As the world works to limit the spread of COVID-19 and adapt to changing restrictions, routines, and best practices, one thing remains true: consumers and businesses still need to receive fresh food and groceries. While most people thought of grocery, food, and beverage delivery as a convenience even just a few weeks ago, many individuals and families now find themselves in a position where online ordering is an absolute necessity. Those who work in the last-mile delivery industry are finding that their services are needed now more than ever and approaching the situation proactively is crucial to weathering the storm.

Rising to the Demand of a Sudden Surge in Deliveries

Across the world, different countries, states, and municipalities are handling restrictions differently. Most, if not all, have enacted some type of restrictions on how many people can be gathered in one place. Many others have forced restaurants and bars to close down or to shift to a delivery-only format. Even in areas where these establishments remain open, the public is being encouraged to stay home which is, in turn, taking its toll on restaurants in general.

As such, many restaurants are now relying entirely on delivery options to keep their businesses afloat. On the other side of the spectrum, many people are quarantined to their homes and are finding that they’re either running low on food or getting bored with what they have; many are also ordering delivery specifically to support local restaurants.

The result is an unprecedented spike in food and grocery delivery. For last-mile delivery businesses, this is a sudden demand for delivery, unlike anything we’ve seen before. While this serves to ensure your bottom line as a company, it also makes the services that you offer more crucial than ever before. By continuing to carry out your work efficiently during this increased demand, you are positioned to bolster your relationship with restaurants and companies who will still need your services when things revert to normalcy, all while simultaneously providing a service that individuals will cherish now more than ever.

Ensuring the Essentials

In addition to prepared food deliveries, many individuals are also relying on services like yours to provide groceries and other essentials. A lot of grocery stores are struggling to keep their shelves stocked as people stockpile goods; those who are quarantined or self-isolating can’t even go to the store to shop on their own, or choose to avoid spaces like supermarkets.

As a result, many households are ordering the essentials to be delivered through services like PeaPod, Shipt, or Amazon Prime. Again, this creates a high demand for last-mile delivery companies, as many such services employ independent contractors and third parties to carry out their deliveries.

Whether you’re delivering freshly prepared restaurant meals, essential groceries, or delivering beer, wine, or other beverages, transporting perishables always emphasizes the need for quick, efficient deliveries and proper adherence to best practices. Your customers are more health and safety conscious than ever during this time, and ensuring that you’re operating at peak efficiency while transporting their food is key to keeping them healthy, fed, and satisfied. If you’re not optimizing your routes in the best possible way, you’re giving perishable food items time to develop bacteria and risking the quality of the delivered product.

Preparing for Differing Expectations

As with any major shift in the landscape, the ability to adapt will define which businesses are able to ride out this uncertain time, as well as which businesses are positioned to succeed when things return to normal.

Taking proactive steps to meet your customers’ needs is key. Making small changes to the way you carry out deliveries can make a big difference in a time like this. Many delivery services, for instance, are leaving food deliveries on porches by default or allowing customers to select this option during their checkout in an attempt to minimize exposure. With so many individuals choosing to order food or groceries for delivery in an effort to maintain social distancing and self-isolation, taking steps to handle their deliveries in a way that facilitates that is a simple way to keep your customers (and your drivers) feeling safe and satisfied.

Upholding Your Quality of Service in Demanding Times

From increased demand and new delivery requests to changing best practices for your and your customers’ safety, your day is more demanding than ever during this tumultuous time. Here are some ways you can approach the challenge head-on by making use of the right software.

Optimize Your Efficiency

It goes without saying that optimizing your routes is always the key to maximizing the number of deliveries you’re able to handle efficiently, and that is doubly true during such demanding times as these. With increased demand for deliveries and rush orders, approaching your routes and schedules with route optimization software on your side can allow you to handle the influx smoothly and avoid unnecessary delays.

Route optimization also enables you to integrate new orders into your schedule where it makes the most sense, giving you the ability to get deliveries out as quickly as possible. Additionally, you can shift deliveries automatically as needed while taking delivery parameters into account, giving you the flexibility you need to instantly pivot if one of your drivers needs to call out unexpectedly due to sickness or any other problem.

Example: In times of high-volume deliveries, companies need to go beyond route planning and truly optimize their routes. With dynamic route optimization, companies can quickly re-route their drivers based on last-minute changes such as a sick driver or a sudden change to a delivery window. True route optimization also takes pressure off of drivers because their routes are planned based on their coverage regions, skill levels, and what vehicle they are using.

Integrating barcode scanning into your route management software brings your operations to a new level of efficiency. With so many essential packages in transit, being able to scan barcodes to automatically track progress and deliveries, as well as ensuring the correct package is always picked up or dropped off, makes a huge difference when dealing with high delivery volumes.

Example: For companies that are currently delivering essential goods, a sudden surge in orders and an increase in tight delivery turnaround are practically inevitable at this time. With barcode scanning, drivers can scan the barcodes for all their packages to ensure that they are keeping track of their deliveries, delivering them to the right places efficiently, and allows for more seamless day-to-day operations.

Keep Your Customers and Drivers Safe

Your customers are eager to receive their deliveries, and keeping them informed throughout the process helps to provide them with peace of mind. Software that’s tailored to your business allows you to update them automatically as their order is picked up and delivered, giving them the ability to track their order as it approaches.

This is particularly important during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, as customers are looking to minimize contact with others. Alerting them as their delivery gets closer allows them to plan to pick it up once it arrives. Giving your customers the option to specify if they want deliveries left on the porch or another location allows you to minimize contact while also satisfying their unique needs.

Example: With many people utilizing grocery delivery services to help maintain social distancing, it’s crucial that drivers take measures to ensure that they can deliver goods without interaction. By providing the customer with a specific time window and ETA, drivers can ensure that goods aren’t left unattended for extended periods before being taken in by customers. Additionally, sharing proof-of-delivery photos allows drivers to bolster customer confidence and build communication up for a more personal touch.

Once you’ve made a delivery, the software can allow you to provide a notification email in real time. With mobile devices, you can even add a photo to show where the delivery was left and offer confirmation for your customers. This type of communication is particularly important in a scenario where your drivers aren’t making face-to-face contact with customers. Filling that contact gap with digital updates allows you to ensure that your customers feel that their needs are being taken into account every step of the way.

As uncertain as things can feel for your last-mile delivery company during these trying times, the importance of the role that your business plays in your customers’ safety and comfort can’t be understated. By approaching the situation head-on and taking the necessary steps to ensure that you continue to deliver the same outstanding quality of service as always, you stand to impress your customers and leave a lasting impression that can position your business for ongoing success both during this situation and after it ends.

Start Using RouteManager!

RouteManager’s last-mile delivery software helps you cut fuel costs, increase revenue, and improve operations.

Brett is a Content Specialist at WorkWave with over a decade of professional writing experience. When he's not glued to his keyboard, he enjoys playing music, reading, playing video games, and just about anything that takes him outdoors.