How To Communicate Delivery Delays To Customers

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Malomo Staff


There's no way around it. Delayed shipments are inevitable in the world of online shopping. No matter how carefully you've laid your logistics plans, shipping delays are unavoidable, and they can negatively impact customer satisfaction.

But hope isn't lost! By remaining proactive and communicative, you can protect your brand's reputation and preserve customer trust.

Getting every step of the post-purchase experience right is crucial to retaining repeat customers. Read on to learn about the most common delivery delays and how to handle them.

Common Causes for Delivery Delays

Now let's review the most common reasons for delivery delays and some tools to help prevent them.

Divine Acts (No One's Fault)

These delays are due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. They are the easiest mishaps to communicate because customers will usually be understanding.

Global supply chain issues

Global events can severely impact supply chains. A recent example includes the Ever Given cargo ship, which blocked the Suez Canal, negatively impacting global supply chains. The incident resulted in late deliveries worldwide, the effects of which are still being felt months later. This situation is a prime example of an unforeseen, unavoidable delivery delay that could have benefited from earnest and regular customer updates as the mishap progressed.

Inclement weather

Inclement weather often impacts mail delivery through FedEx, the United States Postal Service (USPS), or UPS. As weather patterns become more extreme and unpredictable due to climate change, merchants will need to factor in communication plans for inclement weather.

Traffic accidents

Traffic accidents are another common and inevitable cause of delivery company or courier delay. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even Amazon shipping delays have become more commonplace. Again, being transparent and as upfront as possible will help alleviate customer tension.

Company logistics issues

Inefficiency on the company's part or lack of resources can cause shipping delays as well. Here are a few examples of why these delays might arise.

High-volume or seasonal shopping

Companies often see a surge in orders during specific seasonal periods, such as Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine's day, summer sales, or other annual anticipated sale times. Moreover, as alluded to above, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months has altered global buying patterns.

Although it is challenging to manage high volumes of shipments and delivery times during this period, it's possible to combat the predictable seasonal influx by hiring temporary, seasonal workers to handle the influx of order fulfillment, customer support, and marketing communications or automate your system wherever you can.

Advances in AI can also help companies analyze and predict peak order intake times to plan resource management accordingly.

Slow order fulfillment

For smaller businesses and facilities, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Smaller budgets mean more manual labor on the part of the staff, leading to slow processing times and delayed dispatch. Customers often show empathy for small businesses that need to use more cost-effective, less efficient practices to stay afloat. Independent retailers should communicate how they are doing their best and why orders may take longer than from a larger corporation.

Production delays

High demand for particular products or operational changes can lead to production delays. Both limited employee availability and a shortage of raw materials, such as the current lumber and microchip shortage, harm production and transit times. The upside is that these setbacks are usually predictable, so when a retailer fails to communicate them properly, it can sabotage customer trust. The best time to warn customers of known production delays is before the point of sale. If you don't, you're setting yourself up to fail!

Customer-side issues

Any interaction is a two-way street. Shipment and deliveries are no exception. Sometimes, mistakes occur on the customer side. When that happens, there are ways to protect the customer relationship without antagonizing your customer.


For international shipments, customs delays are bound to crop up. Typically, customers understand that international deliveries take longer to arrive, but extra tariffs or hold times may apply depending on the receiving country. Although it's ultimately the customer's responsibility to understand customs restrictions, it's best practice to remind them to research their country's laws before they make a purchase.

Incorrect information

When customers rush or aren't paying close attention, they sometimes give the wrong address. As the merchant, you can only rectify the problem if the customer notices their mistake and reaches out for support. If the parcel has already been processed or is in transit, not much can be done until the package is returned.

The best way to handle an anxious customer is to present them with their options, assure them they will not incur extra charges, and explain your policies, but most importantly, why the policies are in place.

Signature required

Sometimes customers fail to answer the door at the time of the delivery attempt. While most delivery services will leave the package at the door, some parcels require identity verification, an explicit package release, or even a signature. When this is the case, you should make sure to explicitly communicate this to your customers. If your customer was not home to sign for the package, triggering an automated email to let the customer know the delivery was attempted is a nice touch.

Communication 101: Best Practices

Good communication sets the foundation for proper customer expectation management. No matter where the fault lies, always keep these principles at the forefront of customer communication when things go awry.

Get ahead of the delivery delay

Any competent crisis manager worth their salt will tell you the same thing: get in front of the problem. Instead of waiting for customers to lodge complaints or log support tickets when their items don't arrive when expected, be proactive with message delivery as soon as an exception occurs. It's much easier to ask for forgiveness before a customer is upset.

Whenever possible, be as honest and transparent as possible about the nature and reason for the delay. While customers technically don't need to know every detail about why a carrier is late, fewer things are as frustrating as encountering a black box.

Overcommunication works

Today's buyers expect a high degree of customer service. If you're not sure which exception notifications a customer may want to receive, it's better to over-communicate — within reason. You don't want to annoy loyal customers through notification bombardment. It really is a balancing act. To prevent this mire of ambiguity, many companies now have customers opt into delivery notifications at the point of sale. This opt-in step allows companies to gain a better grip on customer preferences.

Even though it's safer to err on the side of over-communication, brevity should still be the goal. Remaining succinct is a good practice in almost any customer-facing communication. It cuts down on reading time and is less intrusive to busy customers who don't want to dig through an email looking for the lead.

Think of the customer's point of view

Due to the impact of COVID-19, online purchases have become ubiquitous for many people. Coupled with the directives from the new Postmaster General causing massive backlogs at post offices across the country, and chances are, you've experienced less-than-stellar delivery times. Extend a little empathy and treat customers the way you would like to be treated. Keep this golden rule in mind while designing your communication workflows.

Get feedback from customers

Always strive to be better. Solicit feedback from customers after the transaction has been completed so you can understand how to do better next time.

Every Touchpoint Matters

In the post-purchase experience, every customer-facing communication matters, even shipment exception emails. Get the most out of every touchpoint by turning each shipment notification and delivery tracking experience into a compelling cross-selling opportunity. Apps like Malomo make it easy with Shopify, Klayvio, and the rest of your ecommerce tech stack.

Using Malomo with a communication strategy that combines initiative, transparency, and sincerity can bring more value to your customers, maintaining customer trust, even when disaster strikes.

Schedule a demo today or start your free trial with Malomo.

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