Imagine one of your best clients absolutely, positively wants a fresh supply of your artisan toiletries before traveling overseas to visit family. She’s called three times making sure the shipment was sent on time, and you made her a promise it would all work out.
Now it’s the morning of her trip, and she’s about to walk onto her flight empty handed—and a little less gleaming about your customer service.
It just doesn’t pay to disappoint customers—meaning you can’t afford to be indiscriminate about how you ship your goods.
As part of an annual review of procedures and expenditures, you should do a quick review of your customary shipping carrier to confirm on-time delivery at the lowest cost to your small business.
If you’re less than thrilled with your current shipping set-up and have decided to shop around, here’s what you need to know about what the world’s major shipping services can offer for your small business.
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When quick delivery is your number one goal, FedEx shines above its competitors. The company’s user-friendly website designed specifically for small business owners has a section catering specifically to letting you choose when you need your product to arrive.
Today, tomorrow, or the next day? Morning or afternoon? If customers are waiting for your product for a specific need—say, before catching a flight—being able to pinpoint a delivery time can make all the difference. And customers can track packages easily using a code on their shipping confirmation.
For the economically-minded, FedEx offers “lower prices without compromises.” Use their interactive map to find the right balance between timeliness and cost. And FedEx account holders enjoy special privileges like lower shipping rates, free shipping supplies, and pick-up scheduling.
But even with these concessions, the speed and reliability of FedEx service comes at a cost. On average, comparable FedEx services priced slightly highest among the competitors on our list.
Ship By UPS
Similar to FedEx, UPS offers shipping services based on speed of delivery. In most cases, UPS ground is the least expensive method for shipping within the continental United States, but may take up to 5 business days for the package to be delivered.
On the other extreme, UPS can even offer same day package delivery through their “express critical” service. Though of course, this option comes with an “express critical” price tag to match.
When it comes to ease of use, the UPS website leaves much to be desired for small business owners. The site is the least user-friendly of those we reviewed, so scheduling services as well as creating and printing shipping labels can be a pain. This could be especially annoying for businesses who are regularly training new employees to ship packages, as the process isn’t exactly intuitive.
But if you and your customer need the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your package is at all time, the UPS website’s tracking feature is a great addition. Both you and your customer can track the status of a package either using the package’s unique tracking number, or through a search using the customer’s email address.
USPS Postal Shipping
The mainstreaming of email, e-cards and online payments has forced the United States Postal Service (USPS) into the modern age. In an effort to remain relevant and operational, USPS has placed a renewed focus on customer experiences, making it more friendly to small business owners than ever before.
One standout service from USPS for small business owners is the Priority Mail Flat Rate Box shipping service. If your product—most books and smaller items—will fit in the box, you get a standard rate to ship anywhere in the United States. Because other shippers usually price by weight, the Flat Rate Box is a particularly great deal if you’re shipping small but heavy items.
So if your delivery date can be moderately flexible and your package dimensions fall within certain criteria, the USPS is typically the lowest priced shipping method.
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How Do You Choose?
Finding the best shipping service for your small business ultimately depends on your specific priorities. Speed? Cost? Reliability? Your needs will depend on your product, your customer base, and your price point.
Luckily, most U.S. based small businesses have at least these three options to choose from, if not more. If one provider isn’t serving your business well, you have the power to take your business elsewhere. You may even spend a trial 2-3 month period exclusively using each organization before determining which best meets your standards for reliability, cost-effectiveness, and convenience.
The quality and reliability of your shipping service can make or break your customer’s service experience, reflecting not just on the shipper, but directly on your company. So take the time to review your company’s shipping procedures regularly for quality control.
Ultimately, you’ll find a cost-effective solution that will maintain the same standard of excellent customer service you already expect from yourself.