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GUEST COMMENT Diversifying carriers keeps customers coming back

DeliveryX

Delivering on time and with plenty of communication can be the deciding factor between a customer coming back or going elsewhere. As we enter 2024, Anton Eder, co-founder of global enterprise post-purchase software provider parcelLab, looks at how using a range of trusted carriers is key for customer retention.

Customers expect the right product to be delivered at the right time; with plenty of forewarning and options to fit with their schedule. 

In a survey, 53% of consumers revealed that they view the post-purchase stage as the most emotional part of their shopping journey. If the delivery experience is fraught with problems – whether at the fault of the carrier or even the customer – they will look elsewhere.

Nearly half of shoppers interviewed for a survey by YouGov stated that their relationship with a retailer would be affected by a negative shipping or delivery experience. And the numbers of shoppers reporting substandard service is rising.

As previously report by DeliveryX, not one of the UK’s major parcel firms secured “even a three star rating” in the Citizens Advice’s annual parcels league table. A staggering 13 million people stated that they had suffered issues with delivery for the last parcel ordered, with problems including late arrival or their package being left in an unsuitable location.

That is a lot of disgruntled customers who will have expected refunds or discounts. Companies will also face the operational costs of fulfilling redeliveries and the increased customer service demands. In the UK, the average cost of a failed delivery is £11.60. For those business selling lower priced items, this cost is huge, but it is an immediate cost.

Other impacts will be felt over the long term and they are harder to predict. In the YouGov survey, 23% of the respondents stated that their relationship with a retailer would be over after a negative delivery experience. As well losing their custom, there is the knock-on potential of bad reviews on new customer acquisition. This is an impact that could keep hurting a company month after month.

There is a way to mitigate the potential for late deliveries or unacceptable levels of service; and that is by putting your eggs – your orders – in more than one basket. By using a range of carriers, you lessen the chance of disruption. After all, there is a lower chance that all five carriers that you use will be affected by the labour shortages that plagued Evri last year or the strikes that impacted Royal Mail. Other potential issues like technical failures – or even an illness outbreak – are unlikely to hit more than one carrier at once. 

There are other benefits. If there is an unexpected surge in orders, with multiple carriers poised and ready, retailers can quickly meet demand. Similarly, if orders are lower than predicted, relationships can be altered to reflect need. 

Relationships can also change if performance is lacking. Companies keep data on orders but they must also keep data on how their carriers are doing. This will help determine if there are issues that need to be addressed to head off customer dissatisfaction but help to identify areas where innovation is needed.

Companies should always be striving to improve their customer journey; and it doesn’t end with delivery. There should be post-purchase communications, including a chance for customers to share their experience of delivery; as well as an easy returns policy. In a study, 92% of interviewees stated that they are influenced by brands’ return policies. It is, however, something that a lot of retailers neglect. It is also another area where having a reliable carrier comes into play.

Using more than one carrier also means that it is easier to negotiate competitive rates. And you can be highly selective, choosing carriers that fit your needs. This might mean using a company that has regional knowledge or a carrier who has a reputation for high ESG standards. This is an area of growing importance for customers. Our survey revealed that 67.1% of consumers care about sustainability, for example.

This is a time of economic disruption in which customer tolerance for service issues is low. Retailers have hardly any margin for errors. The purchase experience – from start to finish – must be seamless, enjoyable, and easy. If not, customers will simply go elsewhere. Retailers must have faith in their carriers to play their part in this journey. By spreading their custom, being meticulous in data gathering and oversight, and developing strong working relationships with their carriers, retailers can not only keep customers coming back to them but garner a reputation that will bring new customers to them as well.

Anton Eder, co-founder, parcelLab

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