8% Of Holiday Packages Were Delayed, But Communication Mitigates The Pain

The holiday rush doesn’t just clog queues at brick-and-mortar stores — it also causes backups for package carriers. An estimated 8% of packages handled by UPS and FedEx had delayed deliveries during the 2018 holiday season, according to a study by lateshipment.com. That may seem like an acceptably low percentage during a busy shopping period —until you consider that UPS handled a total of 800 million deliveries this year, with another 425 million delivered by FedEx. That translates to approximately 98 million late gift deliveries.

While retailers can’t control the efficiency of third-party shippers or factors such as severe winter weather, they can manage the relationship with their customers. Retailers have a number of options for dealing with delays, from providing pre-purchase advisories to addressing customer dissatisfaction after a package arrives late. Key strategies include:

  • Placing a warning on the site home page: This tactic is sometimes used during large storms, when retailers know a large portion of their packages will be delayed. While it is a great way to be upfront and honest with shoppers, these warnings could prevent some conversions;
  • Adjust delivery windows: If a standard two-day window is resulting in too many delays, add an extra day to the standard time frame. Doing this will adjust shopper expectations, though retailers must be careful not to fall outside the 3- to 4-day delivery window customers now expect.
  • Call the affected shopper: When it becomes clear that a delivery delay is inevitable, a live call from a customer support agent is a powerful tool for reducing friction. The agent can answer questions and offer reassurances more effectively than a formal email, adding a personal touch to the interaction; and
  • Compensation after the fact: If an order was delayed due to unforeseeable challenges and the customer wasn’t warned, consider giving them some form of compensation, like a coupon. This situation isn’t ideal, but proactively handling the problem is better than waiting for a complaint.

Pinpoint Areas Prone To Delays

Retailers can more effectively allocate their customer management resources when they understand where and when delays are most likely to occur. For the 2018 holiday season, the most densely populated cities were among the hardest-hit areas, with the sheer number of orders contributing to delays, according to Sriram Sridhar, CEO of lateshipment.com. The combination of a closely-packed population and consumers’ increased comfort with delivery as…