In the fast paced IT industry we frequently hear about the latest disruptive technology, or the newest product coming to market. Technical solutions providers are also equally keen to tell you about their accreditations and vendor relationships to demonstrate their expertise, experience and knowledge. While this is essential, it often overshadows one crucial aspect of the deployment process – logistics.
Good logistics not only benefits customers, but solutions providers too. The quicker they can get stock to their customers and the more flexible they are in meeting unique logistical requests, the greater their competitive advantage.
A customer requesting five items in five days may not be a problem, but what about a customer who wants five boxes by tomorrow, in multiple locations across the world?
Tight schedules for upgrades or repairs require high levels of assurance that equipment will be delivered when and where required. Delays can cause disruption, expense and potential reputation damage. Customers need to be able to fully rely on a partner who understands the importance of logistics. The ability to meet these demands will distinguish a business, and will take it from being simply a supplier to becoming a ‘valued business partner’.
Of course, it goes without saying effective logistical ability establishes good customer relations. Contrary to what many may espouse, it is not ‘all about the price’– customers today are looking for the ‘whole package’, a total solution. Put simply, if yours is the type of business that is willing and able to meet requests to the letter with ease and speed, your customers will keep coming back – and there is no better press than a satisfied customer.
So what exactly should you be looking for when assessing whether a potential technical solutions provider has successful business logistics?
Ensure they use at least one high-level carrier, which is able to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The better this relationship, and the closer a provider works with their carrier, the better the service you will receive.
The ability to quickly deliver stock is only part of the package. Equally as important is having a degree of experience in such matters – especially when there is a need to have global reach. This is when a customer should be careful to partner with a business that has knowledge and familiarity of global logistics – do they understand the ever-changing import and export regulations of different countries? Do they have the ability to manage the process at the other end?
White glove services
White glove services are specialist services that go beyond a standard door to door delivery service. Look for an organisation that is flexible and can give customer examples of:
- Same day delivery – essential for reducing downtime during equipment failure.
- Timed services and Saturday delivery – can they work out of hours?
- Unpacking and assembly – taking equipment out of the box and assembling it.
- Setup and configuration – getting you running in the fastest time.
- Debris removal – the removal of packing material and environmental disposal.
- Removal of old equipment – disposal of old equipment to WEEE guidelines.
It is important to get an understanding of what their current customer base is like. Make sure they show solid, concrete examples of what they have done for these organisations. This will help you establish whether they are good fit for your company, and also whether they are able to prove the services they advertise.
- Size and scale – is the company large enough to meet the scale of your needs?
- Vertical – do they understand the specifics needs of your industry?
- Type – can they fulfil your requirements?
- Experience – can they provide examples and references you can speak to?
- Ask to see their facilities – do they meet your standards?
It is worth remembering that logistics is not solely about getting an item from point A to point B. Managing inventory also falls under this category and a good technical solutions partner can help with this. For example, look for a partner that also offers virtual warehousing.
Virtual warehousing is a term that encompasses a wide range of services. But at its core, virtual warehousing entails the holding of your stock in a secure, separate environment. This can be expanded to include directly shipping to different locations, equipment testing and pre-staging services.
Pre-staging – is generally driven by a need to support a customer roll-out or pre-staged stock that is being held to support run-rate capacity requirements that are ideally fulfilled via a “just-in-time” deployment model.
Managed costs – aside from ease, virtual warehousing offers another key benefit. Warehousing is neither cheap nor easy – it can cost a great deal of money to set up, staff and run. By relying on virtual warehousing and ensuring you have none of the overheads that come with stocking up your own warehouse, you can complete projects on time and, crucially, on budget. Virtual Warehousing is generally the result of detailed collaboration regarding budgetary requirements and design consolidation. The end result being simplification of CAPEX / OPEX for budget forecasting.
It goes without saying that ensuring your potential solutions partner is able to offer state-of-the-art products. But always be sure that their logistics, that bed rock of customer service, are smooth, well-managed, and proven.
By Paul Bonner, Group Head of Technology at Hardware.com