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How can retailers manage the risks of in-home delivery?

At a glance

  • In-home delivery services are becoming increasingly popular
  • These services are made possible by smart lock technology and Waitrose is trialling such a scheme in the UK
  • But what are the risks of allowing unsupervised access into a stranger’s home and how can businesses manage and mitigate these risks?

Whilst many Britons have had shopping delivered to their property, ‘in-home delivery’ is a concept that fewer will be familiar with. This is when a delivery driver is given temporary access to a customer’s home via smart lock technology. Once inside, the driver can unpack their shopping while they are at work or elsewhere.

In-home delivery is proving increasingly popular in the US and parts of Europe. Swedish smart lock company Glue was one of the first businesses to pilot such a service, and Amazon offers its US customers Amazon Key – a smart lock with a cloud-connected camera.

Here in the UK, Waitrose is piloting an in-home delivery service called While You’re Away.

How does in-home delivery work? 

In order to facilitate unsupervised deliveries, customers must first have a smart lock installed on their front door (some retailers provide a smart lock and install it for free).

To take Waitrose’s service as an example – when participating customers place an online order, a temporary access code is sent to Waitrose via a secure app. This is then forwarded to the delivery driver’s device at the time of arrival at the customer’s home. It is then deleted once the delivery is complete.

To give customers peace of mind, some retailers equip their delivery drivers with chest-mounted cameras to record video footage of each visit.

While the concept of allowing retailers unsupervised access to a home divides opinion – when Amazon launched Amazon Key, a survey of its customers found most wouldn’t even consider buying it – many companies are convinced customers will eventually buy into the extra convenience it offers.

Some retail experts have also suggested that the growing popularity of Airbnb could smooth the path for in-home delivery. This is by normalising the idea of strangers being alone in your home.

What are the risks for businesses offering in-home delivery services?

In-home delivery will lead to risks that would either not exist or be less likely with supervised home deliveries.

Consider these possible scenarios for example:

  • A customer alleges a valuable possession was stolen or damaged and claims the delivery driver was responsible
  • A customer returns home to find their front door has not been shut properly, meaning an intruder could have gained access
  • A delivery driver trips on loose carpet and injures their ankle, leaving them unable to work for a period

How can businesses assess and manage in-home delivery risks?

Because delivery staff will be entering an unfamiliar environment each time they set foot inside a customer’s property, it will be difficult to anticipate every potential hazard they could face.

Equally, given the relative infancy of in-home delivery services, it is hard to gauge how claims might play out in circumstances such as those described above. And that is without even considering the potential cyber security risks associated with the use of smart lock technology.

What is clear is that businesses will need to think carefully about the training and guidance they provide to staff. This could include hazard identification and awareness (such as steep stairs, obstacles in hallways or stairways, and dogs and other pets) and proper use of equipment (e.g. chest-mounted cameras used to record video footage).

For claims defensibility purposes, it will also be important for businesses to have clear and robust procedures for evidencing the training provided to employees.

Given that delivery staff will have unsupervised access to customers’ homes, businesses will also need to consider whether additional background checks are required when recruiting.

While it remains to be seen if in-home delivery will become a mainstream offering for retailers, it is important that any business considering providing such services has a clear understanding of the potential risks and challenges they could face.

Image © Getty

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