Tips for becoming an even better shipping pro.
New Year's Day is a time we all promise to exercise more, eat healthier and get organized. While some of those noble ideas may already have fallen by the wayside, it's still a great time to focus on a business resolution: making your shipping operation more efficient. Here are six ways to keep this promise:
"It's important to train your shipping staff so they know your inventory, where fast-moving items or kits are stored, and what box to use for each type of product," says Adam Sever, UPS small business segment marketing manager.
1. Prep for efficiency. It's vital to have processes in place that make shipping as efficient as possible, says Ryan Novak, owner of Marcellus, N.Y.-based Chocolate Pizza Company, which has been featured on Food Network.
"We plan for each selling season so that all our boxes are made, our bubble pack is ripped, and our paper and peanuts are ready to go," he says. "We have a small window to get product out to people before Christmas, so we don't want to waste time doing things that should have been done ahead of time."
The company has two workstations with WorldShip® to allow staff to double shipping output.
Shipping efficiency has other dimensions, says Adam Sever, UPS small business segment marketing manager. "Not all operations have someone at a WorldShip terminal cranking out packages," he says. "It might work better to organize shipping so that you ship everything on Wednesday. Just be sure to communicate with the customer so they know what to expect."
2. Standardize packaging. "Using standard-size packaging is more efficient, and saves both time and money compared to using a box that's too big and requires more packing material," Sever says. "In addition to increasing packing costs, shipping costs depend on a combination of weight and dimensions, and you don't want to overspend."
3. Create pick-and-pack checklists for training. "It's important to train your shipping staff so they know your inventory, where fast-moving items or kits are stored, and what box to use for each type of product," Sever says. "That's especially true if you are hiring part-timers for heavy-shipping seasons." Checklists can help with this, along with training sessions and follow-up monitoring.
Chocolate Pizza uses four part-timers in the shipping department – they're Eagle Scouts or candidates. "It gives them good exposure to the business world," says owner Novak. "They do great work and love to learn."
4. Look for something to automate. Florida-based CabinetParts.com integrated WorldShip with its billing and order programs and (by talking with its UPS rep) added UPS Paperless® Invoice for international shipping. The combination has resulted in a 20 percent time-savings on shipping-related tasks, according to Patton Abbe, the founder and CEO. What's more, filling out customs forms takes about a minute now, compared with the five minutes it used to take. "That adds up when you're dealing with 300 to 500 packages per day."
At Chocolate Pizza, Novak encourages customers to register for UPS My Choice® service through his website that's linked to ups.com. UPS My Choice alerts let recipients know when a package is arriving so they can choose delivery details. "That will be huge for us because we spend hours every day on where's-my-order calls."
5. Post a delivery FAQ on your website. "Adding an FAQ to your website covering details, timing and how to resolve issues is a good idea," Sever says. "Communicating clearly is essential to a positive e-commerce experience. And it's important to keep customers up to date."
6. Identify your sales cycles. "Most everyone thinks about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there are other opportunities to capitalize on in e-commerce," Sever says. Examples: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and back-to school events. (A National Retail Federation study found that one-third of shoppers did their back-to-school shopping online.)
CabinetParts.com's busiest months are January, February and March. "We can predict how well the company will do for the year based on sales in the first quarter," Abbe says. "When there's snow on the ground, people up north are stuck indoors and doing home projects."
Knowing your sales cycles allows you to make your shipping operations more efficient by bringing in extra help and making sure you have plenty of the fast-selling items in stock and ready to ship.