Now more than ever, delivery drivers are meeting a critical need in the life of consumers, and have the ability to make or break your company’s reputation — they are not just the face of your products, they are your brand ambassadors, and will continue to be key representatives of your company’s identity beyond this crisis.

With COVID-19 causing a surge in deliveries of all kinds, drivers have found themselves in the spotlight as they deliver essential items to people in lockdown, often at increased personal risk. We’ve seen the stories — good and bad — that are catapulting brands to the forefront of the media and social sharing. Drivers that go above and beyond, taking their brand to national headlines, are becoming heroes and shining a light on dark quarantine and social distanced days.

Those organizations receiving positive fame are fortunate, as they likely didn’t see the instant fame coming, but the rest of us can take steps today to prepare for brand ambassadors of all kinds for the future. There’s no better time than now to consider how to make sure your delivery drivers have the best support possible, or to demand that your service providers do the same. That way, drivers can perform their duties efficiently while keeping everyone involved in the delivery experience (including customers and the drivers themselves) satisfied and happy.

As the proportion of e-commerce as a percent of total sales increases, it’s more and more common for a delivery driver — whether your own or someone else’s — to be the only human your customers encounter in the entire buying process. That on-site encounter is a golden opportunity to reinforce your brand promise and leave your customer with a positive impression. But drivers need tools to make that job easier.

Today’s electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) solutions offer functionality that can transform delivery operations and help ambassador-drivers shine.

First off, it eliminates paperwork. Flapping around with multiple sheets of paper at the point of delivery was already an outdated idea before social distancing and zero contact became the norm. Not only is a purely electronic form of proof of delivery more hygienic, it takes less time and comes across as more professional.

Second, drivers can download step-by-step delivery instructions right to their handheld devices. This ensures consistency of service that is absolutely critical to customer satisfaction. It’s also simple for you to quickly add or remove protocols for all drivers, such as a requirement to put on a mask and gloves before getting out of the vehicle. Even better, the clear instructions given at each point of delivery reduce pressure on the driver, because he or she doesn’t have to keep multiple operational rules in mind.

Third, in order to facilitate a rich feedback loop, ePOD solutions also provide a constant source of real-time delivery information from all drivers, such as travel time between drop-offs, or delayed deliveries. This enables continuous improvements to delivery operations, increasing on-time deliveries and other critical KPIs, and reducing costs.

Another crucial advantage is that onboarding new drivers becomes easier. Many operations are hiring drivers on the fly to handle increased home deliveries. An ePOD app can quickly empower new drivers to be just as great brand ambassadors as existing drivers, because the technology is so intuitive and quick to learn.

Lastly, all this functionality is configurable by the user, so it’s easy to make it work for a specific business in a few simple steps.

Happier drivers do a better job

At its core, a sophisticated ePOD system simply makes life easier for drivers, which in turn makes them better able to give a positive impression of your business to customers. They have all the details they need on hand, they don’t have to remember complex processes and they don’t have to wrangle sheets of paper. Drivers can make more drops per shift because this kind of support makes the delivery process more efficient, all while remaining confident, happy and able to deliver a professional and friendly service experience.

Traditionally, delivery and transportation management systems have been seen as just necessary evils of doing business, but this pandemic has elevated the importance of final-mile delivery to the overall brand experience. The substantial role that delivery plays in our everyday lives has been highlighted, and drivers, in particular, are being appreciated by consumers like never before.

It’s time for businesses to focus on drivers’ value as brand ambassadors and give them sophisticated technology tools, such as ePOD systems, to do an even better job.

Jason McCourt is a Senior Solutions Consultant at Aptean, providing expertise in supply chain solutions, including routing and transportation optimization systems. Prior to Aptean, he implemented efficiency-driving technologies for one of America’s largest private fleets. Today, Jason provides guidance to manufacturers, retailers, distributors and carriers on how to optimize and enhance visibility to their supply chain operations.