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8 Things You Need to Know About Shipment Exceptions

As reliable as carriers can be, they can still run into problems that can cause shipment exceptions. Learn about the 8 things you need to know about shipment exceptions with us. And at the end, you’ll know how to manage it when it happens to keep your customers happy.

What does shipment exception mean?

Shipment exception (or delivery exception) happens when a delivery can’t be completed because the package is temporarily stuck in transit. But keep in mind – shipment exceptions don’t have to mean late shipment. More often there’s only a slight setback or no delay at all.

Why are shipment exceptions important for your business?

Customers have high expectations for delivery speed and accuracy of tracking info. Everyone knows that feeling – when you’re guaranteed a delivery date only to have a shipment stuck in limbo. It’s a frustrating customer experience to say the least. 

E-commerce businesses like yours need to be aware of the most common causes of a delivery exception and be prepared to communicate quickly and clearly with customers when it happens.

5 common causes of shipment exceptions

A woman working with packages

Of course, reasons for delivery exceptions can be almost anything and are many. 5 of the most common reasons are:

1. Customs delays

If you’re going through international shipping, customs is a recurring reason. If there’s an issue with the package at customs, then it’s going to hold the delivery back. Reasons for the hold up can range from delays at ports and package reviews, lacking paperwork, incorrect tariff codes, etc. 

2. Federal holidays

Carriers generally don’t operate on federal holidays. A federal holiday in your country or the receiver’s country can cause packages to be delivered late. 

Days off can also cause more delays, with carriers playing catch up with an accumulation of shipments. So you’ll want to be wary of holidays in both countries.

3. Weather conditions

Weather conditions being unpredictable can, unsurprisingly, cause delays in shipping. Really severe weather can make delivery routes completely unpassable or generate significant delays. 

With the weather, you won’t get a refund for the delay because they’re treated as ‘acts of God’. But usually, shippers should have contingency plans for such occasions to make sure orders do arrive as soon as possible.

4. Damaged or missing labels

Shipping labels with illegible or unscannable addresses will cause delays while the carrier verifies the recipient’s address. If the carrier damages the label, price and delivery guarantees will usually cover a refund for your costs. 

5. No one was home to receive the package

A complete delivery needs a signature for confirmation. If no one is available to receive the package, it’ll return to the fulfillment location and delivery will be re-attempted the next day. You can help your customers use carrier-delivery management tools to get the package delivered when they know they’ll be home, should you think it’s required. 

3 outcomes of a shipment exception

When a delivery exception does happen, it can go in either 3 ways:

1. The package is delivered on time anyway

No delays because the problem isn’t as severe as originally thought. For example, the weather might have cleared up sooner than expected or perhaps the delay occurred early in the shipping process, giving the carrier plenty of time to adjust. 

2. The package is delivered late

Usually by only a minor 1-to-2 delay. For instance, if a signature is required and nobody was home, a driver will return the following day.    

3. The package is returned

Despite their best efforts, sometimes carriers just can’t deliver the package. In these cases, the package will be returned to you, the sender.

Shipment exception by carrier

A couple of workers tending to deliveries

Different carriers can have differing ways with their approach to delivery exceptions.

FedEx shipment exceptions

FedEx calls delivery exceptions status exceptions and will provide you with a code for more information. Not only will the info contain the code, but it should give you an explanation on the most recent exception in the scan activity section. 

UPS shipment exceptions

UPS is very standard with delivery codes. Delivery exceptions are used when there is a delay for a package that is in UPS’ network. You’ll get updates in the tracking status to reflect new delivery dates when the company expects to attempt the delivery and also some detailed explanation.

DHL shipment exceptions 

DHL will update you with the tracking number and references the exceptions. DHL will likely update the tracking number with more information about the expected or new delivery date and the reason for the exception.

How should you respond to shipment exceptions?

A worker at a warehouse

When you’re faced with shipment exceptions, there are 3 things you should do:

1. Contact the carrier

You can call the carrier company to ask for the tracking number and information about the exception and how it will affect the delivery date. Most of the time, they’ll be able to tell you where the package is, why it has an exception, what type of exception it is, and what it means for the package.

2. Contact the customer

Care for your customers by notifying them when a delivery exception occurs. If it’s an address issue, verify the address with the customer as soon as possible. If the exception is due to severe weather or customs delay, apologize to the customer, thank them for their patience, and if appropriate, offer them a discount on any future purchases.

3. Issue a refund or resend the package

If the delivery exception can’t be resolved in a timely manner, when you reach out to the customer, offer either a refund for the product or to ship a new product altogether, or maybe even try resending it.

Aiman Ammar

East Coast boy. Writing friendly reads and providing a gentle hand to guide readers through learning new things.

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