On-Demand Delivery Services: All your Questions Answered

Need something delivered on short notice? We answer common on-demand delivery questions

On-demand service is the most challenging delivery for both courier companies and businesses that need packages delivered on short notice. 

It is even more challenging when the items being transported are extremely time and/or temperature sensitive – like medical specimens, supplies or pharmacy products – and the pick up and/or delivery locations are secure, multi-departmental complexes like hospitals or biotech facilities.

It is understandable that you may have questions about how to handle your on-demand delivery requirements given the complexity of the matter. We’ve tried to answer all your questions here. 

Should I outsource on-demand deliveries or handle them in-house?

Finding qualified drivers to handle on-demand deliveries is challenging given the notoriously fragmented courier industry. The dilemma for businesses is often to choose between leveraging an in-house logistics manager to find qualified drivers or outsourcing that responsibility to a courier company.  

In-house logistics managers must often call several companies to find one with a driver who can get the delivery done in time. For businesses with the resources to interface with multiple companies, and keep track of who has what, that option can be effective. The big problem is that it is a very expensive solution to a relatively manageable situation.

In our experience, the best solution is to outsource the responsibility to a courier company. Courier companies can do the job more efficiently and cost-effectively, and tap into an existing network of drivers that can handle the delivery on time. The trick is picking the right one.

Are local couriers or national couriers more equipped to handle on-demand deliveries?

In our experience, the ability to handle on-demand delivery requirements comes down to two factors: 1) density of the local driver network and 2) communications capabilities. In both regards, we have found that local courier companies outperform a national competitor. 

Local providers generally have the densest local network of qualified drivers, which effectively enables them to meet the service requirements more often AND maintain cost competitiveness. National courier companies on the other hand, under perform when it comes to on-demand coverage despite sophisticated marketing programs that indicate otherwise. In reality, most national carriers also rely on locals to actually get the job done, and are simply marking the job up.

The complexity of on-demand deliveries also places a premium on communication. When something is awry, and decisions must be made, being able to quickly communicate with people is very important. 

Again, local companies generally have a decided advantage. Their dispatchers are local, many have started as drivers in the field, and many have relationships with both the actual drivers and customers. If the regional courier is making the delivery anyway, having a national customer service agent in the mix is a waste of valuable time.

Should I hire a specialist or a generalist courier?

Finding a company that specializes in a particular type of delivery will make things even more efficient. Medical couriers are trained to handle medical specimens; legal couriers are trained to serve and file legal documents; food couriers are equipped to keep food warm or cold. Simply put, specialists reduce the chance of error.

While some companies have multiple specialties – which can help to develop a denser driver network – making sure they are actually specialists is very important to quality control. 

How important is on-demand delivery to choosing a courier?

On-demand services are often overlooked when choosing a courier, when the ability to handle those services should be placed at the forefront. The reality is that scheduled and routed work is easy compared to on-demand, and any good on demand courier can handle scheduled and routed work. Find the on-demand courier first!

Most customers don’t look at the on-demand requirements first for a couple of reasons: 1) large, national courier companies diminish its importance by highlighting routing efficiency; and 2) it is a significantly smaller percentage of the overall spend.

There is no question that routing software is important, and is a key component of keeping on-demand costs down. The fact is, however, the cost of routing software has come down exponentially over the last few years, and is now readily available to any established courier company. The regional courier who can better handle the on-demand deliveries can now better handle the scheduled and routed deliveries as well.

What can I do to improve on-demand delivery success?

Regardless of which direction you go, here are two very simple, but often overlooked, tips that greatly improve the chances for success:

First, ensure order accuracy by making sure all information is correct when placing the order. 

Second, provide phone numbers for contacts at the pick-up and delivery locations, and make sure these are people who will actually answer the phone. 

Assuming there is some degree of consistency in the process, both of these things can be easily automated, and built into the ordering process, both online and over the phone. Competent couriers should be able to save information globally, and in such a way that notes can be added to further refine the process. Advances in software have made this functionality readily available. 


In conclusion, it is generally more cost effective to outsource on-demand deliveries to a courier service rather than handle them in-house. When looking for a courier company, review the density of their qualified driver network, and their communication skills. Local providers will generally outperform national competitors in both categories, but confirm they specialize in what you need. Look at the on-demand capability first, and then ask questions about routing capability  and other important software functionality.  Finally, ask for references. 

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