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How To Fix The 4 Most Common Shipping Errors

  • Oct 10, 2015 | Tim Parker

If you’re in a product-based business, very little is more annoying than shipping problems. Regardless of who holds the blame, it’s your fault because it’s your business.

The last thing you want is an unhappy customer. And once you make the sale, you don’t want to continue committing time to solving shipping issues. In other words, everybody loses when something goes wrong in transit.

Here’s how to handle those pesky issues.

Always Say Yes!

Acquiring a customer is expensive. Estimates vary depending on industry but you’re probably spending at least $10 for each new customer.

Should you do whatever you can to avoid losing that investment? Yes! Spend the money required to make the customer happy. You’ll make more in the long run. (However, if the item is high-dollar, and the customer signed for it, that’s a different matter altogether.) 

Common Shipping Errors

Here are a few of the most common shipping errors, how to prevent them, and what to do about them.

The Item Never Arrived

If a large part of your business involves shipping, your success depends on products getting where they're supposed to be on time. Pay for delivery that involves tracking. When the customer calls and says that they didn’t receive the package, “I don’t know what happened,” won’t be an acceptable response.

Instead, pull up the tracking information and give the customer hard data. If it was delivered, ask the customer to check with a neighbor or other family member. If it wasn’t, do some quick research to find out why.

If the package has a relatively low value, send it again right away. If it’s a higher dollar shipment, file a claim (because you have insurance). It’s reasonable to do some investigation before deciding what to do.

Shipping Took Too Long

When a customer orders, either the person taking the order or the website should state an estimated arrival date. The customer should also have the tracking number so they can see when it’s due to arrive. In other words, set the right expectations from the beginning.

But how do you manage an angry customer who is still waiting for their shipment or is mad about how long it took? First, apologize. Take full responsibility without offering excuses. Next, give them something -- refund their shipping costs and, if the items are relatively inexpensive, the cost of the entire order. If the order is bigger-ticket, assure them that you'll figure out where it is and when it will arrive -- start by making sure you have the correct and complete address. Depending on the situation, send a coupon or gift card for something free on their next order.

The Item Is Damaged

Boxes get beat up in the mail, and the things you ship might end up beat up too. The best way to combat this problem is to ship it correctly in the first place. Don’t skimp on the packing materials. Make sure fragile items are packed in foam peanuts or wrapped in bubble wrap.

If damaged goods are a consistent problem, evaluate your packaging. You probably need something more substantial to protect the items. Don’t expect the shipper to treat your items with care. Remember this video that got over 9.5 million views in late 2012?

Spend the extra 50 cents to $2 for the insurance and build it into your pricing. That way you don’t have to take the financial hit for replacing a damaged item.

If a customer complains about a damaged item, ship a replacement right away (packed well, of course), and throw in a discount code for a future purchase for good measure. Then handle the negotiation with the shipper regarding why the damage occurred.

The Order Is Incorrect

A customer who receives the wrong thing isn’t going to be happy. Put checks in place to make sure all packages going out contain the right stuff. But if it does happen, apologize, and then ask your customer how they would like the problem fixed. If the shipment was time-sensitive, immediately refund their money. If they still want the item, pay for overnight shipping. 

Bottom Line

It’s better to eat the costs of shipping errors than to lose a customer. How you respond to these problems will depend on the size and value of the items, but it's always smart follow the first rule of business: Take care of your customers.

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Avalara Author
Tim Parker
Avalara Author Tim Parker