You’ve done everything you can to get a customer’s order to them on time, but now you are getting a “delivery exception” notice that seems to indicate a delay. eCommerce brands need a plan to address this hiccup. To help, let’s look at what the exception notice means and lay out five tips to help you build your plan for tackling it.


What is a delivery exception notice?

A “delivery exception” status or update notice from a carrier means that your package has been delayed in transit. Typically, carriers use this status for a significant disruption that they can’t control. Traditionally that means natural disasters, damage or accidents to the truck hauling your order, or infrastructure issues. You may also see this code when there’s an issue with the label — if a driver can’t read or scan the label on a package in their truck, they can’t deliver it either. 

There are some efforts to tackle the delivery exception alert after it pops up and a few ways to prevent it or minimise its impact.


Tip 1: Verify addresses and documents beforehand

Missing documents or incorrect information are a key cause for the delivery exception status alert. This is especially true for international shipments and imports from manufacturers, where missing documentation can lead to delays with packages stuck in customs.

Avoid this by working with a freight forwarder or 3PL to ensure inbound goods have all the proper documentation attached for customs officials. At the same time — for all shipments, including those to your customers — introduce tools that check and verify addresses. Knowing that your recipient is listed correctly helps avoid delays in trucks. Have the buyer verify the address on your site. And test this thoroughly! Make sure you can easily streamline pick and pack workflows to create labels for standard addresses, businesses, homes, apartments, and PO boxes.


Tip 2: Check labels and barcodes

One of the biggest causes for a delivery exception notice is a damaged shipping label or barcode. You did the work to verify it, but the barcode or address became unreadable either due to printing errors or harm during transit. When that happens, the carrier can’t complete the delivery.

Get proactive by using label printers and properly securing each label with additional tape over barcodes and addresses to prevent smudging. Self-adhesive labels may need a little extra tape or support to keep them attached. Use standard placements for labels too, so that there’s less risk of them being torn off in transit. Most label printers can work with weather-resistant labels as well.

Not sure about the best way to pack for safety? Ask your carrier. They’ll have tips for labels as well as other warnings that can prevent damage from the carrier’s sorting equipment.


Tip 3: Automate tracking and updates

Delays can harm customer relationships, so you’ll want to have a plan to address exceptions as soon as they occur. The best way to do this is to automate the tracking of order statuses for every package you ship. Use a single platform to help you track and manage all deliveries with multiple carriers in a central location. A standardised set of statuses can be set to automatically ping carriers to get updates and create alerts accordingly. Find a tool that generates alerts for you as soon as the carrier creates a status for any order.

When this occurs, your account management or operations teams can leap into action to determine the nature of the issue. Many carriers will try to reach out to you when an exception status alert occurs. Having a team ready with delivery information and other details can help you resolve the issue as soon as possible. In some cases, a shipping and delivery technology platform have dedicated delivery support team to help solve delivery expectations for you with the carriers you ship with. Active tracking and preparation will help your team respond to an exception notices quickly enough to still have the parcel delivered on time.


Tip 4: Create a proactive carrier plan

Individual stores typically must keep an eye on status updates and then work with a carrier’s help desk when something goes wrong. One benefit of moving to a larger fulfilment service provider like a 3PL is that they have direct carrier relationships. This means they’ve got a specific connection that can help when an exception error occurs.

3PLs can reach out to carriers when something happens, but they also have plans on how to tackle exception statuses before the next one lands. Proactive steps can include scans when loading trailers, getting automated notices, and quickly sharing address data through established channels. That’s on top of other benefits like having a better rate for your shipping and fulfilment costs.


Tip 5: Add leeway to your orders

The final way to manage a delivery exception status more effectively is to work on the time to respond to all your orders. Sometimes exception statuses can be addressed quickly. Other times, the carrier will return the parcel to a processing station before you’re able to provide or verify address details. When possible, adding more time to your delivery time guarantee can mean that the customer never notices a delay. 

Choosing faster shipping options — which can easily remain affordable — helps you meet promises to customers and minimises risks to repeat business. Plus, when you get a product to a customer earlier, that tends to be a significant positive aspect of reviews. They love it, and happy customers are more likely to come back and shop again.


Always support your customers

For any company trying to understand how to respond to a delivery exception, the best approach is to start with the customer. Create a plan to address it in case the customer finds the exception first and reaches out to your support team. If you offer automated replies, ensure that this possibility is addressed in those responses. If not, share the details you have with them and note what specific steps you’re taking. From there, reach out to the carrier and see what’s occurred. Get a plan to fix it, execute that plan, and inform the customer. Put your shoppers first and they’ll reward that effort.


This is a guest post by Jake Rheude.

Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.