Thursday, June 15th, 2006
A merchant sent in this question recently:
What is the best way to deal with a customer who orders using an incomplete address (for example, a work address at a large building and they don’t include the floor number or company name) and then they contact you all mad that they haven’t gotten their order? The customer of course wants the store to foot the bill for a replacement order.
Shipping. It can literally make or break your business. Offer free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount, and your average order size may jump way up. However, if you don’t have specific shipping policies outlined, choose the wrong shipping options, or don’t take time to get use accurate weight and package sizes, you may be undercharging buyers for shipping and/or facing chargebacks that cut into your profits. So how do you avoid issues like the one described above? I can offer a few tips, but in reality, there may be no 100% solution.
Keep in mind with the situation above, the shopper may feel more secure sending the package to a business address.
Tips to Avoid (or, More Likely, Mitigate) Delivery Issues
- Add extra fields for business addresses such as company name to your checkout. Spell out in clear terms that shoppers must provide the company name and mailstop in order to ship to a business address if that is your policy.
- Follow up with the customer by email or phone if the address looks incomplete for a business address. While this may take some time, you may make a favorable impression with the customer by showing concern for the safe arrival of the order. You can use the “map” link appearing beneath the shipping address in the Order Manager to look up an address in Yahoo! Maps.
- Ship your package with a carrier that offers email notifications to both you and the buyer when the package is shipped, delivered, or when the carrier is having problems with the delivery. This allows you and the buyer to quickly resolve the problem before you have to reship the order.
- Require a signature for delivery. If you can prove the item was delivered by having a signature, then the shopper’s issue with your delivery of the order, becomes an issue for the shopper to take up with the mail room at their company. This may cost extra for some carriers, but if the value of the order is large enough, it may give you more peace of mind. Sometimes just using a service that allows for tracking will avoid this problem altogether because you can clearly show when a delivery was made, who it was delivered to, and at what address.
- Refuse delivery to business addresses. While this may require some research if reviewing manually, some carriers may have tools that can tell if an address is commercial or residential. If delivery to business addresses pose a consistent problem for you, or if an order is large enough to cause concern, contact the buyer and ask for another shipping address. Remember though that buyers may prefer shipping to a business address.
Even with extra measures in place, such issues may still arise. How you deal with them can also, (perhaps even more so), impact your business in the long term.
When Things Go Wrong
- Put it in writing. Outline your shipping policies in detail so you can reference them to customers that may have issues. Review shipping policies of stores that have been around for some time. Their policies will likely cover cases you may face in the future. Adopt those policies that make sense to you, but adapt them so they make sense to your shoppers. You may wish to consult a lawyer to determine if your policies will stand up to a legal challenge.
- Review each case individually. While your policies may be crystal clear, it may make sense to review each case individually. In some cases, the customer may truly not be at fault. If the carrier loses the package, you may be able to recover costs from the carrier. You also will come off as more reasonable if you are willing to talk with shoppers with an issue and come to an amicable agreement. Remember that winning by not refunding a $20 order may cost you a hundred fold in bad word of mouth.
- Factor some loss into your business planning. You may want to consider shipping losses to be similar to fraud where you can plan and implement ways to reduce them, but you may never get rid of it. How hard you dispute with buyers should be determined by your willingness (and financial ability) to accept some losses, the likelihood that the buyer may issue a chargeback, the likelihood you may win the chargeback, and how much negative impact to your company’s name may happen if the shopper feels they have been “cheated”.
This does not mean you should roll over when challenged, nor does it mean you should battle each case knowing you are in the right. Rather, you should take all reasonable steps to prevent these issues before they occur, and if they do, take a pragmatic approach to finding a resolution. The same customer you could make into an enemy by fighting could be turned into a loyal customer that evangelizes your company to many others because you took the time to find a reasonable solution.
Sound off, merchants. I know some of you may have dealt with shipping issues. Post your take on dealing with shipping issues in the comments.
Yahoo! Small Business