How fast is "right away?" The specific answer to this question can save you and your customers a substantial amount of money. This, of course, is because "right away" is a subjective assessment. To some people, it means they need an item the same day, but to others, two or even three days is considered fast. Since shipping companies charge substantially different amounts for all of their speed levels, it's important to nail down the details before printing the label. Here are some tips to help:
Guide Your Customer to Give it Rational Thought
People who have gotten into a panic about something time-sensitive typically underestimate how much time they really have. This leads to unwarranted demands for the fastest possible delivery. One of the easiest things to do to bring rational thought back online is to ask for a specific delivery date instead of the more vague question of "when." It's too easy to answer "now" or "ASAP" if nobody asks for exact details.
Another option is to offer specific delivery options. This eliminates the vagueness that leads people to give the same answer every time regardless of their actual needs. Here are some of the most commonly-supported options at the big shipping companies:
One additional step you can take to help your customers is to provide estimated delivery dates next to the different shipping options. This will help them select the right choice if the product is needed by a certain date.
Note that some shippers break up their shipping options between "time-critical" and "expedited." Since these sound like they should be synonyms, many people use them interchangeably. Avoid using these terms with those outside of the shipping business. Instead, just get the needed delivery date - then choose the appropriate service yourself.
What Situations Call for Time-Critical Shipping?
Time Critical Shipping is a solution for freight that needs to be delivered quickly, on a specific day or at a specific time. For example, if a company needs product delivered in three days to a business who only accepts deliveries from 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., this is a time critical situation. Also, special situations like scheduled tradeshows and events typically require time-critical shipping for supplies.
Can Ground Shipping be Fast Enough?
It depends on two things: How critical the arrival date is and how close to the warehouse and shipping hub the customer is.
Some of your customers will choose two- or three-day shipping out of impatience or availability instead of actual need. While this is more common in B2C sales, it does come up in B2B operations every so often. This is a situation where it may be possible to ship at rock-bottom rates as long as the customer doesn't make you outright guarantee an arrival date.
In these cases, it's often worth it to get out the master delivery time sheet for Ground service from your preferred shipper and see where they can deliver to in two days. That's because companies like UPS routinely deliver Ground within this timeframe for locations that are close to their hubs. Destinations in the same state are almost sure to get delivery within two days, and sometimes, it'll even take just one (but never same-day). For customers who do not require a delivery day guarantee, this is the way to go. Note that you should never outright guarantee a delivery date at this shipping tier.
When ASAP Really Means ASAP
This is where "expedited" shipping comes in. When your customer needs a delivery on the same day or possibly the next, it's the option to choose. Typically, there is a shipping time cutoff for same-day service that is quite early in the day. This ensures that the shipper actually has time to get it there. If the deadline isn't met, the shipper will convert the due time to the next day.
When given the choice between same-day/next-day service and two-day service, along with the corresponding difference in shipping fees, most will choose the two-day option. There are many people who don't really realize just how fast today's "fast" shipping is, so offering expedited and time-critical shipping as distinctly separate options will help to avoid costly demands for unneeded speed.
That said, there are times when your customer really needs your items right now. These include instances where something has broken down and needs to be fixed or replaced before operations can continue, instances of your customer selling out of a hot item early in the day, and other such situations. In these cases, you'll be a lifesaver if you offer true expedited shipping as an option.
Sharing the Costs with Your Customers
In some industries, it is common for the cost of shipping to be invisibly folded into the price of the goods. However, when it comes to upgraded shipping options, this is often a bad idea. It encourages people to demand that things be shipped with the fastest possible method, thereby eating up your profits. To discourage this, pass on some or all of the cost of the enhanced shipping service to your customers. They'll become much more careful if they have to visibly pay more for faster delivery. Even better, you'll be able to detach these costs from your product costs, so you can pass on savings to those who are quite satisfied with standard shipping options (ground shipping). This will make those customers happy and could lead to increased sales.
To learn more about your shipping options and how to use them as part of a seamless customer service plan, just contact us.