Getting the best out of your courier

Trustpilot is full of very negative stories about couriers – some of them are very funny! But as a 3PL the relationship with the courier is absolutely vital, and all like all relationships it is very much two-way. In this article I will cover how to get great performance out of your courier.

Starting with the customer order on your ecommerce store, the most obvious thing to get right is the delivery address. Here in the UK the thing to do is to get the address entered to match the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF) but all other countries have a similar database. An accurate address means your 3PL will be able to create a courier label without problems and that the delivery driver will be able to find your customer. Royal Mail will also give discounts for volume clients providing the delivery addresses have a high level of accuracy.

The good news is that fast and accurate address entry is also likely to improve your conversion rate by cutting down the typing your customer has to do. We are particular fans of Loqate who have a brilliant global address lookup and verification system. Many of our clients use Shopify who use the Google Address Validation API which is also pretty good.

Royal Mail and some couriers will also offer discounts if the parcels are sorted before dispatch. We have the Royal Mail sortation plan and the sort plans of the couriers that require them, so we can do this for you.

Next, you need to get the parcel collected and injected into the courier network. If you are shipping a small number of parcels this is incredibly easy. As you get into larger numbers of parcels involving multiple vans (for collection by the courier depot) or trunks (for collection to the courier hub) then it gets a bit more difficult.

The good news is that all the couriers we work with have enormous capacity, the trick is simply that they need to be given a forecast in advance and they can ensure the capacity is there. However if they are suddenly presented with an extra 20,000 parcels with no notice then there may well be a delay on collection. In certain circumstances, such as one-off promotions or high volumes on days the couriers are closed, we will occasionally arrange our own trunks and directly inject them to the courier hub for you but again we will require advance notice to do this.

The next thing we want to do is to ensure that the parcel is delivered first time. If the courier has a failed delivery and has to come back to try again, then that will dramatically increase the cost of the delivery. If your account has a high level of failed deliveries then you may have to pay a higher rate, and conversely a very high level of first time deliveries puts you in a great position to negotiate down your rate.

There are four methods to improve your first time delivery rate.

  1. You can encourage your customer to ship to their work address. It is always much more reliable to ship to a business address because there is nearly always somebody in to receive a parcel during standard hours.
  2. If that’s not possible then suggest your customer leaves delivery instructions in case they are out. This is usually a safe place in which the parcel can be left or can be a neighbour. If you are shipping alcohol or high value products then this will not be possible because you will require a signature.
  3. It is a good idea to offer Saturday delivery. Many people work Monday to Friday so a Saturday delivery is more likely to get them in. There is likely to be a small increased fee for Saturday but you can often pass this on to your customer.
  4. Make sure you supply the customer’s email address or phone number (ideally both). This can then be used for a Pre-Delivery Notification (PDN). With our main courier, DHL Parcel, this will mean your customer is texted a two-hour delivery window and if that is not suitable they will be given the opportunity to reschedule the delivery to another day. This is the single most important tip and will dramatically improve your first time delivery rates.

Finally, you should review courier performance on a monthly basis. We will measure the delivery performance and reasons for failed deliveries and give you a monthly report which we will discuss with the couriers for you.

By following this advice you will improve your customer experience, make things easier for your courier and save money too.