With opportunities to expand volume, channels, geography, services – or all of the above – many shippers find themselves considering a parcel management solution to support growth. While it’s natural to focus on solving the specific pain points of today, this “tunnel vision” approach can lead to short-sighted decisions. Imagine the light at the end of the tunnel revealing a treacherous bridge to cross, versus a wide-open highway with no speed limits. Which would you choose?
Focusing on a bigger, more holistic picture while addressing the short-term needs can help companies avoid the risk of selecting a vendor that cannot expand with the business in the future. This approach can spare the hassle and expense of going back to the drawing board in a few years. Even better, making the right selection can deliver greater long-term value, and competitive advantage to scale the business more efficiently.
Parcel solutions vary greatly in their depth and breadth, so it’s important to understand all the ways your company can benefit from the technology. Here are four benefits of a parcel solution that are commonly overlooked.
1. Efficient returns processing
Take the retail environment for example, where it’s not uncommon for a certain percentage of shipments to be returned—for whatever reason. By investing in a robust parcel system that can manage both outbound and inbound shipments, companies can effectively streamline the returns process.
With a system that can handle multiple returns carriers and services, companies can leverage the service that’s right for their individual businesses. Parcel systems should be able to integrate into a customer’s portal system or provide a graphical user interface where a customer service rep could log in and produce a returns label. This is a point to bring up early in the software selection process, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
2. Supplier account control
When you pass your carrier account number over to a supplier, it’s all about control and who has it. Many shippers provide their carrier account numbers to suppliers to ship their orders on, but this gives the supplier an “open checkbook” to ship parcels on that particular account.
Using an enterprise parcel system gives shippers the ability to directly support supplier shipping and take back this control. This can be as simple as deciding on the right carrier and service to use, or it can go as far as providing a label that is sent to the supplier. An enterprise parcel system gives you a variety of control options when working with suppliers who are essentially shipping on your dime.
3. Order entry rating/e-commerce rating support
Used by shippers that want to allow their customers to have a say in which shipping method is used (by providing carrier, service, and rate information), order entry and e-commerce ratings play an important role in today’s omni-channel shipping environment.
With e-commerce as a key sales driver for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies, there’s a strong drive to get more accurate shipping rates in real-time. A shipper that has to calculate a shipping cost on the spot for a customer who is placing an online order, for example, can’t afford to either inflate or lowball the displayed rates. Using an enterprise parcel system, companies can leverage their solution’s advanced tools and provide accurate, real-time cost and delivery windows. And even if your organization isn’t currently using order entry ratings/e-commerce ratings, it may want to in the future.
4. Detailed tracking capabilities
While enterprise parcel systems aren’t a replacement for auditing tools, these solutions do provide detailed data to help shippers determine exactly what was delivered and when. This tracking capability lets you get out in front of a potential customer service issue before it occurs, or respond quickly if one does develop. There is nothing like being able to reach out to a customer and let them know that you’ve nipped a potential problem in the bud before they were even aware of it.
Ultimately, you want to be able to leverage all tracking information into a single system and do things a little better than your competitors – a strategy that can quickly turn into a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.
Look beyond the tunnel
When evaluating and making determinations about the best vendor or solution fit, it’s wise not to overlook factors that could provide more value beyond simply solving immediate or short-term challenges. Pause and take a step back to assess where your company – and that vendor and its solution – will be in three to five years. Is that partner poised to support the future of your business in the global economy? Look to the solution that delivers maximum value in the long run.
Steve Williamson is Director, Solution Consulting, at BluJay Solutions. With over 20 years in supply chain, Steve is a recognized industry expert in parcel shipping and its complexities in both North American and Europe. He has investigated and designed many workflows and solutions for high-volume, complex customers.