The holidays are a big boon to business. Shippers, carriers, dispatchers -- all of us end up with almost more work than we can handle, to keep up with demand and the higher frequency and volume coming from all sorts of retail (and other) clients.
But in the midst of all this abundance, are some of us leaving money on the table?
Technology is always changing the way we do business. In terms of logistics, it’s never been easier to speed up administration and even delivery.
At the same time, it’s not as simple as “letting the computer do it”. In addition to having the right technological partners -- with real experts behind the controls (*cough* NEXT Trucking *cough*) -- the savvy shipper/carrier/dispatcher needs to adapt to the changing marketplace.
Here are some tips on how to do that this holiday season. Considering or implementing just a few of them can help you further optimize your business and attract every available dollar in the coming weeks.
Be prepared for inventory management slowdowns
Many of the inventory management issues that can often crop up during the holidays may be outside your control. The more you can help overstressed warehouse and fulfillment staff, or other freight partners, the more you’re be appreciated and looked to in the future as a problem solver. Short sales windows, high demand, and sometimes long vendor lead times can compound this problem. Consider: Given this problem, how can you be part of the solution?
Remember that all business is customer service
Loyalty and long-term relationships arrive when you and your business prove that you care about your part in the shipping process -- imagine how true this could be if you prove yourself helpful, dependable, and cool-under-pressure during the holiday crunch?
Fair or not, it can take just one bad experience to severely damage your industry reputation. Everyone gets exhausted during the holidays, and sometimes mistakes are made. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do want to remain polite and respectful, and you want to continue to show that you’re ready to work together with partners.
Finally, the holidays are all about timing. What can you do on your end, to ensure that you can handle increased volume and remain on time? Can anything be planned ahead, that you wouldn’t normally do outside the holiday rush?
Use data to speed up, and to excel
While raw data itself can be useful on the highest level, these days there are also so many specific means by which to analyze your markets, routes, and the results of your work. When was the last time you looked into incorporating a new analytics tool, to help teach you something new about your business? Is there some data-collection solution you can turn to now, to provide information that can help you optimize for next year’s holiday rush? Are you researching the holiday market from year to year, so that you can compare your capabilities to competitors -- or use your stats as a selling point to customers?
Keep up with the times, or risk becoming obsolete
There’s a reason we started NEXT Trucking. We saw an opportunity to help people like you get freight to more places, faster, and in a way that helps everyone improve efficiency and save time and money (that can be reinvested elsewhere, incidentally).
With our app, you can:
- Schedule shipments via a network of +15,000 carriers
- Track shipments in real time
- Guarantee capacity
- Speed up cash flow
- (and more).
All this can be done from the smartphone you already carry. We’re here for you all the time -- but especially during the mad dash of the holiday season.
Check that you’re ready, and get ahead if you can
Have you done as much prep as you could do ahead of time, to position yourself to absorb the rush? What could be planned that you might not have thought of already? Are you adequately staffed? If you aren’t, do you have a ready pipeline of additional workers to ensure your shipments don’t fall behind? Is your truck or fleet ready for harsher weather and more traffic? How strong are your lines of communication, between all parties responsible for the delivery of your work?
Speaking of communication, get started now (if you haven’t already)
With all of the above and below to consider, it can be easy to forget that we’re all human beings with real physical and emotional needs -- including the needs to be appreciated and to be kept motivated. A little bit of pre-communication about the coming rush, to repeat information (so that it sticks) but also to help rally the troops, might seem unnecessary. But a strategy like this can go a long way towards keeping up morale when things get busy and exhaustion starts to set in.
Keep your calendar up-to-date, and know the trends
Do you know the holiday schedules for your partners, for vendors, and any other organizations you might encounter this season? Black Friday and Cyber Monday usually extend for a week or more, these days.
On a similar note, peak holiday shopping times (and thus much of holiday business) are actually somewhat predictable. Patterns often mimic last year’s numbers, and there’s more consistency from week to week than you might imagine. How might you exploit this predictability to get ahead this year?
Automate, automate, update
Automation is the name of the game these days. In addition to what’s offered by NEXT, what else might you do to stay nimble, and pivot quickly, when plans change and planned strategies inevitably run out of road. Are your devices updated, secure, and in working order?
Finally, remember that it can be a good thing to run out of inventory, or to take on new loads or explore new opportunities, at a time wherein partner organizations and customers need as much help as they can get.
Once again, optimization becomes a process of visualization, planning, and positioning yourself as a problem solver, and as a provider of dependable service.
Happy Trucking Holidays! Good luck, and safe driving.