Nine Tips to Help Improve Your Outbound Parcel Shipping
Shipping and handling (S&H) complaints usually rank pretty high on the list of gripes customers have against merchants. At the same time, consumers rate parcel delivery companies as some of the best in customer service*. Is there a disconnect in the consumer’s mind, or is there more to this dichotomy than meets the eye?
Catalog Success asked Jeff Kline, a veteran of catalog fulfillment, to share his advice on how you can increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of your outbound parcel shipping services — while at the same time maintaining or even improving your customer service objectives. Kline is president of Kline Management Consulting, a Collierville, Tenn.-based direct marketing and fulfillment consulting firm. His customer list includes catalogers such as Levenger, Cabela’s and Benchmark Brands.
As a consultant, Kline specializes in operational planning and improvement, freight expense reductions and operational efficiencies. He also is a business development manager for DM Transporta-tion Management Services, which consults and provides vendor inbound management services for direct marketers. Before founding his consulting company, Kline served in management positions at merchants such as Genesis Direct, Nordstrom and Bedford Fair. Following are his suggestions:
1. Avoid free shipping manifest systems. If your customers are paying S&H, you want to be able to give them the best rates possible given the package weights and destinations. That’s why it may be best to avoid the free manifest systems offered by UPS or FedEx. Why? “Because you don’t always have the flexibility to use lower-cost carrier options,” says Kline. “You’d have to do all of your business with one carrier in order for that carrier to give you a free manifest system. Not only that, you’d have to give that carrier a guarantee of a certain amount of shipments a day.”
Instead, he recommends using a shipping system that allows you to rate shop among several carriers based on a given package’s weight and ship-to location. Your order management system (e.g., Ecometry, CommercialWare) may offer a manifest module that includes some rate-shopping functionality. Or you can select a stand-alone manifest system offered by companies such as Pitney Bowes, Kewill and Neopost.