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Proof of Delivery: Benefits and Evolving Advantages


What is Proof of Delivery?

Proof of delivery (or POD) is a form of delivery receipt that confirms a consignee has received the correct goods. This receipt, or bill of confirmation, is used when a consignee wants to return an item, or file a damage claim. In the most basic form of POD, the delivery driver will collect a signature from the consignee, with the date and time when the recipient received their package.

Proof of delivery will ideally also include the recipient’s address and a description of the package or goods. 

As an industry term, the POD process applies to both cargo and freight shipments. Here we’ll be reviewing POD’s benefits, uses, and features for freight deliveries like commodities and merchandise.

Why does POD matter?

POD is a vital part of both the sales process and ensuring the supply chain is working. It’s also directly connected to revenue generation. When an item leaves a store, business, or warehouse, proof of delivery is what provides end-to-end accountability between senders and receivers.

By monitoring products’ physical chain of custody, proof of delivery:

  • Makes sure the right recipient receives an item from the right sender (particularly important when the purchaser is not the consignee)
  • Can identify when and where an error occurs in the case of a missed delivery or a damage claim (e.g. a package is delivered with damage or in bad condition)
  • Helps to settle disputes against shipping claims, especially with e commerce transactions

Typically a driver or courier presents a delivery document for recipients to endorse, with this signature acknowledging all expected shipment items are present and undamaged. This proof of delivery provides sellers with the documentation necessary to verify order fulfillment and invoice accuracy.

What’s changing with POD – and why

The “sign for” concept is nothing new. The proof of delivery process dates back to the 1800s when avis de reception — or acknowledgment of a bill of receipt — was widely used to ensure delivery for important legal and financial documents. But the value of PODs today goes far beyond collecting signatures. 

Thanks to increasing global ecommerce adoption, the volume of delivery shipments continues to skyrocket each year. But in the U.S., reports indicate that upwards of 11 percent of annual shipments are lost, damaged, or misdelivered — and in the last year, 64 percent of supply chain leaders reported experiencing an uptick in delivery problems.  

The need to replace or refund an item isn’t a business’s only cost. Today’s consumers expect an easy, accessible and quality shipping experience. Research shows that a positive delivery experience motivates consumers to buy from the same retailer again in the future. If there’s a shipping problem, most are likely to turn to a competitor — and tell their friends about the negative experience.

Proof of delivery helps to bridge these gaps. An essential element in last mile tracking and visibility, it ensures that a package’s condition is in line with the consignee’s expectations; it streamlines the billing process, and can protect a business from dispute claims.

Electronic POD scales these benefits even further. Using a digital retail delivery solution will help retailers meet ever-escalating consumer demand — amplifying productivity, cost-effectiveness and the customer experience in the process.

Are there disadvantages to the proof of delivery process?

Proof of delivery has since evolved in its application, supporting sound deliveries for the carrier and the shipper. That said, traditional, paper-based proof of delivery has its limitations. 

A hardcopy proof of delivery:

  • Relies on manual processes with plenty of room for error, like illegible handwriting, mistakes and lost documents
  • Involves repetitive, time-consuming tasks that can reduce driver efficiency
  • Makes it difficult to tailor delivery functions to specific freight or a specific recipient
  • Limits real-time, accurate communication with the recipient

These constraints add risks to a business’s delivery processes, threatening profit potential. But they also compromise its ability to scale operations while keeping efficiency and profit margins high.

That’s why electronic, or digital, proof of delivery is gaining steam across all industries. By digitizing processes, senders harness automation to support better outcomes. As for the consignee experience? From better engagement to fewer mistakes in delivery information, improved consignee satisfaction is baked into the software by design.

What is Electronic proof of delivery?

Electronic proof of delivery helps to overcome these all-too-familiar delivery challenges. Senders receive a tracking number to monitor a package’s route when it is out for delivery and subsequently delivered successfully.  When the driver or courier arrives at the delivery address, the consignee signs for the item digitally.

This digital solution eliminates the need for hardcopy delivery receipts, encouraging more streamlined workflows. The customer also receives a copy of the proof of delivery in real-time — generally by e-mail or SMS/text message — increasing transparency and communication in every order’s fulfillment.

The benefits of electronic proof of delivery

Paper-based proof of delivery processes are not built to keep up with today’s demand for deliveries. With the improved efficiency digital proof of delivery systems provide, companies gain the functions they need to accommodate this growing marketplace, scaling their sales.

The tools’ benefits extend throughout delivery processes, powering a friction-free experience across all order touchpoints.

It reduces or eliminates paperwork

Paper proof of delivery errors don’t just frustrate the recipient; they frustrate the driver, and the carrier, too, and can quickly translate to lost revenue. A signature can stain; a hardcopy receipt can incur damage or get lost. An electronic signature changes all of this.

Invoicing accuracy suffers without the iron-clad proof of delivery that digital systems provide.

With proof of delivery software, a carrier or retailer can ‘proof’ the delivery process and avoid these isseus, mitigating the need to credit the sender or replicate orders over an unclear chain of custody. 

It optimizes workflows and productivity

A surfeit of physical documents bloat internal processes. Electronic PODs significantly ease backend burdens.

A comprehensive e-POD system also supports total fleet management. It enables the carrier (or retailer with an in-house fleet) to digitize and automate processes like dispatching and route optimization, organizing the best approach based on a business’s unique needs. For example, the right fleet management software considers a wide range of factors to determine the most strategic delivery management. This includes typical variables like cost-effectiveness and speed — as well as assigning the best fleet, assessing for peak times, and factoring in aspects like load planning. 

It supports real-time information visibility

By organizing all delivery details in one central system, electronic PODs don’t just make it easier to keep internal tasks churning. They transmit all of this information in real time.

This means that the shipping carrier, retailer or transportation company can immediately review the customer data to generate invoices, resolve recipient complaints or issues, submit replacement orders, and reschedule deliveries as needed. 

Drivers also gain access to the comprehensive, up-to-date details they need to complete a delivery. This helps to ensure accuracy in every order fulfillment — including any recent changes or special delivery instructions. As more retailers share LTL freight vehicles to deliver small numbers of packages to consumers, this visibility on the order level is especially important. 

It enhances the delivery experience

Consumers have a wide range of buying options available right at their fingertips — generating a cycle of increasingly higher expectations. The companies that offer a reliable, personalized experience are those earning the lion’s share of their audience’s loyalty.

Electronic POD systems offer a service that is key to customer retention. It’s highly customizable to the specific needs of a company, its customers, industry, delivery types and more. For example, a carrier can increase engagement with each sender and recipient through personalized shipment notifications, tracking and post-delivery communication. A digital POD system can also improve management of any order or delivery changes, proactively fielding potential customer issues.

On the backend, electronic or digital POD allows you streamline problem-solving with instant support team access to all consignee details. If goods are damaged on arrival, the delivery driver can use the a driver app with POD to automatically modify the recipient’s order. The consignee only signs for the remaining items and a refund is instantly reflected on their account. As for the damaged items, the best apps  oversee inventory management as well, so the relevant package seamlessly makes its way back to the store or distribution center.  

It improves operational and driver efficiency

Digital proof of delivery systems overcome challenges that can mitigate delivery accuracy as well, like:

  • Changes to customer details that occur after a purchase
  • Driver error, from imprecise delivery details to illegible handwriting
  • Disputes about parcel damage or order completeness

The tools arm drivers with the most up-to-date details they need to deliver on customer expectations while also reducing their workload. The right software automates proof of delivery requirements, so drivers can collect what they need while keeping processes as efficient and transparent as possible. It captures time stamps, GPS coordinates, and photo uploads of items as they’re delivered, improving shipment traceability to reduce the likelihood of customer disputes — and improve satisfaction with transparent accuracy. 

It encourages data-driven goal setting and monitoring

With all delivery information captured and transmitted to a central management console, an electronic or digital proof of delivery system directly supports a business’s growth.

Teams can leverage this robust dataset to optimize operations, analyzing key performance indicators to spot problems and opportunities alike. This can help improve carrier performance across its delivery lifecycle, harnessing delivery information to inform a variety of processes:

  • Modifying delivery routes
  • Managing driver schedules and breaks
  • Unifying workflows between departments, depots and drivers
  • Adapting operations to individual customer needs
  • Accommodating periods of heavy delivery demand while ensuring consistency
  • Improving stock and inventory management

How is electronic proof of delivery used?

Electronic or digital proof of delivery software can be used to empower greater driver efficiency, high-level services and scaled growth by supporting: 

  • Simpler daily tasks from step-by-step processes for drivers to less internal paperwork 
  • Real-time visibility that helps manage expectations proactively
  • Enhanced communication with automated updates, notifications and post-delivery ePOD
  • Easier, faster invoicing with total accuracy, limiting financial risk

The POD platform’s customization also enables a seamless operational alignment with specific industry or company needs. This includes functionality that allows a person to choose their delivery timeframe prior to checkout, or that lets the recipient self schedule their shipment when it suits them; functionality that automatically routes deliveries for multiple stops with optimal efficiency (assuming it it includes a delivery route optimization software), and that reduce bottlenecks by monitoring inbound drivers, warehouse or store activity and consignee locations — and synchronizing these workflows.

With this comprehensive system, businesses maintain greater productivity and precision across a full scope of traditional delivery processes. It also works to broaden a seller’s capacity to provide services like:

Contactless delivery

Whether it’s due to health concerns or workplace schedules, the manual signature process is a major pain point for the consignee and the driver. Electronic POD as a service supports contactless delivery, enabling drivers to meet customer expectations without face-to-face contact.

Curbside pickup

With digital POD processes, curbside pickup teams can scan items as a customer order list is prepared. When the customer arrives, an associate validates their order ID and collects a digital proof of delivery, confirming that all purchased items arrive in the customer’s vehicle.

Better grocery delivery

The digital system also supports today’s rapidly-growing grocery delivery industry. Digital PODs allows grocers to track products’ transportation lifecycle from store to consumer doorstep. They also help in monitoring the cold chain. This functionality helps to ensure the fresh and refrigerated items’ quality as they’re transported in delivery vehicles without temperature control.

Streamlined returns, restrictions, and substitutions

Electronic proof of delivery builds confidence for the sender and for the consignee. But with its customization potential, it also improves efficiency across processes like order changes and returns.

For example, a driver app with mobile proof of delivery functionality can be tailored to individual grocers. It enables retailers to offer substitutes for out-of-stock items that customers can automatically accept or reject during a delivery. If the customer declines a substitution, the platform processes a rejection flow so that the items seamlessly make their way back to the store. A customer can also decline a damaged item on delivery, signing only for the portion of their order that they accept. 

Similarly, it enables monitoring for age-restricted items like alcohol or cigarette orders, initiating an automatic order return if a customer’s age can’t be verified. In every case, the system’s robust digital chain of custody ensures that products arrive at their intended destination — and that customer accounts are credited accurately to reflect any rejections, substitutions, and returns. 

Scale your delivery operation with electronic proof of delivery

Digital proof of delivery systems help close the gaps in the delivery process. But this technology’s benefits go beyond the iron-clad security which electronic proof of delivery provides. By replacing an inefficient manual process, the software’s functions support better operational productivity and customer satisfaction alike. From optimal route planning to real-time data tracking, a last mile carrier or fleet can extend its resources while ensuring customer expectations are met — if not exceeded. That’s because its flexibility doesn’t just apply to the last mile of a delivery. It boosts efficiency throughout the order fulfillment lifecycle.  

It’s also easy to integrate electronic proof of delivery software right into your workflow. The system supports vast customization, so there’s no need to upend processes. It seamlessly slots right into current operations, strengthening those practices to optimize impacts.

All a company needs to get started is to have smartphone or tablet accessibility for its delivery drivers, and a cloud-based platform that manages and coordinates comprehensive shipping details.

Get in touch with our team at Bringg to see how electronic proof of delivery software can align with your specific business needs and optimize results.  

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