When customers order products from your ecommerce store, they expect the products to arrive on time and intact. Even if your shipping carrier is at fault for a lost package, customers will associate the issue with your store and the drop in customer satisfaction will ultimately impact your revenue.
Unfortunately, 15% of all online orders shipped to urban areas fail to reach their destination due to either logistics issues or package theft. Many of the processes in your store's supply chain are probably out of your control, but there are things that you can do to prevent missing packages and salvage the customer relationship.
We put together a step-by-step guide for how ecommerce businesses can deal with lost packages, as well as five tips that you can use to help ensure smooth and on-time package delivery.
A step-by-step guide on how to deal with lost packages
Lost packages aren't typically the shipper's fault, but — fair or not — your customers will still look to you to make it right. Here are the steps that business owners should take when dealing with lost packages in order to ensure customer satisfaction:
1) Determine if your package was truly lost or if it was stolen
When a customer's package doesn't arrive, all that you know at first is that the package is missing. In most cases, the package has been lost or delivered to the wrong address. Sometimes, however, packages go missing because they are stolen. "Porch pirates," or people who steal packages from another person's porch, have become increasingly common with the growing popularity of online shopping. However, there are also rare cases when packages are also stolen in transit.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the top reasons for lost packages:
Contacting the shipping company is the best way to determine if a package was lost or stolen. If the carrier marks the package as being delivered to the correct address, but the customer never got it, chances are it was stolen.
What should you do if the package is stolen?
Stolen packages are tricky because the only person truly at fault is the thief who took them. Carriers don't typically offer reimbursement for stolen packages (except under rare, specific circumstances). This means that you will need to carry shipping insurance through a service such as Route if you want to be able to reimburse your customers for stolen packages — without the costs coming out of your own pocket.
2) If the package was lost, file a refund or insurance claim
While carriers won't usually reimburse damaged or stolen packages, they are typically willing to reimburse lost packages. Along with recovering the cost of the item, you can also receive reimbursement for any shipping costs that you paid.
Filing these refund claims may be a bit of a hassle, but they have a high success rate, given that lost packages reflect poorly on a carrier. If you can determine that a package never arrived to the customer, usually due to a lack of updates from the carrier, filing a claim with the carrier is your best course of action.
Information needed to file for a refund
The exact information and documentation you must provide when filing a refund/insurance claim will vary from carrier to carrier. However, you will typically need to provide information such as:
- Package details such as the package's weight and tracking number
- Contact details for the package's recipient
- Credit card information used to purchase the package
- Receipts or invoices showing the value of the package
- Photos of damage to package or goods (if applicable)
- A repair estimate (if applicable)
Popular carriers' refund forms
Most carriers offer refund forms and portals that make it easy for shippers to file claims. Here are the links to the refund forms from popular delivery services:
3) Replace lost packages to improve CX and lift revenue in the long term
Even if lost packages aren’t your fault, there's a good chance that your customers won't see it that way. In fact, 32% of customers say that they would be reluctant to order again from an online retailer following a failed delivery. This is especially true given the precedent large retailers like Amazon have set with no-questions-asked refund policies.
Replacing lost packages is no doubt an expense and a hassle, especially if the value of the item is high. But the value of the item may be small compared to a customer’s lifetime value (CLV) if you replace the lost item and retain a loyal customer. When you consider that repeat customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time customers, it's easy to see how prioritizing customer satisfaction can be more profitable in the long run.
Again, the right insurance policy can ensure that the cost of the items is covered if they are damaged, stolen, or lost. Filing a refund/insurance claim with your carrier is another way to seek reimbursement so that you can reimburse the customer. Even if it means eating the cost yourself, replacing lost packages still tends to be a more beneficial approach for ecommerce businesses.
If you want to improve customer experience further, check out our guide on how to offer free shipping to your customers.
4) Consider using a tool such as EasyShip for secure shipping
EasyShip is an ecommerce shipping platform that helps merchants print shipping labels, access discounted shipping rates, and provide customers with real-time tracking notifications. This ability to easily track the location and status of packages and provide that information to your customers can often go a long way toward reducing the frequency of missing packages.
Shipping tools such as EasyShip also help mitigate lost packages by streamlining your order fulfillment process. EasyShip and comparable apps help eliminate errors on your end (such as incorrect delivery addresses that could lead to missing shipments) by making it easy for customers to choose their preferred delivery service for each order.
Other top shipping apps
EasyShip is an excellent tool to consider if you want to improve your order fulfillment process and provide customers with real-time tracking notifications. However, several other shipping apps offer comparable features and capabilities:
- ShipBob: Upgrade your fulfillment provide with the leading end-to-end fulfillment provider
- Shipup: Offer your customers a branded, flexible post-purchase experience
- ShippingChimp: Automate your shipping notifications to improve customer experience
- AfterShip: Improve shipping tracking for your online business
- Wonderment: Reduce “Where is my order?” tickets with shipping notifications
To learn more about creating an ecommerce shipping and fulfillment strategy empowered by cutting-edge order fulfillment tools, be sure to check out our ecommerce shipping guide: Creating a Shipping and Fulfillment Strategy.
5) Update your shipping and package replacement policies
No matter what your policy for replacing lost, damaged, or stolen packages happens to be, it's important to keep your customers in the loop. If you offer a generous refund/return policy, making sure that customers see it can boost customer confidence and may even improve your store's conversion rate. Or, if you aren't in a position to replace or refund missing packages, letting customers know ahead of time can set expectations upfront. This way, they aren't frustrated by finding out that they won't be reimbursed after the fact.
To ensure that customers know your policy for replacing or refunding missing packages, publish this information on your FAQ page or help center. You may also consider sending a link to this policy in your post-purchase email flow for even more visibility.
Here’s a great example of a reader-friendly shipping policy from Branch, well organized and easily accessible on their Gorgias-built Help Center:
Helpful tips to ensure that your package is delivered on time and intact
Ecommerce businesses need to have a plan and policies for dealing with missing packages, but there are also steps that you can take to prevent your packages from ever going missing in the first place. Here are five tips for how ecommerce stores can prevent lost, stolen, and damaged packages:
Ensure the customer provided the correct address
Incorrect delivery information is a common cause of lost packages. While you'd like to think that customers can enter their addresses correctly, this isn't always the case. Thankfully, many shipping apps include address verification tools that allow you to at least ensure that the delivery address you have on file is a properly-formatted address that actually exists. These tools will sometimes be able to correct minor formatting issues automatically. You can contact the customer to clarify if there are bigger problems with the address.
Using shipping apps to verify addresses and streamline your order fulfillment process can also help prevent errors on your end, such as typos when entering an address.
Enable real-time package tracking
Sixty-nine percent of customers say that the ability to track their order is one of their top three considerations when purchasing a product online. Along with helping your store meet these customer expectations, offering real-time tracking notifications to your customers can also help prevent lost and stolen packages.
Real-time tracking provides visibility that can prevent packages from being delivered to the wrong address or lost along the way. Tracking notifications also enable customers to make sure that they or someone else is home when the package arrives so that it isn't stolen.
Most carriers will provide a tracking number to forward to your customers in a post-purchase email. However, you can improve the customer experience even further by offering your own tracking portal. Shipping apps such as LateShipment.com and some of the others that we mentioned allow you to create branded tracking portals and shipping notifications that your customers are sure to appreciate:
And if you use Gorgias, you can integrate with tools like LateShipment.com to see order status and tracking information within your help desk, so you can quickly — or automatically — answer customer questions about order status, whether they come through social media, texting, email, or another channel.
Let customers schedule their deliveries
Letting customers schedule deliveries won't prevent packages from getting lost in transit, but it can help prevent them from being stolen. The vast majority of package theft occurs after the package has been delivered. If the customer can choose a delivery time when they’re home, then porch pirates have less opportunity to steal it.
Your ecommerce platform likely has add-ons that let your customers choose their delivery date and time, although it may be limited to local deliveries only. If you use Shopify, check out the following tools to see if they could fit your needs:
Provide instructions to the delivery driver for safe delivery
Along with using proper packaging, one way to prevent damaged items is to provide your carrier with instructions on how they should handle packages. If you are shipping fragile items, this should be communicated to your carrier so that they can properly mark the package.
It's also sometimes necessary to provide additional instructions to your carrier to ensure that a package goes to the correct address. If the customer provides any additional shipping instructions during checkout (such as where to leave the package, gate codes, etc.), then your team should pass this information on to the carrier, too.
Require a signature or in-person delivery for valuable items
If the product is especially valuable, you may want to consider requiring a signature upon receipt of the package. Requiring a signature (which guarantees in-person delivery) offers a couple of protections to both you and the customer. For one, it guarantees that the package will not be stolen after delivery. It also prevents the customer from fraudulently claiming they never received the package. Lastly, requiring a signature upon delivery allows customers to inspect the package and ensure there is no obvious damage before they sign for it.
It probably isn't necessary to go to these lengths for every ecommerce product. But if the item you are shipping is worth several hundred dollars or more, it's probably worth (strongly) considering. Most customers will have no problem signing for high-value items — and will likely even prefer it.
Improve your customer experience, even after deliveries, with Gorgias
As an ecommerce store, dealing with missing packages correctly is one of the many elements of developing a great customer experience. At Gorgias, we help ecommerce stores create a post-purchase experience optimized for customer satisfaction.
Gorgias helps you educate your customers about your refund/replacement policies for missing packages, give real-time updates about the status of their order, and provide helpful support in case something goes wrong. Better customer service leads to a better customer experience, helping you build a loyal customer base — and boosting your revenue in the process.
As the world's leading customer support platform, Gorgias also provides all of the tools and features your support team needs to offer the swift, helpful support that customers expect when their packages are missing. With our platform, your team also benefits from several deep integrations with many of the market's top shipping and fulfillment apps.
See for yourself how Gorgias improves the customer experience, from browsing to post-purchase, by booking a demo today.