The dreaded “delivery exception” is a phrase that means bad news for both merchants and shoppers.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what delivery exceptions are, and what retailers can do to keep their customers happy when they occur so that delivery issues don’t end up costing you customers.

What is a delivery exception?

A delivery exception is a common term for a shipping delay, and it can occur for any number of reasons—most of which are out of your control as a retailer. It refers to any situation in which a package is unavoidably delayed in transit due to an unexpected event. As a merchant, delivery exceptions can cause a poor delivery experience for your customers, resulting in lower customer satisfaction.

Delivery exceptions aren’t a rare phenomenon: Convey, a logistics technology solution, found that up to 11% of packages are delayed due to delivery exceptions. They happen to even the biggest shipping couriers, including FedEx, USPS, DHL, and UPS, as well as countless last-mile courier services that focus on the final step of delivery to a customer’s address.

Some common types of delivery exceptions include:

  • An incorrect address

    If the courier has the wrong address, whether due to shopper error or a problem in your system, the end result will be a misdelivered package. In the event that the shopper mistyped the address or accidentally put the address of a previous home, for example, you may be able to correct their mistake if they alert you before the package has shipped, or even give them the tracking number so that they can re-route the order during shipping. If the order has already been delivered, you’re not under any obligation to replace the order—but to stay in the customer’s good graces, it can be a good strategy to either offer a replacement or provide them with store credit they can use to re-purchase the item. On the other hand, if the misdelivery was due to error on the part of your customer support team or your technology, you should replace the shipment immediately, and consider offering bonus store credit to smooth things over.

  • Weather-related issues

    Often, couriers are delayed in delivering packages due to weather-related concerns, such as snowstorms and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. If the customer is directly impacted by the weather event, they will likely be understanding about a delay on the delivery route—however, if they live on the other side of the country and are not affected, they may not be aware of the situation. When your courier services are impacted by weather delays, it’s important to clearly communicate with your customers about their package status, why it’s delayed, and when they might expect to receive it, and give them access to tracking information. Make sure that they know that economy shipping, if you offer it, is especially likely to be impacted by weather delays, so ensure that they set delivery date expectations accordingly.

  • Missing or damaged address labels

    If a shipping label is torn, damaged, or comes off the package, your courier will have no way to know where the item is supposed to go. As a result, it end up in your courier’s lost packages pile, and your customer will be left waiting. Once your customer alerts you that the package hasn’t arrived, you can file a claim with the courier and let them know the package’s size and weight so that it can be located in the pile—a process that often takes at least a week. If it can’t be located within ten days, it’s officially declared lost. However, unless the item is custom-made or one-of-a-kind, you can be proactive by sending a replacement item as soon as you’re aware that the original shipment is not going to reach its destination rather than waiting for a lost item declaration. If the item is found, it can then be shipped to your warehouse for restocking.

  • Customs and documentation issues

    If your ecommerce business is shipping products internationally, there are many reasons why a package may get delayed or rejected at the border. Common concerns include regulatory issues, such as shipping hazardous products or shipping products without required labels; missing documentation; or delays at port and package reviews. When shipping internationally, make sure that you prep your customers for longer delivery timelines, and make sure that they understand you may not be able to provide an exact estimate due to the challenges of clearing customs. To make sure that you’re as prepped as possible for the international shipping process, partner with a 3PL that is experienced in international shipping.

  • Delivery was attempted but not successful

    In some cases, your shipper may attempt to deliver a package but it may not be possible. This often happens when there is a signature required for delivery, or when the delivery person refuses to enter the premises because of the threat of a loose dog or other animal. In these cases, the courier will attempt delivery at another date, but you can reduce the frequency of such incidents by ensuring that your customers pre-schedule their deliveries and give them a tight window for when they can expect their packages, ensuring that they’ll be home and ready to receive them.

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How can you ensure customer satisfaction after a delivery exception notice?

Delivery exceptions are rarely your fault as a merchant—but that doesn’t stop online shoppers from putting the blame on your brand. That can translate into negative reviews, and lead to customer churn.

That means it’s important to ensure customer satisfaction, even when things don’t go according to plan.

How can you handle delivery exceptions effectively?

  • Provide customers with tracking information

    Put the customer in charge of their delivery experience by providing them with tracking information, so that they can see where their package is at any given time. This way, they’ll receive updated tracking information directly from their courier, ensuring that your customer support team won’t need to serve as go-between to let them know their package status.

  • Use a delivery management tool to get real-time updates on any shipment exceptions

    With delivery management technology, you can track your brand’s logistics and get instant alerts when packages are either delayed or when you receive a notice about problems from your courier service. Being proactive about your customers’ delivery experience will help you to set up workflows for different delivery exception scenarios, so each alert can trigger the right follow-up action.

  • Communicate clearly about any delays, and offer resolutions

    Set up customized messaging workflows for customers who’ve experienced delivery exceptions, apologizing for the delay, explaining why it’s happened, and letting them know the next steps. In some cases, the customer may need to follow up with the courier directly; in others, your ecommerce shop may file an insurance claim and send the customer a replacement item.

  • Offer same-day or next-day shipping on replacement items

    If a shipment is delayed or lost or damaged in the mail, it’s important to put steps in place to get the product to the customer as soon as possible, assuming they still want it. Prioritize fast, free shipping on a replacement product to make sure they get it as quickly as possible. If the original item eventually arrives, ask them to ship it back if it’s a high-value item—if the value is negligible, let them keep both for no additional charge.

  • Allow them to cancel the shipment—but encourage them to choose store credit instead of a refund

    Sometimes, a delayed delivery date may mean that the shopper won’t receive their item in time for an important event or to give as a gift. In that case, they’re no longer likely to want the shipment, even if you’re willing to offer same-day or next-day shipping to replace it. But if your customer requests a refund, incentivize other options: With Loop’s Instant Exchange and Shop Now features, you can give them bonus store credit that they can apply towards any products from your ecommerce store, on top of the credit from the delivery exception. Sweetening the deal with extra store credit can help you keep a customer that you might otherwise lose to churn, and give them a chance to try out another product from your brand.

To help you deliver a great customer experience even in the face of delivery exceptions, it’s important to use the right technology to help you manage your reverse logistics. Loop is custom-built to provide a seamless interface that helps your customers get resolutions more quickly—while encouraging retention through effortless exchanges and upsell initiatives.

By giving your shoppers options for replacing their late shipment, you can ensure that they get access to the product they want as quickly as possible—whether it’s a replacement item, or an entirely new product from your store. That will help you deliver  superior customer service that results in long-term customer loyalty.

Want to learn more? Get a demo of Loop today.