Guest Post: Quality vs. Price in parcel delivery

This is a guest post from David Grimes, Managing Director of My Parcel Delivery

It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but what is the cost to eBay sellers and other e-commerce businesses of a continuous push for ever-cheaper costs in parcel delivery?

Plummeting costs in any industry are seen, at least initially, as a triumph for consumer choice. But companies offering a “stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” approach tend to neglect what the customer often values more than simply paying less: good customer service.

When online sellers are managing their overheads by always choosing the lowest cost delivery option, there is a risk that customer service for the buyer will be sacrificed. And the money the seller saves by opting for the rock-bottom delivery price can end up leaving their wallets in other ways.

Don’t get me wrong – My Parcel Delivery is all about parcel senders getting the best value for money and providing access to a range of courier companies, prices and services. However, something sold dirt cheap doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re getting is good quality, especially in terms of after sales care.

And quality matters when your business relies on getting the goods to the customer. For eBay sellers, whose lifeblood is Feedback scores and Detailed Seller Ratings, the last thing you want is to put your online reputation at risk with a cut-price service. The business offering a highly discounted cost may well be operating at next to no margin – consequently, customer service levels can suffer.

Your happy customer may never be moved to praise your fabulous delivery service, but the angry customer will almost certainly choose to be both negative and vocal about it!

It was with dismay that I read the recent Tamebay story, in which another parcel delivery comparison company described a looming “price war” as “great news for the consumer”. On the contrary, I concur with the Tamebay reader comment that a price war is a “race to the bottom”.

Personally, I can’t see the sense in a price war that will ultimately result in customer service becoming secondary and de-values delivery services that are the final, essential piece in the jigsaw for e-commerce businesses satisfying and keeping their customers.

While professional e-commerce sellers are clearly keen to protect their margins, it should be the right delivery service rather than the cheapest that they select when building long-term customer relationships and protecting their seller ratings. And the right delivery service incorporates a level of customer service that means if things go wrong, there is someone at the end of the phone, or an online chat, to put it right.

So, before you opt for a delivery cost equivalent to the lowest common denominator it’s worth thinking about spending a bit extra:

• Don’t send valuables via an economy service offering delivery in 3-5 days: the increased transit time is putting that parcel at risk. Valuable and/or fragile goods should be sent Same Day or Next Day to cut down time in the carrier network.

• While economy services tend to put parcels through multiple depots and handling points, a Next Day service provides a more secure, automated conveyor belt system that protects the package’s journey. Better still, Same Day delivery sees your parcel collected by the same driver who chaperones it in one vehicle to its ultimate destination.

• Paying for Next Day services also affords extra protection for the delivery audit trail, including first-rate tracking, SMS and email delivery confirmation plus a doorstep signature. Economy services simply don’t give you that level of customer care or peace of mind.
Are price wars good for the consumer? As with anything in life and business, you get what you pay for – and if you need to get the goods to the buyer “as sold”, it’s simply not worth doing it at just any price.