The importance of selecting the right courier for your small business

By: Guest contributor

Date: 7 September 2015

The importance of selecting the right courier for your small businessWhat's the secret to selecting the right logistics partner? Price and reliability are important points to consider when organising your distribution and delivery operations. However, there are other elements to logistics besides price and reputation. Here are four important questions every business owner should ask before selecting a courier partner.

1 Is it better to have your own-brand van?

In most cases, it's best to have your own-brand van, because it leaves a lasting impression on customers and advertises your name around town. Realistically, few retailers, let alone e-commerce sites, can afford to have their own in-house logistics and van fleet. Some of the biggest e-commerce sites, such as Argos and Amazon, use courier companies for many of their deliveries.

Select companies such as net-a-porter.com operate their own logistics. This is a core focus in the company's brand strategy and shopping experience. While you may not be able to afford your own-brand vans, opting for an established courier will deliver the same professional experience without the investment and risk of running your own logistics in-house. Alternatively, if you have a high street presence or a bricks and mortar store, consider offering 'click and collect' services.

2 Should you choose a lifestyle courier?

Many low-cost couriers rely on self-employed couriers to deliver packages. Drivers are paid per delivery and are often referred to as 'lifestyle couriers'. Unlike traditional post workers or full-time employees of courier companies, self-employed drivers can sometimes resort to 'off-piste' measures to delivering packages. Horror stories have emerged about underpaid employees leaving packages in bins and throwing fragile items over fences.

If you are starting up your own business, do you really want to risk your first sales with a poor or unreliable courier? Booking a delivery with a discount courier may save you money in the short-run, but you are risking your brand's strategy in the long run. Consider booking with a professional courier service. You get the saving without compromising your brand in the eyes of your customer.

3 What tracking facilities are offered?

Tracking facilities vary from one courier to the next. Some courier companies offer different tracking services to help customers plan or reschedule deliveries. Not only does this service allow the company to be more efficient, it also helps customers plan shipments, so it's a win-win. Real-time tracking facilities can reduce the number of customer queries and significantly improve operations.

Select services cut the delivery window down to a 15-minute slot and give customers the option to have their parcel delivered to a safe place, be collected from the nearest depot or upgrade their delivery.

When selecting a courier partner or service, you should always see what technology and apps are available. Look for companies that offer real-time scan info updates and mobile tracking apps. This will ensure you are offering a complete and state-of-the-art shipping service to your customers.

4 Can you offer multiple delivery and/or return options with the courier?

Giving customers the option to send their parcel economy or express is essential, so customers can pay for faster delivery for last minute or urgent orders. Allowing free returns may encourage first-time buyers to purchase from your website. While some retailers do not offer returns, they may be losing out on first-time buyers or return shoppers.

Courier services and delivery windows vary extensively. Consider using more than one courier to provide your customers with greater delivery and/or return options. Again, it is about balancing short-term goals with long-term growth. Using a parcel broker may allow you to pick and choose the best service for a particular customer or delivery region.

Copyright © 2015 Mark Bunce of Fastlane International Couriers. Follow them on Twitter.

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