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Overcoming Delivery Challenges: A Guide to Dealing with Delivery Exceptions

Originally published on May 30, 2021 by Logiwa Marketing, Updated on March 17, 2023

Delivery Exceptions: Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them

One of the most important factors in ecommerce is precise delivery. Doing your best to meet your customers’ expectations and providing timely delivery is as critical as ever, with the ecommerce market innovating itself by the minute. Nonetheless, no matter how much time and effort you put into your logistics strategy, delivery exceptions are bound to happen.

Unexpected delays resulting in delivery exceptions not only bring your fulfillment operations to a halt but can also cause a significant decline in customer trust and loyalty. A delivery exception occurs when a certain shipment comes across an unexpected event, changing the date and course of delivery. It is important to learn the meaning of delivery exception, why they occur, and how to handle them to provide a smooth delivery process.

What is Delivery Exception?

So what is a delivery exception? A delivery exception happens when an ecommerce package is delayed temporarily in transit. When a delivery exception occurs, it does not always entail that the customer’s package is late or canceled. At this point, both the customer and the company know  that some trouble may have occurred during the package’s progression, resulting in the intervention of the fulfillment process. Numerous things can go wrong even with the most complex and robust ecommerce system, forcing companies to develop a plan B for such unexpected and unavoidable pain points.

Delivery exceptions need to be handled with care because they ultimately have a direct effect on customer satisfaction. Now that you have found the answer to the question of “what is a delivery exception,” you are ready to dive into the good stuff and master the techniques of handling delivery exceptions gracefully.

The Impact of Delivery Exceptions on Ecommerce

Delivery exceptions are a point of frustration for both sellers and customers, even though most of them occur unintentionally and are often unpreventable. A delivery exception often happens during the transit of the package. Even the most reliable ecommerce order tracking systems are bound to come across delivery exceptions at some point. This may result in undelivered or delayed parcels, leading to angry and dissatisfied customers. A business needs to be prepared for such occurrences and have a solid system for dealing with the delivery exception process.

What are the Common Causes of a Delivery Exceptions?

Various reasons may cause delivery exceptions, the most common ones being:

Insufficient documentation: 

If your package does not have all of the necessary information to reach its destination, you may encounter delivery exceptions caused by insufficient data. While local and ground freight companies are less likely to encounter these types of delivery exceptions, ocean freight is one type of logistics that requires various documents for the company to manage custody and inventory. The errors that may occur due to insufficient documentation can also come up when the packaging label does not have the related barcode on the box.

Damaged, unreadable, or missing labels: 

Speaking of shipping labels, these are the most important parts of your package that help the order reach its destination on time. When shipping labels are missing certain information needed for a flawless shipment, the carrier will verify the address while unavoidably putting the shipment on hold. Making a mistake on the ZIP code or forgetting to input specific data on the address may cause unwanted delays or even, in some cases, returned packages.

Official holidays: 

It is known that carriers do not operate on federal holidays and other official holidays. It is important to make sure that an urgent shipment is not placed around any of these days and local holidays that may be present in other countries in case of international deliveries.

Recipient not available:

Sometimes, some packages may require a signature or are only deliverable to the recipient itself. In such cases, if no one is home to pick up the order, the shipping carrier will return the order to the fulfillment center. While some carriers send the package back to the seller right away, some may opt for reattempting a delivery to the recipient the next day. It will notify both parties of the process, so the customer is aware that they are expected to be present during the delivery.

Unfavourable weather options:

Weather conditions are also a common cause that may result in unwanted delivery exceptions. A wide range of conditions may result in delays in shipping, including unpassable routes on highways, rain and hailstorms, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, and so on.

Delays on customs: 

During international shipping, various delivery exceptions are bound to happen due to specific regulations and rules applied at customs. Delays at ports, lack of paperwork, package reviews, and wrong traffic codes are the most common delivery exception causes you can expect your packages to come across at customs check.

Carrier-Specific Delivery Exceptions

FedEx Delivery Exceptions

FedEx delivery exceptions can happen due to holiday hang-ups, incorrect documentation, the recipient not being present, or certain customs delays. With FedEx shipment exceptions, you might also receive a notice with the PMX code, meaning that the delivery could not be concluded via the carrier’s usual route. FedEx generally attempts to deliver the next day.

UPS Delivery Exceptions

When a package or shipment comes across an unforeseen event, a UPS delivery exception may occur, resulting in a change to the expected delivery date. Address Unknown, Damage to Shipment, and Signature Not Received are the most common setbacks you may encounter during UPS delivery exceptions. You will see an exception notice from UPS when you log into your account or attempt to track your order.

USPS Delivery Exceptions

Incorrect recipient addresses and federal holidays are the most widespread causes for USPS delivery exceptions. In such cases, you will be looking at an exception notice during the tracking of your package.

DHL Delivery Exceptions

According to DHL’s website, delivery exceptions will occur whenever a shipment is delayed or stalled in transit – regardless of this being a temporary status. Customs delays, poor documentation, or issues with carrier compliance rules can all lead to delivery exceptions. With a DHL Express Global Trade Services account, Product Compliance Checks are complimentary as part of their services.

Here’s a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of USPS and DHL shipping services for ecommerce and 3PL companies.

How to Handle Delivery Exceptions

Delivery exceptions are a part of the logistics process that neither the customer nor the company can control most of the time. That being said, there are certain precautions and steps you can take when you come across delivery exceptions.

      1.Contact the carrier right away.

Find the package tracking number via the carrier’s website to help you figure out the package’s location and the delivery exception reason. Check to see if the problem can be solved on your side and look for provisions to provide the right information over the phone. This may help the shipment get back on its way and reach the recipient with minimal delay.

      2. Contact the customer.

Once you have verified the cause of the delivery exception, contact your customer immediately and provide the renewed expected delivery date to regain their trust and ensure them that everything is on track. If there is missing information on the customer’s part, they can also assist you in filling out the missing blanks with the correct data and getting the order back on track. This will also show your customer base that you are aware of the situation and take the necessary precautions to fix the problem as soon as possible. To convert customer service nightmares into opportunities to gain trusting and loyal customers, choose honest and consistent communication throughout the entire process.

     3. Resend the package & issue a refund when needed.

If the package will not arrive at the said location to the recipient any time soon, and if there is no easy solution to fix the delivery exception, make sure to provide your customer with options to either receive a refund or reattempt another delivery. When the carrier has lost the package, or there is an indefinite amount of time until the package is delivered, this may be your only choice. Delivery exception shipment is a tricky process. Online businesses need to tackle both the customer and the carrier requests simultaneously, so choose wisely.

How to Avoid Delivery Exceptions

Following your carrier’s labeling and packing instructions closely, being exact on the weight and size of the package, using weather-resistant labels, and verifying that your delivery address is correct are the other important steps you need to take to minimize the damage of delivery exceptions and avoid them entirely.

Providing your customer with the tracking number as soon as the delivery is on its way can also reassure them that the process is under control. They need to be present at the specified date and time to receive the package safely. Don’t forget that these strategies will help you minimize the risks that come with delivery exceptions, leaving causes such as inclement weather and natural disasters completely out of your hands.

Delivery Exceptions: Final Thoughts

Delivery exceptions can be frustrating for both buyers and sellers, but with the right strategies and communication, they can be minimized and resolved efficiently. Accurate information and communication, as well as quick action in response to delivery exceptions, are crucial for ensuring customer satisfaction and successful delivery outcomes. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this blog, you can help prevent delivery exceptions and manage them effectively if they do occur. 

Learn more about Logiwa’s high-efficiency shipping software, or visit our page on exception handling, to see how our WMS can help maximize your shipping results.

Logiwa is the leading cloud WMS and order fulfillment software for B2C and direct-to-consumer business. Request a Demo and start to scale up your high-volume fulfillment operations.

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What does a “delivery exception” status mean?

An ‘exception’ status means that an unexpected event has prevented your package from being delivered. When this occurs, the next best action to take is to contact the carrier or cargo company directly.

What causes a delivery exception to occur?

An exception is any event or situation that causes a shipment delivery to be rescheduled. Exceptions, such as an incorrect address, can occur for a variety of reasons and are described in the detailed shipping information.

What does ‘exception parcel handling in sorting center’ mean?

It means that your order is in the center used for sorting packages according to where they will be delivered next. This is the point that executes last-mile delivery for your items.

How should you handle a delivery exception?

The first step is to find out where the package is. Contact the distribution company you work with as soon as possible to figure out what the problem is. In addition, you should contact your customer who is experiencing the problem (address etc.) to remedy the problem promptly. Even if there is no delay for the customer, it’s critical that you inform your customer about the status of the situation.
If the product was not delivered to the customer and returned to your warehouse, inform your customer about the situation and assist them with re-shipping/returns. Depending on how well you resolve the situation, you may affect whether or not they shop with you again!

How can I track my package during a delivery exception? 

The easiest way to track down a package when an exception occurs is to contact the carrier directly. They should be able to inform you of the last check-point for an item, especially if the exception is due to severe weather, national holidays, documentation discrepancies, recipients not being home, or accidents. However, if exceptions are due to lost items, unmet carrier fees, etc. you will also be able to determine whether or not an order needs to be reprocessed. 

Can I prevent delivery exceptions from happening? 

You can prevent delivery exceptions in a variety of ways, including checking carrier compliance regulations, optimizing order routing for shorter delivery routes, and leverage integrations so customers can be alerted to imminent deliveries. Follow guidelines for packaging, labeling, pricing, and addresses exactly as your chosen carriers have prescribed. 

What is the difference between a delivery exception and a delivery delay? 

The primary difference is that exceptions may be issued anytime a delay occurs, including when something is undeliverable. It is not a guarantee that an order will arrive at all. A delay implies that the package is set to arrive, but is not projected to meet the promised delivery window.

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