Keith Basnett (left), chief operating officer at Yodel, speaks to Postal Technology International about peak volumes in 2016 and what lessons can be taken from the previous year.
How did the company perform over the 2015 peak period?
We had a very positive peak in 2015 where we handled 22 million parcels in the five-week period leading up to Christmas. We encourage customer feedback on all our deliveries, and our customer satisfaction score hit an all-time high during peak, with an average 83% of online shoppers surveyed reporting a positive delivery experience.
How were service levels compared with 2014?
Our customer satisfaction levels have continued to improve in line with service performance. They hit record highs at the busiest time of the year with customer satisfaction scores hitting 86% in our busiest week versus 77% in 2014.
What actions did you take to better liaise with retailers to protect capacity and take on increased sales?
We had very close contact with our clients in the planning phase and throughout peak, including engaging with their marketing teams to ensure that plans were aligned and that services being offered matched the capacity available. The high customer satisfaction results and service levels prove that there was a well-executed strategy in place with both the retailers and Yodel working in an efficient and effective manner.
How can forecasts from 2015 be used to help with forecasts for 2016?
Consistency in processes is the most important part of a successful delivery strategy. For peak this year, we will be working even more closely with retailers to make sure that the delivery experience is a positive one for consumers.
What technology underpinned all of this?
We invested heavily to prepare for peak, and there was a significant investment in our IT systems and handheld terminals that enabled better management of information and communication with both the retailer and the consumer.
What were the figures of successful deliveries/missed deliveries and how do these compare with 2014?
We maintained an average of above 98.7% performance (with a peak of 99.26%) throughout the peak period in 2015, which is a measure of parcels delivered on or before the due delivery date. This compares with 95.4% in 2014. That’s a significant improvement.
Do you think that Black Friday and Cyber Week are beneficial to carriers?
This really depends on what is pre-agreed with the retailer. Yes, Black Friday and Cyber Week have the potential to make carriers money, but they also require great investment to ensure a positive delivery experience. If volumes and capacity are agreed before the peak, then retailers and carriers alike can make the period a profitable one, while at the same time maintaining the delivery service to consumers.
What weak spots were identified over the period and how can these be eliminated in time for 2016?
Volumes unexpectedly declined prior to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, which meant that manning and training additional workers was a challenge. The plan is to work even more closely with retailers including, where appropriate, seconding a Yodel worker to their business to assist with forecasting and planning.
The HGV driver pool also seems to be a diminishing one, and therefore a greater emphasis will be placed on early recruitment of full-time drivers, rather than depending on a temporary recruitment market.
How did you keep track of all the parcels for delivery?
Yodel uses a number of specialist operational systems. These include daily parcel intake, estimated and due delivery dates, the age of the parcel and, specifically, live views of driver activity throughout the day. This will include a breakdown of geo-coded locations attended, response times and five minute increments of service failure. All of this is backed up by a central control tower monitoring live data such as road conditions, weather, special events and fluctuations in volumes. This allows Yodel to prepare and monitor drivers and resolve potential issues quickly.
How are you preparing for 2016?
We hope to invest more in new sites to boost our capacity, but we’re also looking to improve the training that we offer our frontline workers to further strengthen the delivery service.
At this year’s Delivery Conference in London in February, Dick [Stead – Yodel executive chairman] mentioned that there was a drop in parcel volumes in the week leading up to Black Friday, meaning that the extra members of staff were not actually needed at that time.
How will this be addressed in 2016?
This will come down to how accurate the forecasting is in the run up to the peak period. We obviously have our own sources to look at when we’re forecasting the period, but we also rely on industry and market intelligence to predict volume and bring in appropriate resources. We’ll look at how we can increase the accuracy of our forecasting even further but we also call on analysts to carefully consider their forecasting this year so that the industry benefits.
In light of some of the footage broadcast on the Channel 4 Dispatches TV program [which showed the mishandling of packages], how will you ensure that temporary staff hired during peak periods in 2016 will work to the same standards as permanent staff?
We are carefully and closely looking at our training following the footage shown on Dispatches, and will ensure that all workforce, temporary and permanent, receive the appropriate training and supervision to ensure high standards of service.
In an organization that delivers over 155 million parcels a year, there will always be issues and rare instances of unacceptable behavior, and we work hard to address and resolve these and ensure the highest standards are maintained. We always take complaints or issues, as was raised in the Dispatches program, very seriously.
To learn more about the performance of posts and carriers over the 2015 peak season read our Peak volumes article in the latest issue of Postal Technology International.
Keith Basnett is responsible for Yodel’s operations and the delivery of over 155 million parcels a year on behalf of the UK’s top retailers. He is particularly experienced in running complex logistics operations in the ever-evolving multichannel retail space.
Basnett joined Yodel in 2013, having spent eight years at sister company Shop Direct, the UK’s second largest online pure play retailer, where he was group chief operating officer. He has previously also held senior positions at N Brown Group, Freemans, Hutchison Telecom and American Express.
March 30, 2016