Business Owner

9 common shipping mistakes


These pesky, seemingly insignificant habits could be costing business a lot more than you think.

Some business mistakes – say, sending out a poorly judged tweet – can result in temporary embarrassment. Other, more costly mistakes – like making a single mathematical miscalculation – can result in an epic $125 million blow. Yikes.

“Having a written returns policy is key. It keeps both you and your customer accountable.”
– UPS’s Rayford Collins

But more often than not, mistakes made on the job, whether by management or staff, are neither outwardly costly nor significant (at first). Whether it’s shrugging off an unhappy customer or eyeballing cost calculations, these singular mishaps don’t seem to hinder business much in the moment. Small mistakes, left unattended and repeated over and over, have a tendency to wreak havoc on your bottom line.

We asked Rayford Collins with the UPS Customer Solutions group to identify nine shipping mistakes that can cost businesses big time, as well as solutions for resolving them.

  1. Guesstimating costs. Even with last-minute shipments or major rush jobs by a new client you need to impress, there’s no need to guess package and shipping costs. “There are technology solutions that include cost calculators and allow your company to integrate UPS shipping functionality directly into your website,” says Collins.
  2. Selecting the wrong packaging. Whether you’re shipping nuts and bolts or lampshades, size matters.
    “Selecting the right-sized box, the right amount of protective fill and the right taping method can save small businesses time and money,” says Collins. The UPS Design and Package Lab can design a product-specific package that optimizes space.
  3. Mismanaging unhappy returns. If your returns policy is unclear or underdeveloped, that negligence could be driving away future (and current) customers, according to Collins.
    “Having a written return policy is key,” he explains. “It keeps both you and your customer accountable. The return policy should be customer-centric and customer-friendly, allowing returns to go to a centralized location to keep the operation efficient.”
  4. Assuming automation is complex. Automation is key to reducing human error, according to Collins. But eschewing processes altogether because they seem too complex – and expensive – would be a costly mistake.
    Make it simple, says Collins. “Just connect the data points using Microsoft Access, an Excel spreadsheet or ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) to the WorldShip® system from UPS,” says Collins. “Automating the data processes of the operation makes you more efficient, and it allows the customer to automatically track the package.”
  5. Selling a service level vs. a service commitment. In the medical industry, getting a product delivered by a particular time is critical. Small businesses should commit to the delivery process as well, although perhaps not to a specific day or time. “Instead of guaranteeing a two-day delivery, say, ‘Our order cycle time will provide you with delivery in three days or less,’” says Collins, adding that the three-day model will provide more flexibility and could save money.
  6. Failing to let customers manage their delivery experience. Giving customers the option to choose delivery features that fit their lives best through programs such as UPS My Choice® service, which can improve the delivery experience and will likely result in repeat business, Collins says.
  7. Improperly using data. When manufacturing or procuring products, you have to study the data, advises Collins. “Assumptions on size, weight and product packaging characteristics, for example, can reduce operational efficiencies and effectiveness,” he says. Creating and leveraging a good database (Big Data) can help your company more accurately find avenues for growth, while mitigating cost.
  8. Missing the drop-shipping opportunity. Consider shipping directly from the manufacturer or wholesaler to bypass the distribution center, advises Collins. Drop shipping can reduce both time and cost.
  9. Trying to do it all. As your business grows, consider outsourcing the logistics if that is not your area of expertise. “Instead of investing in distribution systems and networks, invest in the day-to-day growth of your company,” says Collins. “Leave intricate logistics processes to another party.”


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