As the owner of a small business, you know that getting everything right is key to a smooth operation. Shipping mistakes that result in late or damaged shipments can mean the difference between happy customers (and profit) and big losses.
Many small businesses, though, make mistakes when it comes to shipping that ultimately cost them time and money. It can be easy to overlook these mistakes. Often, they don’t even appear to be that big of a deal—that is, until something happens that causes a major headache.
But being aware of these mistakes and taking steps to avoid them can keep your operation on the right track and keep your customers happy.
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Avoid Making These Shipping Mistakes in Your Business
Using the Wrong Packaging
When was the last time you evaluated your packaging process and materials? Have you ever consulted with a packaging professional? If you ship fragile or sensitive items, do you use sensors like temperature indicators or impact sensors to monitor shipments?
Using the incorrect packaging for your shipments, or failing to invest in tools to help protect them, could end up costing your business more than you expect. You may be paying more because the packaging is larger or heavier than necessary. Or your packing process may be leaving things unprotected and susceptible to damage. Many carriers have started denying damage claims related to incorrect packaging. Therefore, it’s worth reassessing your packaging protocols to ensure everything is safe and secure.
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Making the Mistake of Relying on Only One Shipping Partner
Although loyalty to shipping partners is often rewarded, when it comes to your business this can be a mistake. You shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Shipping is, by nature, unpredictable. There are any number of reasons that your go-to company may be unable to meet your needs. Maintaining a stable of reliable shippers and splitting your shipments among them is a smarter and less risky move. This will allow you more flexibility while still getting your products into customers’ hands.
Not Accounting for All Costs
When you’re new to shipping, or you make changes to your shipping processes, you might initially be surprised by your bill—and not in a good way. Although you might initially receive a quote based on the weight and destination of the freight, other factors can drive up the costs. Some of these include the dimensions of your pallets and packaging, hazardous materials fees, customs fees, and fees for refused shipments or shipments that need to be stored for any reason. Even if you expect these fees, and have them budgeted into your shipping costs, making mistakes with classifying and weighing your shipments can cost you big.
On the other hand, many businesses try to reduce shipping costs by designating their shipments as the lowest possible class. However, if your shipment doesn’t meet the requirements for that particular shipping class, the shipper will make note of that mistake and reclassify the shipment. This typically means an increase in the shipping costs, as well as a fee for the reclassifying itself.
The same goes for inaccurate weights. Shippers weigh all cargo at their terminals. If you have improperly weighed or estimated your shipment, they will tack on additional charges, as well as a fee for your underestimation.
With that in mind, it’s worth investing in an accurate scale. Moreover, be careful not to make the mistake of selecting the wrong shipping class. A higher class of service may be more expensive up front. However, when you account for penalties and upgrades, it’s likely to be cheaper in the long run.
Not Implementing (and Following) Inbound Freight Procedures
It’s not only outbound freight that can cost your business time and money. Inbound freight can also be costly, especially if what you receive is damaged or you don’t receive everything you ordered. Failing to implement a freight acceptance procedure that includes a full inspection of the delivery before the driver leaves can mean major headaches and costs while you make a claim.
Before signing for any delivery, examine every package in the shipment for outward signs of damage. Also, photograph any damage or shortages and note them on the delivery receipt. After accepting the shipment, thoroughly examine the contents right away to determine whether there are damages or shortages that were not immediately apparent. If so, you only have a few days to make a claim. That’s why a defined procedure and a commitment to following it on every shipment is so important.
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Often these shipping mistakes are innocent, and again, frequently business owners don’t even realize they have made an error until there is a problem. But by taking steps now to prevent these errors, you can protect your bottom line going forward.