Small to mid-size businesses are already feeling anxiety about increased holiday shipping volume, higher rates and inevitable snafus related to driver shortages and extreme weather.
“Businesses can set themselves up for success this holiday season by getting ahead of potential shipping issues.” Unishippers President Steve Leavitt said.
“Now is the time to tailor shipping processes to handle increased shipping volume and potentially longer transit times.”
Unishippers recommends businesses take these five steps to help control costs and minimize lost, delayed or damaged shipments:
1. Compare Shipping Rates
The rules of shipping and associated list of potentially added service fees endlessly evolve, which means last year’s rates have likely changed. Shop around to find the most cost-effective options, knowing that new peak season fees could influence the bottom line. A 3PL will usually provide a transportation management system (TMS) that can help compare options, delivery times and costs in one place.
2. Map Out Schedules
Before the rush, review holiday shipping schedules, paying special attention to map out the best days to ship perishables and other items. Most carriers reduce their hours or don’t deliver packages on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, so check the carrier website for specific closures and reduced hours. Also keep in mind that carriers often modify or suspend their service guarantees during peak shipping season.
- ·Perishable items are best shipped Monday-Wednesday with next-day delivery. Saturday deliveries will result in an additional charge, and most businesses are closed during the weekend--meaning a perishable item sent after Thursday could be spoiled by the time it is opened on Monday.
- ·If a package might wait outside a few days at its destination, be sure to check the weather to ensure it won’t be exposed to extreme temperatures.
- · 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.
3. Secure and Prepare Pallets
Select a sturdy wood or plastic pallet in good condition, strong enough to support the load of your shipment. There should be no broken boards, protruding fasteners or large gaps for materials to fall through.
Before wrapping pallets, make sure boxes are stacked evenly, corner-to-corner, without any overhang on the edges. Complete 2-3 shrink-wraps around the pallet.
Tape the openings of packages, seams of boxes and shipping labels with 2-inch-wide clear or brown reinforced packing tape or use label sleeves provided by the carrier to prevent smearing. Avoid cord, string, twine, duct or masking tape for small packages, as those can result in additional cost. Always fasten loads over 150 lbs. with unbreakable straps.
4. Be Transparent with Customers
The holiday season provides an opportunity to grow your business and build customer relationships. Be as transparent and helpful as possible when it comes to setting realistic expectations on customer orders and tracking packages. Troubleshoot any delayed, damaged or lost shipments by providing regular updates on an estimated resolution.
5. Consider Insurance
A common misconception is that shipments are automatically insured by the carrier through its limits of liability. However, carrier liability is not insurance, and may not protect the full value of the shipment, leading businesses to absorb those costs. Because carriers are also not responsible for “Acts of God” such as snowstorms, some 3PL’s offer customers a separate insurance product that covers weather-related and other damages.