"Covid-19 caused an immediate shift in our freight profile"
Peterborough-based Nexis Services on the company's journey through COVID-19
More and more transport and logistics companies have seen sharp increases in their business-to-consumer (B2C) trade since COVID-19, resulting in new processes and a change of approach for many of our Fortec Distribution Network members.
We will be sharing the experiences from our members over the coming months. Here, we touched based with Debbie Swinscoe, Director at Nexis Services Ltd in Peterborough, to find out what impact COVID has had on her business.
Tell us about Nexis Services Ltd…
Nexis Services Ltd is a Peterborough based company established by myself and my husband, Richard in 1990, initially with Richard as a motorcycle courier. We provide same day, overnight and international delivery services of parcels and pallets.
What was your main customer base pre lockdown?
Pre-lockdown we were 70% business-to-business (B2B) and 30% B2C. From the onset we made a decision to target business SME customers with our marketing, and our processes and procedures were very much geared towards servicing this market. The majority of our trade was from premium business customers and we are proud of our track record and customer service to these loyal companies.
What’s changed since COVID?
When we went into lockdown the landscape changed overnight. Many business customers closed their doors and had to adapt to the new normal to stay afloat. For example, one brewery we work closely with saw an influx in members of the public wanting large quantities of alcohol delivering to their homes. This was an entirely new business model for the brewery which definitely accelerated during lockdown. Prior to this we had only ever delivered their products directly to pubs and restaurants.
We saw this change in buying habits across the board as people started ordering things that made lockdown more bearable - DIY products, gardening items and equipment, turf, fences, white goods etc. This obviously impacted on Nexis’ service as our drivers were making more drop offs to home addresses.
The balance immediately shifted to 60% B2C and 40% B2B, and whilst many business customers have now re-opened, this still remains the case now.
What are the differences between B2B and B2C in terms of pallet deliveries?
As a pallet delivery service, we offer a curb side delivery. Our drivers are used to dropping to the same business premises regularly – they build a rapport with the customers and have a system, usually with the same members of staff who are ready to accept the pallet. These deliveries are offloaded using a forklift and if the customers does not have this equipment, invariably another company nearby will.
Consumer customers have different expectations which we have had to respond to; they are usually one-off deliveries, so drivers do not know what to expect and the equipment available for unloading is limited We’ve recently had drivers turn up to long gravel driveways to houses or where the consumer has wanted them to unpack the pallet or take it around to the garden. This all has massive implications on health and safety and predicted delivery times, as well as cost implications too if products get damaged.
How have you adapted to the change?
There is no sign of the climate shifting any time soon, so we’ve had to adapt. It is a massive adjustment for pallet networks to satisfy these new consumer expectations, but if we are going to survive and thrive we have to evolve.
Some of our new processes include:
Health & Safety guidance – We’ve been reiterating our curb side delivery guidance to drivers so that they don’t feel forced to respond to the consumer’s demands. This is so important from a health and safety perspective.
New customer service procedures – We now call consumers on the day of delivery to give them a two-hour window – there is nothing worse than turning up for a drop when no one is there, and it affects the drivers’ remaining deliveries for that day and can also lead to damage of goods which are left on the vehicle longer than planned. This is an entirely new process for us, and it has been very effective.
Recruitment - Looking at our recruitment procedures so that we can employ an adequate number of trained drivers ready for more home deliveries over Christmas peak when there is another increase in B2C anticipated this year.
I have been in the logistics industry for over 25 years and I have seen the biggest turnover of drivers in the last six months. We need to review our recruitment processes, training and utilise evolving technology so that drivers know what to expect in this new B2C climate and can respond to consumers in a safe and appropriate manner.
How has Fortec Distribution Network supported Nexis through COVID?
It is good to be part of a network with likeminded businesses which are all experiencing similar issues. We can work with each other and learn from each other as we adapt together for the benefit of the whole network.
Fortec has provided us with tools to help manage our customers’ expectations of palletised deliveries and there are plans to implement improved systems and processes that will streamline B2C deliveries in the new year - that’s a big bonus of being part of a pallet network.