How to deal with delivery delays

Accurate delivery is everything for eCommerce companies. Customer expectations are possibly higher than ever before, and with so much competition online the room for error is minimal. Nonetheless, unexpected delivery delays will happen at some point, so it is important to understand what that means, how to respond and how to minimise the chances of it happening in the first place.

What is a delivery delay?

Quite simply, a delivery delay occurs when goods ordered from an eCommerce provider experiences a delay in transit. However, when this happens it doesn’t always have to mean that the package will be delivered late or even cancelled for the customer.

Both the company and customer are made aware that something has occurred en-route to the final destination. There are a number of things that can happen along the way, even when sophisticated checks and balances are in place. When a delivery delay occurs they need to be handled carefully as the customer will be the one who feels the brunt of the delay.

Why should businesses worry about delivery delays?

Even though most delivery delays are out of the control of the seller, when they occur it can cause a lot of frustration. Regardless of the size of the organisation or the techniques used to transit the goods, delivery delays are bound to happen at some stage. The worse outcome will be delayed or even undelivered packages, which will likely result in dissatisfied customers and a potential negative impact on the seller’s reputation. This is why businesses should be concerned about the way they handle delivery delays and ensure they have a robust system in place to respond quickly and efficiently to this types of incidents.

Why do delivery delays happen?

There can be a number of reasons why delivery delays occur, but some of the most common reasons are:

  • Label delays: If labels are missing, unreadable or damaged this can cause a hold up en-route while the carrier attempts to verify the delivery address. If the original label doesn’t contain the right information or is missing a postcode this can cause a package to be delayed for days, or sometimes even returned to the sender.
  • Unavailable receiver: Some packages may need a signature or require proof of ID before they can be delivered. If no one is available to provide the required details then the package will return to the fulfillment centre. In most cases a redelivery will be attempted the next day, although some may just send it straight back to the sender. If a redelivery is arranged, the customer should be made aware that their presence is needed in order to prevent the goods being returned.
  • Poor documentation: Local and ground companies are unlikely to run into these types of problems, but for goods travelling by sea, poor documentation can lead to unexpected delivery delays. International sea shipments differ because they require specific documents in order to satisfy customs requirements. More often than not the goods will be returned to the seller so the right documentation can be arranged. Delays can also be caused due to delays at the port or package reviews
  • Bad weather: Something that is out of control of everyone involved in delivering a parcel is the weather. It’s a common cause for delays, especially during the winter season if heavy snowfall occurs. Bad weather can impact shipping, air and road routes, with deliveries delayed until it is safe for vehicles to pass through.

How to manage delivery delays

Delivery delays are a fact of life for all eCommerce companies. But even though it is largely out of their control, customer satisfaction needs to be managed to ensure their reputation doesn’t take a hit. Some of the key precautions to consider include:

  • Get in touch with the carrier

Use the tracking number to identify the current location of the package and the reason for the delay. Sometimes you may be able to resolve the issue on your side and a phone call or email to the carrier with the right information could get things moving again. Communication with the carrier is vital to reduce any delays being extended and packages potentially being returned.

  • Speak with the customer

Once you have a clearer understanding for the delay you should contact the customer as soon as you can. Tell them when the expected new delivery date is set so they have faith you are in control of the situation. There may be instances where the customer needs to provide new information to get things back on track. Being proactive will not only resolve this one particular issue, but also demonstrate to others that you respond quickly and have the systems in place to manage unexpected issues. Clear and honest communication with your customers will go a long way in the end.

  • Resend or refund

Sometimes the delay could be extensive and there is no simple solution that can resolve things in the short-term. In this case you should give the customer options between receiving a replacement delivery or take a refund. This shouldn’t be an option that has to be offered on many occasions as most delivery delays can be easily resolved. If not, there may be a wider issue with the carrier you use that needs to be addressed.

How to prevent delivery delays

Some things will always be out of your control, such as a sudden turn of the weather, but there are some things you can do to ensure delays are minimised.

This includes following your carrier’s labeling and packing instructions and ensuring that the size and weight are exact. Use weather-resistant labels and verify that the delivery address the package is being sent to is correct. Delays will still occur from time-to-time, but it’s important to ensure as few as possible are as a result of oversights created at your end.

Giving the customer a tracking number or updates about the different stages of the process gives them some confidence everything is in order. This allows them to plan when to receive the package and if made aware of delays they can make changes accordingly – bad communication at this point will only harm your brand’s reputation.