Shipping delays by Atlanta-based UPS over the holidays left many businesses scrambling to handle an influx of unhappy customers. While UPS’s rival FedEx blamed many of the delays on winter storms across the United States, UPS attributed the late arrivals to a heavier shipment load than the company was equipped to handle.
Reasons for Delays
There were many factors that contributed to the delays faced by this Georgia company over the holiday season. First, online retailers made big promises to Christmas shoppers in 2013 in regards to discounted merchandise and rush shipments for last-minute shoppers. Those promises were spurred by a more competitive online shopping environment, where retailers were fighting harder for every shopper dollar.
A significant increase in online shopping for this past holiday season also contributed to the overload. According to ComScore.com, online shopping saw a 10% increase in individuals making purchases from their personal computers. The total amount of online sales topped $42 billion over the holidays in 2013.
Much of that increase came from Amazon Prime shoppers, members of an Amazon program that guarantees shipments in two business days. Benjamin Harford, an analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co., told Bloomberg Amazon Prime purchases were “far greater than anticipated and came much later than expected.” UPS holds the contract with Amazon Prime, putting those purchases on the back of the shipping giant.
Finally, a shorter window between Thanksgiving and Christmas left less time for shoppers to make their purchases and receive the deliveries. When that limited window was coupled with bad weather in many areas of the nation, backlogs became problematic in some regions, leaving UPS to cope with a higher volume of packages than it could handle.
While UPS may not have had full control over the holiday shipment debacle, some customers did not feel the company went far enough to try to remedy the situation. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that some customers were angry when UPS refused to make employees work on Christmas in an attempt to catch up on shipments in some areas of the country.
While UPS did announce on Christmas Eve that is would stick to its “no deliveries on Christmas Day” policy, it did bring employees in Christmas night to sort through the backlogged packages and get them ready for delivery the next day. The company also posted in its announcement that the volume of air packages in the UPS system exceeded what the company’s network could handle.
Remedies Slow to Come
While UPS appeared by many to be slow in dealing with the shipment problems, retailers that relied on UPS for delivery to their customers did not waste time making amends with those customers. Amazon and Kohl’s, two retailers that saw delays in their shipments, offered customers gift cards and apologies for their delays. Amazon also refunded shipping charges to many of its customers.
While it may be true that UPS could not have done much to prevent delays in shipping this holiday season, other companies showed how to turn that problem into a customer service opportunity. Those businesses seem to understand the basic philosophy that customers understand mistakes will happen. They simply want to know the company will fix them.