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Customer Experience Management

Scheduled Delivery: Speed, Savings, and Better Experiences

Offer scheduled delivery options to meet customer expectations efficiently. Overcome challenges with accurate planning and real-time communication.

Even though many people like getting things on the same day, some prefer waiting longer to save money. But scheduled delivery can be quick and easy too, which meets what customers want nowadays.

Customers want more choices for delivery. Retailers, shippers, and delivery companies need to know how to improve this delivery model. They should also know when to give customers different delivery choices.

This article explains:

  • The differences between scheduled delivery services and other common shipping methods.
  • Current challenges that scheduled delivery services encounter.
  • Recommended practices for scheduled deliveries include when to consider alternative options.
  • Ways technology can assist in delivering goods more efficiently and affordably. This leads to improved customer satisfaction.

First, the basics:

What is scheduled for delivery?

Scheduled delivery is a shipping method. The delivery date is chosen within a specific time frame that works for the sender, the carrier, or the recipient. The sender or carrier might set the delivery date, or the recipient might pick from a few options.

How scheduled delivery operates

Sometimes, the sender might tell the carrier to deliver on a specific date or to pick the earliest available date from several options. Other times, the carrier might decide the delivery time based on their own rules and route optimization plan. Or, customers can choose the delivery time and date during checkout if the sender or carrier offers this choice.

Customers get an estimated delivery time, showing when they should expect their order.

Expected delivery date compared to the real delivery date

The tracking information defines the "estimated delivery date" as the day when the customer is scheduled to receive the delivery. The actual day the customer receives it is called the "delivery date." If there's a delivery exception, like bad weather, the estimated delivery date might change. In such cases, the shipment will be labeled as "delivery pending.". Also, the customer might receive a message about rescheduling. That allows for flexible scheduling adjustments in unexpected situations.

Reasons why scheduled delivery remains in demand

Scheduled or planned delivery is a popular shipping choice. This is because it usually lets everyone involved pick a time that works for them, like the shipper, carrier, and customer. Plus, it's often cheaper than on-demand or same-day delivery.

It's handy for carriers and shippers because they can plan routes and fill delivery trucks efficiently, which can save money.

But sometimes, customers might not like waiting for their delivery. And if the shipper or carrier can't meet their promised delivery time, customers might feel let down. That is especially true if they paid extra for a specific day or time.

Scheduled vs. on-demand delivery

Scheduled delivery and on-demand delivery are two different ways of getting your stuff. With scheduled delivery, you pick a time window that suits everyone involved. But with on-demand delivery, you get your order within hours or even minutes after placing it.

On-demand delivery is often used for local orders, fulfilled from nearby stores or warehouses. Scheduled deliveries mostly come from bigger warehouses owned by retailers or logistics companies.

Planned and on-demand delivery management can be handled in-house or by a third-party service. But with third-party services, like a delivery company, the delivery rules might differ. For example, with on-demand delivery, the final destination can be changed, just like with scheduled delivery.

The optimal choice? Offer both.

On-demand and planned delivery have different uses. One is quick but pricier, while the other is slower but often free. The top companies offer both, letting customers choose how they want their orders fulfilled. For instance, a customer might prefer same-day delivery, even if it means paying more and causing some hassle for the shipper.

Scheduled delivery compared to subscription delivery

Subscription delivery is another option besides scheduled and on-demand delivery. With subscription delivery, you get your deliveries on a fixed schedule, like every 30 days.

Usually, either the customer, the sender, or the carrier picks the delivery schedule. The customer usually chooses a delivery day or time frame, like a 2-day or 4-5-day delivery. Once set, the delivery date doesn't usually change, unless there's a problem like bad weather. The customer can ask for a different delivery date. Yet, unlike with scheduled delivery, this means changing the date for all future deliveries too.

One good thing about subscription delivery is that it lets customers order things in advance regularly, instead of ordering the same thing over and over again. It's handy for customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Subscription delivery is not as flexible as scheduled or on-demand delivery. This means there are fewer chances to offer customers convenient delivery choices compared to scheduled or on-demand options.

When should I opt for on-demand or subscription delivery over scheduled delivery?

Each shipping method has its advantages and ideal scenarios:

  • Scheduled or planned delivery is great for providing customers with efficient and cost-effective delivery. This is especially true when next-day or same-day delivery isn't necessary.
  • On-demand delivery is beneficial when customers need fast shipping and both you and they can cover the extra expenses.
  • Subscription delivery is practical for customers needing specific items on a regular schedule.

These methods aren't always exclusive. You might offer various options for different products, customers, or situations. For instance, customers paying an extra fee might receive on-demand shipping at a discounted rate.

The difficulties associated with scheduled delivery

Planned delivery operations encounter various significant challenges. This includes managing customer expectations and internal obstacles to meeting scheduled delivery deadlines. Let's explore some of the common issues faced by planned delivery operations. Then, we'll examine recommended strategies for resolving these challenges as well as enhancing your delivery choices.

Customer Expectations

The problem is straightforward: customers and shippers prefer locations with superior delivery options. In a recent survey, nearly half of retailers expressed dissatisfaction with their delivery and pickup choices. On the other hand, 39% found digital scheduling too costly or complex. Yet, many logistics providers are now seeking automated scheduling. Self-scheduling is just one aspect of the delivery process. Both retailers and logistics companies find it challenging to offer it to their customers.


Short Delivery Windows

Big shipping firms now provide two-day, next-day, and same-day delivery. They often include tight two- or four-hour windows for free or as extra service plans. These firms show what customers expect in terms of delivery. Yet, many services still only offer multi-day delivery. If delivery takes too long, customers won't be happy and might choose other options.

Expense of Manual Delivery Scheduling

Old or different technologies can make it difficult for delivery and logistics services to deliver efficiently and at a large scale while meeting their promises.

Traditionally, managing scheduled deliveries involves simple, low-tech methods. For many logistics providers, this means moving packages from a warehouse floor to a truck, often using pen and paper.

When it comes to scheduling, many companies still rely on phone calls after customers place orders online. This uses up staff resources and can lead to issues if there aren't enough people to handle the calls.

The time spent on hold can cause delays, making it more likely for shipments to miss their delivery promises. This manual process can drive customers away. It can also reduce the number of orders that can be handled, hurting profits in two ways.

Also, using the phone for scheduling deliveries usually means using manual and reactive customer service. Instead of offering customers digital scheduling and automatic delivery updates, many shippers and carriers still give delivery estimates over the phone or manually update them. This leads to high "Where is my order?" rates that consume time and detract from the delivery experience.

Achieving scheduled delivery dates demands careful planning

Inefficient technology can disrupt delivery route planning.

To ensure timely deliveries, it's crucial to find the shortest routes. It is also important to combine many stops, consider customer schedules, and create timetables. Mistakes or inefficiencies in any of these steps can result in missed delivery dates.

Last-minute adjustments and unforeseen delivery exceptions can disrupt your plans

Unexpected events can disrupt even the best plans. For instance, a customer might ask to change their delivery location.

Or, unforeseen issues like snowstorms, flooding, flat tires, or out-of-stock items can affect the scheduled delivery date.

If you're not ready to handle these events and lack real-time management tools, meeting delivery commitments can be tough.

Adapting to Changes with Immediate Communication

Inefficient technology can disrupt delivery route planning. This disruption can have a ripple effect.

To ensure consistent on-time delivery, it's essential to identify the shortest routes and merge many delivery stops. Also, customer schedules should be considered, and timetables need to be drawn up.

Mistakes or inefficiencies, like failed delivery attempts in any of these areas, can lead to shipments missing their scheduled delivery date.\

Enhancing Scheduled Delivery Efficiency

To achieve efficiency in planned deliveries on a large scale, the delivery strategy should involve precise planning. It should also practice advanced technology use, and interconnected resources and processes, with a customer-centric focus.

Now, let's delve deeper into some recommended practices:

1. Integrate Your Systems

To offer real-time capabilities, companies must integrate their systems with those of relevant vendors, 3PL logistics providers, or shippers. All backend data from each company needs to seamlessly sync to a centralized repository. Changes in any system, like order cancellations or alterations in the selected delivery window, should automatically update both the central and end systems.

2. Ensure Accurate Travel Time Estimations

Accurate travel time estimations are crucial for meeting planned delivery dates and times.

Meeting delivery SLAs relies on careful estimation of delivery times, considering factors such as route selection, choosing the shortest routes, and accurately estimating distances.

It also requires factoring in variables like speed limits, traffic, and construction. These can impact travel time and affect the delivery SLA.

Accurate estimation of the new timetable is crucial when adjustments, like changes in the customer's final delivery location, are needed.

3. Include Time for Drop-offs

dropping-off-boxesAccurate delivery estimates do not rely only on travel time calculations. They also rely on considering the time needed to drop off items at scheduled stops.

Some stops may only need a minute to open a mailbox, while others may need more time for obtaining a signature or delivering bulk items.

In certain cases, special delivery equipment may be necessary, like threshold or room-of-choice services.

For delivery stops involving picking up items from customers, such as recyclable containers, reverse logistics must be considered in your delivery calculations.

4. Focus on Scheduled Deliveries

Schedule your delivery timetable based on shipment priority.

Let's say a customer orders overnight delivery. You should combine their shipment with another route to meet the commitment.

If a customer changes their final delivery destination, adjust priorities to meet the new schedule.

Smart Dispatching

When you or your regular carriers cannot meet demand and need extra fleets, smart dispatch software can help. It automatically assigns overflow orders to a specific driver, team, or fleet.

5. Combine Trips

To meet promised delivery times, it's important to combine trips. Making more deliveries per trip reduces the distance you need to travel. That makes it simpler to offer the delivery options your customers prefer.

This also helps reduce your average delivery cost. LTL freight carriers often do this by combining freight with other shippers to lower shipping costs.

6. Utilize Software for Route Optimization

writing-down-before-deliveringOffering scheduled delivery shipping options and ensuring on-time deliveries requires intelligent dispatch and routing software.

Cutting-edge delivery software eliminates the need for manual route optimization. It analyzes all pertinent data required for timely deliveries. It also automatically calculates delivery schedules based on fleet, carrier, customer, inventory, and order information.

To facilitate on-time last-mile delivery using this data, a central system processes all relevant information. It generates optimized route maps and schedules while keeping them up-to-date.

As orders progress along shipping routes, the system continuously tracks inventory locations. This enables shippers, carriers, and customers to communicate via real-time updates.

In case of delivery address changes, the system automatically recalculates an optimized route. Then it communicates it to the driver. Simultaneously, it sends an automated notification to the customer.


7. Keep Customers Informed

Everyone wants to know where their package is. You can do this with a scheduled notification system called 'delivery pending.' It sends customers texts or emails with the tracking number and updates them on the order status and location. This way, customers can see when there are changes to their delivery time in real-time.

Keeping delivery information current relies on instant communication between shippers, carriers, and customers.

Customers can stay informed through a central portal with tracking information. They also receive scheduled delivery pending notifications via text or email.

This communication system keeps customers informed about their package's whereabouts at all times. It alerts them about any changes due to exceptions and allows them to request last-minute changes, like rerouting to a different delivery zip code.

Additional Services

Integrated data and delivery operations with full visibility, create opportunities for extra services and loyalty programs. These can help cover delivery costs.

For instance, premium services may offer delivery within 2 or 4-hour windows. They may also include white-glove delivery services. These could include installation, assembly, packaging removal, and disposal of old items.

These services can be part of a premium plan, offering customers and shippers a variety of options.

8. Track Performance and Make Data-Based Changes

tracking-performanceWhen companies use technology to collect delivery data, they can study how well their fleets and drivers perform. They can check things like how long it takes to load and dwell, how often deliveries are on time, the number of deliveries made, the success rate for on-time delivery, and how satisfied customers are.

This data helps companies gain valuable insights into their delivery KPIs and make data-driven decisions. These decisions can enhance delivery efficiency, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce delivery costs.

You can also use analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, such as machine learning, to delve deeper into your data for specific improvements. For instance, you might discover that certain delivery issues mostly occur in specific zip codes or with certain fleets. This insight is also valuable in the white-glove space. The carriers aim to understand the time spent on-site for certain products.

Making adjustments based on this data can significantly improve your on-time delivery rates and customer satisfaction.

Enhancing Delivery Efficiency

Implementing these best practices relies heavily on choosing the right technology to handle important tasks like route optimization and sending scheduled delivery notifications. An ideal platform should offer:

  • Tools to enhance the last-mile experience, including a centralized system for tracking inventory and automated alerts to customers and dispatchers with updated delivery status.
  • Seamless integration with third-party delivery services.
  • Management tools for fleets and drivers, like viewing available drivers and handling driver payments.
  • Automation tools for dispatching and routing.
  • A driver app to assist with loading items faster, completing tasks more efficiently, and increasing deliveries.
  • Integrations that connect your delivery system with your supply chain and other resources, both internal and external.

Not all platforms will have all these features. Make sure to research and choose the platform that best fits your needs.

Maximize Customer Satisfaction Through Optimized Planned Delivery Processes


Including scheduled delivery in your omnichannel fulfillment strategy is essential for meeting the expectations of modern customers. However, there are challenges such as increasing demand for fast delivery, inefficiencies in phone scheduling, the importance of precise planning, the risk of disruption by unexpected events, and the need for real-time communication.

To address these issues, it's essential to focus on accurate and optimized route planning. Real-time communication tools, like scheduled delivery notifications, help adapt to changes effectively.

These best practices are most effectively implemented using delivery technology for route planning and shipment management. By leveraging analytics, you can continuously enhance performance through ongoing adjustments.

Diversify Your Delivery Strategies

As businesses prioritize supply chain enhancement, they embrace new tools and tactics. These include customer-focused operations and automated delivery solutions. By doing so, they enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, they meet customers' convenience expectations.

For optimized scheduled delivery, selecting the appropriate last-mile delivery platform is crucial. An optimal platform might offer various features. These include last-mile inventory tracking and order fulfillment. Additionally, they encompass fleet management and automated dispatching and routing. Integration with third-party delivery services and software is also included. While some delivery apps may offer some of these features, the top-tier tools will encompass a comprehensive range. Choose the solution that aligns best with your requirements.


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