Thomas Sanderson sells, manufactures and services high-quality, bespoke window shutters and blinds. The company is part of the Hunter Douglas Group, a leading manufacturer of window coverings and architectural products, with annual sales of $3.5 billion.
Thomas Sanderson used the TravelTime API to assess whether routing its sales staff to multiple appointments by public transport would be more efficient than driving.
Finding the optimal mode of transport to route 150+ field staff
Many of Thomas Sanderson's potential clients live in busy, urban areas. In these locations, having a quick and efficient way for salespeople to travel to potential clients means they can visit more clients and spend more time at each appointment. Spending more time with a potential client often means higher conversion rates, more sales revenue and greater customer satisfaction.
Using public transport in urban areas can be a more efficient way for sales teams to spend less time on the road and more time with clients. Other benefits include fewer cars on the road, less congestion, less pollution, less noise and less pressure on parking spaces.
As a result, the Thomas Sanderson team wanted a way to route its salespeople by public transport. This would a) reduce their time spent waiting in traffic, b) eliminate the hassle of trying to find parking spaces in a busy city and c) reduce costs significantly.
Furthermore, if Thomas Sanderson could reduce the time lag between an appointment being created and the arrival of the salesperson, they could generate additional revenue.
Comparing routing travel times by public transport and driving
Finding the optimal route for field staff that minimises their overall travel times is often referred to as the travelling salesman problem. Thomas Sanderson decided to use the TravelTime API to tackle this challenge.
The TravelTime API efficiently routes field staff to multiple appointments by any transport mode. Using travel time data from the API, Thomas Sanderson analysed how its sales team in London could switch from using their cars to visit clients to using public transport instead.
TravelTime allocates appointments efficiently amongst a sales team, then routes each team member around their allocated appointments by public transport (and all other transport modes). Thomas Sanderson trialled this feature in Spring 2018 by comparing door-to-door travel times by car and by public transport in South London.
Drive times included the real time to find a parking space, buy a parking ticket, get the kit out of the car and walk to the appointment. Public transport times included waiting at bus stops and train or underground stations.
In the trial, public transport was always as fast as driving – and often faster. It was also always cheaper, created less pollution and congestion, and used no parking spaces.
The analysis proved that Thomas Sanderson can route design teams to appointments in London faster by public transport than by car. As a result, they would be able to reduce the time lag between setting up an appointment and a salesperson having the appointment. This also means they can widen their recruitment pool and hire designers without cars – people who, previously, Thomas Sanderson couldn’t hire.
Using TravelTime routing tools to help reduce response times in London
In London, Thomas Sanderson's 150+ salespeople currently travel to appointments by car because the current demonstration kits are heavy and bulky.
While London represents a huge opportunity for the company, (enquiry levels and the average value of each sale are high), the conversion rate is lower here than in the rest of the country.
The reason is simple: the sales team need cars to carry the sales kit, and road times are high because of the congestion. The longer the time lag between the appointment being arranged and the salesperson arriving, the lower the conversion rate.
Outside London, the time between arranging the appointment and the sales call itself is 5 days, versus 10 days in London.
To minimise the time lag in London, Thomas Sanderson is developing sales tools and techniques to reduce the size of the team's demonstration kit. Once fully deployed, this ‘Metro Kit’ will make it possible for designers to travel by public transport.
Making more informed business decisions
“The accuracy of the drive time and public transit data supplied within the TravelTime API meant we could make informed decisions about the future direction of our business,” says Angela Mills, Project Manager at Thomas Sanderson.
“It helped us rethink how we plan sales appointments, plan the hiring of new salespeople and plan how we travel to the customer. These decisions have the potential to generate millions of pounds of additional sales each year.”
With the TravelTime API, Thomas Sanderson can make a financially sensible business decision that’s also socially responsible. The team at Thomas Sanderson are now exploring other ways to use TravelTime in other parts of the business, such as surveying and maintenance.