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What Is a Delivery Exception and How To Manage It?

Multiracial Warehouse Workers Carrying Box

Having goods delivered to your customers in the agreed-upon time frame is an important aspect of maintaining your business’ reputation. However, sometimes factors outside of your and your carrier’s control can unexpectedly delay a shipment – which leads to a delivery exception.

Delivery exceptions are an expected feature of shipping goods. As they are a normal part of operating a business, it is important to know how they function and how you should handle them, especially if your customers turn to you for support when a shipment is delayed.

The Definition of a Delivery Exception/Shipment Exception

A delivery exception, otherwise known as a shipment exception, means that your cargo has encountered issues in transit due to unforeseen circumstances, which may lead to a change in the delivery date of the cargo. With most carriers, you will be notified of the delay and the reason for the delivery exception.

Note that a delivery exception may lead to a change in the delivery date. It all depends on the complexity of the issue in question and whether it can be resolved in a timely manner. Professional carriers employ advanced tracking and shipping technology, and have experience dealing with issues that happen in transit.

Even if your package experiences issues, your customers may still receive their order on time. Depending on the type of delivery exception you encounter, it may not affect your business operations in any practical sense or it may just be a minor inconvenience. Conversely, you may need to deal with delivery exceptions proactively.

Common Reasons for Delivery Exceptions

As was previously mentioned, delivery exceptions are part and parcel of shipping goods. Consequently, certain common causes of delivery exceptions have been identified. Some are relatively simple and can be dealt with on your end, before you ship the goods. However, some are harder to predict and will need to be dealt with as they happen.

Delivery Exceptions You Could Potentially Prevent

Incorrect Addresses

Most often, carriers will return packages with an incorrect address to their dispatch station or to the sender. This can delay the delivery time until the correct address is established. The simplest solution is to make sure that your customer’s address is correct before you ship your package.

However, the label could be damaged at some point in the shipping process and cause a delay in the shipment. In such situations, your quickest recourse is to contact your carrier as soon as you receive the delivery exception notification and provide them with the correct address.

National Holidays

There are two reasons why national (or any other popular) holidays can cause a delivery exception to occur: 1) your carrier does not operate during these times; 2) the increased volume of shipping is causing a delay in the delivery of your package.

There are a few options available to you if holidays are causing delivery exceptions. For one, you could contract with a carrier that operates during national holidays. Then, you could choose not to ship packages during national holidays. However, as most businesses see an increase in orders during these times, that is often not a practical solution.

If you are shipping your goods internationally, you also need to factor in the national holidays of the country you are shipping to. In case delivery exceptions are a regular occurrence during national holidays and they significantly impact your business, you may wish to consider changing carriers.

Incomplete/Missing Documentation

This is not a common issue with domestic shipping. However, it is a common cause of delivery exceptions if your goods are shipped cross-border. You can make sure that all of the required documents are provided in order to avoid delays in the delivery of your packages.

Regulatory Delays

Shipping some goods is regulated by specific laws, and, consequently, they need to be shipped a specific way and require additional documentation/clearances. You should always consult the applicable laws and provide the proper documentation if you are sending goods that might fall outside of the scope of standard shipping regulations.

Delivery Exceptions That Are Hard/Impossible to Prevent

Damage and Loss of Goods

Even with the best protections in place, goods sometimes get damaged during transit. This can cause a delivery exception, as your carrier will likely return the package to the dispatch station. Besides packing your goods safely to minimize the risks, there is not much else you can do to prevent your shipment from getting damaged.

Your package can also be lost in transit. It can happen due to criminal activity or even due to simple human error. Naturally, a package being lost or stolen will cause a delay exception until it is recovered or a new one is sent.

While you cannot prevent your package from being lost or stolen, you can safeguard against the consequences. Most carriers provide insurance for such cases, but it often covers only a portion of the value. However, you can take out shipping insurance for high-value packages to protect against any potential losses.

Natural Disasters/Incremental Weather

Sometimes, natural causes will cause delay exceptions to your shipments. Whether it is due to wildfires, earthquakes, flash floods, hurricanes, or any other natural cause, there is not much that can be done to prevent delays from happening. The only practical option is to inform your customer that their package will be delayed and will be delivered as soon as possible.

There Was Nobody to Receive the Delivery

If your customer was informed of the time of delivery and nobody was present to sign for the package, once again, there is not much you can do about it. The delivery will have to be rescheduled until such a time as a person is made available to receive it.

3 Consequences of Delivery Exceptions

Now that the common cause of delivery expectations have been explained, we can deal with the 3 most common outcomes of a delivery exception:

  • No significant delay – you may have been notified of a delivery exception, but the issue was minor or caught in the early stages of the shipping process, thus it was handled quickly and your customers still received their package on time.
  • Late delivery – the delivery exception was severe enough that the package was delivered late, but was still able to get to the desired destination. The delay can range from one to multiple days. A common cause of this delay is when nobody was able to receive the package or the volume of deliveries disabled the driver from delivering the package on time.
  • The package was returned to the sender – This is the most significant consequence of a delivery exception. This can happen either due to damage to the goods or incorrect information being provided (address/necessary documents) and not being resolved on time.

How to Deal with a Delivery Exception/Delayed Shipment

Each situation is unique and the actionable steps you can take will depend on the cause of the delivery exception and the consequences. However, regardless of the situation, you could do the following:

  1. Contact your carrier – You can get detailed information regarding the reason for the delivery exception and the likely outcome. If the exception will not cause significant delay or the carrier can handle it in-house, you may not need to take any further steps. If the delay will cause an issue with your customer, you will learn what the specific issue is and know what you can do to resolve it.
  2. Contact your customer – You may need to contact the customer to ascertain whether any of the information they provided is incorrect and causing the delivery exception to occur. Even if this is not the case, you may wish to contact them in order to apologize and assure them that their package will be delivered.
  3. Resending the package – If the package was returned, you may need to communicate with both the customer and your carrier about resending the package or, worst-case scenario, negotiating a refund.

Delivery Exceptions Are a Regular Occurrence

As delivery exceptions are a regular aspect of operating a business and delivering goods, we hope this article answered the question of ‘what does delivery exception mean’ and explained the likely causes and outcomes, and what actionable steps you can take to prevent them or deal with them as they happen.

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