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How to Prevent Late Deliveries?

Learn how to prevent late deliveries by responding to them correctly and improving your logistics to reduce delays and stop them from happening.


In this guide, we’re going to show you how to prevent late deliveries.

You’ll see:

What causes late deliveries?

How much package delays affect your business?

And how to deal with them if and when they happen.

So if you want to overcome shipping delays and ensure all deliveries reach your customers, then you’ll enjoy this article.

Let’s dive right in.

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What Are Late Deliveries?

Late deliveries are orders meant for delivery that don’t arrive at their intended destination on the set date or time. The business, its fulfillment service and carrier, or the customer can all cause delays that result in late deliveries.

And while certain elements are under your control, some are not. It’s up to you to anticipate and plan for both expected and unexpected incidents to ensure all deliveries arrive on time without a hitch.

What Causes Delivery Delays?

The fact is:

A lot of internal and external factors can cause delivery delays.

For example, the COVID-19 pandemic caused delivery times to hit record highs in the United States and European Union

This can cripple any business that relies on delivery to generate income.

In fact, such a volume-caused delay happened to Amazon during the early months of the pandemic.

But major disruptors like the coronavirus aren’t the only issue. Some hit closer to home.

That means you can overcome them! (More on that later)

Right now, here are some of the most frequent late delivery causes:

Mistakes with documentation

Badly handled documentation can hinder delivery. The cause for these errors includes:

  • Incorrectly filled out order forms
  • Lack of delivery information
  • Misspelled addresses
  • Errors when sharing data

While shoppers themselves can provide the wrong information at checkout, your staff can make the mistake of not documenting orders properly.

That particularly goes if they have to receive orders manually while multitasking other activities.

And having incorrect or insufficient information can lead to more than just parcel delays. It may lead to packages not being delivered at all.

Overselling and backorders

Overselling is often caused by falling behind on manual processes.

Typically, this happens when you’re manually managing inventory or syncing stock between sales channels.

That can frequently cause a delay in delivery since you can’t send products to customers until you get another batch of items from your supplier.

Backorders happen when you sell products that your supplier is shipping to you. In this case, you can only provide an estimated delivery date in the future when customers will receive their orders.

This can cause you to dig yourself in deeper by letting people place backorders for items that you can’t physically handle.

That means you have to rely on on-time inbound shipments from your suppliers. And this may not always be the case:

Shipments don’t always arrive when they are supposed to. So you open the door for a delay in delivery due to external factors, including your suppliers.

Late orders

Late orders happen when you fail to point out the availability of your delivery service. Or when your ordering system is missing a cut-off time.

Setting up order cut-off times prevents customers from ordering products when your delivery isn’t available.

Often, customers choose delivery slots thinking that they still qualify for next-day or two-day delivery, while, in fact, they don’t.

Instead, their orders are transferred to the next available delivery date. So even though the delivery technically won’t be late, it will appear as a late order to the customer.

Inefficient logistics

Inefficient delivery logistics are THE BIGGEST reasons for delays.

Inefficiencies in the delivery process prolong the time between acquiring products, preparing and processing orders, and dropping them off to customers.

After all:

The longer it takes to get products to shoppers, the longer the shipping delays.

We already mentioned manual order processing as one example of logistical inefficiency.

Others Include:

  • Lack of automation
  • Inefficient supply chains
  • Understaffed teams
  • Unclassified stock
  • Impractical warehouse layouts
  • Manual fleet dispatching
  • Coordination between teams
  • Lack of visibility over the last mile
  • No delivery or route planning

Software like eLogii is the solution to mend most of these problems.

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Poor packaging and labeling

Not being precise when packaging and labeling orders for shipment can cause damaged products, misplaced deliveries, confusion, and late shipping.

Poorly packaged items can easily be damaged in transit.

If drivers don’t know the items they deliver are fragile, they might not handle them with care.

Badly labeled packages signal disorganization in your business.

Dispatchers may route vehicles to the wrong drop-off.

Drivers may deliver orders to the wrong customer.

And it takes time to correct these mistakes during the shipping stage.

That delays the entire delivery fleet, while items arrive beyond their expected time of arrival.

Weather and other external factors

Heavy snowfall, thick fog, hailstorms, and other weather conditions can lead to a package delayed in transit due to poor driving conditions and road shut-downs.

While these factors are out of your control, your customers still expect you to make on-time delivery.

Forecasting weather accurately in advance is impossible. But you can avoid delays by planning ahead to anticipate unexpected delays due to weather.

The same is true for other factors, such as traffic congestion during specific times of day. Or staying on top of road works and general conditions on the road.

If these events do happen, it’s best to have a way of notifying customers about them.

Peak season

Certain times of the year, like holidays, often cause a surge in orders since they are prime time for eCommerce.

Meeting seasonal demand an be challenging both to you and your fulfillment team, leading to delivery delays.

But these delays can happen to anyone.

How Do Late Deliveries Impact Your Business?

Late deliveries impact your business A LOT.

In fact, 13% of all shoppers never repeat business after their package doesn’t arrive on time.

And that can gut your income and even permanently damage your business.

Here’s how:

Customer disappointment

Late shipping causes customers to get disappointed.

This means that you didn’t provide the service they have paid for.

Apart from this being upsetting to the customer, it also potentially disrupts their plans and lifestyle.

Maybe now they didn’t get that one thing they use in everyday life.

Perhaps they were planning a birthday surprise for someone and can’t go through with it now.

Whatever it is, you are risking your relationship with your customer when you provide them with slow delivery.

You also risk the chance of your customer turning to your competitor and using their services instead.

Profit and turnaround

Late deliveries translate into an uncertain future with your customer.

In fact, 96% of all customers say customer experience is an important part of their loyalty to a brand.

Apart from damaged business reputation, this leads to low customer churn.

Companies that don’t provide on-time delivery don’t value their shopper’s time and plans.

Additional and unexpected costs

Expect some additional and unexpected costs with late deliveries.

If the delay is your fault, you’ll have to rectify it.

Often, this means providing refunds on the entire order, withdrawing the delivery fee, or giving them discounts or other incentives on future purchases.

In all three cases, this means you’ll lose money on the delivery to that particular customer.

And the more late deliveries you have, the more overhead you’ll have. As you’ll have to pay for more fuel, employee overtime, and even give products for free.

Even if the delay isn’t your fault, you’ll still need to remedy the mistake to ensure customers stay satisfied and don’t gut your reputation.

And with incidents beyond your control, you’ll have to expect additional expenses. Which you won’t be able to cover with the delivery if you miss the deadline.

Time

Your staff will be losing time investigating what went wrong with certain deliveries.

Since two-thirds of customers call up customer service when their package is even a day late, your employees will likely be spending time on the phone with the frustrated shopper.

They will also spend time gathering details about the delivery and taking steps to resolve the issue.

All of that time would be better spent doing something more beneficial for the growth of your business.

Reputation

Your business reputation can take a hit when you provide late shipping.

Especially if you previously advertised fast and on-time deliveries on your website.

You are risking the trust your shopper has for you, and you probably won’t get an excellent good word-to-mouth referral.

That further leads to failure to retain customers, and attract new ones.

How to Respond to a Late Delivery?

Now that you know what can cause late deliveries, it’s time to deal with them.

This means being transparent and honest with your customers.

And to protect the reputation of your business, you’ll have to reimburse them.

It also means fixing the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

To help you, here’s a step-by-step guide to respond to late delivery:

Step #1: Own up to your mistake

Customers value honesty. So if a delivery is late, own up to your mistake.

What many delivery managers forget is that it’s easy to get frustrated when such things happen.

But you shouldn’t try to fix the mistake without letting the customer know what’s going on.

Acknowledging the delay buys you time.

It also helps to see the customer’s reaction:

Maybe he will accept the delay and wait extra time for the order without any consequences. Maybe you can readjust the time of delivery. Or the customer is happy to pick up the order himself.

When notifying the customer about the late delivery be sure to:

  • Take full responsibility
  • Apologize for the inconvenience
  • Explain what caused the delay
  • Inform them how you plan to handle the situation

Additionally, you may want to keep the customer up-to-date about the second delivery attempt.

But whatever you do:

Don’t make false promises or hide the failed delivery attempt.

Such a move could only make things worse because it may seem like you want to purposefully mislead your customers. And no one appreciates that.

Step #2: Be transparent about the reason

Similarly, you should be transparent about the reason for the delay or missed delivery.

Whatever it is, don’t sugarcoat it.

If the reason for the late delivery was the weather or traffic, customers may forgive you.

People can be very understanding when they know the same thing could happen to them.

On the other hand, the delay may happen due to insufficient inventory or bad navigation.

In this case, being transparent may cause the customer to accept your offer of compensation without any repercussions. Simply because you’re openly admitting what happened.

So before you contact the customer, try to find out what has happened.

Get the answer from your delivery driver.

And then coordinate between dispatch and customer service about the next steps you’ll need to take.

Step #3: Offer generous compensation

Even if the failed delivery attempt was out of your control, you should generously compensate the customer.

That means that you’ll have to have a late delivery resolution strategy in place.

Having a resolution strategy will help your customer service teams handle the situation better.

It also helps to know what you can offer customers, so that you don’t lose a lot of money.

Of course, the obvious reparation involves a full refund.

But customers may also accept discounts or free delivery on future orders.

Such quick-fix gestures can help you get better customer churn and reputation.

Step #4: Evaluate problems and fix them

Once the customer is appeased, it’s time to fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

Evaluate the late delivery and try to find answers to:

  • What happened?
  • Who was responsible for the delay?
  • What was the reason behind the delay?
  • Could the delay have been avoided? How?
  • Would a contingency plan help? Why or why not?
  • Is there a way to prevent this issue from happening? How?

The single best thing you can do when you encounter a problem is learn from it.

So answering these questions will help you to put measures in place to minimize late deliveries and raise your first delivery attempt rates.

BONUS: You may want to reach out to customers and let them know that you’re going to offset those problems in the future.

So…

How to Stop Late Deliveries from Happening?


Set realistic expectations

Let’s be clear on something:

There is a limit to how many orders you can deliver to customers every day.

Be it 10 or 10,000, it’s physically impossible to drop-off more orders than the maximum delivery capacity of your fleet.

That means you have a limited timeframe in which you can fulfill all those orders. That also affects delivery speed, or how fast you can complete all those tasks.

Based on that, you need to realistically manage your customers’ expectations.

If you can’t complete more than 50 orders with overnight shipping, clearly inform your customers and don’t take on more than you can handle.

You can set up your system to close those delivery options once you’ve reached the limit for a particular date.

Or close all available delivery slots once you’ve reached your capacity.

If the transportation costs are too steep for same-day delivery, add a minimum order value so customers qualify for it.

That makes it more cost-effective to fulfill these orders in that timeframe.

Whatever you do, make sure that your customers are aware of the limitations of your delivery.

That makes it easier for your drivers and delivery agents to provide quality customer service.

But try to add as many offers as you can that are in line with their expectations.

After all, it’s a question of balance. And you don’t want to discourage them from ordering at all.

Optimize order processing

You can have the best online store in the world…

…but if you don’t use a good order management system, the way you process orders for delivery will be a nightmare.

The most popular ecommerce platforms and OMS solutions (among our customers) include:

In any case, using an OMS can help you to:

  • Centralize how you process and manage orders
  • Send order information to the next stage of delivery
  • Dynamically scale order volumes
  • Taking in orders dynamically
  • Make data-based decisions

The best part: all these systems can integrate with delivery management software like eLogii.

Improve inventory and packaging

Inventory and supply chain management is a neglected part of delivery optimization.

In fact, managing inventory and the supply chain correctly can ensure your deliveries don’t arrive late to customers.

To do that, you need to:

  • Track of inventory levels. This prevents you from overselling certain products. But it also stops you from selling products you don’t physically have yet (backorders).
  • Track inventory locations. This allows you to distribute stock between your depots based on demand. That can reduce pick-up times for delivery.
  • Track product demand. This enables you to manage order frequency more carefully so you can request new supplies in case you’re running low on specific products.

An inventory or warehouse management system is a useful tool to handle this information.

The most popular IMS solutions include:

Besides this, you’ll need to optimize how you manage storage facilities. In particular, how you pick and pack products for delivery.

Reducing the time it takes to source products from inventory can significantly reduce the time it takes to pack them for shipping.

On the other hand, this leaves you more room to sort, pack, and label orders for delivery. Which is especially useful if you rely on custom packaging.

Raising pick and pack efficiency will reduce wait times during pickup. And that means drivers can start their routes faster and arrive at their destination sooner.

Raise delivery efficiency with software

A well-designed route planning and optimization software are vital for improving the performance of your delivery.

It also allows you to:

  1. Evaluate the delivery data
  2. Find problem spots in the delivery process
  3. Discover cost-saving opportunities
  4. Assess the capability of your delivery fleet and drivers
  5. Implement methods for better delivery
  6. Test the methods for their effectiveness
  7. Determine the success of your route planning

With an optimized system, you can make precise assessments founded on key metrics.

Such a system will also set you on route to digital transformation. Rather than manually planning routes, you will be able to build a strong delivery through automation.

Track orders along the last mile

Tracking orders itself won’t always offset a late delivery. But it can let you know about a possible delay.

That way, you can immediately react and minimize the damage, depending on the package’s content and value.

For instance, you can arrange for a replacement that will arrive on time.

By investing in delivery management software, you get real-time updates about your en route deliveries, along with their estimated time of arrival.

That minimizes last-mile delivery issues and prevents wasted driving and idling times.

Consider raising your delivery capacity

Raising your delivery capacity is a simple solution for fewer shipping delays.

Here are just some ways that you can achieve this:

  1. Planning better delivery routes with a higher stop frequency
  2. Improved packaging means more items fit onto vehicles
  3. Order batching lets you combine multiple orders into one delivery run
  4. Accurately forecast demand based on previous order volumes
  5. Monitor key delivery metrics to raise delivery output

Communicate with customers regularly

Having responsive customer service can do wonders for your reputation.

When a package is delayed in transit, your customers will adopt a milder tone when contacting your staff if they previously saw overwhelmingly good feedback about your customer service.

And as mentioned above, being transparent as much as possible leads to satisfied and loyal customers that are quicker to forgive late shipments.

This isn’t the end.

You can improve your operations beyond preventing late deliveries.

And we can help you with that.

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