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Precision vs Speed: Meeting Consumer Expectations in E-Commerce Furniture Delivery

By Mark Fierek, Vice President, E-Commerce Sales, Pilot Freight Services

Mark Fierek, Vice President, E-Commerce Sales, Pilot Freight Services

When delivering heavy and hard-to-handle (H3D) e-commerce furniture orders, there are really only two choices for carriers; precision or speed. At Pilot Freight Services, we prioritize a damage-free delivery over a fast delivery when it comes to high-end H3D pieces of furniture. Depending on the location of the order, our furniture inspection and delivery process could take up to 10 days. Through Pilot Furniture Direct, we offer service to every zip code in the United States and Puerto Rico via our network of specialized furniture carriers. This line of service is the only one where speed does not take precedence. When it comes to expensive H3D items, customers are more concerned with the accuracy of the delivery than they are with how quickly it will arrive at their door.

Furniture packaging dictates special handling requirements in order to minimize damage and increase consumer satisfaction. Soft goods are typically tightly wrapped in plastic within a cardboard tray while case goods may be boxed or wrapped but neither are well protected. Our carriers provide first and middle mile transportation on a 53’ trailer using national and regional soft-touch cross-dock handling, moving the product by adhering to a strict process using furniture dollies or hand carts. No forklift ever touches these shipments. They are all loaded by hand. When other carriers try to achieve speed, shipments are typically palletized or stacked, which can increase the damage rate to anywhere between 10 to 15 percent per-piece.

Today, the number of damaged deliveries by Pilot is down to below a remarkable 1 percent per piece. In order to achieve this rate, our process starts at the national or regional hub before the product is ever scheduled for delivery. Our complex and complete deluxe checklist for each SKU we handle takes every detail into consideration. Furniture is examined and assessed to identify any potential defects from chips and scratches to inconsistencies in fabric colors, patterns or finishes as well as any missing hardware. Since our system is automated, there is total transparency throughout the process for the manufacturer and e-commerce retailer. If an issue is identified, the manufacturer is notified, and we call in a local market furniture technician from our network of 400 specialists to repair the piece. The product is then blanket-wrapped and scheduled for delivery. This process is the value add for each order that reduces the number of return shipments to the manufacturer or reorder requests since consumers receive a product in top condition.

Soft-touch handling enables Pilot Furniture Direct to deliver a product from a manufacturer’s door to a consumer’s door with little to no damage per piece. Consumers prefer precision over speed for high-end merchandise with a delivery timeframe of two weeks as an acceptable standard.

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