In the ecommerce age, delivery has become one of the key differentiators for many brands and retailers. Delivery drivers are also often the only face-to-face interaction a customer has with a merchant and is, when the delivery is made, the last person they often see in connection with that delivery. In short, delivery is one of the most important parts of the customer service journey in ecommerce.
And nobody knows that better than us, packaging is our bread and butter – with 200,000 products in our range, 14 distribution centres worldwide, 330,000 m2 of warehouse space and, most importantly, 1 million customers across Europe, we need to be at the top of our game for our delivery so our customers can be at the top of their game for theirs.
Which is why, back in November 2020, the company started looking at on boarding its own fleet delivery solution. Until now we relied on using third-party logistics and, while for the most part this provided a great solution for distribution and delivery, it did mean that service levels and that all-important delivery experience was in the hands of these outsourced suppliers.
It was time to start to bring some of this in house.
At the time, Nigel Smyth was new to the role of transport manager at RAJA UK and it fell to him to make this happen. Having built up more than 20 years’ experience with his own fleet and ‘white glove’ delivery solutions the opportunity to build a fleet from the ground up presented an exciting challenge that he was more than happy to accept.
“The reasoning behind getting our own fleet was primarily service levels, with our own vehicles we can offer a white glove delivery experience to our customers, a personal service that becomes part of the whole customer experience,” Smyth explains.
He continues: “With many businesses buying via web-based systems or telephone ordering the delivery is often the only person-to-person contact, we believe in the prestige of the driver role with our driver being often being the only face to face point of contact with the business, using our own vehicles and drivers allows them to represent the company and speak face to face with our customers, assist with taking deliveries in and in resolving any issues.”
According to Smyth, the drivers get to know the customers and therefor offer a more personal service, where goods are unloaded, who they contact upon delivery, how the customer requires the goods to be presented and more. The driver is nearly always the last point of contact the customer has with their supplier after an order is placed, we want to ensure that last part of the process is a positive experience.
“From past experience, I was acutely aware of the difference a reliable and personal delivery service could make to our customers and was keen to start building a solution as soon as achievable,” he says – and in early 2021 the company was granted its operators’ licence, giving Smyth and RAJA the green light to make it happen.
Fast-forward 18 months and the company now has seven 12 tonne, curtain-sided trucks with full RAJA livery and is currently awaiting delivery of a further two 7.5 tonne vehicles, again these will be fully liveried.
“All vehicles are tail lift equipped allowing quick and efficient unloading to our customers and maintained to the highest standards, offering what we feel will be an exceptional delivery experience,” adds Smyth.
As with any transport solution, environmental impact was a key consideration and as such all the vehicles in the fledgling fleet are EURO 6 emissions standards complaint and compatible for both B10 and B20 Biodiesel standards.
“Our vehicle cleaning is carried out using saved rainwater with all waste safely removed from site by a specialist company,” Smyth points out, which works hand-in-hand with the company’s move to employ advanced telematics to help track and route trucks, for maximum efficiency.
“This was also done with both driver and road safety in mind and will give us full tracking of all vehicles along with efficiency and driver behaviour reporting,” says Smyth.
He continues: “Currently we are engaging with route optimisation suppliers with a view to providing many more of our customers a service that not only meets, but also exceeds expectations.”
Optimisation will also allow us to cost effectively grow our fleet, expand our current coverage and allow accurate information to be given to customers, including delivery times, delivery progress and real time proof of delivery. It will also allow for efficient route planning that will both increase service levels via dedicated routes and ensure our vehicles operate with as minimal environmental impact as possible.
With this in mind, RAJA is looking to grow the fleet and team further into 2022 and beyond with the addition of further vehicles and team members.
Driver recruitment started in March 2021 and, despite the news showing that there is a perceived shortage of HGV drivers, the company has been quick to fill all its vacancies.
“Recruitment has been very successful with much of it being done via word of mouth,” says Smyth. “Once we onboarded a couple of drivers, the rest quickly followed. We have a great group of drivers who are working exceptionally well as a team and helping us greatly in developing the fleet and project.”
According to the company, RAJA values are not only centred around the customer and service levels, but also around succeeding together and working as a team with every member having an input and taking accountability.
“Our drivers are an inclusive part of the wider RAJA team,” says Smyth. “I feel it is this inclusion within the company and the rest of the team here that has made recruitment easier.”
Road safety and a great customer delivery experience has, as said, always been the focal point of the project and as such the RAJA team of drivers have to be the sort of candidates that could offer both.
“We were not just looking for drivers but for colleagues that would form part of the wider RAJA team, love what they do, fit the RAJA ethos of “do the right thing” and help us develop the project,” says Smyth. We found nine candidates who fitted the positions perfectly and have been successfully delivering excellent service over the past two months.”
Delivering the future
Looking ahead, Smyth suggests that there are still some exciting developments still to come around its own fleet.
For starters, it is likely to continue to expand its fleet and its reach and further develop its delivery strategy to build on the excellent work it has done so far. It also plans to use alternative fuel solutions where electric and/or hybrid vehicles may provide a low to zero emission solution to its more local deliveries.
It will also continue to work with third-parties, creating a hybrid delivery strategy that continues to build on the customer service play and deliver economic and environmental advantages.
“Third-party suppliers will always have a part to play in our business, when looking at [third-party logistics] it is important to consider not just service, but also environmental implications,” says Smyth. “We deliver both nationally and internationally and, with the current size of our business, it is not reasonably practical to consider making all our deliveries using an own fleet solution. We will therefore continue to work and build relationships with our chosen suppliers.”
There is also an environmental aspect to consider where consolidation reduces the number of vehicles used and the mileage they need to cover in order to achieve delivery.
Smyth concludes: “Most third-party suppliers will consolidate loads and deliver to local hubs whereby the ‘final mile’ delivery is made – which is high volume/low mileage – certainly for small items or more remote deliveries this is a very effective means of transporting goods and delivering to our customers reliably and effectively whilst limiting environmental impact.”
With this strategy in place and its own fleet running, RAJA looks set to deliver not only the goods, but great customer service and a reduced environmental impact – and you can’t hope for a better package than that.