“Incognita”: from latin “incognitus”, “unknown”. Something that, by its own nature, you can’t predict. Maybe it is possible to consider such an event inside a wider strategy, but you cannot be certain that it will or won’t happen.
The most frequent incognitas, when you work in time-window deliveries, are: traffic (you can forsee recurring lines in certain city-zones, not incidents or roadworks), weather (rain and snow often paralyze cities) and mechanical or electronic/informatic failures.
For traditional couriers arriving late is a daily occurrence. For us, who work on very tight time-windows chosen by the end-user, it’s a challenge that has to be won with high ratings.
A few days ago one of our electric vans suffered an unexpected battery failure during the evening. It still had to fulfill some deliveries, scheduled between 8pm and 10pm. Our disaster recovery plan has a second van come to the rescue of the first. To this point everything was strategically ok. Time and distance, though, intervened, so that the rescue van could not fulfill the last 10pm window in time. The client has been immediately notified about the delay, via push and sms, with the option of freely rescheduling the order but he did not contact us back.
Our service, once the incognita becomes real, challenges us with some interrogatives: is it better to cancel the delivery, phone the client or go on, in spite of the late hour?
The only valid rule is transparency: the client is at the service’s very centre and has to be informed in real time about everything that happens to his delivery. But where should we draw the line between diligence and disregard for privacy? Is it better to fulfill the delivery, arriving at 10.30pm? Ring him/her, risking to wake up the kids?
Our policy, right now, is to use all the possible “indirect” means of contact enabled by technology, letting him decide, if possible, what we should do.
When the incognita presents itself it is necessary to deal with the fact that perfection is inhuman: you simply cannot force decisions on someone else’s time. Time to go back to the warehouse, take responsibility for the “failure” and investigate, from the client himself, what he would have preferred. Never stop learning.