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Dick Stead: What couriers do well and what can be improved

By Chris Dawson June 13, 2019 - 10:10 am

With over two decades experience in the Parcel’s business, there’s not much that Dick Stead hasn’t seen. Rising through the ranks at Royal Mail he become Managing Director of Parcelforce before moving to Yodel where he was Executive Chairman for six years.

Dick has now left Yodel, spends time fishing on his boat and is a consumer, shopping online, and seeing the courier industry from the other side of the fence. Today Dick discusses that missing part of the courier jigsaw – all couriers deliver a superb service to consumers compared to two decades ago, but what about the collection side of the business?

Dick Stead: Out of the Parcels business and now a consumer

It has been interesting observing the world of parcels as a customer rather than a supplier. Like in many modern households, I am a frenetic internet shopper and tend to get multiple parcel deliveries each day.

I am visited each week by most UK parcel carriers and my experience of on-time delivery of perfectly presented parcels has been excellent.

Most parcel carriers will now give me a delivery time-slot, an ability to redirect my parcel in flight, an option to ask for the parcel to be left in my chosen safe place, or an option for me to pick the parcel up from a nearby retail store or locker box. I have received excellent service by all carriers and on the very small number of occasions when things have gone wrong I have been entirely satisfied with the steps taken by the retailer and their parcel carrier to rectify the issue.

It is also exciting to see so many retailers innovating and allowing me to order later in the day and offering me a range of delivery options. Most retailers are working hand in glove with their parcel carriers to make sure that their sales promises can be met in full by their delivery partners.

I have so many delivery options to choose from including same day, nominated day and in some cases I can even specify my chosen timeslot on my chosen day.

The age of near perfect parcel delivery has arrived and I am a very satisfied Internet shopper.

How couriers innovated and what does has it cost?

For parcel carriers the route to improving home delivery has been a costly affair and their investments to achieve near perfect deliveries are not always reflected in the price they can charge to the retailer. I am convinced that parcel delivery prices will have to rise to better reflect the costs of near perfect delivery if we want to maintain a vibrant and innovative parcel industry. It’s funny that a relatively modest price increase is probably all that is needed to change the fortunes of the majority of parcel carriers.

The inconvenience of ad hoc Parcel collections

With the parcel carriers’ singe minded focus on developing the highest quality delivery experience it is not surprising that the same rapid improvement in performance has not been seen in parcel collections, particularly for small businesses sending less than 100 parcels per week.

Parcel carriers are very good at doing large and medium sized scheduled collections from larger businesses, but the smaller trader who orders collections on an ad hoc basis continues to get a sub-standard collection service with same day collection efficiency often below 80% and sometimes below 50%.

To get into the higher end of the efficiency range the small trader has to place collection requests very early in the morning so their collections can be scheduled in amongst the drivers timed delivery schedule. Few small traders take all their orders so early in the morning; orders taken later in the day inevitable miss being collected in the same day and result in the small trader getting, at best, a 48 hour end to end delivery service.

Some parcel carriers actively steer away from doing business with these small traders because they cannot effectively do ad-hoc, low volume, collections efficiently and effectively.

The small, ad-hoc, senders have a personal attachment to each order they receive; they know failed collections will damage their businesses. It hits them in their own pocket and can damage their reputations through negative marketplace feedback. So many small businesses make repeated calls into the parcel carrier for assurance that their collection will be made and demand to know when their parcels will be collected. Handling a high level of inbound customer service calls quickly turns a profitable parcel into a loss making parcel for the parcel carrier and reinforces their view to stay out of this marketplace.

As a result parcel prices offered by parcel carriers tend to be high and many small traders are forced to drop their parcels off at a post office or a parcel shop. This latter route works well for many small traders but for some, having to leave their shop/phone for an hour to drop off parcels is not an effective use of their time.

The lack of reliable ad-hoc, same–day, parcel collection services is placing small businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to large businesses and to me this does not seem right. This is the reason many small businesses are reluctant to develop an Internet based sales channel.

Our small business community should play on a level playing field and be given every chance to reach their full potential, which for many would include a multi-channel sales strategy. Effective and sensibly priced parcel collection will play a big part in achieving this objective.

For a parcel carrier industry with a track record in innovation and solution development, this should be an easy one to solve…..

  • jim
    2 months ago

    couriers pat their selves on the back and self congratulate
    for doing what they are in the business of doing, and take payment for,
    as a small business we dont what bells and whistles, we simply want reliability and accountability,
    royal mail especially use terms and condition to squirm out of responsibility,

    • Dick stead
      2 months ago

      Jim
      I agree reliability is key. And when things don’t go to plan you need it sorting out so I agree accountability is another key requirement.
      Best regards
      Dick

    • jim
      2 months ago

      we currently mostly use RM 24 non tracked RM enthuse and prattle about it receiving a scan on delivery
      but its erratic and unreliable if a simple scan is beyond them ,what hope anything more complicated,
      ebay buyers just love to claim non delivery when they fail to scan, RM just shrug our complaints off
      they seem not to grasp their monopoly was in the past , our business will be going elsewhere very shortly

  • Toby
    2 months ago

    ‘ I have received excellent service by all carriers and on the very small number of occasions when things have gone wrong I have been entirely satisfied with the steps taken by the retailer and their parcel carrier to rectify the issue. ‘ Wow? He never said he worked for Ebay PR now?!!
    I find it very hard to believe this. Most people you speak to have had horrible experiences with various couriers… indeed yesterday i had a box left outside my front door in the rain…. the box was clearly marked as keep dry and was a signed for at address only delivery… Apparantly i signed for it! Today i get into the warehouse to find a stack of boxes left outside, again in the rain…. wet and lucky they weren’t nicked.
    Please can i have his couriers.

    • Dick stead
      2 months ago

      Hi Toby
      I must just have e good drivers in my area but I know I am not alone. Why not provide a water resistant box for the courier to place your parcel in? I do and I never have problems with wet parcels.
      Thx
      Dick

    • Toby
      2 months ago

      Dick…. When i send items as signed for only, they shouldn’t need the extra time and expense of an extra water proof box. The whole idea is that someone takes them in. If they need a water proof box to protect from being left outside, then they are not being delivered correctly.
      The reason we send as ‘signed for at delivery address only’, is due to the amount of fraud taking place. If we allow them to be left at other places we often find that it is denied that they were there or received. So by stating (and selecting the option) to be at delivery address only we can atleast guarantee that they were signed for at that address.
      Making it the senders fault for a couriers error is one fo the issue in the courier industry… and you have just proved it.
      It is bad enough with our coruier charging us a £55 ‘admin fee’, if they mess up and we try and claim. Yes… they lose the parcel, smash it etc… we have to pay the first £55 of the claim. Nice little money earner. Far too many items go missing at the depots… ‘we have lost visual’ is the term they use. Meaning, someone on site has nicked it. Last year 2 x 30kg boxes containing swimming pools went to the depot… and were never seen again…. 2 x £55 admin fees! This is courier industry you seem blind to.
      Sorry but you can look at it through rose tinted glasses all you want, but it doesn’t change the issues. We are not alone in our experiences either, many of our competitors and suppliers report similar issues. In fairness RM are no better..

    • Dick Stead
      2 months ago

      Hi Toby

      Yes I agree signed for items should be handed to the recipient and a signature taken. Sorry, I was referring to signature not required items.

  • Nic
    2 months ago

    The couriers round here can be quite aggressive; banging on doors, upsetting neighbours, and tearing round the village at some speed in order to make their money. Hardly any good for road safety or the environment.

    It’s so hit and miss, and such a risk of upsetting my neighbours, that I never buy from sellers using a courier.

    That being said, I’m perfectly happy buying if I can pick up using eBay’s click and collect service at my local Argos, or an Amazon locker, but the business model that involves van drivers hurtling round, desperate to offload their parcels to neighbours, or bang on doors sometimes well into the evening is, frankly, both socially and environmentally unsustainable.

    For most buyers, and probably most small scale sellers too, lockers or drop off/collection points, within walking or cargo bike distance, are the key to efficiency, convenience and sustainability.

    • SAM
      2 months ago

      That all comes from pressure on drivers ( many working for pennies) , pressured by logistic managers to hit TIMED delivery slots, given poor Nat nav technology and poorer maintained transport if they are not having to use their own.
      The speeding to hit some stupid target made by some logistic manager ticking boxes and looking at a map will lead to a very serious accident soon.
      All so someone can get their delivery.
      Lockers etc, and how we actually receive our delivery is what need to be looked at

  • Darren
    2 months ago

    Dick Stead went from working at Parcelforce to Yodel, Yodel!!! WHo in their right mind would want to work for the UKs worst carrier? With such a bad career choice, how can anyone take anything he says seriously?

    • 2 months ago

      Someone who wanted the challenge of turning around a courier with a poor reputation to one which today is considerably better

  • jim
    2 months ago

    https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/yodel.com

    yodel.com
    Reviews 2,137 • Bad

    can we take anyone seriously?

  • Nick M
    2 months ago

    That’s the wrong Yodel Trustpilot page – they are reviewed as “great” with 125, 943 reviews. This is the correct one:

    https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/yodel.co.uk

  • jim
    2 months ago

    who do you believe ?

  • Nick M
    2 months ago

    One’s got 2,000 odd reviews and the other has over 125,000 reviews – so I’ll go for the second!!

  • Jim
    2 months ago

    We dont know which is correct
    But why 2?
    We simply carried our a basic google search

  • Mark
    2 months ago

    Go to official Yodel website, click at bottom, simples.

  • Nick M
    2 months ago

    @Jim – Yodel.com isn’t their web address to start off with. Stick it into your browser and see for yourself.

  • Nic
    2 months ago

    As (mainly) a buyer, here’s a few tips for you sellers who use couriers.

    There’s a “click and collect” button in the left hand column of the eBay site, so that I don’t have to worry about the hassle of coursers banging on my neighbours’ doors, or indeed mine late into the evenings. I click it, so if you’re not offering “click and collect” then your product is completely invisible. If I were a betting man, I’d suggest that before long, eBay might add a few more of those boxes you can tick; a Royal Mail box for instance, or a “collect from a locker” box. As sellers, you need to be ahead of the game in anticipating these options that sellers might be given in the future.

    For small items , capable of being put through a letter box, I will buy from sellers who offer delivery via Royal Mail because they drive sensibly. This is important to understand, because more and more of us are aware of the impact of vans or cars being driven aggressively, with the increased danger and environmental impact this will cause. Obviously, if you pay couriers per delivery they will drive aggressively – it’s human nature, and it’s pretty bonkers for any society to have “professional” drivers effectively being paid according to how fast they drive. More and more of your customers will be becoming “emissions aware” and this will affect your sales if you rely on aggressive, pay per drop, delivery methods.

    If, as a seller, you are using a courier service, then you need to offer “click and collect” where possible, try to offer locker drop-off options, and perhaps a Royal Mail option in the drop down menu shipping choices. Personally, I’m happy to pay extra for a Royal Mail delivery, if it’s available as an option. And, whatever you do, don’t claim you offer Royal Mail, then discover the parcel was slightly over 2kg, and think it’s a smart idea to use a courier instead; because if you do, you’ll risk non-acceptance.

    Finally, for goodness sake tell potential customers how you’re going to ship. You’ve just got a few seconds before someone using a smartphone scrolls down to the next seller, so don’t force them into extra hassle through having to click the postage section in order to discover how you’re going to ship. Lots of buyers will have their own courier preferences, perhaps following a bad experience, and they may be comfortable about ordering from you if your chosen courier is ok with them. But if you leave them in the dark, they might buy from a rival seller who gives more information about which courier they use.

    • Jim
      2 months ago

      Not enough hours in the day or options available to keep every buyer happy
      It has to be cost effective and profitable

    • Nic
      2 months ago

      I understand that, Jim, and those sellers have to decide whether spending little extra time (sometimes just a few seconds per listing) is a good investment for them.
      But I suspect that many sellers simply have no idea that offering a wider choice of shipping options, or at least some clarity as to which courier they will be using, can boost their sales.
      The thing we all have to remember is that many potential customers aren’t at home during the day, don’t want their neighbours upset, don’t want to be disturbed in the evening, and don’t want their neighbourhood or their environment compromised by aggressive drivers who are paid so poorly that they are forced to drive aggressively.
      If sellers just settle back in the belief buyers don’t think about these things, or consider that it’s not “profitable” to provide even a little information in their listings, then that complacency will inevitably be reflected in their sales.

    • Rob
      2 months ago

      Nic, most customers just want it free and cheap. Even when postage is included in the price I still get customers wanting more money off and postage included. Had one recently ask for money off a large item which would cost around £20 to ship due to size. When offering to take that off if they sent their own postage label or collect, customer comes back with I thought postage was free. If its free send me your own postage label.

      Trouble is if I put MyHermes, Royal Mail, UPS options for delivery. That is either more collections or drop off for me as a business. Plus if a customer has booked RM but their website is down or a busy time of the year and they can’t cope I can easily send via another courier. If a buyer has selected RM and it gets delivered via a different courier then knowing ebay buyers they would complain.

  • jim
    2 months ago

    were anything but complacent were constantly tweaking altering and experimenting
    though we need to go for mid range and above on the graf
    plus few things take a few seconds when ebay are involved

  • Jim
    2 months ago

    Or put another way no restaurant
    Can cater for every diet or taste

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