Feb 21, 2023
Kelli is the senior content strategist for Order Protection.
We’ve all been there: eyes glued to our phones or computers, constantly refreshing the page to get an updated status on a package that’s headed to our front door. After all, half the fun of shopping online is knowing that in roughly 5-7 business days, we’ll have a shiny package to tear into, finally delivering that product we’ve been waiting patiently to hold in our hands IRL.
Unfortunately, the shipping process is far from perfect, and issues occur that can prevent that feeling of gratification. And with more than 20% of consumer spending taking place online, it’s no wonder that lost, damaged, and stolen shipments are on the rise.
For customers, shipping issues are frustrating and can disrupt their experience with a brand. For retailers—and, more importantly, their customer service teams—shipping issues are an enormous headache, with the potential to damage their business’ bottom line as well as their brand’s reputation.
While shipping-related issues can’t be totally avoided, companies can minimize the impact of these issues and maintain customer satisfaction with the right preparation, processes in place to handle such issues, and excellent levels of customer service. Let’s take a look at the top shipping issues facing customers and retailers today, and the best ways for customer services teams to respond.
Shipping issue #1: Late delivery
Late delivery is one of the most common shipping issues that customers may encounter, and is caused by a variety of reasons. Labor shortages, holidays, poor weather conditions, supply chain issues, and incorrect shipping information are a few of the most common causes of late delivery.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 12% of truck delays in the U.S. are due to weather-related events, costing anywhere from $2.2 to $3.5 billion dollars annually.
A global pandemic, war conflict, and manufacturing and port delays have wreaked havoc on the supply chain in the past three years. And, according to Shopify, 39% of brands claim that these issues will continue to present a challenge well into 2023.
While retailers certainly can’t control the weather or the entire supply chain, there are several steps customer service teams can take to guide customers through late delivery issues.
How customer service teams can handle late delivery:
A 2022 survey showed that 41% of consumer respondents place the blame for late deliveries on retailers, so it’s worthwhile to have an action plan in place for handling this type of issue efficiently and effectively. Customer service representatives should be trained to provide clear and accurate information to customers about expected delivery times and updated tracking. Quick, consistent communication from an active customer service team is critical here.
Offering free delivery and other discounts can also soften the blow of delivery delays. While showing you care and value your customers’ business, these types of offers can also encourage future business and continued brand loyalty.
Shipping issue #2: Lost or damaged packages
Another common issue is when a package is lost or damaged during transit. Packaging logistics are complicated, and any misstep within that process can result in a damaged or lost final product. This can be a frustrating experience for customers, who may have paid for a product or service that they never receive, or end up receiving a faulty or damaged item.
While this issue is certainly upsetting for the customer, it’s just as harmful to retailers. Replacing damaged or lost products is costly both in production and lost time. This issue can also increase returns rates, which ultimately affects customer loyalty and a retailer’s bottom line. A 2021 survey of over 7,000 consumers found one of the top three reasons people said they returned items was because they were damaged or defective. And, for every $1 billion in sales in 2021, retailers saw $166 million worth of goods returned, with 10.3% of returns being lost to fraud.
It’s important for retailers to take every precaution to ensure that they’re not only using effective shipping methods to transport items as safely as possible, but to also offer tracking and protection services to consumers.
How customer service teams can handle lost or damaged packages:
Finding ways to make up for any lost or damaged shipments can help retailers maintain their reputation and promote positive customer relationships. Customer service representatives should be prepared to track packages and provide updates on their status, as well as to offer refunds or replacements for any lost or damaged items.
Companies should also have a system in place for storing claims data on customers in order to prevent fraudulent activity and ensure accurate record-keeping. According to the 2021 Online Payment Fraud report by Juniper Research, eCommerce retailers were expected to lose around $20 billion in 2021 through fraud activities. Fraud detection and prevention tools and systems should be designed to securely store and organize customer information, including personal identification information, contact details, and purchase history.
A simple place for retailers to start is through storing data via a customer relationship management (CRM) system. A CRM system allows companies to store and organize customer data in a centralized location, making it easily accessible to customer service representatives and other employees who may need to access the information. This can help prevent fraud by allowing customer service representatives to quickly verify the identity of customers and to flag any suspicious activity, such as multiple claims from the same IP address.
Another important aspect of this system is to have an efficient process for claims handling. This process should be designed to verify the authenticity of claims, by implementing procedures such as requiring customers to provide proof of purchase or tracking numbers for the items in question. This can help to prevent fraudulent claims, by ensuring that only legitimate claims are processed and reimbursed.
Additionally, companies can use advanced analytics tools or partner with solutions who offer services to monitor for patterns of fraudulent behavior, such as a high number of claims from a single IP address, or a high number of claims for the same type of product. These tools and services can help companies identify potential fraud and take action to prevent it from happening.
Shipping issue #3: Package theft
According to the 2022 Package Theft Annual Report, 49 million Americans had at least one package stolen in the year leading to November 2021, with the average losses totaling more than $2.4 billion in stolen goods.
Theft occurs in a variety of ways. Packages are stolen from the delivery location, either before they are delivered to the intended recipient or after they’ve been delivered. Most of us have heard of the rise of “porch piracy” (or have unfortunately been victim to this practice), and it’s understandable why—an estimated 260 million delivered packages were stolen from porches and mailboxes by porch pirates over the past year, according to a report from SafeWise.
Obviously, theft has a significant impact on both customers and retail companies. For customers, they don’t receive the products they’ve ordered and paid for, resulting in frustration and dissatisfaction. For companies, it can mean lost revenue, increased customer service costs, and damage to their reputation.
How customer service teams can handle package theft:
To prevent theft, companies can implement a variety of measures already mentioned, such as providing customers with tracking information and delivery updates. But they can also go a step further by requiring a signature upon delivery, or offering alternative delivery options such as locker or pickup points. Additionally, companies can also use security cameras and other security measures to protect delivery vehicles and warehouses from theft.
Another solution is to offer shipping protection on orders so that in case of theft, customers can claim for the lost package and the company will reimburse them. In fact, 69% of customers are willing to purchase shipping protection on their online orders. Solutions like Order Protection make it easy to offer these services by integrating directly with major eCommerce platforms and apps so customers can easily add this insurance to their order with the click of a button.
Shipping issue #4: Incorrect or missing items
Sometimes, customers may receive packages that contain incorrect or missing items. This is almost always caused by mistakes made during the picking stage of the shipping process. A recent estimate shows that around 5% of total shipping costs in the U.S. are lost annually to shipping errors.
According to SkuVault, incorrect item mistakes are often made when two items are very similar, and the wrong item is picked and packaged. It could also come down to warehouse logistics, with incorrect items being stored in the wrong location. Regardless of the cause, replacing missing or incorrect items in orders is a costly issue for retailers, and can have a negative impact on the customer experience.
How customer service teams can handle incorrect or missing items in shipped orders:
To handle this issue, customer service teams should be trained to quickly and accurately identify the problem and to offer solutions such as refunds, replacements, or discounts on future purchases. Working with solutions like OrderProtection.com gives retailers access to highly-trained support teams who can work quickly to resolve incorrect or missing shipments, with features like SMS support for fast and convenient communication with the customer.
These types of issues can also be solved at the picking stage of the shipping process, with automated warehouse systems that can help improve accuracy and increase efficiency. End-to-end tracking services and a robust return process and policy can also help to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty when resolving these issues.
Shipping issue #5: Looming possibility of a UPS strike
A possible strike by UPS (United Parcel Service) employees could have a significant impact on shipping, both for retailers and consumers alike. Strike rumors surfaced as UPS workers demand higher pay for tough working conditions, leading to upcoming contract negotiations with the Teamsters Union this spring. Longtime players in the retail space may recall a nationwide, 15-day UPS strike back in 1997, where the company lost $780 million as 80% of packages went undelivered.
With supply chain challenges already causing issues, a strike could result in massive shipping disruptions, with delays in package delivery and an increased backlog of packages waiting to be delivered. With the timing of the negotiations set for spring, strike backlogs could affect back-to-school retail campaigns, and even trickle into the holiday shopping season as well.
For customers, a strike could mean that packages are not delivered on time, which could result in missed deadlines, lost revenue, and dissatisfaction with the company. Businesses that rely on UPS for shipping could also be affected, as they may have to find alternate shipping methods or incur additional costs to ensure that their packages are delivered on time.
How customer service teams can handle the fallout of a possible UPS strike:
Obviously, retailers and customer service teams can’t do much, if anything, to prevent a UPS strike from occurring. But by simply being aware of the possibility, retailers can prepare action plans for how to deal with the potential fall-out, as well as seek alternate shipping methods ahead of time.
Having systems in place to handle any type of shipping issue is also helpful, and could place retailers ahead of their competition who may find themselves scrambling to keep up if and when a strike occurs. Partnering with order protection services is just one way to ensure all bases are covered during any major disruptions in shipping.
Solve shipping issues with Order Protection
Retailers can’t always stop shipping issues from happening, but they can take proactive steps to protect their customers’ orders and their brand’s reputation. Companies that partner with Order Protection get access to expert customer support teams, a world-class claims portal, and advanced insights into their shipping and resolution processes.
Learn more about how to protect your brand with shipping solutions through Order Protection with a customized product demo today.