In the Bloom with Maria: How to create a budget-friendly delivery service

Added August 27, 2020
In the Bloom with Maria

We’re over halfway through 2020 and I’ve noticed several trends rising throughout the horticulture industry. One of the most notable developments is how flower and plant delivery services have transitioned from their traditional status as a nice-to-have differentiator to a now-standard consumer expectation—one that could be, in fact, vital for the survival of a business.

As you consider, implement, or even tweak your delivery service, it’s important to consider how doing so can maximize the profitability of your business and provide better, more marketable customer service. It’s not enough to simply add a delivery service. We want to make sure you can do it profitably and use it as a differentiator.

In a 2019 webinar, veteran floral industry accountant and Floral Management Magazine contributor Paul Goodman, MBA, CPA, PFCI, described the key factors to creating profitable deliveries. During his presentation, he encouraged industry businesses to review past orders and delivery trends. In doing so, you can accurately predict the number of drivers you’ll need, understand delivery-related costs, and simplify the delivery zones in your business area.

Prepare your plan

As you plan your delivery needs, base it on the tendencies you see. Ask yourself these questions when building out your delivery plan. If you can’t answer these questions, consider speaking with a specialist at Hortica to help you plan. They’ll be able to spot opportunities and make recommendations you might not have considered yet.

  • Where do orders come from?
  • How far do you have to travel and at what times of day?
  • Do you have what you need to secure deliveries and ensure they are received by someone or packaged securely at the location?
  • What insurance coverages do you need for your drivers, vehicles or products?

Update existing policies and conduct pro-active reviews

Creating a plan to implement a delivery program also requires updating your plans and policies associated with delivery drivers. Here are a few areas to start with:

  • Reducing delivery distance: If the outer limits of your delivery zone aren’t seeing moderate to high orders, consider reducing the zone to limit the amount of time your drivers are on the road, the distance they travel, and their overall exposure to driving risks.
  • Offering no-contact delivery: The COVID-19 pandemic has put safety at the top of mind for many customers and employees. Consider offering no-contact deliveries and online payments to help streamline the process. If you do offer this option, regularly post it to your company’s social media channels and website to grow awareness amongst your customers and set expectations for what the process looks like ahead of time.
  • Reviewing seasonal driver DMV records: Check your drivers' motor vehicle records (MVRs) to identify any violations or other issues. Plan to do this regularly. 
  • Instituting a drug-free workplace program: Establish and enforce a rule that prohibits drug and/or alcohol use while on the job.
  • Holding annual reviews: Use this information to determine which temporary drivers you want back. 

Protect your vehicles, drivers, and others

Once you’ve evaluated past orders, customer needs, the trends you’ve experienced, and updated driver records, it’s time to turn your attention to the focal point of any delivery service—vehicle safety. Every day, your drivers and products face potential hazards. In fact, driving-related jobs are often identified among the most dangerous occupations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can reduce these risks by establishing a successful vehicle loss control program. If you’re unsure of where to start, we can help show you how to make these elements work for your business.

The Hortica vehicle loss control program consists of helping you establish six key elements:

 1. Management leadership and support: Create a culture that prioritizes safe deliveries, starting with your management team and the tone they set each day. This can improve employee engagement and retention, while boosting the appeal of your business as an employer.

2. Driver selection: Whether you’re hiring for a seasonal or permanent driving position, weigh factors ranging from driving tests and accident records to reference checks and their actual interview with your staff.

3. Driver training: Implement a training program that extends beyond an initial one-time training. Hold refreshers and remedial training to help drivers maintain their skills and correct poor driving habits. Reinforcing what matters and what works helps keep your team engaged in safety so you reduce risk and improve performance.

4. Driver supervision: When your team is on the road, it’s hard to monitor their performance or remind them of best practices. Pair each disciplinary action in your program with clear safety incentives. This encourages a more positive culture that focuses on the proactive benefits of safety rather than the consequences associated with habits they can prevent. 

5. Vehicle maintenance: Help keep your drivers safe and your costs lower with daily checkups and regular inspections based on mileage and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. It’s a best practice, yet it’s one that is often neglected. Create a process and instill accountability to make sure this happens regularly so you can extract the long-term benefits of a well maintenance vehicle or fleet of vehicles.

6. Accident procedures: Even the best drivers and well-maintained vehicles can still experience accidents due to outside factors. Consider equipping each vehicle with a reminder sheet of the necessary steps your drivers should take if an accident occurs. Make sure this is communicated to your team so they understand what to do in the event of an accident. More preparation for drivers provides more peace of mind for you when they’re on the road.

If you implement a delivery program, you can make it as simple as driving from point A to point B. It just requires attention to planning and implementing an efficient program to help you maintain a cost-effective delivery service that works for your business, employees and customers. Driver performance, vehicle safety, and consumer trends all play a key role in your operations.

Incorporating the items above can help you tweak your delivery service and boost profits. As always, we’re here to help.

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