Delivery Exceptions: What They Are, and How to Handle Them

Nothing frustrates shoppers more than delayed delivery. They want their purchases delivered on time and to the right place – with no excuses whatsoever.

Unfortunately, even with the best carriers, things can go wrong. Delivery exceptions can ruin your reputation as a reliable vendor and tarnish your brand image. This post covers what they are, and you should handle them.

What is a delivery exception?

A delivery exception occurs when a package is temporarily delayed in transit. It does not necessarily mean that your shipment will be late, but that there was a hurdle that delayed your package’s progression or required intervention during the fulfillment process. Even with a robust ecommerce tracking system, several things can go wrong with a package while it’s transported. These events cause delivery exceptions and may delay deliveries or prevent them altogether, leaving you with unhappy customers.

Although they are unavoidable and unintended, they are still a significant buyer pain point; they should be handled carefully.

Common causes of delivery exceptions

Missing documentation

If your package does not have all the information needed to get it to the destination address, it won’t ship. This isn’t common with ground and domestic freight but often occurs for ocean freight because it requires multiple documents to properly manage custody and inventory. Documentation errors may include simple mistakes, such as when your packaging labels do not have the required barcodes.  

Unavailable recipient

If the package needs a signature, there has to be someone at the delivery address to receive it. If no one is home or the premises are closed, or there isn’t anyone to sign for the package, the delivery agent will return it to a fulfillment center and attempt delivery the next day. It helps to have your customers use carrier-delivery management tools to inform delivery agents when they will be home

National and federal holidays

Shipping carriers rarely operate on federal holidays. Consequently, you may experience a delay if your items are shipped in or close to such dates. For international shipments, it helps to account for holidays in both the origin and destination country.

Missing, unreadable, or damaged labels

When labels don’t have the required information, your shipment may be delayed as your carrier attempts to confirm the recipient’s address. If you (the vendor) are the cause of the error, you will likely experience a delay or have the product returned at your expense.

Note: if the label suffers damage while in the carrier’s custody, there are price and delivery guarantees to cover a refund for your expenses.

Interference from animals

Your carrier might defer delivery to a later date if the delivery agent was in danger of attack by an animal while delivering your package. This could be a stray dog, your pet, a wild animal, a swarm of hornets, or any kind of animal blocking delivery

Customs delays

This applies to international shipping. Your package may experience multiple delays if the package is flagged by customs. The delays may include port delays and package reviews, incorrect tariff codes, and many others. It takes a lot of prep work to successfully execute international shipments. You and your fulfillment partner must make adequate preparations.


Several weather conditions may delay your shipping. This includes anything that may make the delivery route unusable or cause long delays on highways and interstates. Such delays may come from hurricanes, tornadoes, hailstorms, heavy rain, wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes. Carriers treat such events as acts of God. So, you won’t get any reimbursements from the delays they cause.

Regulatory and security delays

 Your shipment may be returned or delayed if it is rejected or improperly shipped. This primarily relates to shipping hazardous materials but may include other kinds of packages as well. If you don’t follow labeling standards or fail to provide sufficient additional information, your package won’t only be delayed, but you may miss out on refunds or transportation credit.

How to handle a delivery exception

Contact the carrier (immediately)

Look for the package via tracking number on the carrier’s website. This should help you figure out the package’s exact location and the reason for the delivery exception. Contact the carrier to check if the problem can be rectified. There may be a provision for you to provide the correct address over the phone and get shipment back on its way to the intended recipient

Contact the customer

Your customers can verify your mailing address or provide new shipping addresses to forward to the carrier. Once you notice that there has been a delay, informing the customer about why it has occurred will show you are aware of the situation and that you are taking the necessary steps to ensure the package arrives as soon as possible.  Honest, open, and consistent communication will help you convert customer service nightmares into opportunities to please your customers, so whenever exceptions happen, it’s best to explain, apologize, and thank them for their patience.

Issue a refund or resend the package

If there isn’t an easier solution, like when the carrier losses the package or some other situation indefinitely delays delivery, ask your customer if they would prefer a refund or if they would like you to reattempt delivery.  

Tip: if your package was damaged en route or lost by the carrier, call them to claim the insurance on the package. However, it will depend on the carrier you used to ship the package. While third-party couriers like DHL and fedex offer package insurance, others like china post won’t compensate you if your package is lost. Choose your options wisely.

How Nextsmartship handles Delivery Exceptions

Netsmart has a dedicated and highly-trained team of experts who help you minimize the risk delivery exceptions will occur.  

Special packaging

The company’s packaging team provides special protection for fragile products as a value-added service. They ensure all orders are packaged in the correct box sizes and add protective filler materials such as foam, airbags, and wooden boxes to prevent damage to products during transit.

Inventory and order inspection

Nextsmartship also takes inspection photos of your items to ensure they meet your requirements, and their experts make thorough inspections of inventory sent from your manufacturer to identify defects. These services will minimize the risk of shipping exceptions by helping you ensure packages have the right labels and that they have the best possible protection during transit.

Shipment tracking

In the event that a delivery exception occurs, Nextsmartship will contact carriers on your behalf to sort out the issue.

With Nextsmartship, you can rest assured that your orders will reliably reach their destinations. We provide avenues for clients to take their businesses to the global marketplace effortlessly, with the best fulfillment service and lowest prices possible. Get a customized order fulfillment solution for your brand today.

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