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The Way To Better Logistics For Small Businesses In Nigeria.
How can small businesses solve the many challenges we face in the logistics and delivery space? This article provides some helpful tips.
My name is Friday. I am the Operations Assistant at TVP Games. At TVP, we deal with multiple deliveries every day as well as logistic operations to get our games around the world. Working in this space, I encounter several challenges daily and this article will share some of the ways we solve these problems. Business of Play is the newsletter curated by team members at TVP Games. As we design games and build toys, we write about our insights here. Subscribe and share this newsletter to learn more about how we are building a game company that’s learning to master logistics.
Logistics can make or break any business and it is important to get it right. In many countries, delivery services can be unreliable and expensive and this is true especially in Nigeria. However, when you make a promise to deliver your products to your customer, you make a logistic promise to them. That’s why you need to do all you can to close some of the gaps that exist.
Step 1: Take time to make a solid plan.
It is important to plan as much as you can in order to cut down the surprises that may come your way. You will face surprises, but the fewer decisions you have to make when things go wrong, the better for you. A good logistics plan is clear and concise, and is understood by everyone involved.
Practical Example: Whenever a game order is received on our site, we send the delivery details to our dispatch partners and then we assign a delivery route to the dispatcher, depending on the other games that have to be delivered as well as the location of delivery. We know that it makes sense to pair Ajah and Sangotedo orders together and then pair Surulere and Yaba orders together. This ensures that our dispatch riders can deliver as efficiently as possible. Also, all customers are called at the start of the delivery day to clarify their delivery instructions and directions to their delivery location. This makes it easier for the dispatch rider to find them.
Step 2: Always have a backup plan.
No matter how foolproof you think your first plan is, it can go wrong. If your product is delivered in Lagos or anywhere in Nigeria, you can count on several things to go wrong. It is important to stay vigilant throughout every step of the logistics process so that as soon as there are fires, you can put them out.
Practical Example: A rider was on the way to make an urgent delivery when his bike broke down. He had to find a way to get his bike fixed and couldn’t continue with the delivery. We were able to call on our backup delivery service to meet him at the point where his bike broke down, retrieve the item, and deliver it to the customer. The original biker was then able to focus on getting his bike fixed.
Step 3: Hire a logistics manager with strong interpersonal skills.
A good logistics manager should know how to speak with all types of people - from the easygoing to the difficult. Sometimes, you will deal with difficult customs officers and other times, you will deal with upset customers or unruly dispatch riders. It is important to know how to handle everyone depending on the situation. It is also important to know the right things to say to them, and maintain a good relationship. Many customers can handle errors from a company, if these errors are handled proactively and politely.
Practical Example: We had an order come in to Port Harcourt and the order was delivered in good time. However, when the customer received it, he had the wrong game sent to him. When we discovered the cause of this mix-up, we apologized to the customer and promised to send the correct game to him. We also informed him that we would pick up the incorrect game from him. In addition, we offered a discount for the incorrect game, if he was interested. He took up the offer!
Step 4: Automate your systems wherever you can.
The world is constantly changing and it is important to keep up with these changes. When you receive orders, you’ll need a system that can accurately track your payments, deliveries, returns and even complaints. This could take up a lot of your time so use shop platforms like Shopify to automate as much as you can. Also, work with your delivery partners to plug into your automated systems. This helps you keep an eye on everything at every stage. For example, if you have a delivery from Lagos to Abuja, you want to know the status of the delivery even before the customer calls to complain about delays.
Practical Example: There was a mix up with a customer's delivery sometime ago and even though the customer complained that they had not received it, I did not have any system to track where the package got lost. After that, we started recording all deliveries so that we know where every product is at every time.
Step 5: Learn from your mistakes.
Working as an Operations Assistant at TVP Games has taught me a lot about learning lessons and documenting these lessons in our processes. Once you are able to think this way you won't have a problem learning from any mistake you make. Whenever we make a mistake with our deliveries, we discuss the mistake and how we can fix them for the future.
Practical Example: I once had a situation where I forgot to send out a customer's order, simply because it was part of a large dispatch set of the day. It was a bad mistake to make and we didn’t realize that I had omitted that order until the customer called to complain that they had not yet received it. This error led to a system where we run orders down a line of 3 team members and then document every order to the point of delivery.
Step 6: Communicate clearly and proactively.
One of the most important things in logistics is having a good communication system that works for you, your delivery partners and your customers. It is important that everyone on the team understands the language and voice of the company, so they can communicate information in a structured way. Also, it is better to communicate delays or errors with your customers before they complain about them.
Practical Example: A rider went to deliver a package to a customer in Lagos but did not meet the customer at home. Instead of communicating this, the rider took the game back home hoping to quickly deliver it the next day. He also told us that the delivery was complete. Well, the customer called the next day to complain that he had not received his game and only then did the rider share information about his plan. We were able to provide a clear communication plan to our delivery partners so that this does not happen again.
Step 7: Under promise and over deliver.
It is better to manage the expectations of your customers and then pleasantly surprise them with an early delivery, than to promise a swift delivery and fail on that promise. Always give a buffer to allow for delays, and the ghosts that plague logistics in Nigeria.
Practical Example: We promise a next day delivery timeframe in Lagos and Abuja, where we keep our game stock. However, the majority of our games in these cities are delivered on the same day, to the delight of our customers. By promising next day deliveries, we can give room for any challenges that may come up and still have time to deliver on schedule.
In summary, while we continue to face several challenges in the logistics and delivery space, we have come a long way. With consistency, hardwork and integrity, it becomes a lot easier to deal with these challenges.
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