The Christmas period is valuable to a 3PL both in terms of revenue and reputation.
Our customer’s peak sales season has a direct impact on our bottom line creating a challenging spike in activity.
The festive season with all it demands and challenges also provides us with the opportunity to impress customers.
Exceptional service levels across the busy period drive home and emphasise skill and competence. A successful Christmas highlights and strengthens your relationship with customers and kicks off the New Year on a high.
Here are my tips for problem free Christmas logistics.
1. Start planning early – with Black Friday and Cyber Monday the seasonal Christmas spike begins as early as mid-November. For 3PLs involved in gifts it may even have started as early as September. Planning should ideally begin in August.
2. Appoint a project team – a trusted and experienced leader and team will enable focused planning without affecting your standard day to day operation.
3. Review previous year’s volume and performance – in order to plan effectively it pays to review previous year’s volumes and estimate expected activity levels. Analysis of past performance, challenges and triumphs will enable the project team to design a targeted plan.
4. Set goals – a clear set of goals for the season helps to focus planning and motivate teams. It ensures emphasis is placed on strengthening areas that may not have been up to scratch in the past. Perhaps you need to improve picking accuracy, or on time deliveries?
5. Weekly review meetings – schedule regular review meetings to update managers and teams with plans and actions.
6. Manpower planning – appoint key team members and brief with accountabilities and responsibilities. Schedule additional shifts for weekends and evenings. Recruit and train seasonal staff in advance of demand. One KPI regularly affected during peak periods is pick accuracy. This is often simply down to the use of untrained inexperienced temporary staff. Early planning and up front training is a quick and easy way to remedy this.
7. Materials planning – order in extra materials whether that’s pallets, packing cases, fork lifts, pump trucks, tape guns or shrink-wrap. Nothing brings a process crashing to its knees quicker than a lack of materials.
8. Prepare for returns – reverse logistics can see a huge spike over the festive period. Ensuring you have a robust returns process will guarantee returns won’t become a distraction and affect your outbound operation.
9. Communicate with customers – begin to talk to customers as early as possible. What are their plans? Are they running any specific promotions? All this data can then be factored into your planning. Update customers on your plans. Tell them who is heading up the Christmas team and what additional services are available. This is a real opportunity for you to impress and inspire your customers with confidence. Make the most of it!
10. Communicate with suppliers – organise additional collections with Royal Mail and your parcel carriers. Brief hauliers and contractors on increased requirements. There is no point getting all the orders picked on time if you haven’t organised the additional resources to deliver them.
11. Don’t forget customer service – the seasonal period always sees a huge spike in emails and calls to your customer service team. Where is my parcel? What’s the tracking number? My parcel is damaged! In order to maintain a high standard of customer care, why not appoint a person or small team to work solely on this throughout the busy period. You will be able to give customers a clear process and point of contact that will reassure them and you can avoid this increase in work affecting your normal day to day workload. It’s also worth investigating automated tracking number notification with your parcel carrier.
Providing exceptional service levels through peak periods is what defines great 3PLs.
Make sure you stand out this Christmas.