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Not Just for Doctors’ Offices: Reminders Help Reduce Late Arrivals, Missed Deliveries

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What scenario comes to mind when someone says the word “appointment”? Maybe a planned visit to the doctor or dentist. Or perhaps an upcoming tennis or golf lesson.

One thing that probably does not come to mind is your inbound deliveries. But, maybe they should.

Study after study has shown that reminders of any kind can help reduce the “no-show” rate at businesses and organizations of all sizes and scopes of service. Whether it’s a phone reminder, an e-mail message or a postcard sent through the mail, these can help reduce the no-show rate by as much as 75 percent. Not only can these help eliminate the frustration of time slots going unfulfilled, but they can also help lower overall expenses and increase revenue.

For most businesses and organizations, an unfilled time slot means lost revenue. Take, for instance, a physician, massage therapist or chiropractor. A missed appointment equates into lost revenue, even if the businesses charges a missed appointment fee. It’s a time slot that could have been used for another appointment.

But what about a manufacturer, distribution center, warehouse or other material handling facility that receives inbound shipments? Technically, time slots scheduled for deliveries don’t have a direct monetary value assigned to them for the service performed, unlike that of the aforementioned examples.

However, late or missed deliveries can have just as great an impact—and in some instances, more so—as missed appointments or reservations have on other businesses and organizations.

One the main operational components of an inbound material-handling site that’s affected by this is staffing. Dock managers and supervisors try to schedule their workers around the day’s or week’s deliveries. So, when a scheduled delivery is either late or whose whereabouts are unknown, the manager must quickly alter the schedules of employees to accommodate this. Whether it’s keeping on-duty employees around past the end of their shifts or calling in staff currently not on the clock, both result in one major operating expense: overtime pay.

As discussed in an earlier column, a dock-scheduling process for inbound deliveries is the one of the best solutions for not only managing carriers and shipments, but for also developing a more efficient on-site operation. By knowing the specific times drivers and shipments will arrive, dock managers can better plan their workers’ schedules. Without it, facilities are often privy to periods of either non-stop deliveries and truck backups or extended periods of inactivity with workers waiting around for the next delivery.

While an implemented scheduling procedure will most certainly improve the docking and delivery process, a few late or missing deliveries could still occur. This is where an appointment reminder comes into play.

While most would agree on the effectiveness of appointment reminders, many also simultaneously cringe at the idea of actually making reminder phone calls or composing individual e-mail messages to carriers or drivers. Let’s face it, appointment reminders are time-consuming and tedious (and it’s for this reason that some businesses and organizations have discontinued the practice).

However, one cannot deny their effectiveness. And with some online dock-scheduling process, these reminders can be generated and sent automatically, without the need for dispatchers or dock staff to focus any of their time on them.

For those facilities that utilize dock-scheduling software and require drivers to book their scheduled delivery times online, the system can be set to instantly schedule an e-mail or text message reminder once a scheduled delivery time has been selected and confirmed. Prior to the scheduled delivery time, the driver will receive the reminder, thereby further increasing the likelihood of an on-time delivery.

Given the prevalence of smartphones, in-truck computers and other Internet-connected devices utilized by today’s carriers and drivers, an e-mail reminder or text message is undoubtedly the best means of informing them of their upcoming scheduled deliveries. They receive these immediately and conveniently, without having to pick up the phone or shuffle through printed schedules or paperwork.

It’s a dual-benefit: the driver is reminded of his or her scheduled delivery time, while the facility can better schedule their workers’ daily and weekly shifts.

Appointment reminders have been a staple of the services sector for as long as most of us can remember. Their longevity can be attributed to one thing: they work. Inbound material-handling facilities that incorporate them into their overall delivery scheduling operations usually see an immediate positive impact in their overall operations.

When looking for ways to improve your on-site docking operations, don’t forget about delivery appointments!

About the Author: Eric Richard is the senior technology writer at Appointment-Plus (, the worldwide experts in online scheduling solutions and creators of the most flexible and feature-rich software application used by distributors, warehouses, manufacturers and other inbound material-handling facilities to manage their deliveries. The online scheduling application has booked over 80 million appointments and reservations since 2001.