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The recent ecommerce boom has been something of a double-edged sword for warehouses.

Sure, the increased orders and revenue are always welcome, but the reason behind these increased orders – namely, the COVID-19 pandemic – has caused a lot of snags along the way, both internally and externally.

Between a rise in product shortages, logistics complications, and a reduction of available workers due to health and safety reasons, it can be tougher to handle deliveries and packages than ever before. Chief among these has been the impact COVID-19 has had on delivery time.

Customers these days expect faster deliveries than ever before, which is a tall order even on a good day, but can be downright nightmarish when it comes to handling next-day or 2-day deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, there’s a few things you can do to help manage your deliveries – and your customers’ expectations.

 

Manage Delivery Time During the Pandemic

 

Constantly reassess your order history

Few things can give you a better understanding of your processing time and potential hangups than your recent order history. As often as possible, review the last 60-90 days of orders and look for outliers – were there a lot of delays in a given time period? If so, were these due to a consistent reason such as picking error, delays in transportation, or incorrectly reported inventory? This can give you a much better idea of what you’re facing, and how you can start to reduce these errors.

 

Keep open communication with your customers

Few things will lose a customer faster than a lack of communication, or any confusion about where their order is. By making sure your customers are always kept up to date on any potential delays or item shortages (even if it doesn’t directly affect their specific order), you can do a lot to mitigate cancellations and lost sales.

 

Staff smartly – and safely

Staff levels will always have a big impact on your productivity and delivery times, but the safety of your workers should always be paramount. Enforce social distancing on the shop floor by limiting the amount of workers in a given area at one time, and even if you do have to increase your staffing levels to keep up with demand, make sure to set a careful rotation to limit the amount of workers out at the warehouse shelves – and set limits on when they need to be back by to keep things flowing.

 

Optimize your shelves

As orders increase, the amount of time it takes to pick a given item needs to be carefully managed in order to make sure every item is handled in an appropriate amount of time. A big part of this will involve optimizing the shelves you use – if your pallet racking or metal storage shelves are laid out in a way that causes traffic jams and prevents your staff from getting to them promptly, or if your items aren’t arranged in a way that makes them easier to get to, make the needed changes as fast as possible.

 

Balance your logistics partners

It can be hard to go against an established partnership, but when it comes to getting your shipments out on time, time is of the essence. Shop around amongst your current logistics providers and find the fastest way to get each shipment out, particularly if the customer requested overnight or 2-day delivery. Focus on finding LTL and next-day partners in your geographic area that can respond to customer requests more quickly than the others could.

 

Under-promise and over-deliver

Setting customer expectations appropriately is crucial to maintaining customer loyalty and avoiding further issues down the road. Always go with the worst-case scenario when it comes to delivery speed: overnight deliveries may take two days, two-days may become 3 or 4, and so on. While you’re working behind the scenes to make sure everything shows up on time, this will help your customers better understand when they don’t – and make them that much happier when they do.

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