveyed (per the research referenced earlier) do not track this critical metric, and another 14% didn’t even know if their firms did this tracking. Jerry says he is not surprised and points out that while a few larger companies have invested in this area, there are a lot of smaller and start-up companies who have not had the financial and human resources to address this area yet. 

“The world has changed dramatically,” Jerry comments. “There is more competition for drivers and wages are now $15+.” However, the challenges faced by the large and international providers is creating opportunities for the private sector. “I think the growth will happen in this private sector,” says Jerry.

How Technology can Help

Jason states that the factors impacting driver satisfaction are obvious. “They want better pay and healthcare, as well as 401Ks and other benefits. They want to show up to work each day with no surprises and a balanced workload. They want the truck loaded in a way that makes package retrieval easy. Technology that supports these last two items can go a long way toward driver satisfaction. It’s simple to talk about, but hard to deliver.”

As an example, Jason noted there were recently two delivery trucks from the same company on his cul-de-sac because a package had been loaded onto the wrong truck. That wasted time frustrates drivers and delays deliveries, which decreases customer satisfaction.

Improving Delivery Operations

Given the important link between driver satisfaction and customer satisfaction, Jerry and Jason gave some great recommendations for where companies should focus their efforts. Therefore, I recommend you watch the full episode for all of their insights and advice. You can also download the research report we referenced here for more on this topic. Then keep the conversation going by posting a comment and sharing your own thoughts and perspectives.