There’s an angry customer standing across the mailroom counter from you wondering where their package is. Their tracking data from the carrier shows that it made it to your facility, but what happened from there is a mystery. You try to be professional and conciliatory, but the damage is done. They’re mad, you’re flustered…and likely out the cost of replacing their lost item.
The holidays are upon us, and things are likely heating up in your mailroom as you’re pounded by a barrage of holiday cards, catalogs, décor items, and gifts that seems to increase each day. Your challenge is to keep track of it all so customers get what they need, and it can be overwhelming.
Why so much mail?
You know that the holidays are a crazy time for mailrooms, and maybe you even augmented your staff with extra manpower, but this holiday is different—just like so many other parts of 2020. Due to rising ecommerce trends, this was set to be a big year for deliveries as it was. In 2019, the Commerce Department reported that online U.S. retail sales outstripped general merchandise sales for the first time ever, and we all knew that this surge was going to continue.
Then the pandemic sent those rising ecommerce numbers soaring. A Digital Commerce analysis of Commerce Department data showed that ecommerce rose by 30 percent in the first six months of 2020, as compared to a 12 percent increase during the same time period the year before.
So if you’re feeling the burn with more incoming mail than ever, you’re in good company. Unfortunately, more mail means more opportunity for things to get lost. According to Clutch, a B2B ratings firm, more than half of online shoppers reported that they did not receive a package that they ordered in the past six months. Loss happens; it’s an inevitable byproduct of increasing ecommerce. The trick is not to let it happen in your mailroom.
What goes wrong?
Sticky fingers are an ongoing problem. Customers, passers-by, and even employees have been known to steal from mailrooms. Then there are the porch pirates who steal packages from your clients’ doorsteps after you have delivered them. But often, the problem is more innocent than that. Loss happens when things get delivered to, or picked up by, the wrong people in the chaos of mailroom activities.
Stop the bleeding
So how can you stop mailroom loss and make sure that holiday packages end up in the right hands in a timely manner? Here are a few tips from our mailroom management experts.
- Ditch the scanner. If you’re still using a handheld scanner to scan the labels of incoming packages, there’s a better way. These scanners can be finicky and inaccurate. Sophisticated mailroom apps, on the other hand, can replace these scanners and be deployed from most computerized devices, negating the need for high maintenance hardware. Many come equipped with optical character recognition that can accurately read even handwritten labels and deploy artificial intelligence to fill in missing information when labels are obscured or partially missing.
- Go paperless. Paper tracking logs open up big margins of error. They can get lost or misfiled, and during the pandemic, most people aren’t excited about touching a community pen. Scanning apps can keep a computerized record that will consolidate data in the cloud so it won’t get lost and can be easily retrieved.
- Use the data. When your data is being consolidated in a computerized log instead of on paper, you can use that data to your advantage. For example, when you scan an incoming package, the software can keep track of the date and time of receipt and start the time ticking so that you always know the age of packages awaiting delivery or pickup. You can also track trends in package delivery volume, customer pickup habits, and user activity (for tracking employees’ performance and efficiency).
- Establish chain of custody. You can eliminate package loss by knowing exactly who touched the package or mail and when they touched it. Your digital scanning app can note who received the package, who handed it off to the customer, who received it (with a digital signature). This will ensure that you know who has custody of the package throughout its lifecycle.
Communicate with customers. You can foster good relations with your clients when you communicate thoroughly and frequently about the status of their mail. If you’re having visions of sending emails and texts to countless clients, don’t worry—there’s an app for that. A good package notification system will do the heavy lifting for you, generating automated emails or texts (depending on customer preference) once a package is scanned. The emails can allow the recipients to click on their preferences and indicate whether they want you to:
- Hold for pickup
- Deliver at a certain time
These communication systems can also notify you or your staff when a package is not picked up after a certain amount of time.
And where delivery is concerned, when you can get customer specifications in advance, it will keep you from delivering a package when your customers won’t be home. This can keep items from idling on the front porch where they are vulnerable to theft.
- Take photos. Seeing is believing, so make sure that you have a system in place for tracking packages with photos. Capture an image upon receipt to reflect the state of the package when you received it. (If there’s damage, you won’t be blamed for it.) You can also snap a photo of the item sitting on the doorstep to verify that you delivered it, or a photo of a person receiving the item.
If you’re in the mailroom business, we can’t promise you a calm holiday season, especially not in 2020, but we can promise you that if you follow these tips, you can decrease package loss in your mailroom. And that means that when you’re face to face with that customer claiming that their package was lost, you can respond with confidence and hard data to show that your mailroom did all in their power to ensure the safe delivery of their mail.
If you want to know more about how PackageX can help streamline your mailroom with machine vision technology to track packages with a simple photo, optical character recognition for reading labels, and automated notifications to your customers, contact us today. You can also check out our ROI calculator. Type in your industry, number of mail recipients, and size of your mailroom staff, and we’ll let you know how much PackageX can save you.