Choosing A Shipping Provider}
Submitted by: Merlyn Netto
A less than desirable shipping experience will leave a bad taste in a customers mouth. It can very easily negate the otherwise excellent work delivered up to this point in the value chain.
While it may seem a matter of commonsense, the reality is that most businesses end up paying almost all attention in getting all the aspects of customer experience right and tend to ignore shipping. Why is that? Its because so often shipping goes through a carrier service and isnt directly handled by the distributor. Unless you sell something that only your company knows how to assemble, chances are you rely on a third party to get your product to your customer, especially in areas far from your warehouse.
When evaluating a shipping provider, its important to see if they have thecapabilities to make a good delivery and a great customer experience.
Reach / Range
Where does the shipping company provide services? If you have or expect customers from a specific location, make sure the shipping providers youre considering deliver in that area.
Shipping Rates and Speed
Different shipping companies have different rates for the same delivery. Depending on how you pack your products, you should find the one that offer the best rates.
If you offer options like same day delivery or next day delivery, you want to make sure the shipping provider is capable of fulfilling that order. Even if you dont, it might be good to check how quickly the shipping companies can make the delivery in case a customer has an urgent need.
Not all shipping companies are willing to deliver all kinds of products. If you sell machines or chemicals, youll have to make sure the providers youre considering are willing and equipped to handle it correctly.
Some shipping providers have insurance for deliveries. If the product you sell is expensive, you may want a shipping provider who covers it under their policy.
If the shipping provider offers a way for you to track the product and you can integrate that feature on your site for customers to use, it would be a great way to enhance the customer experience. While this isnt a must today, it will become an expected feature in the very near future.
Theres always a chance that there is a defect or damage to the product. The shipping company that handles your deliveries should be prepared to handle product returns by customers for you.
Assembly / Disassembly
If your product is something that needs to be assembled at the customers premise, then your shipping provider needs to have staff capable of doing so. They should also be capable of disassembling the product in case of a product return.
While some shipping companies appear good on paper, customers who have had products delivered to them are more reliable sources of information. See if you can find reviews of the shipping providers service from their customers or in online forums. This will tell you if customers find the shipping company easy to deal with.
A factor that may not come up when choosing a shipping partner, but one that matters is whether the partner is capable of growing with you. An online business can grow pretty fast, and your shipping partner needs to be capable of expanding their business to match yours, whether its in terms of new locations or greater volumes.
About the Author: Merlyn Netto is a technical consultant at Unilog Corp. He writes articles on topics related to B2B eCommerce Software.