Online shopping is on the increase and retailers are sending more of their products to customers by courier. The number of courier companies and the services they offer are correspondingly on the increase. When faced with such a wide and diverse range of options it is little wonder that retailers are not sure how to chose a courier, how best to access their service and what makes one company stand out from another.
Where is your priority?
The first question to answer — should the service be the best for the customer or best for the retailer? You may consider that a courier who offers a redelivery or late delivery service is perfect for your customers. However you may chose a more cost effective service, with less flexibility in its delivery service.
Second level considerations
The time it takes for your parcel to reach its destination, whether insurance is included, packaging restrictions and reliability all feature as second level considerations. A courier offering a particularly good level of service in any of these is likely to win your business. Failure to attend to these important aspects and you are more likely to move to another supplier. Peripheral matters such as problem solving and how issues are dealt with can become a crucial selection and retention factor. Clearly this aspect of a service will only become evident once you start using a company, but it does have the ability to sour your relationship even if all other aspects are being attended to. Adding value is the next consideration. If all courier companies are providing a similar level of service, for roughly the same cost, with decent levels of customer service how does a retailer choose between them? Having discarded the expensive, those providing poor service and the unreliable courier companies you are can still be faced with a number of options.
Third party companies
Third party booking companies negotiate contracts with national and international couriers and resell their services, often at a lower rate than the courier offer themselves. The third party resellers look after all aspects of customer service, deal with losses and handle the insurance claims. This makes good business sense for the courier and the retailer can access excellent courier services at a lower price. Most reasonable third party companies offer a range of services across the various couriers — resolving one dilemma for the retailer — choosing the most cost effective service for a particular delivery. Courier A may offer the best 10Kg service UK to UK, but Courier B the best international service to the United States. A third party company would offer you this choice and ensure that you have the opportunity to take advantage of the best deal on the market. Price competition amongst third party providers will also drive the price down for retailers, high volume users can also agree discounts on particular services.
Accessing the service
All reputable courier companies and third party providers have online booking systems. Customer details, collection and delivery addresses, package weight, dimensions, contents and value are all standard requirements when placing a booking. However differentiation between the providers can be seen most clearly at the level of sophistication, ease-of-use and reliability of the booking tool. For the busy retailer this can be a major factor in choosing a particular company and remaining loyal. There is a familiar look and feel to most third party courier booking systems. They require the usual detail to be input, either a cut and paste from your e-commerce platform or retyped if your details are collected offline. Unreliable and unstable sites usually indicate the level of service behind the site so should be avoided.
Raising the bar
Gaining the advantage in a competitive field is a challenge for third party providers. Competing on price has limits and the market is littered with companies who have failed themselves and their customers by competing on price to the extent that they have gone out of business. Third party companies have limited influence on operational services at the delivery end; this is in the hands of the courier company. This leaves the booking process and customer service as the main areas where a third party company can distinguish its self from others, attracting and retaining your business.
A booking system, which downloads all of the address details (collection and delivery) package weight and dimensions, contents and value, with the possibility of doing this for multiple orders, all at the click of a button and in a fraction of a second, is a significant improvement in booking tool functionality. The time saved from cutting, pasting or typing this detail can be significant. Having the tool linked to multiple platforms at the same time — eBay, Channel Advisor, ZenCart, OsCommerce and a simple CSV file, so all courier services are managed within one account is real bonus. Once orders have been downloaded the retailer is presented with a range of courier services based by default on price, but also including guaranteed delivery or services for outsized packages, all based upon the actual parcel details solves another retailer dilemma.
It ensures that the genuine best service is offered, rather than just the best service one courier can provide. The savings achievable via this cherry picking approach to courier booking should not be underestimated. Individual package booking, but collective payment if multiple orders are being placed is a significant time saving feature. Taking all of the features into consideration it is possible to book courier services across different suppliers, with different services and pay for all within minutes rather than the hours this would take under traditional means. Third party operators who understand what retailers need and work to provide this stand apart from their competitors. Tracking parcels – usually by inputting a serial number into a field and seeing the latest location information is the minimum standard, how about having an ability to view all of your parcels that are out for delivery, on one screen, with nothing more than one click of a button. Being presented with the headline status of all of your parcels with an additional option to see the specific details for each is yet another time saving function.
E-commerce retailers need to choose a courier company to take care of their deliveries. Cost will be a major factor but there are a number of other value adding considerations. Third party companies who can deliver an excellent range of services combined with innovative and time saving booking software, and advanced tracking tools — at no additional cost or commitment are worth finding. There are companies out there who work hard to provide a genuinely superior service. Do not accept anything less.