In the ramp-up to peak holiday shipping season, small and mid-size business owners should plan early and follow six key steps to minimize the impact of lost, delayed or damaged shipments, according to Unishippers Global Logistics, LLC. In a list released this week, the 3PL provider said shippers should follow these steps to promote a smooth holiday season:
Set realistic expectations with customers. "No one is exempt from delays due to weather conditions, driver shortages and other industry realities. Embrace transparency with customers when there is a spike in shipping volume and carriers are stretched thin," the company said. "This is your opportunity to be as accommodating and realistic as possible when setting expectations for customer orders. Troubleshoot any delayed, damaged or lost shipments by providing regular updates on an estimated solution."
Clearly label your packages. "A year-round best practice is to ensure you are properly packaging and labeling both your freight and express shipments," the company also said. "This can make a huge impact on whether a shipment gets to where it needs to go without delay. Consider using label sleeves or place a strip of clear packing tape over the address area and be sure to avoid covering any barcodes that require scanning."
Be diligent with scheduling. "Be mindful that there are fewer business days and more weather disruptions during the holiday season, which means transit times for shipping may increase and service guarantees are often suspended," Unishippers advised. "Planning ahead by shipping your 'just in time inventory' early and expediting critical shipments whenever possible will help you avoid delays. Don't put your business and customers in a bind by not allowing for the correct number of transit days."
They say shippers should also note that most carriers reduce their hours or don't deliver packages on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve or News Year's Day, so it's important to check the carrier website for specific closures and reduced hours. It's also important to know your carriers' shipping cutoff times. Orders received before the cut-off time on the same day will be ready to process, but orders received after the cut-off time will be processed the following day. "By sticking to shipping cut-off times, you can avoid missed pick-ups or drop-offs that require additional resources to see the order through," the 3PL explained.
Plan accordingly for complex orders. "Be aware that time-sensitive merchandise such as food or medical supplies requires more care and attention," the company said. "Ensure all paperwork and labels reflect the priority of the shipment and consider contacting the carrier representative to reiterate the shipment's time sensitivity. Additionally, be mindful of your shipping technique since a loading dock may treat a shipment as a lower priority if it requires more accommodation due to awkward or odd-proportioned packaging."
Add insurance to your shipment. "Properly insuring your shipments can make or break your holiday season. If a shipment is damaged in transit, basic liability typically does not cover the full value of the shipment," Unishippers explained. "With shipment insurance, you are more likely to recover your loss, and the process for filing a claim is often easier."
Consider hiring a helping hand. The company also advises working with a 3PL to help manage demand during the peak holiday season.
"With proper planning and knowing what to expect and prevent, there is no need to fear the holiday season," Unishippers President Steve Leavitt said in statement explaining the six steps. "These tips can help you get in front of potential shipping issues year-round but are particularly important in setting your business up for success during peak season so you can enjoy fulfilling an influx of orders."