Delivery is the thorn in the side of ecommerce sites

Cellardelivery Apparently, ecommerce sales in the UK were up 25% this Christmas (2010) compared to 2009. Bad weather was one of the factors – both the unattractiveness of venturing out onto icy streets and shops reduced opening hours due to staff absence. Buying online seems the obvious answer.

Unfortunately, courier firms were hit with the same problems, so consequently many people will have suffered from late deliveries, inaccurate parcel tracking and 'sorry we called but you were out' cards through doors.

In our household we have an ongoing issue with Virgin Wines, whose couriers regularly fail to deliver. On the Virgin site, they allow you to specify where to leave the goods if you are out when the courier calls. This information is clearly displayed on the box when it arrives.

But Virgin also state that if your wine is stolen from your doorstep they will replace it.

Despite our contacting Virgin every time this happens, the delivery folk still refuse to follow the instructions (leave round the back of house). This is one big fat fail as far as Virgin is concerned, and they have never explained why it keeps happening. However, we think we've figured it out.

The delivery driver, when asked, said they are only allowed to spend a certain amount of time at each delivery location. If they go over that, they can't make all their deliveries and they are penalised. Taking the box round the back of the house would take too long (2 minutes), so they leave a card instead.

Leaving a card counts as a 'successful delivery' for many couriers in reports to clients, as reported by Andrew Walmsley in a recent post on the subject in Marketing. And guess who pays for that box of wine if it goes missing from the doorstep? Not Virgin Wines, I would hazard!

So with these two factors top of mind I can see why there's no incentive to live up to the Virgin Wine customer promise, and this is big problem for firms running ecommerce sites.

Apologising is only good the first time. If you keep making the same mistake, if your courier company continually fails to deliver on your customer promise, then all your touchy-feely marketing and warm customer service is undone. Customer retention, in short, goes out the window.

Of course it comes down to economics – but I for one would be prepared to pay more for a delivery service that follows instructions. There is usually an option for 'next day delivery' – at a premium – so how about charging a premium for 'guaranteed delivery to your instructions'?

4 thoughts on “Delivery is the thorn in the side of ecommerce sites

  1. You’re right that delivery is a thorn in the side of retailers when their delivery people are up against such tight schedules (which I didn’t know about). It’s a real pain to have to go out to a depot to collect goods which came when out, but sounds like Virgin Wines really need to get their act together! I do remember ordering goods from a site a few months ago who had really good tracking and estimated the time the goods would be delivered, and they were! Unfortunately I can’t remember who it was.
    So will you be continuing with Virgin wines or going elsewhere?

  2. Sam – let’s just say they’re on probation for now. They sent us a grovelly email and ‘compensated’ us with free delivery on the next order – I’d rather have had a fiver for every ‘apologise’ ‘disappointed’ ‘so sorry’ ‘mortified’ and ‘unacceptable’ they crammed into their email. As if words make it all OK!

  3. Hi Robin, Fran here from Naked Wines. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of us? We’re an online wine retailer who invests in independent producers from around the world, in return for preferential prices.

    If you fancy trying out a new ‘supplier’ then we’d love you to give us a go. We offer next working day delivery as standard (for £4.99) – and our carrier Parcelforce are pretty good at following instructions!

    Let me know if keen and we’ll send you a welcome voucher (no strings – and if for any reason you’re not impressed, we’ll give you your money back and leave it at that!).

    Cheers, Fran

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