What is a Delivery Exception? Everything You Need to Know

A delivery exception that puts the arrival of a package up in the air is never ideal. The completion of a quick and smooth delivery is especially crucial at a time when fast shipping times are key to shopper satisfaction. It’s reported that if delivery times are too lengthy, almost 50% of shoppers would take their business elsewhere.

In addition to expedited shipping times, shoppers want clear communication. They want to know what’s going on with their package every step of the way. But no matter how hard your team works, sometimes things don’t go as expected. These unexpected, often uncontrollable situations that occur every now and again can cause unwelcome ecommerce shipping mishaps known as delivery exceptions. 

In this guide to delivery exceptions, we’ll cover:

What is a Delivery Exception? 

A delivery exception is when a package is temporarily held up in transit for some time due to unexpected reasons. No one likes to see that their package has had a delivery exception, especially when it leads to a delivery delay or an unknown delivery date. Delivery exceptions can result in delayed parcels or even undeliverable ones. 

Note: a delivery exception doesn’t always mean a delayed or undelivered package. After a delivery exception, parcels may still arrive at their destinations safely and on time. It just means that at some point during the delivery process, the progression of the package was halted and extra steps or attention was needed.

Despite the best efforts of shipping carriers to ensure that the last mile delivery is smooth, timely, and clearly communicated, delivery exceptions can happen to any carrier at any time. But how?

Why do delivery exceptions happen? 

Delivery interuptions happen for a whole host of reasons. In recent years major couriers from Canada Post to FedEx to UPS have all had to adjust their messaging around deliveries to reflect possible service interruptions following the pandemic.

Here are a few of the instances that can lead to delivery exceptions, ones that are most often out of anyone’s control: 

One of the most common and unavoidable reasons for a delivery exception is the weather. Extreme weather can lead to impassible routes, making package deliveries dangerous or simply impossible. This can impact both on-the-ground deliveries by trucks and overseas deliveries by air or ship.  

2. Issues with a shipping address 

Trouble reaching a recipient’s address can happen when the delivery address is incorrect, incomplete, unclear or unaccessible by delivery personnel. When it comes to internationally shipped items, there are additional exceptions that can impact delivery times: packages can be held at customs for longer, and extra documentation may be required or missing.

3. Lost or damaged orders

The most severe and concerning type of delivery exception is one where a parcel cannot be located by the carrier. Goods can also be damaged during the shipping process, requiring further investigation and thus, a delivery exception. 

No matter what, instances of lost packages and damaged parcels still occur every now and again. Most major couriers will cover the damages or losses up to $100 in value. You can also purchase additional shipping insurance for your parcels to ensure that you’re covered. 

4. Missed hand-offs

One of the most common incidents that can lead to a shipping exception is a situation where delivery personnel can’t hand-off a package due to an issue on the recipient’s end. This usually happens when a package requires a signature but the recipient cannot be contacted or they aren’t available during the delivery window. 

In this case, the delivery personnel will have to attempt another hand-off at a different date, or get in touch with the recipient to determine a new pick-up location. Situations like these are why communication efforts between your team and the shopper are critical to a successful delivery experience!

5. Global events

Global events, like COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and major political events, can have a sweeping impact on nearly every stage of the supply chain. This impact stretches across different types of goods and services.

6. Holidays 

When international or national holidays fall inside of a shopper’s shipping window, delays can naturally occur. Delivery dates may be pushed to the next operating business day. These delivery exceptions don’t necessarily lead to the worst-case scenario.

What impact do delivery interruptions have on brands?

Here are a few ways that delivery exceptions can have a major impact on ecommerce brands.

1. Inventory management 

Delivery exceptions can disrupt your inventory management. When orders encounter exceptions, they can lead to discrepancies between expected and actual inventory levels. This can complicate inventory planning and procurement strategies, potentially resulting in overstocking or stockouts. 

2. Allocation of resources 

Addressing delivery exceptions requires the allocation of valuable time and resources within your business. Employees may need to spend additional time investigating the root causes of delivery issues, communicating with shoppers, and coordinating with shipping partners to resolve the situation. 

3. Shopper satisfaction and brand reputation

Failing to meet delivery expectations can result in lost customers and damage your brand’s reputation. When orders are consistently delayed, damaged, or go missing, it can lead to frustration and disappointment among shoppers.

How to minimize delivery exceptions

Despite best efforts, delivery exceptions can happen. What really counts is how your last mile carrier or 3PL partner responds to these situations when they do happen.

Here are ten ways to minimize shipping and delivery delays:  

1. Provide last mile delivery tracking

Last mile delivery tracking plays a crucial role in improving delivery delays and exceptions by providing transparency, accountability, and proactive communication throughout the shipping process. 

Here’s how last mile tracking helps with delivery exceptions:

  • Improved transparency: Knowing exactly where their package is and when it’s expected to arrive, shoppers feel more informed and reassured, reducing anxiety and frustration associated with delivery delays.
  • Early detection of issues: Delivery tracking enables both the shoppers and brands to identify potential issues or delays early in the shipping process. If a package encounters a problem, such as being held up at customs or experiencing a delivery exception, tracking alerts both parties promptly, allowing for proactive intervention and resolution.
  • Improved customer communication: With parcel tracking, brands can provide timely updates and notifications to shoppers about any changes in their delivery status. This proactive communication helps manage customer expectations and provides clarity in case of unexpected delays or exceptions, minimizing customer dissatisfaction.
  • Efficient problem resolution: In the event of a delivery delay or exception, parcel tracking provides valuable information for customer service teams to investigate and resolve the issue quickly. By accessing detailed tracking data, brands can pinpoint the cause of the problem and take appropriate actions to expedite delivery or address any concerns raised by shoppers.
  • Enhanced shopper experience: Overall, parcel tracking contributes to a positive shopper experience by offering visibility, control, and confidence in the shipping process. When shoppers have access to accurate tracking information and proactive support, they are more likely to perceive the business as reliable and trustworthy, even in the face of occasional delivery delays or exceptions.

2. Accurate address verification

Your shipping partner should ensure that shopper addresses are verified and accurate before dispatching orders. Implement address validation tools or software to minimize errors.

With GoBolt’s latest technology, shoppers can verify their delivery addresses and make adjustments to their address up until their delivery route has started. This feature is intended to reduce failures due to deliveries to the wrong address.

3. Clear communication between teams

Providing clear delivery instructions to your shipping or delivery partners is essential. Make sure they understand specific customer delivery requirements and any potential obstacles that they may encounter, such as stairs or elevators.

4. Use robust packaging

Using sturdy packaging materials helps to protect items during transit. Fragile or sensitive items should be packaged with extra care to minimize the risk of damage.

5. Efficient route planning

Optimize delivery routes to minimize transit time and reduce the chances of delays or missed deliveries. Utilize route planning software, like GoBolt’s route optimization software, to streamline the process.

6. Proactive risk monitoring

Monitor shipments throughout the delivery process and proactively address any potential issues or delays. Implement alerts for exceptions such as delays, route diversions, or failed delivery attempts. At GoBolt, brands can work with our Strategic Account Management team to monitor shipments more closely.

Alongside our Strategic Account team, GoBolt leverages a centralized customer support system to promptly resolve any fulfillment or shipping issues. This streamlined approach offers numerous advantages to our brand partners, such as:

Enhanced CommunicationWith enhanced communication facilitated by the centralized system, brands can expect quicker issue resolution, clearer understanding of processes, and overall smoother operations and efficiency.
Greater VisibilityWith enhanced visibility through our centralized team, brands are provided with valuable insights into operations and performance metrics, enabling them to identify areas for improvement, make informed decisions, and optimize their strategies.
Standardized ProcessesUsing a centralized system, we offer consistent and efficient support practices and processes, ensuring reliability and reducing complexity. Merchants can expect the same level of support and service across the board.
Support AvailabilityAccess to centralized support seven days a week, 7am-Midnight (EST), maximizing resources while minimizing complexity.
ScalabilityBy streamlining processes and providing centralized support, merchants can enter new markets with minimal additional resources or infrastructure. This agility enables them to capitalize on new opportunities and scale while maintaining cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency.

7. Customer feedback loop

Regardless of what mishap led to the delivery delay, make sure the customer service team follows-up with the shopper and thanks them for their patience while they attend to the issue. Encouraging shoppers to provide feedback on their delivery experience is an efficient and proactive way to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

At GoBolt, we are constantly monitoring shopper feedback. We continue to work hard for our 4.7/5 star Google review rating (across over 10,000 reviews); if something hasn’t gone exactly the way the shopper expected it would go, we take swift action to ensure the situation is resolved to their liking.

8. Quality control audits

Conduct regular audits of your delivery processes to identify potential areas of improvement. Address any recurring issues or bottlenecks promptly to prevent future exceptions.

9. Flexible delivery options

Offering your shoppers flexible delivery options, such as timed slots or delivery windows, alternative delivery locations, or delivery to a nearby pickup point, can help accommodate preferences and reduce the likelihood of missed deliveries.

With GoBolt’s technology, you can unshackle shoppers from long delivery windows. Our SMS and email notifications will keep them informed every step of the way. This includes notifications when:

  • The order is confirmed
  • The order has left the warehouse
  • The delivery vehicle is one stop away
  • The delivery vehicle is on it’s way to the final destination

10. Use reliable carriers

Partner with reputable and reliable last mile carriers for shipping and delivery services. Choose carriers with a proven track record of on-time deliveries and minimal exceptions. Investing in reliable carriers can significantly reduce the risk of delivery exceptions caused by carrier-related issues such as delays, mishandling, or lost packages.

Final thoughts on delivery exceptions 

Delivery exceptions are mostly unavoidable occurrences that will come up every now and then. And while certain situations will be out of your control, you do have control over how you handle the situation. Acting fast and prioritizing your customer response are your keys to handling delivery exceptions like a pro.