FILED IN: Behind-the-Scenes, M&G Happenings
Posted By: Jamie Kutchman Wynne
If you happened to catch our 2021 Business Goals, you already know that we've recently converted our operations completely over to Fedex. But for those of you who didn't, we wanted to take you behind the scenes and let you know why we're making this very important decision.
If you follow us on Instagram and watch our Stories, you'll know that we were long time USPS loyalists. Our "free shipping" option in our online shop was USPS Priority and in addition, we primarily shipped all of our custom projects via USPS as well, the projects involving drop-shipping individual gifts to countless individual recipients - which was most of the time. So, it's a lot of volume we were giving them. (To be fully accurate, we also offered rush shipping options in the online shop via Fedex but these rush orders were a small percentage of our overall orders).
Here's why we were loyal for so long...
First, the mail carrier assigned to our location has been absolutely incredible over the years, always going above and beyond for us, always telling us how appreciative of our business he is. He'd stay late and give us a second pickup in the evening if we needed it. He'd push for management to send larger and larger trucks for us to accommodate our ever-growing shipments since the amount we're sending doesn't fit in his standard size truck any longer. He'd text us on the weekends when we were closed if he happened to have packages for us and ask if they were urgent, giving us the option to meet him at the studio to get the packages so we'd have time-sensitive inventory first thing upon re-opening on Monday mornings. I could go on and on. I've never met someone so hard working. He played an important role in our operations - we relied on him and considered him a member of the team.
In addition to this key relationship, USPS Priority generally delivers anywhere in the U.S. within 1-3 days at reasonable rates. When you bump this service up against Fedex Ground and UPS Ground, for similar prices, the packages stay in transit several days longer than they do with USPS Priority, especially for west coast addresses which is where we ship a large percentage of our packages. We've traditionally had very few issues with USPS Priority not delivering on time, and so it was a great option for us.
Fast forward to holiday season 2020 when the increase in the number of packages being shipped nationwide combined with staff shortages due to Covid were unprecedented. ALL carriers were having issues delivering on-time. Widespread delays were occurring and still are. Even guaranteed rush services like Fedex 2-day and Next Day were no longer considered guaranteed and still aren't.
So, you might be wondering why we are making this change if all carriers are having serious delays?
Plain and simple, USPS was ultimately skipping the very important step of scanning each and every package upon pickup. This translated to thousands of our customers' packages appearing, according to tracking info, as if they were still in our local post office literally weeks after we shipped them out. The gifts would appear as if they weren't progressing and then all of a sudden they would mysteriously show up out of nowhere. In addition, if we contacted USPS Customer Service, they had zero clue where the packages were at any given time which put us in a terrible position as a small business. Our sales rep flat out stopped answering our emails altogether - I guess because he couldn't help us either?
Most all of our clients were understanding since the delays were so widespread and completely out of our control. However, some clients weren't so understanding and were demanding refunds to the tune of thousands of dollars, disparaging us on social media, and saying we offer horrible service and that they'd never order with us again. Ahead of holiday season, we very intentionally added verbiage to every product page on our website making it clear that Covid delays were a possibility and we couldn't guarantee transit times with USPS. We also reiterated this in our order confirmation emails to remind clients that they still had the option to upgrade to faster shipping via Fedex if they wanted to. We also added Package Protection from a 3rd party to our website to allow clients to insure packages that recipients can't locate despite a positive proof of delivery or packages that become lost in transit. Though most still didn't opt for these safety nets, we still felt terrible that we couldn't do something to make the packages get there faster. We hustled unbelievably hard during holiday season to meet our production deadlines and ship the gifts out according to the ETAs we listed on our website and were successful in doing so. And then to hand them off to USPS only to have them disappear for weeks, it's quite frankly been maddening. We never want unhappy clients whether it's out of our control or not! I don't think I've ever felt so helpless as a business owner as I have over the last three to four weeks (and that's saying a lot because we've definitely faced some serious challenges over the last few years!)
As for Fedex, our shipments (incoming and outgoing) experienced significant delays as well, but the tracking information was at least updated as the packages progressed. In addition, their Customer Service could actually give us updates and details about where the packages were located so we could at least offer our clients reassurance that the packages weren't lost, just severely delayed.
If we want to continue offering our clients the absolute best client experience out there, we have to have an organization backing us up with the infrastructure in place to, at minimum, scan EVERY SINGLE PACKAGE at its place of origin so we have full and complete tracking information from point A to Z to offer our clients. This of course won't prevent widespread delays from continuing during Covid but it will at least allow us to give our clients better information so they know exactly what to expect. And in these crazy pandemic times, that can go a long way. Telling a client "your gift is delayed and here is where it is and here's the updated ETA" is far better than telling them "it's delayed and I'm sorry but I don't know any additional info".
While it saddens me to sever ties with USPS because of the hard working mail carriers on the ground who we came to know and rely upon, if the U.S. Postal Service as an organization cannot perform, we must do what's best for M&G clients even if it means making difficult decisions like this one. What do you think about our decision? Reach out here - we'd love to hear your thoughts.