How Leading Shippers Respond to Late Package Deliveries

“Your package has been delayed.” No customer wants to hear those words — and no shipper does either. If you’re working with an effective shipping partner, delays should only happen once in a blue moon. But some circumstances are outside your control. Whether it’s caused by bad weather or another outside force, the occasional delay is inevitable.

Whatever the reason, customer service response to late delivery is crucial, and it’s your responsibility to respond to frustrated customers and make sure they feel heard. Your reputation depends on it. 68% of customers will complain about late delivery to friends and family, and 18% will do so on social media. Their complaints can drive potential customers away, damaging your profits. By providing prompt, empathetic responses, you can help ensure one dissatisfied customer doesn’t do serious harm.

How to communicate a shipping delay to customers

When communicating with a frustrated customer, follow these tips to keep your interactions productive.

  • Consider your tone. Customers want you to take their delay seriously, but a too-formal tone may seem insincere. Your responses should feel genuine, empathetic, and professional. Imagine you’re speaking to a friend of a friend: personable, but not too familiar.
  • Use positive language. The last thing a frustrated customer wants is to hear what you can’t do. By adjusting your language to frame things positively, you’re more likely to be perceived as helpful. For example, instead of “your backordered item won’t ship for a week,” try “your package will be in transit by Wednesday.”
  • Don’t evade. No one likes to admit they’re wrong, but if you’re skirting responsibility, your customers can tell. Own up to your mistakes — even if the problem is technically the customer’s fault. It’s more important to be helpful than right.

However, being compassionate isn’t enough on its own. Customers also expect help fixing their delivery issues. Here are some tactics you might try.

  • Look into their issue. Track down a delayed package as best you can, and provide regular status updates. Maybe the customer entered the wrong address, or severe weather delayed shipments across the area. It’s easier to find a solution when you’re well-informed about the problem.
  • Provide an apology offer. Refunding a customer’s shipping costs or offering them store credit might cost you something in the short term, but these small one-off expenses are far less damaging than losing the customer entirely. Experiment with small, thoughtful offers that placate customers and keep their complaints from spreading.
  • Give your customer choices. When a customer’s package is delayed, the situation is out of their control — which is understandably frustrating. In response, consider offering multiple forms of compensation: a discount on their next order, or expedited shipping on a replacement. By choosing their preferred fix, customers are back in control.

Of course, the ideal solution is for packages to simply arrive on time. While occasional complications are inevitable, you can proactively reduce the impact of package delays.

  • Communicate delays early. If you know severe weather or high order volume may cause delays, alert customers on your online order form, and adjust projected delivery windows accordingly. This way, your customers have more realistic expectations about what’s possible.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s tempting to hop on the “same-day shipping” bandwagon, but if you don’t have the fulfillment infrastructure to follow through, you’ll only give customers false hope. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver.

These are all adjustments your company can make on your end. However, if your customers frequently receive packages late or not at all, the problem may actually lie with your shipping partner. Not all partners are created equal, so it’s important to find one that meets your timelines.

As a partner of the U.S. Postal Service, OSM Worldwide proudly delivers 98% of all domestic packages in just one to five business days, leading to more satisfied customers, fewer complaints, and a lower total cost of shipping. To find out how the OSM Premium Network could help you reduce package delays, learn more about our best-in-class fulfillment services, or contact us today.