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UK parcels to EU ‘must have custom declaration form’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Post Office customers in Great Britain are being warned that from Tuesday 29 December, any parcel containing gifts or goods that is being sent to an EU country must have a customs declaration form attached to it.

The UK’s exit from the Customs Union means that customs declarations which apply to non-EU countries has been extended to EU counties. A form does not have to be completed if customers are sending a letter, postcard or document to an EU country.

Around 45% of the total international parcel traffic received by Post Offices in Great Britain goes to EU destinations. Post Office is advising its customers that they can pick up customs forms at its branches and complete them at home before returning to their Post Office to hand over their parcels in order to save themselves time.

The new requirement applies to anyone posting a parcel from England, Scotland or Wales to EU destinations. This was already a requirement when posting a parcel to non-EU destinations. Whilst this requirement comes into effect on 1 January 2021, Post Office advises that customs labels are attached from 29 December so that customers can be sure their parcel has the correct documentation in case there are delays to their parcel arriving at their EU destination.

Customers posting a parcel from Northern Ireland to EU destinations are not required to attach a customs declaration form. However, they must continue to do so for parcels going to non-EU destinations.

Amanda Jones, Retail and Franchise Network Director, said: “We know that over the past few weeks, many people will have been preoccupied with thoughts about Christmas and the pandemic. Postmasters are on hand to provide practical advice, particularly to small businesses, who regularly send parcels to the EU. Customers should also look out for a leaflet in branches that has information about the new customs declaration requirement.”

How to provide the best customer service when couriers are delayed

960 640 Guest Contributor

By Starshipit

The beauty of online shopping is that a customer can buy almost anything they want without getting out of bed.

But when couriers are delayed (frequently during high-demand periods), customers are often left out of the loop. As a result, online stores receive a lot of complaints about delivery problems that are completely out of their control.

How to manage delivery expectations when couriers are delayed

Purchasing online doesn’t provide the same instant gratification that comes with going into a store. Therefore, a customer’s service expectations are naturally higher when they pay for something that they don’t get to experience immediately. When couriers are busier than normal, it can be hard to manage your customers’ expectations.

The key? Communication.

  1. Be upfront

During high-demand periods, be open and honest. It’s better to warn your customers that their orders might be delayed before they head to checkout, than it is to tell them afterwards.

Add a banner to your homepage that warns of possible delays. Include timeframes if you can. Add reminders to product pages and at checkout. Post about it on social media and include it in EDM and promotional communications. Encourage your customers not to leave their shopping to the last minute, so they’re more likely to get their order on time.

  1. Offer choice at checkouts

If you only offer standard shipping at checkout, your couriers will be swamped with orders that all have the same degree of urgency – even if your customer wants it the next day .

By offering delivery options like standard, express, overnight or Click & Collect, along with different rates for each of them, you encourage your customer to consciously think about when they want their order to be delivered versus when they need it to be – and how much they’re willing to pay for the convenience.

For example, if they need to buy paracetamol online because the chemist isn’t open, they might select a fast delivery option. But if they want to take advantage of an unbeatable deal five months before Christmas, they will be more likely to select standard shipping because it isn’t urgent.

  1. Send tracking pages

When a customer buys something online, they want certainty that it will arrive. Tracking pages empower customers to track the status of their orders, so they know where they are at every stage of the delivery journey.

But by using the default tracking pages supplied by couriers, you miss an opportunity to promote your own store.

Branded tracking pages enable you to engage with your customer long after they’ve hit the ‘Buy’ button. Use branded emails to give your customers a visual indication of where their order is. Direct customers to specials on your website or your social channels. Provide discount codes for their next purchase. Encourage them to sign up to your email database. You could even add a reminder that couriers are currently experiencing delays so be patient.

  1. Send notifications & emails

Because of the time it takes between paying for an order and actually receiving it, customers want reassurance about where their orders are. Sending email or SMS notifications at key stages of the delivery journey, like ‘printed’, ‘picked up’ and ‘out for delivery’, is a great way to keep them informed.

If you know that your customers are being impacted by delays, consider sending a ‘we haven’t forgotten you’ email too. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should tell them that you’re aware of delivery delays and that you’re doing your best to keep everyone informed.

  1. Bend over backwards

While courier delays are out of your control, they could give your company a bad reputation. A late delivery or bad experience may result in losing that customer, so consider offering refunds, store credit, discounts, or free shipping next time around.

Don’t bend over backwards too far though. Delays aren’t your fault and during high-demand times you probably won’t be able to do much about them. If you take a financial hit on every delay, you probably wouldn’t remain profitable for long.

Stay ahead of delivery delays

When delivery is delayed during high-peak times, the best you can do is keep your customers informed. The more you keep them in the loop with open, honest and transparent communication – even if it’s not good news – the more they’ll trust you.

Starshipit’s smart fulfilment automation enables online retailers to add options at checkout and send customers branded tracking pages and notifications at key stages of the delivery journey.

Ready to enhance your customer experience during the delivery process? Sign up for a free 30-day trial with Starshipit and get started today.

Coronavirus: Online retailers delivering parcels almost 20% faster

1024 683 Stuart O'Brien

Online retailers and their carriers are delivering parcels almost 20% faster than usual, with the average delivery time reducing from 2.1 days to 1.7 days in the last two weeks.

That’s according to new internal data released today from post-purchase specialist parcelLab, which says as the ongoing coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, the speed at which parcels from online orders are being delivered is showing to be quicker than usual, despite a surge in the number of online orders being made.

parcelLab puts this down to a number of key factors. First of all, with so many people confined to their homes during the day, they are able to receive their parcel on the first try. Secondly, many carriers have removed the need for a signature on delivery, which again saves time as they can drop off the parcel even when people aren’t at home.

More customers are likely opting for carriers to leave their parcel in a safe location, which again increases first-attempt delivery success. Finally, carriers are able to get from A to B much quicker as the roads are far less busy.

“It’s important now, perhaps more so than ever before, for retailers to be keeping customers up-to-date about the status of their order and inform them of any difficulties or delays immediately,” said Conor McGrath, Head of UK and Nordic Clients at parcelLab. “Putting proactive shipping notifications in place is vital right now. Customers are currently filled with uncertainty about whether their parcel will arrive on time or at all – which can cause real problems, especially if they are ordering essential goods. Excellent customer service and experience is vital at this time so there should be a focus on optimising this.”

The parcelLab data also shows that the electronics and IT industry, in particular, are benefiting from a surge in demand with a 28% increase in order volume over the past two weeks from online electronics and IT stores – likely due to the influx in customers ordering equipment to create a comfortable working environment from their new home office.

At the same time, online shops selling sports equipment, DIY goods, furniture and toys are experiencing a rapid increase in orders. Since bricks and mortar shops have been forced to close and people have more free time, customers are choosing to spend their money online instead. Even when everything returns to normal, this purchasing behaviour is likely to remain.

“The current crisis is a totally unpredictable situation,” added McGrath. “It’s almost certain that we’ll see delivery delays and failures as more supply chain staff are off work sick, movement becomes more restricted and couriers announce new delivery measures and revised delivery options. Sadly, we cannot predict when this will happen, so good preparation is key and keeping your customers informed of where their parcel is, in real-time, at every stage of the journey will be imperative.”