No matter the type of product you sell, chances are you deal with some headaches when shipping to customers. Shipping problems are inevitable, especially in today's online purchasing world. There's paperwork, red tape, a catalog of carriers to choose from, and complex customs regulations when selling internationally.
Shipping problems aren't just frustrating and time-intensive, but all too commonly lead to unhappy customers and lost profits.
Fortunately, you can quickly alleviate these issues AND keep your products, profit, and customer relationships intact.
1. Shipping Delays
A shipping delay is a broken promise.You promised the customer their package would be there on a specific day--and it's not. Broken promises can lead to broken trust.
So how do you avoid shipping delays?
Most carriers preschedule deliveries for you, so ask about their policies. They also will have insurance you can purchase, but if you frequently ship items that are perishable or time-sensitive, it’s wise to buy third-party shipping insurance instead. Third-party shipping insurance tends to be less expensive, and some companies will reimburse you the entire invoice amount in the event of loss or damage to your item.
Delays will happen.
Just be sure you're doing everything in your power to prevent them from surfacing. If issues arise, reach out to your customer right away, as they will appreciate the concern and promptness in your logistical communication.
2. Maintaining Transparency and Package Safety
Once a package is out of your or your supplier’s hands, it’s hard to know what's happening. With modern technology, there are ways you can cut down on the mystery and have a better idea of not only the whereabouts of your merchandise but also its condition. Always get tracking updates on your packages to keep track of progress and timing. The customer can receive these notifications as well.
Of course, due to computer mistakes and good old-fashioned human error, tracking numbers can be mislabeled or entered improperly, and even if one digit is off, it can cause severe problems to your product. That is why third-party insurance comes in handy, as well as consistent communication with the customer: The sooner you catch the error and rectify it, the better.
3. Reaching International Demand
If you're not shipping your products overseas, you could be missing out on a vast, possibly untapped, market.
International shipping can be daunting and comes with its own set of problems and considerations. One way to simplify the process is to purchase third-party insurance with a company that specializes in international shipping. With extended coverage to different parts of the world, you will be able to ship anywhere. Some other ways to cut down on global shipping problems are:
- Use Shipping Calculators- International shipping rates depend on package size, weight, dimensions and other distinguishing factors. If you are loyal to a carrier, use their shipping calculator. Otherwise, ShipGooder has a great tool that lets you compare different carriers. Be aware of average shipping prices in specific countries, especially when dealing with your best-selling products, as this helps you keep a handle on your costs.
- Understand Custom Forms- One of the biggest headaches of international shipping is the paperwork. Once you understand how to fill out the forms correctly, the process will be much smoother. Your carrier will provide a Commercial Invoice, which asks for standard information like destination, country of origin (i.e., where the item is made, not sent from) and classification.
- Understand Regulations- Do your research. Different countries have different rules and regulations, so familiarize yourself with the regulations of the countries you frequently ship to. MyUs has a great breakdown of rules and regulations for each country, which will help you stay informed of new laws resulting in fewer costly surprises.
4. Unavailable Merchandise
Always keep your website up-to-date, especially if you do a significant portion of business online. If someone purchases and pays for something you no longer have in stock, you will likely lose that customer. Since mistakes inevitably happen, maintaining quick and consistent communication with customers clears up mishaps before more significant issues ensue. Being active on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram makes this easy.
5. Incorrect Packaging
It's important to make sure you choose the correct packaging for your products. If a package is damaged due to mistakes made on your end, some insurance companies will not cover any costs. Most packaging decisions are common sense, but when dealing with freight, it gets a little tricky. This excellent blog from Marine Insight goes over the vast variety of freight containers available and the pros and cons of each.
Lastly, pay attention to your labels. Shipping labels punch the ticket to where your product needs to go, so double check before they're on your carrier's truck.
6. High Prices
Shipping problems can cut into your profit margin if you're not negotiating prices. Develop a relationship with your carrier. Discuss saving money by changing routes or increasing the size or frequency of loads. Your carrier wants your business, and they'll work with you constructively to keep it.
7. Lost or Damaged Goods
Besides having excellent insurance and tracking your packages consistently, the best way to deal with missing or damaged goods is to develop trusting relationships with customers.
Always respond quickly to questions and complaints, whether it's through your website or on social media, working quickly to correct the mistake. If your customer trusts you, they will be more willing to forgive.
Shipping problems are at times imminent, but with a little planning and reinforcement, you can deal with them effectively without losing time, money or valuable customers.