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The Catch-22 of Directory Delivery Quality Control

By David Parks




If business people do not receive books at home and at their place of business, they are less likely to advertise in the book.

On the other hand,
re-delivering marginal or questionable routes greatly increases printing and delivery costs.



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Pick Your Poison

At what point should a questionable or marginal route be re-delivered?

Pick your poison: either way, the publisher pays. Missed deliveries can lead to lower ad sales since business people are less likely to advertise in a book if they didn't receive copies both at home and at their place of business. On the other hand, lower thresholds greatly increase printing and delivery costs for the publisher.

These extra printing, delivery, and lost ad sales are part of the hidden costs of directory distribution quality control.

How big is the problem? No one knows for sure. Delivery verification surveys may under-report delivery problems. Residents may not want to get anyone in trouble. They may not care if they received yet another directory. They may just want to get off the phone. They may not remember if they received a book or not. They may assume someone else in the household received the book.

For the most part, delivery verification surveys also fail to reveal certain types of delivery problems. Delivery verification will not detect out-of-boundary deliveries since only people within the scoped area are surveyed. Residents are only asked if they received a book; not if they received the same book twice during the same initial delivery cycle.

Print Copy Inflation

Duplicated and out-of-boundary deliveries tend to have a lasting impact. The wasted books are often reflected in all subsequent print order quantities since typically the print order is last year's print quantity plus a little extra for population growth.

"Just get rid of the books."

Delivery managers for future editions may not question high print quantities. When they have excessive books near the end of initial distribution, delivery managers may fear that a lot of stops were missed. This puts them under a lot of pressure to "just get rid of the books." Bulk drop sites such as hotels, motels, and large offices may receive more books than they will ever need. Brand new books may be dumped or recycled. Residential stops may start getting two books instead of one. It happens a lot more often than publishers realize.

Re-deliveries may minimize the number of missed deliveries but the medicine can also leave a bad taste in the mouths of advertisers. Homes of business owners that are delivered twice may assume that the publisher is incompetent or the circulation figures are inflated.

A Few Suggestions

Don't assume that excessive books left over after initial delivery are the result of missed deliveries. The problem could be an excessive print quantity resulting from previous edition delivery problems or even forecasting variances.
Make it easy for your delivery managers to be frank about delivery problems or inventory issues. If you bite their heads off, they'll just learn to hide problems.

Understand the realities of directory distribution. A perfect delivery is impossible. The best field managers will still experience delivery problems on occasion. Carriers can not be closely supervised for a number of reasons. Close supervision is cost prohibitive and would be a nightmare to coordinate. Direct supervision could also result in the independent contractors being reclassified as employees by tax officials. The high-volume but short-term nature of initial deliveries means that a lot of untested carriers may be required to get the job done. Some of them will be bad.
Focus less on redeliveries and place more attention on preventing problems in the first place. Minimize problems in the pre-delivery stage rather than use brute force approaches such as redeliveries and increased print quantities to resolve common delivery defects.

And even though increased telechecking may reveal more problem routes, the extra scrutiny will serve as an effective deterrent to dumping and substandard performances by delivery workers.
Assign VIP routes (routes with lots of advertisers or businesses) to the most experienced and trustworthy delivery workers. The market map on the right shows dense areas that more likely contain VIP routes.

Managing Inventory:
All Stops Are Not Created Equal

If, during the late stages of initial distribution, inventory issues (shortage or excess) appear to be a problem, concentrate inventory where it will have the most impact. Demographic prism maps of the delivery area (such as the samples below) can help get the most mileage from the remaining book inventory.

Related Links:
In Depth: Telechecking
In Depth: Backchecking
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