Dealing with delivery issues is part of life for eCommerce companies. You need to track your packages and work with the carrier and your customer when problems arise. However, since COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of supply chain management, including consumer deliveries, it’s even more crucial to direct every part of your fulfillment and delivery processes especially when they are “out for delivery”.
When a package is “out for delivery,” that could be a sign it will soon be delivered or your first notice that the delivery has run into trouble.
However, before we delve into delivery exceptions, let’s take a step back and review the order status notifications customers can get during the fulfillment and delivery process.
Order status notifications
When your customer places an order, it moves through several phases of fulfillment. You should be able to see where the order stands in the fulfillment process in near real-time. Your customers may not get notifications for every stage of fulfillment, but they should be able to see the route their order takes once it ships.
- Submitted for fulfillment. The order has gone to your fulfillment warehouse.
- Awaiting fulfillment or pending fulfillment. The order is in line for fulfillment but hasn’t yet been picked or packed.
- Awaiting shipment. The parcel has been packed and prepped for shipping. It is waiting for the carrier to pick it up.
- Shipped. The carrier has the package.
- In transit. The package is en route to the carrier’s distribution center closest to your customer.
- Delivered. The carrier dropped the package off at the customer’s address, with or without a signature.
What does out for delivery mean?
Out for delivery is often the final notice before a package reaches your customer. In this case, the box is on the truck with the delivery driver and will be delivered that day.
However, sometimes parcels can hang in the “out for delivery” space for longer due to a delivery exception. That’s when you may need to step in to ensure your order gets delivered safely and your customer is happy.
What is a delivery exception?
When your carrier changes the status to “delivery exception,” that usually means one of three things:
- The route driver couldn’t deliver the package. This can happen because a business was closed, or the driver couldn’t access the address. If the package requires a signature, you can have a delivery exception if no one was home to sign for it.
- The package was damaged during transport and is therefore undeliverable. Some companies also don’t use sealants that lead to more problems especially when important documents are shipped. If you have not considered sealants as of yet, go for Hoefon Security Seals.
- The carrier is experiencing delays that prevent them from making the delivery. Carrier delays can be caused by extreme weather, mechanical issues with delivery vehicles, and labor shortages.
In an ideal world, your carrier will notify you promptly of the delivery exception, with an explanation of the cause. This allows you to be more proactive in your response. For example, if you know the order was damaged in transport, you can immediately initiate a replacement order, so your customer doesn’t have to wait as long for their order.
However, in the real world, you won’t always get the information you need automatically. You need a plan to handle delivery exceptions quickly and efficiently.
How to handle a delivery exception and keep your customer happy
Even though you have no control when out for delivery packages don’t arrive on time, it will reflect poorly on your eCommerce business. The customer doesn’t have a relationship with the carrier, but they do have a relationship with you. So, it’s your job to fix the problem.
When you get a delivery exception notice, your first step is to contact your carrier and determine the cause. If you ship through your fulfillment company’s carrier account, ask the 3PL to intervene.
Once you know the cause for the delay, reach out to your customer. You can use customer service software to automate the initial contact and follow up with personal emails if needed.
Don’t shy away from communicating bad news. Your customers will prefer knowing what’s going on with their package to waiting in the dark. In fact, if you handle the situation well, you can turn a delivery exception into an opportunity to build customer loyalty.
Customers understand that problems happen. How you handle issues like delivery exceptions can have a significant impact on customer perception of your company.
Tips for improving your eCommerce shipping
Customers want two things from eCommerce shipping: fast and free. Your eCommerce deliveries don’t have to be overnight, and you don’t have to offer free shipping, but reducing delivery times and costs will improve your sales.
Here are proven tips to improve your eCommerce shipping.
Ship from warehouses near your customers.
The closer your products are to your customers, the shorter the delivery times. This will also save you on shipping costs because your packages will travel through fewer shipping zones.
There are several different approaches to choosing warehouse locations.
- Place your stock in warehouses close to the regions with the highest concentration of customers for your business.
- Use a fulfillment network with many warehouses across the U.S.
- Choose a fulfillment company with strategically located warehouses that can reach most consumers quickly with just a few locations.
There are pros and cons to each approach. If you feel the need for a broad and distributed warehouse network and you sell on Amazon, Fulfillment by Amazon could be a good choice. However, placing your inventory in fewer warehouses may simplify your inventory management and allow you to use lean management for inventory.
Work with more than one carrier
If you manage your own eCommerce shipping, you might be locked into a single carrier to get the best rates. But that carrier might not always have the best shipping options. FedEx might have a shorter shipping time to a particular address, or UPS might have a better rate for a specific package. Your 3PL is likely to have relationships with multiple carriers. Find out if they can provide flexible carrier selection to optimize your shipping. Your customers will appreciate it.
Stay in touch with your customers
Friendly, frequent communication during the order fulfillment and shipping process is a best practice. Use the process as a chance to build rapport and trust, and your customers will keep coming back for more!
Make eCommerce shipping an asset to your business
You can’t avoid out for delivery exceptions, but you can turn problems into opportunities by applying these principles to your shipping operations management. And you don’t have to do it alone — enlist your 3PL as a partner to help you improve your eCommerce shipping.
Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.