Cabinet Maker spoke to Tim Aspey, managing director at furniture logistics specialist Andrew Porter Ltd about the importance of direct home delivery when it comes to brand reputation for manufacturers and retailers and finds out more about the company’s recent and significant investment in its direct home delivery services

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Established for over 20 years

Say the word ‘brand’ and what image is conjured up?  A logo, perhaps corporate colours, a slogan or some associations with a particular product.  But in reality, a brand and its values go much deeper and take hard work, planning, effort and expense to build.  In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are highly conscious of the effects that positive brand reputation has on the bottom line, and that’s something that’s so important to protect and nurture.

In the furniture industry, a brand has many customer ‘touchpoints’ to consider and to manage, for some of which it must inevitably put its faith in third parties to act as guardians. Whether the brand is a manufacturer or retailer, one of the most important of those customer interactions is with its product deliveries.  This ‘back end’ element of brand can sometimes be overlooked or considered an area where savings can be made.  However it is vital to maintain brand values and standards throughout a customer’s entire experience.

“The motion furniture customer in particular has unique expectations and needs for which the whole delivery experience must be designed.”

A less than satisfactory home delivery experience, particularly with a high value item, can leave a customer in a negative frame of mind, looking for blame with any parties, including the manufacturer and retailer.  This can not only be extremely time consuming to resolve, but it could have lasting damage, particularly via negative reviews or word of mouth exchanges.

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Delivering the best service

There is a high amount of pressure involved with maintaining success and when you’re dealing with high volumes of expensive furniture from various suppliers and with a huge variety of delivery addresses and requirements, there are inevitably risks involved.  With riser recliner chairs, recliners and adjustable beds, there are also numerous delicate moving parts to protect and products often come in sections.  Our approach is to minimise any risk at every stage.

The most important element of all is communication, as the risks of one of the many elements of a delivery being miscommunicated are considerable, when you take account of all the parties involved in the chain. The motion furniture customer in particular has unique expectations and needs for which the whole delivery experience must be designed and manufacturers and retailers wishing to do so should be looking for a service offering which puts communication and customer service at the very forefront.  

We have been providing DHD, retail delivery and warehousing for more than 20 years, specialising in motion furniture, and we have 100 staff members and 50 vehicles completing deliveries throughout the UK.  At this time of year planning and routing is even more vital than ever, as workload increases by 25% in order to fulfil pre-Christmas orders.  So whilst we are delighted that our careful planning and execution of deliveries has enabled a success rate of higher than 99%, we continue to invest, for example with the significant investment recently made in our direct home delivery services.

Manufacturers and retailers should look out for a six-step proposition like ours, which concentrates on keeping the customer at home in the picture at all times. Does your current logistics partner:

1. Set a delivery date with the customer?

2. Offer a three-hour delivery window?

3. Telephone the customer an hour before delivery to confirm arrival?  

4. Deliver to a room of their choice?

5. Provide a product demonstration, remove of packaging and clean up with hand-held vacuums, before photographing the goods in situ?  

6. Have a customer services team which will then follow up with the customer within 24-hours of delivery to answer any queries and action anything which arises?

We developed the proposition in conjunction with our customers, to ensure we’re providing the very best service to meet their needs. The intention is to eliminate as many issues or uncertainties as possible by focusing on clarity of communication.  This also saves any additional work from the retailer or manufacturer.

As part of the investment we have also recently appointed Hayley Ashton as home delivery manager.  Hayley has eight years’ experience with the company, previously working as customer service manager.  She has returned to take this position after maternity leave and says it has been an exciting challenge to develop the new customer proposal.

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Hayley Ashton

It is also important to consider the way in which crews interact with customers – in fact, it is just as important as the successful delivery of the product itself.  For this reason we never subcontract any work.  All of our crews are trained in-house at our purpose built training centre, in order to be sure of the very highest standards of handling and customer care.  

We believe that when customers pay a lot of money for an item of furniture, they have every right to expect the best service at every stage.  When smart, uniformed crews arrive in a clean vehicle, and interact politely and professionally, this gives a great impression of not only of the logistics company, but the brands it represents.