Last Mile Delivery: Communication is Key

By Alex Batty, MHI Marketing Communications Coordinator |@mhi_alex

Happy Wednesday y’all. Story time!

I recently bought a mattress.


Sort of. But we’ll circle back to that.

I picked out the perfect bed (suuuuuper plush, 14in, with a back support zone. I like ’em squishy), tried it out in a store, then ordered it online at a way better price.

The online company’s process is they have the factory make the bed after it’s ordered (so they don’t have a bunch of stock just lying around) and then a last mile delivery partner will drop the bed at your door, or in your door, depending on which delivery option you selected.

And it went great. The order process was easy, I got my order confirmation email and later my “the factory has finished it and delivered it to the last mile partner for final delivery” and was told that the last mile company would contact me for final delivery.


I get a delivery date, and the day before I get a delivery window. And then I get a voicemail.

“So… we just looked at the tag on the mattress and it looks like the factory gave us a full, not a queen, so we’re going to file a notice with the mattress company and send it back. You might want to contact them to make sure it goes through.”

Okay. Fair enough. So I get on the mattress company’s help site and I submit a little chat request and it sends me an email with a help ticket confirmation.

And I think that’s that.

But a week goes by and I haven’t heard anything and I can hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head telling me I need to call and follow up, so I do.

And the mattress company tells me that this is the first they’ve heard of the problem and they’re going to have to chase the problem and get back to me.

All right. *deep breath* Not the mattress company’s fault, but at this point, I start getting anxious. There’s a 2 week lead time on new delivery and I’m headed home for the holidays. There is going to be a point of no return to receive delivery.

I anxiously wait for another week before I call back, again my mother’s voice telling me I need to be a grown-up and follow up. So I call back again. This time, the very nice customer service rep told me they’ve tried to follow-up with the last mile company, but have been having a hard time, but she’ll try them now if I want to stay on the line.

I’m not dumb. I say yes. I gotta get this wrapped up. So I’m hold for about 20 minutes and when the CS rep gets back on the line, she says that the last mile company is giving her the runaround and keeps changing their story, and at this point she’s just going to mark the goods as lost and offers either to reship a new mattress or give me a refund.

At this point I feel I should say I’m still happy with the mattress company. I took the refund, but only because I’m going to be gone before they can ship out a new mattress. I’ll reorder the exact same bed from the same company and be perfectly happy about it.

But I’m sharing this story because there’s a lesson to be learned for supply chain.

As a customer, I’m fine. A little inconvenienced, but they gave me my money back, so I haven’t lost anything.

But the company just had to eat a $700 loss (you see why I was happy with the price!!!) all because they didn’t have a follow-up system in place with their last mile partner. It would have been so simple for them to check with the last mile company that they got the right goods delivered to them. And then to follow up after the delivery was supposed to have been completed to make sure the customer signed for it. At that point, they would have noticed something was wrong and been able to fix it.

Much of the talk in supply chain about last mile has to do with urban city logistics, or rural logistic efficiency, or using fancy technology to complete the last mile, but the basics of effective supply chains still apply.

You have to know where your stuff is. You have to communicate with your partners. You have to have a system in place to follow-up on delivery and ensure the customer gets the product.

Move. Store. Control. Protect.

Blockchain might be a good fit for this situation. A blockchain ledger could help all the parties in this situation see where the SNAFU really happened and who is telling the truth.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about communication, in whatever way is most effective for your supply chain. Make sure you and your partners and the customer are talking to each other and have transparency. It’s not just about the technology and the moving parts, it’s about the information and the communication procedures you put in place – whether it’s manufacturing, warehousing, 3PL, or even last mile, all the pieces of your supply chain need to have open lines of communication.

(And as someone with a communications (soft skills) background living in an mechanical (hard skills) industry, that pleases me to no end. We need both, y’all.)