A beeper, that is.
With a polite nod to American Express, I'd like to add a word to their famous slogan and suggest you make sure your delivery crews "don't leave home base without it."
"It" isn't a credit card. "It" is a simple procedure for keeping in touch with your store's operations people.
Some stores give their men beepers-the fastest way to alert them to get in touch. But having them check in by phone within specific hours -let's say mid-morning, right after lunch and before heading back- works almost as well.
Either way can save you a surprising number of crew hours each week. You can, for instance, give your men last-minute schedule changes such as canceled deliveries and add-one such as pickups along their route.
If your men encounter mechanical difficulties and report them promptly, you might be able to save the day, literally, by sending out a replacement truck. At the very least, you'll be able to phone your customers explain matters and work out new delivery dates.
Talking with your men two or three times a day, you can learn about problems and act quickly. Just as quick response makes a difference in fighting fires, it makes a customer relations difference.
It may seem to go without saying but say it to your men anyway-problems such as damaged goods, wrong colors, wrong styles, etc. should be reported as soon as they're discovered. In fact, it's best to do this while still in the customer's home-so someone at the store can talk directly with her.
Also, make it company policy that mum's the word for drivers in such situations. A well-meaning driver can easily say the exact opposite of what your customer relations people would say.
Whether you beep your delivery crews or they buzz you, a procedure that keeps you and them in touch has got to save you substantial time and money. It also has got to do you a lot of customer relations good too.
So, again with a polite nod to American Express, make sure your delivery crews don't leave home base without it.