No business or buyer likes receiving the dreaded message that says, “Your shipment was delayed.” In the shipping industry, this is typically called a delivery exception. A good shipping partner like a third-party fulfillment center will always try to minimize and avoid delivery exceptions, but all businesses that ship directly to customers should still understand how these exceptions work. Here’s what you should know.

What Exactly is a Delivery Exception, and How Does It Impact Businesses?

A delivery exception is more than just a fancy term for a late shipment! A true delivery exception occurs when a product is shipped out normally, as planned for, but then something happens that causes a problem or potential delay with the shipment. With competent fulfillment services, this will quickly trigger an automated message to the recipient, the business, or both, letting them know about the problem – and to expect the package to arrive later than stated.

It’s important to note that a delivery exception doesn’t necessarily mean that a shipment will be late. Everything may still line up so the product arrives within the original delivery window. However, the delivery exception message will go out regardless, which is why businesses want to avoid these delivery exceptions whenever possible. It’s not good for the brand – or for acquiring repeat customers – if buyers see problems with the shipping process.

What Causes Delivery Exceptions?

Many events can create problems with shipping and trigger a delivery exception. But some of the most common we’ve seen include:

Incorrect Labels or Address Info: Exceptions will happen if shipping labels are printed incorrectly, or if the address/shipment information on the label is incorrect. Unfortunately, when errors like this are made it’s usually too late to fix them before the package is already shipped, which can cause significant delays. This is why packaging and labeling accuracy is so important! This type of exception can also happen when shipping internationally or overseas without the proper documentation, which is important for growing companies to keep in mind.

Missing the Pick-Up Address: If your business is not using a fulfillment center – which is common for new companies just starting out – then it may have to specify a pick-up location for the carrier. Sometimes the carrier can’t find this pickup location, or can’t locate the exact spot where packages are waiting. In this case, they often move and send an automated exception message to the business.

Holiday Activity: Holidays that take the place of a typical business day will also cause exceptions. This is a particularly common type of exception, made all the more common since holidays tend to be very busy for carriers. It’s good advice to arrange for early shipping around holidays when possible so that these delays don’t become issues.

Label Damage: On other occasions, a label may be damaged before it can be properly scanned and entered into the system. This is less common these days thanks to shipment technology upgrades, but it can still happen, especially with smaller businesses struggling with lots of new shipping or overwhelmed carriers.

Package Damage: Obvious package damage will trigger a delivery exception as well. Then the damaged package will typically be returned to a center and dealt with on an individual basis. In similar cases, sometimes carriers will lose packages entirely and send an exception to the business that the package is missing.

Harsh Weather Conditions: Bad storms, floods, downed trees or power lines, and similar issues can also create delays in shipping.

Successful Delivery Isn’t Possible: When carriers cannot make a delivery, they’ll send an exception like this, such as FedEx’s PMX code. This can often mean that no one was there to sign for the package, or in particularly busy times that the courier couldn’t deliver the package that day. In either case, the courier typically tries again for the next couple of days, depending on their policies. This sort of exception isn’t as damaging to brands, because it’s usually clear that the problem lies elsewhere.

Carrier Accidents: Accidents do happen, and if a courier has a significant accident it will create a lot of paperwork – shipping delays.

General Regional Events: These sorts of widespread exceptions crop up during strikes, and – as we’ve seen in 2020 – issues with pandemics and how shipping organizations are run.

Best Practices for Low Delivery Exception Rates

We know it seems like a lot of these delivery exceptions are out of your hands. But there are steps businesses can take to help keep exceptions low, and avoid problems with disappointed customers and bad reviews that are the bane of growing companies. These steps can help!

  • Have an Excellent Communication System: Today’s electronic shipping systems can send immediate alerts about shipping problems, with phone numbers and emails for more information. This allows businesses to contact the carrier or even the individual courier at once, and sort out the problem if possible. A robust CRM system also allows businesses to immediately notify customers and keep them updated, which helps mitigate brand damage
  • Track Packages: If you haven’t updated to package tracking yet, your business should consider it. This can help spot delivery problems as they develop so businesses can start damage control.
  • Provide Refund Options: Businesses can offer to resend packages with expedited shipping in the case of serious exceptions. But it’s also smart policy to offer a refund option, which customers may prefer.
  • Upgrade Packaging: If your company is getting repeated exceptions for damaged packages, it’s time to rethink how the packaging materials and choices.
  • Include Holiday Exceptions and Similar Events on Your Site: If you have an e-commerce platform, it’s a good idea to place alerts when customers are checking out, so they’ll know if holidays or other events could cause shipping delays.
  • Consider Shipping Insurance: It’s not preventative, but if your business ships lots of high-value packages, think about getting shipping insurance to cover missing packages, refunds, and other issues.

Handling Specific Delivery Exception Problems

Fulfillment centers like Sherpack can help you solve specific problems you may be having with deliveries, like finding the right packaging, or handling more complicated labeling with complete accuracy. We can also help your company upgrade to better online tracking options, customer alerts, and similar technology to help reduce the problems delivery exceptions cause. If you’re interested you can contact us for a consultation or a quote.

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