We’ve covered small business call center communications at the holidays. Here’s some shipping advice from an expert.
Jarrett Streebin, founder of EasyPost, created a shipping API that makes it simple for small retailers to purchase labels, track packages, check rates, verify addresses, and perform all other shipping related functions.
Here’s his best advice for helping small shippers get through the holidays without losing kids’ toys in the mail or failing to meet anxious parents’ expectations.
1. Underpromise on delivery dates. If shipments usually arrive in 3 days, Streebin says you can manage customer expectations over the holidays by telling them it takes 5. “Shipments are slower now,” he says. “With the rainstorm in California, even Amazon shipments have been slow.”
2. Staff up on your fulfillment side. “If you can’t bring on extra hires for the season, do what you can to get orders out as quickly as possible,” Streebin says. “As soon as an order comes in the door, shuttle it through the process of getting filled. You save a whole day when you can get an order that came in at 3:00 pm out on the 4:00 pm truck. If it’s Saturday, you saved yourself two days.”
3. Increase the efficiency of your process. Bigger retailers and more advanced ecommerce businesses establish popup distribution centers to handle the extra load during the holidays. That’s probably out of reach for small retailers, but there are other ways to step things up. “Do what you can to integrate your ecommerce platform with your fulfillment service,” Streebin says. “We’re seeing retailers pull back from using third party logistics services because they want more control over serving their customers.”
4. Issue tracking numbers. Empower consumers to track shipments through UPS and FedEx on their own. “So may customer calls and email requests are about tracking,” Streebin says. “If your employee who makes $20 an hour spends 30 minutes on the phone tracking a customer’s package, free overnight shipping could have cost less.” With EasyPost, Streebin says, “whenever you purchase a shipping number we pull the tracking code and send an automated email from the retailer that says, ‘thanks for shopping, here’s your tracking code.’” With EasyPost, he says, there’s no need to send customers to USPS.com. “You can host shipment tracking on your own site and that’s a great place for a customer to be.”
5. Confirm delivery by email. Sure, the customer knows she just received the package. Why send an email? Because tracking-related notifications see between 30 and 40 percent more conversions that regular marketing emails, Streebin says. “When a customer gets an email that says, ‘Hey. your package was just delivered! Here’s 10% off your next purchase,’ he’s more likely to go back and buy stuff directly from that email.”
6. Pay attention to cutoff dates. Streebin says missing holiday postage deadlines is the biggest mistake he sees smaller retailers make in terms of competing with Amazon deliveries. EasyPost provides a list of the cutoff dates for each shipper on its blog. “Smaller businesses often don’t know these exist. They think if they ship on December 21 it will get there. Make sure you and your customers know when they need to select priority shipping. People just want to know where their orders are, and if they won’t make it by Christmas, then when will they arrive?”