1) Overview of Shipment Delivery Exceptions in eCommerce
As an eCommerce business owner, meeting customers’ expected delivery dates is probably one of the most important and challenging things you have to face.
You may try your best to deliver the ordered items to shoppers on the exact ETA, but there’s always a slight possibility of something going wrong, which can lead to an unexpected delay. This situation is known as a delivery or shipping exception in eCommerce terminology.
A shipping delivery exception occurs when a product can’t reach the customer on time due to some unanticipated reason, and the delivery date is postponed. This is a frustrating situation for both the shopper and the business owner, as the situation can't be resolved immediately.
But when customers turn to the business for help, the brand must be prepared to handle the situation at that time.
If you’ve had to face the brunt of customer queries due to a shipping exception at your eCommerce business, the information covered in this article can help you.
Here, we’re about to explore the nitty-gritty of what exactly a shipment delivery exception is, and what are its root causes. We also elaborate on what a business should do when stuck with a delivery exception.
2) What Does a Shipping Delivery Exception mean?
A shipping or delivery exception arises when the delivery date of a shipment is changed at the last minute due to unforeseen situations. The customer receives a notification that there is an issue with their package, which is in transit.
Regardless of how sophisticated modern shipping or logistics technology and processes are, courier services are sooner or later bound to have issues with some packages during transit.
Although delays may occur unintentionally due to bad weather or unforeseen obstacles during shipping, it is understandably very frustrating for the customer.
Thus, an eCommerce business must take all necessary measures to ensure that, despite delays, the ordered items reach customers as soon as possible.
That being said, sometimes, packages may arrive at their destination on time, even after encountering a shipping exception. However, such instances are quite rare.
3) What are the root causes of shipping exceptions?
A majority of customers receive the products they order online on time. However, a small percentage of them may experience the inconvenience of a delivery exception.
If this happens with your customers, as a business owner, you should know why they haven’t received the products they ordered from your e-store on time. When you understand the situation, can you provide satisfactory answers to WISMO calls and other customer queries?
Listed below are a few common causes for eCommerce shipping exceptions:-
3.1) Custom delays
All kinds of shipping processes come with unique challenges, and international shipping is no different. In this case, packages are sometimes held up at customs for longer periods than expected. This can often lead to missed and delayed delivery dates.
Make sure your shipments have a proper tariff code on the SKU and customs clearance, which can help make the shipping process seamless.
3.2) Federal holidays
Packages are bound to suffer from late deliveries during national holidays, either in the destination country or in the country of origin. If it’s a federal holiday, carriers won’t be operating, and this could cause a delay to the package in transit. The shipment is often further delayed due to the existing holiday backlog.
3.3) Weather conditions
When there are weather or natural disaster issues like tornadoes, floods, wildfires, or snowstorms, it is almost impossible to deliver shipments on time. Such delays are completely unpredictable and not in anyone’s control.
Nevertheless, if you use more than one fulfillment center, your package may be delivered to a different location and outside of any danger. Safety and customer service are top priorities for all carrier service providers. Hence most of them will have a contingency plan in place and will try their best to deliver the shipment with minimal delay.
3.4) Damaged/missing labels
Damaged shipping labels, illegible delivery addresses, and un-scannable barcodes are some reasons why packages may be unexpectedly delayed. When these important details can’t be scanned, the delivery can’t be completed; hence, this qualifies as a shipping exception.
Likewise, if the delivery address is wrong, unrecognizable, or incomplete, then the shipment is considered involved in a delivery exception.
3.5) The customer can’t receive the package
Some packages need to be signed by the customer on delivery. If they aren’t available to accept the delivery in person, then the delivery agent re-attempts the delivery the next day. If it doesn’t happen, the situation is considered a delivery exception.
If customers are unavailable to receive the package, they can content your support to reschedule the delivery before it arrives. Hence, it is important to provide multiple communication channels to customers so that the ETAs can be changed according to customer convenience.
4) Results due to the exception
If any of the above-mentioned events occur, an eCommerce delivery is considered exceptional. But it’s important to note that it is still possible to avoid a drastic delay if the product is delivered before closing the delivery window. Listed below are three outcomes that can take place in such a case.
4.1) The delivery happens on time
Quite often, a delivery exception can just be a proactive notification that your package could be delayed for various reasons, but it is delivered on time.
4.2) The delivery happens late
The delays during a shipping exception are generally short. Most often, the products involved in such situations arrive the next day, especially in cases where no one was at home to receive the package.
4.3) The product gets returned
If the carrier cannot deliver the package due to an incorrect address or label damage, it is sent back to the original sender or seller’s address.
5) What to do when faced with a delivery exception?
Based on the cause of the shipping exception, you will have to take action to mitigate the consequences. Here’s a list of actions that business owners could take when they notice the likelihood of an exception while their packages are in transit.
5.1) Get in touch with the carrier
To avoid shipping exceptions, the first step is access to an order tracking tool. It can be from a carrier's website or shipping software. Managing shipping exceptions can be increasingly difficult if you lack an order-tracking mechanism. Moreover, you should also make it possible for the customer to be able to do so.
If you can track orders, it becomes easier to anticipate delays, as courier partners will notify you accordingly. On its part, the carrier might be able to provide you with some actionable information, post which you can find out how to tackle the situation. For example, if the exception was made due to an incorrect address, you can give your delivery agents the correct details.
5.2) Get in touch with the customer
In case the cause for the exception is an incorrect shipping address, you could reach out to the customer to verify the accuracy of the address and make the necessary corrections.
In case the exception was caused due to other reasons, such as poor weather conditions, then it's best to inform the customer about the delay and the reason behind it.
Email and apologies to the affected people, and don’t forget to thank them for their patience. Any chance to turn a less-than-perfect situation into a positive buying journey for the customer will be remembered.
5.3) Resend the package or issue a refund
If the package is damaged in transit or cannot be delivered, you must speak to the customer about resending the item or offering a refund. If the shipment was damaged during transit, then the cost can be covered via your shipping insurance for that shipment, if there was any.
6) How can businesses respond better to shipping exceptions?
All eCommerce business owners, at some point, wish to provide self-pickup of ordered items as an option to their customers. But unfortunately, it delivery systems like locker or BOPIS (Buy-Online, Pick-up in Store) aren't feasible in all countries. Thus, here’s a list of things you could do to minimize the risk of an exception instead:
- Follow up with your courier service provider regarding packing and labeling guidelines.
- If you’re using a shipping method that charges based on weight/size for packages, ensure you’re exact. Getting the weight/size wrong could cause an exception.
- Make use of weather-resistant labels or cover the labels with plastic/tape to protect them from any damage.
- Ensure and verify that the delivery address is 100% accurate.
- Give your customers a tracking number for their packages. This way, they can be home to receive the package when it arrives.
- Make use of multi-carrier shipping software to simplify the process of label printing.
- If you’re offering international shipping, ensure you are prepared and charging accordingly.
7) Final Conclusion
As this article discusses, a lot can happen to a shipment during transit. Although a shipping/shipment delivery exception is unexpected and often beyond control, it can be frustrating for all parties involved.
The best way for eCommerce business owners to deal with them is to have a system and set procedures to manage shipping exceptions. It is equally important to put customers at ease while they wait for their ordered items to reach them.
8) FAQs on Shipping Exceptions
8.1) How long does a shipping exception last?
The duration of a shipping exception depends on the root cause of the delay. However, most shipping exceptions are resolved within seven business days.
8.2) What does “exception no attempt made” mean?
This notification appears when the carrier has not attempted to deliver the shipment. It can occur due to several reasons, like weather, driver error, or any other personal issue faced by the delivery executive.