Meeting customer expectations with on-time delivery is a priority for every on-demand delivery business. ETA mismatches & delivery delays can irreparably damage the customer relationship and overall retention rates.

A high rate of delayed deliveries is usually an indicator of poor management visibility and inefficient controls in the delivery process. Consistent inability to reduce delay rates shows up as acceptance of status quo and leads to habit formation. Regardless of the quality of services, even a single instance of delayed delivery is damaging. Unless you find a way to manage delays, they will heavily impact your business reputation, making it tough to land new customers and retain the existing ones.

With more competitors appearing in the market, offering higher service levels is table stakes. You need to fulfill your customer’s expectations and adjust to the needs of the constantly evolving market.

Agreed. But what’s next? How can your business pinpoint the bottlenecks, foresee delays, and automate delivery logistics decisions and processes?

Before we look for concrete solutions, are we sure about the real problems? Most delivery businesses fail to conquer mismatched ETAs and delayed deliveries because of prevalent myths about the root cause of the problem.

4 Myths about order ETAs and delivery delays



High Traffic and unfavorable road conditions are responsible for delivery delays

Time spent at pick up and delivery locations is  incorrectly predicted while calculating the real order ETAs, resulting in the  mismatch

Inefficient and uncooperative drivers fail to deliver on time

Incomplete and improper addresses, confusing entry points, struggle in finding parking location, and other such issues in the last 100 feet are responsible for late deliveries 

Disparity in prioritising routes and order assignments

Plans change. When orders are canceled, re-prioritized, re-routed or re-sequenced, and systems fail to dynamically manage that change, even the best routing and rostering algorithms fail to manage expectations. 

Lack of fleet visibility 

There are more than 20 reasons for tracking outages through delivery apps, each requiring a different recourse. Assumptions and speculations will fail. Identifying and actioning each one will deliver the goods.  

Breaking down the Myths and Reducing Delivery Delays

Delivery businesses with fleet sizes of over 100 delivery drivers or order volumes of over 1,000 per day usually possess the most important foundation to manage delivery operations—a  delivery management solution that constitutes a delivery driver app and an ops dashboard. As the operational processes get complex with expansion, there is always room for improvement. With other businesses competing for customer’s attention and retention, time to market becomes a valuable competitive advantage.

If your delivery business adopts a technology automation mindset and proactively addresses ground level struggles, you can build a productive delivery culture and future ROI will be sure to happen.

Myth 1: Busy roads and unfavorable road conditions are responsible for delivery delays and ETA mismatches

Reality 1: While estimating the delivery time and calculating ETAs, we often ignore measuring, learning, predicting and adding the extra time required to get the order picked up and delivered at the required locations. Digital maps provide drive times from one location to the other, and are great at factoring in road closures, live traffic and incidents that might impact ETAs. However, time taken at the place of pickup and delivery vary due to a whole different set of factors. These missed minutes result in a gap between the computed ETAs and actual delivery times.

What’s the impact?
As a customer, I am ready to wait for 30 minutes to get my order delivered, as shown on my app while making the order. But if you make me wait an extra 10 minutes, there is a 90% chance of me losing patience. Eventually, the once preferred service provider in my list would become the least preferred.

“It is your job to predict those extra 10 minutes in the computed ETA to set the right expectation and make the delivery on time.”

No delivery business wants to lose customers over a small mistake. So, how would you deal with it? Let's jump into the solution.

Solution 1 : Roads will be busy, and let digital maps predict the upcoming roadblocks. But what we can measure, anticipate and address is the ground truth at pickup and delivery locations. Use location and activity from the delivery app along with geofences to measure visit times at pickup and delivery locations. When your delivery management software calculates the delivery ETA, add the pick-up time and delivery time to the preparation time. This will help set the right expectation with the customer. The extra 10 minutes won’t hurt if the expectation is set and they’re not counting.

Myth 2: Delivery drivers are inefficient and need to be more performance-oriented. They cause unexpected delays.

Reality 2: Delivery drivers want to maximize their earnings. The better they perform, the more they earn. They often find it tough to locate a new delivery address despite a great mapping solution or navigation app. In many regions, the address geocoding is wrong or off by a few blocks. Moreover, the time spent to find parking, find the access points at the location, walk from and to the vehicle, and get through checkin and checkout processes add variance to the ETAs and end up delaying deliveries.

What’s impact?

Your driver tries to make every delivery on time and perform in line with your expectations. But due to issues in the last hundred feet, she fails to pick or deliver on time. This damages your customer relationship and plays a significant role in demotivating and discouraging your drivers.

"To make your business grow and expand, you need to empathize with your driver's situation too, in the same way that you care for your customers."

Solution 2: Like in the previous section, use locations and activity from the delivery app along with geofences to measure visit times at pickup and delivery locations. A granular understanding of the order delivery time will need to feed back into the delivery ETA computations for those locations. Geotags are a brilliant way to turn your delivery drivers into cartographers while doing exactly what they do today. Any time they mark a pick up or delivery done, geotag those locations and compare them with the expected location. As more pickups and deliveries happen at those places, you will get high confidence data about the actual location of those places. Look at it as user-generated mapping of your merchant partners and customers.

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Myth 3: Order assignments & routes are not smart enough and do not align with my business requirements, resulting in delivery delays.

Reality 3: Last-minute cancellations, customer's unavailability at home, higher priority orders inserted into the route, or last-minute change of delivery time slots happen all the time. This has a cascading effect on plans beyond the fulfillment of the affected order. These reasons play a crucial role in deviation from expected route and time of delivery. While on-ground fleet operations expect these changes, and allow for them, the delivery management software fails to keep up with these dynamic changes and factor them in as they happen.

Solution 3: Your delivery management software and routing system needs to be dynamic enough to factor in these exceptions as they happen, and automatically reset expectations for all parties. Use a system that tracks trips with pickup and delivery orders, provides order management tools to manage changes through APIs, and use this information to dynamically correct delivery ETAs. This way, every delivery is accounted for and gets fulfilled at the expected time.  

Myth 4: Mismatched ETAs and delay in deliveries occur because delivery drivers go invisible and fleet managers lose visibility.

Reality 4: Reliable access to app location is a very hard technology problem. Device operating system, app permission handling, GPS and network conditions, battery saver modes, users killing apps, are just some of a score of reasons why apps might experience a tracking outage. Technology resources are expensive, and these are deep technical problems that require Operating System expertise to get right. Justifying investment to solve these problems in-house, or pushing your delivery management technology vendor to solve them for you, are both impractical approaches.

Solution 4: Use a location SDK that gives you granular visibility of outage reasons. For outage reasons due to driver behavior, set up a workflow to notify drivers in the app to take corrective action. For outage reasons due to environmental or technology issues, increase visibility of those issues and revert to Plan B under those circumstances.  To dive deeper into this area, you can connect with tech experts to learn more.

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Get started before it's too late

Here are just a few ways to help shift the businesses mindset from reactive to proactive:

  • Re-visit your delivery management technology and processes from the ground upl
  • Ask, listen and respond to the issues reported by your drivers and fleet managers
  • Add  the power of reliable, accurate and real-time location to your delivery management solution and solve operations problems proactively
  • Set clear goals and metrics to measure on-time performance and track the difference after changing your approach

Ready to explore more?

For more information on best practices for ETA and delay tracking, check out our Trips guide. If you'd like to see how it can help your business, let's get on a call to discuss more.

Don't settle for what you have, because you deserve the best!