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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Digital Construction

First published in the June 2021 issue of Quarry Management 

Why customer experience is key

By Louise Smith, senior manager - customer insight at Tarmac, and Dan Moss, senior manager - Tarmac Connect programme 

The best consumer brands thrive because their customer service is seamless, satisfying and (on the face of it) appears simple. In a world of next-day delivery and ‘click and collect’, there is no doubt that our expectations as consumers in the modern digital age have been transformed beyond all recognition.

Take electronic proof of delivery. When was the last time that you opened your front door to a courier to be handed a package and a piece of paper that you had to sign and take a copy of to confirm it had arrived with you? A very long time ago. When did you last call up the store you had bought something from to find out when you should receive it? Again, probably quite a while ago.

At Tarmac, we believe that improved customer experience should not just be confined to the retail world – it is also important to construction customers working on projects of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are delivering a self-build or working on a major infrastructure project, your expectations are similar: you rightly expect a service which allows you to price, place orders, plan and schedule deliveries in one call, quickly and efficiently. And once the order is placed, you need the ability to track its progress in real time.

Digital journey

Tarmac’s journey to put in place these systems has been significant. The Tarmac Connect programme was borne out of feedback from our customer base in 2018 that our interactions with them were sometimes inconsistent. They told us they wanted more transparency, ease of access to our data and a more informed experience from our service centres. The feeling was once they had completed the negotiation with the external sales team, the hard work would start getting the right level of interaction with the larger teams of internal agents that would then execute the orders and delivery.

To be able to rise to the challenge, we first looked inwards to the systems and processes we had in place that were barriers to improving the customer experience. We found that our telephone system, logistics platforms, ticketing process and the way we were organized in our customer service teams were such that data could not flow freely to all customers. Thus, we embarked on a plan to improve our organization, systems and culture to deliver a better customer experience.

People, processes and technology

The result was that we made significant operational changes to improve our customers’ experiences through people, processes and technology. Tarmac Connect brings together the capability of our teams with new technology to help make it easier and more efficient to do business with us.

We have streamlined our processes so that customers can place orders, plan and schedule deliveries in just one call. Our people are technical experts to provide guidance and advice and we are training our sales agents in new ways of working with the aim of going the extra mile to exceed our customers’ expectations.

People still want to deal with people for certain transactions, but they also want access to their information whenever they need it and for processes to be made as slick as possible – so we have to work towards supplying the best of every aspect.

Driving efficiency and productivity

In addition, we have made some important digital improvements to deliver efficiency and improved productivity for our customers. Our ePOD (electronic proof of delivery) system empowers customers to track their orders in real time. The intuitive software provides unparalleled visibility of our nationwide fleet of 1,900 vehicles, sending live updates with dispatch notices.

As well as its ‘track and trace’ benefits, ePOD uses ‘sign-on-glass’ technology to eliminate the need for paper delivery tickets. Instead, it generates an instant, digital proof of delivery ticket by email or via our new customer portal, reducing the risk of documents being mislaid and making processing more efficient.

The customer portal itself has been designed to give users easy access to information and to make their experience when engaging with us simpler and more streamlined. Customers have the functionality to pay invoices, request a new quote or order and download PDF copies of documents, all at the touch of a button.

The portal is a 24h-a-day, seven-days-a-week service, meaning our customers can access this information themselves whenever and wherever is convenient to them. Whether on site tracking a delivery or in the office scheduling work for the following day, the portal gives them the freedom to access all the information that they require for their role – and ultimately supports our goal of helping them to make better decisions.

Industry 4.0

Where could this digital technology take our industry in the future?

At Tarmac, we currently track our material vehicle fleet through ePOD, so that we know where every load is while in transit. In the future, think how powerful it would be if we could track our trains too, and then further connect our logistics infrastructure and link our plants and operations together. There might be scope to add geospatial information, BIM data, material supply information, weather and environmental details, and even technical and compliance data into the fold. The result would be a truly powerful dataset – a digital twin of our real-world operations.

This digital twin would allow all stakeholders to have visibility of the parts of our operations relevant to them. Stakeholders would have better control to manage just-in-time replenishment of stockpiles. Distribution and planning teams could identify issues in real time and mitigate supply issues further down the line before a significant problem came to fruition. Customers would be able to order materials as they would their online grocery shopping and maybe even goods receipt deliveries as they happen, to allow almost real-time payments.

The possibilities are endless. What we are really talking about is Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution.

Whilst we have a great set of digital tools here at Tarmac, we also recognize that there is room for improvement and that not all of our tools fit the needs of every customer. Some may want BIM data, many now need carbon data, and others may require ready-mix batching records.

Digital and the drive for improved collaboration

Tarmac recognize that there has been a huge increase in digitally conscious customers across the industry. The desire and need to formulate joint strategies as part of collaborative supply chains is ever more important. If there is a specific requirement a customer has, we would welcome engagement with us at the earliest opportunity.

We believe that the only way that we can truly affect wholesale change within the industry is if the sector as a whole starts to agree on standardization and people are prepared to share best practice, success and even failures. And while there will be failures, engagement and collaboration are absolutely key to ensuring that everyone is aligned.

Tarmac solutions are already benefiting projects across the UK and helping our customers to make better, more informed decisions about their materials and product needs. Our aim now is to continue to improve customer experience, service and seamless delivery. That is why the technical expertise of our people, improved processes and new technology are at the heart of our improved offer.

Infrastructure or construction projects are not neatly despatched within 24h hours like groceries, but better customer service for all those working on schemes and programmes should be standard.

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