Each and every year we have become accustomed to reading stories about upset customers not receiving their parcels in time for Christmas day, outfits for work parties gone astray, or customer service teams being swamped by requests to track missing/late parcels. Despite all the planning and preparation from retailers and carriers alike, the run up to Christmas is crunch time, with huge spikes in the network pushing many beyond breaking point.
This is before we factor in circumstances outside of our control, such as adverse weather conditions or even strikes among parcel workers. Here are some simple tips to protect your business this year:
Spread the risk
Sadly, for some you that work with just one carrier, this advice may be too late for this year. There is a temptation for retailers to establish relationships with a single carrier provider, benefitting from the convenience of managing a single relationship and the discounts offered by carriers to secure your business. However, such a decision leaves you with literally no contingency plan should that carrier fail to deliver on their promises.
Working with multiple carriers not only provides you with a backup plan should the worst happen. But also allows a wider variety of delivery options to be offered to customers, and greater cost optimisation based on the best value carrier and service option for each and every order.
Monitor performance closely
Expectations of delivery performance for each and every carrier, and service option offered should be clear. Closely monitoring this performance is essential. Allowing you to identify issues while they are still small and respond by addressing directly with the carrier in question, or by balancing volumes across the mix of carriers you work with.
Communication with each of your carriers is key. Your forecasts should be accurate and timely. Providing each of your carriers expected volumes for each service level on a daily basis. Ensure your projections are correct and the carrier is able to handle. Communication is two way: listen to what your carriers are telling you, they will likely be monitoring their performance just as closely, if not more than you. Each network has finite capacity, so come crunch-time certain options become unavailable, delivery times increase, or perhaps you have to scale back volumes to help them clear the backlog.
Communicate with your customers
No news is good news. Not so when it comes to disappointing your customers. If you are likely to be late on your delivery, let the customer know. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting at home all day for a parcel that doesn’t arrive. Similarly provide your customers with the ability to track their parcels, avoiding a huge influx of messages to your customer service teams.
Delays in your normal delivery times should be communicated up-front, on your website and order confirmation emails. Regular customers might be initially disappointed that they cannot get their parcels as quickly, but failing to match expectations will result in annoyance and a burden on your already stretched customer service teams. This is particularly important over the ‘Cyber Weekend’, listen to what your carriers are telling you. If delivery timeframes are likely to increase then state this to your customers upfront.
Use your store assets
For retailers with omnichannel enabled stores, offering services such as Click and Collect and In-Store Reservation, they have an advantage to be utilised. Promote these options above home delivery alternatives, as a means of getting their orders quicker than your competitors without such means (who will likely be suffering the same carrier issues).
Be realistic with last-order dates
Last-order dates are getting later and later each year, with behemoths such as Amazon taking orders right up to Christmas Eve. This is both a great opportunity and potential danger for any retailer. Fail to deliver and you’ll likely have the results played out across social media for all to see. Our recommendation here is twofold; 1) set realistic last order dates. It is far easier to set a conservative last order cut off time and then push later when you are confident you will be able to meet expectations. 2) be ready with expedited premium services. They may be costly but ‘super-premium’ courier services may be your last-minute saving grace. Have them ready for orders that were damaged in transit, were delayed, or simply went missing.