It’s common that sellers want on-time shipping service 100% of the time. Who wouldn’t?! Unfortunately there are some aspects of shipping that are out of everyone’s control. When your products get to customers late due to weather delays or surge volumes it can cause a lot of headaches. But it may not always be worth leaving your carrier.
“I see sellers quit a carrier entirely if there’s a lost shipment or missed deadline. While it’s understandable that 1% of the time this happens, there’s often a logical reason that’s often out of the carrier’s control. I just hate to see sellers leave a perfectly great service provider when they really shouldn’t.”
Stay updated on service delays, by referencing these carrier alert pages:
The Three Biggest Reasons for Shipping Delays
The most common reasons for LTL shipping issues within the US are weather, surges in volume, and cultural events. Here’s a quick list of how to think strategically about these common issues and how to get ahead of them (if and when possible).
It seems obvious, but it’s not always so intuitive, your carrier can’t control delays due to weather. Because the US has such disparate climates, sometimes it’s hard to fathom why there might be slower delivery times due to weather when you’re experiencing blue skies. So that weather delays don’t surprise you:
- Look at national forecasts often to see what the rest of the country might be facing.
- Get to know the regions where you sell the most. Knowing the regional weather patterns will help you anticipate big storms.
- Sign up for carrier updates (often they send out weather delay updates via email) so that you can easily stay tuned in when there may be issues.
The winter holidays are the best example of surges. It happens every year starting Black Friday and ending the week of Christmas, everyone is rushing to take advantage of the sales and get packages to doorsteps on or before Christmas. It’s inevitable that all of the carriers will get backed up. There are also surges that aren’t so predictable. For example the first few months of the COVID pandemic lockdown was an incredible time for ecommerce, but it all happened so fast that no one had time to prepare.
To help get in front of any delays due to surges here are a few things you can do:
- Do your Q4 inventory planning months in advance. Spring isn’t too early to start planning for the holidays.
- Get close with your shipping and fulfillment partners. By communicating often, you’re more likely to get a response from them in the middle of a surge. If you’re not on their short list to call when issues arise you may have to wait your turn to get their attention.
There are always anomalies, like large-scale cultural events, or a container ship getting stuck in the world’s most famous canal. No one can predict these. Sometimes they happen often, sometimes they are sustained and last months, and sometimes they are gone in a flash. So how can you mitigate delays during these times? It’s next to impossible. What you can do is watch the news with a logistics mindset. If you think there might be a supply chain bottleneck brewing, start crafting a message to your customers in case you need to post it. The key is always to communicate before anyone needs to ask, so being prepared is key here.
How to Manage Shipping Delays
While these issues can’t be prevented, sellers can take a few actions that can help keep your customers happy, despite the issues. Ultimately, as a seller you want to ensure customers are well informed and taken care of.
Communicate the Delays With Your Customers
If you see any of these issues arise—whether or not you’ve started to experience shipping delays or not—you can always communicate with your customers. If you tell them there may be shipping delays upfront, it’s likely they will feel more satisfied than if the delays happen with no communication. Plus, if their items arrive early, that’s way better than too late without any communication. You always want to get ahead of any issues by letting your customers know about them before they happen.
Have a Backup Solution
At DCL Logistics we often work with private shipping partners around the holiday peak seasons since we know there will be surges. We don’t alway use our secondary option, but it’s a great failsafe in case we need to circumvent any shipping routes affected by weather, or experiencing backups. It’s advisable in most aspects of the supply chain to have a secondary option that you can coordinate quickly.
Use Multiple Carriers
It’s good practice to use more than one carrier at a time to create redundancy. While you may ship the majority of your goods using a particular carrier, it’s beneficial to leverage another to help compare service quality and speed. Not to mention, giving you maximum flexibility and minimizing switching costs in the event one carrier experiences issues.
How to Know When it Might be Time to Change Providers
The transit issues listed above cannot be resolved by you, your shipping partners, or 3PL provider. If delivery delays happen because of any of these issues there’s largely nothing anyone can do about them. Experiencing these types of issues once or twice isn’t reason to leave your partners. However, if your carrier or provider is dropping shipments, losing items, sending the wrong units, or causing other issues, then it’s definitely time to think about switching.
When looking for great fulfillment and shipping partners, you want to ensure you’re aligned. Look for shipping partners who serve the area where your customers live. Seek out a fulfillment partner with experience in the services you require the most. Always ask what the growth opportunities are when interviewing a potential partner, you want support that can grow with you and also help you scale.
DCL Logistics has a great track record of helping companies find the perfect shipping solutions for their brand. If you’re looking for a highly communicative 3PL to help you optimize your shipping strategy, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.
Tags: All About LTL