Carrier management system tips: five ways to transform delivery experience.

By Sorted December 18, 2020


A carrier management system (or CMS) can have major and immediate impact on warehouse and logistics operations - as well as the wider business offering as a whole. 

To get the most out of a new system, or even an existing one, we've put together some tips, tricks and tests that will help transform delivery ops into your secret weapon. Our ground-breaking CMS playbook can be accessed here; it includes carrier model comparisons, market research and tons of actionable tips on how to easily transform delivery experience.

Straight from the playbook, here are some examples of how a carrier management system can be used to optimise and improve management of a multi-carrier offering; empowering the warehouse to deliver so much more.

These plays summarise some easy to implement changes that can be made with a CMS tech partner, and each section links to the technical documentation that would support an IT team, or operations team, to get stuck in.

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Play one:
Customer promises the warehouse can keep.

If you nail this, you’re winning.

A CMS that connects the checkout and the warehouse will mean customer delivery options are based on operational and carrier capabilities – rather than just a static delivery offering, guesswork or, worse, making unrealistic delivery promises.

For example, not all carriers deliver to all postcodes at the weekend, so don't offer that service to customers. Or bank holiday delivery isn't offered by many carriers, so don't offer that service to customers either.

If your web front end knows what's going on in the warehouse, and with your carriers, there's more chance of a smooth pick, pack, dispatch, final mile and happy customer.

It's everyone’s problem if the customer delivery promise isn’t kept – but when warehouse ops are stretched and order cycle time is key, customer experience can feel like ‘someone else’s problem’.

That said, if the web front end and the DC talk to each other, a customer will be given multiple delivery options and the illusion of choice – but all within the tolerance of your ops, real-time.

Warehouse software desktop screenshot

A ‘Consumer Options’ flow enables you to automatically provide real-time delivery choices - including delivery date, time and carrier brand - to your customer at point of purchase.

In SortedPRO, after the customer has chosen their preferred option, the system can create a consignment based on their details, and automatically allocate that consignment to a carrier service based on the customer’s choice.

Get your tech team off to a flying start. Help them out, send them this.


Key takeaway.

Customer delivery offering at checkout should always reflect what the warehouse can operationally fulfil. A carrier management system can link the web front end and the warehouse to ensure customer promise is kept, every time.

Play two:
Deciding how to ship.

Routing to the cheapest available carrier service can shave off pence per delivery – for leaner and smarter budgets. Having multiple carrier services available means flexibility and control over which traffic goes where too.

Allocation is seen as black magic. But you don’t have to be a developer to manage allocation rules.

Automated rules can be configured within the UI; meaning everything is visual and intuitive, rather than hard-coded – so, no IT resource needed.

Carrier service rules desktop screenshot

Here’s an example of how a modern carrier management system might choose the right carrier for your shipment:

  • Who can deliver?
    First, the CMS compiles a list of all carrier services that could potentially take the consignment (that is, configured and enabled services that ship to the delivery address and could meet the specified delivery promise).
  • Who meets the allocation rules?
    Next, the CMS creates a final shortlist of carrier services by eliminating any services that do not meet your retailer's own allocation rules (your preferences on carriers able, or unable, to ship certain weights, dimensions or contents, for example).
  • Who is cheapest?
    Finally, the CMS allocates the consignment to the cheapest service on the shortlist.

Streamlining carrier costs impacts CAPEX and OPEX. One large, leading retailer had six full time employees overseeing carrier invoice management and cost reconciliation – the resource was freed up and redeployed when the workstream moved to being managed by the new CMS platform.

Get a valuable deeper dive into the tech, to help your IT team do clever stuff with just a few clicks.


Key takeaway.

Allocation rules and carrier preferences can be intelligently managed and automated by users within a CMS, with no complex coding or configuration needed.

Play Three:
The delivery experience report.

Managing insights and reporting from multiple carriers can be your secret weapon, or your downfall. You need one version of the truth.

It’s important to make sure you’re marking homework and proactively keeping on top of performance in as close to real-time as possible – not just you and your operations, but your carriers too. A high performing CMS will put easily digestible, accurate data at your fingertips.

On top of standard reporting, creating a delivery experience report gives an overview of delivery types requested by customers, as well as how often carriers were able to meet those delivery promises. This, at the end of the day, is the juicy stuff that makes the operations team look awesome (or, shows you what needs to be fixed).

Important things to monitor:

  • Carrier and carrier service
    How many consignments were shipped via particular carriers or carrier services?
  • First time delivery success
    What percentage of deliveries only needed one attempt at drop-off, and which carriers managed this most often?
  • Delivery window and type
    Which were the most requested service types (such as click and collect or home delivery), and which carriers delivered successfully within those windows (such as morning, afternoon, all day or time slot deliveries)?
  • Shipping costs
    What are your costs, drilled down by carrier and destination? How have shipping costs changed over time?
Delivery Experience desktop screenshot

Reporting can take retailers upwards of three hours per week. But intelligent reports should be able to be configured and automated in just a few clicks.

Send this to your IT team, and you'll be their new best friend. These API docs will help configure either simple or complex dashboards.


Key takeaway.

Carrier performance and customer experience intel is a secret weapon, and it can be visible in a few clicks within a CMS reporting suite.

Play four:
Growth management.

As the world changes, it won’t always be the case that one parcel ships to one customer from one DC by one carrier. Multiple carriers and multiple locations can be messy.

Maybe the business is acquiring other brands, moving into new warehouses, shipping from store estate or serving new international markets.

Warehouse ops shouldn't be a blocker to business growth; they should be an enabler, leading seamless roll out of business expansion plans. So that's where a carrier management system comes in; supporting a multi-location operation, and seamlessly managing complex shipping.

World map

A CMS with a type of ‘order flex’ flow would enable you to process complex orders into easily shippable segments – meaning a simple way to manage one order that potentially comrpises items shipping from different locations, shipping on different dates or requiring multiple carrier services.– into easily-shippable portions.

This is particularly useful if:

  • Ship from store is in your roadmap, or something you're looking to explore.
  • You ship multiple brands, with allocation rules specifically set for each - in a 'parent and child' shipping scenario.
  • You operate multiple warehouses or fulfilment centres, or run a customer marketplace.
  • You use drop ship vendors.
  • You supply a range of products with large variations in weights and dimensions.

Will your tech team want to see more depth? Work with them, help them out.


Key takeaway.

Regardless of a retailer's expansion roadmap, the carrier management system should support growth and enable innovation; offering simple solutions to complex challenges like multi-territory, multi-brand or multi-site fulfilment.

Play five:

Not the most exciting thing, and it should stay that way.

Manifesting is the hygiene factor that no-one wants to know about, until it goes wrong. And when it goes wrong, carriers charge, deliveries fail and customer promise isn't met.

But it shouldn’t go wrong – and it shouldn’t be laborious. And this is a really simple, quick win for a carrier management.

Collating, formatting and transmitting consignment data to carriers, in an old school model, is done on a consignment by consignment basis. Intelligent, multi-carrier teams are smarter.

For a modern operation, the process can be engineered so that shipments meeting pre-set conditions can be automatically manifested. And that can be super simple to manage within the carrier management system UI, so the control is totally with you.

For example, this could be done based on specific business need; such as manifesting eligible consignments to a certain carrier at a certain time, based on carrier collection times from the warehouse.

Carrier logos

Your IT team will thank you for sending them the technical docs, to make their life easier.


Key takeaway.

Manifesting with a CMS can be as smart, or as simple, as required - and a CMS will ensure control of carrier data transfer sits within retailer ops teams.


Get the full carrier management playbook here.

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