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The pangs of a delivery model

Nikhil Bhat
16th Mar 2016
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It’s been close to four months since we opened the doors to our online portal on November 15. I had previously written a blog (You can read it here) on why we have the delivery model instead of a brick and mortar store. As clichéd as it may sound, a business can only survive if it solves a real problem for the customer. And our delivery model very clearly has done that. But there are always two sides to a story.

delivery_model

Image: shutterstock

The other side is the challenge of delivering every order on time. It’s a great challenge to solve and we are having fun doing it. The objective here is to share scenarios that needs to be fixed to have a smooth operation for the larger audience, including future delivery-based startups, so that they can be better prepared.

#1. The D-Day

The greatest challenge of any business is to ensure that every day runs the same way irrespective of the resources available on a particular day. Time, tide, and the customer wait for none. There have been days where we have learnt the hard way that a key resource will not be making it at the last minute and a huge pipeline of orders needs to be addressed. Other days where requisite raw materials are not available and even others where external events like a traffic jam or an accident will totally change the plan for the day. In short, Dooms day has arrived. How do you manage it? Resources cannot be infinite. Inventory can’t be huge. External factors cannot be dictated.

#2. The randomness of orders

Unlike a brick and mortar store, an online portal is always open 24/7 and 365 days a year. Orders can flow in anytime of the day or night. Although we have categories and delivery slots, the shop is open 24*7, while the employees work only nine hours a day. Even with shifts, you can’t cover more than 14 hours in a day for a model like this. Restrictions are not viable as the entire business is about convenience. For example, multiple people ordering late in the night for a morning delivery. Although we have categories that have two-hour and six-hour delivery period, customers can book cakes the previous night. However, baking starts early morning as all our orders are made fresh. Another scenario would be a slack morning and an extremely busy afternoon.

#3. The domino effect on delivery

Wikipedia describes domino effect as the cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events. With finite delivery executives, even one late delivery in the morning or any point during the day due to a plethora of reasons, including late preparation of cakes, wrong address, last minute change in address and customer not available on phone or at the delivery point leading to increased wait times, produces a domino effect. The delivery executive is going to be late for his next order and the impact continues. Add to this the randomness of orders that will spike at any point during the day.

#4. The art of saying no

Commitment is the corner stone of any business. Personally, I would think twice before committing to any order that does not meet our category guidelines. We receive calls throughout the day with customers requesting for cakes that require special work to be delivered at the earliest. Saying no for a first-time customer would kind of repel him/her from ever coming back to us again. Saying yes and not delivering as promised is going to have an even worse effect. How and when do you say no? What sort of risk are you willing to take and what will you not?

The stakes are huge as every cake is the centerpiece of a celebration and the moment is never coming back if you commit any kind of mistake.

For us, technology and a great team has been the life savers. Technology that has been tailor-made over observations on a daily basis has helped manage variation in most of scenarios. But the most important has been a great team that is ready to roll up their sleeves and face the challenge head on whenever required. We have had co-founders do deliveries, pack cakes, clean utensils and take up anything that comes in the way which will affect customer experience. Build a great team and half of your problem is solved. Technology and innovation will come in next.

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