For many small business owners, shipping is a necessary evil.
(article continues below)
It's expensive. It's time-consuming. It's a hassle. But it's also necessary. Drop the ball on shipping and all of the hard work you've done to impress your customers throughout the selling process will go down the drain.
If your company's shipping system is dragging you down, don't give up yet. You can make life a little easier by streamlining your shipping - adapting it to meet your customers' needs without pushing your patience past the point of no return.
Here are five easy ways to streamline your shipping system.
1. Comparison Shop
In most cases, customers are responsible for paying the expense of shipping the product from your business to their door. So if the customer is footing the bill, you don't need to worry about how much it costs, right? Wrong! Shipping is the last contact you have with your customer. If customers feel they've paid too much for shipping, they probably won't be back.
The major shipping companies - U.S. Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, UPS and DHL - advertise their rates on their websites and in their promotional literature. Take time to compare rates so you can get the best deal for your customers. They'll likely reward your extra effort with repeat business down the road.
2. Negotiate Rates
You don't need to ship hundreds of packages a day to receive a discount. Many shipping companies are eager to offer discounts to companies who commit to ship with them on a regular basis. Contact various shipping companies for the names of local reps who may be able to negotiate a discount that makes everyone happy.
3. Pick-up Delivery
No matter how many packages you ship, going to the post office can be a real hassle. In addition to the inconvenience, trips to the post office cost your company money because they eat up your employees' time and focus. If you rely exclusively on the U.S. postal service to meet your shipping needs, consider switching to a shipping company like UPS that will pick up packages at your location.
4. Print Postage In-House
If you still prefer to ship through the U.S. postal system, technology may be able to help. Using a label printer and a postage scale, you can print your postage at the office. Although there is a cost associated with this option (around $300), it's a small price to pay compared to the lost time and headaches you'll get standing in line at the post office.
5. Minimize Handling Charges
Some business owners can't resist the temptation to pad their profit margin with inflated "handling" costs. Theoretically, these costs cover the labor and material expenses associated with packing and preparing merchandise for shipment. Sometimes, however, the handling charges are more than the shipping charges themselves. As much as possible, avoid charging your customers a handling fee. If handling is a concern, a better option might be to build the expense directly into the price of the product.