Friday, December 6, 2019

COMMENT: How to manage delivery expectations over Christmas

customer expectations

Welcome to the beautiful festive season of managing expectations.

You are probably already doing this with your children as their wish list grows with every frantic toy advert pitched into their little eyeballs.

“Santa can only carry so many toys on the sleigh” and “all of these toys would get stuck in the chimney, you wouldn‘t want us to all die of carbon monoxide poisoning would you, sweetie?” are just a couple of things you may say to manage their expectations.

Customers‘ expectations need managing too, and if you want to avoid the same kind of tears on Christmas morning you need to make sure your message is clear.

Naturally, having all the lovely gifts people need available in your inventory is important. This is what has brought them into your digital world in the first place but what is more important is making sure you can get it to them in time.

So, what is the cut off for ordering an item online and having it arrive at the correct destination before Christmas day? Below is information on the domestic delivery service big-hitters.

The Royal Mail have published their recommended and official posting dates for Christmas 2016: Tuesday, December 20 for Second Class; Wednesday, December 21 for First Class and Royal Mail Tracked 48; Thursday, December 22 for Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed and Royal Mail Tracked 24; and Friday, December 23 for Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed with Saturday Guaranteed.

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Unlike the Royal Mail, couriers vary as they work in their own buffer. This is because they know what Christmas is like and they‘re not stupid. The following are some some

Collect+ are more cautious than our other couriers, with December 16 their cut off for economy delivery (three-five working days) and December 20 their last date for standard delivery (two working days). have listed December 18 as their cut-off for Christmas delivery this year, while DHL have recently announced their last date as December 21.

Meanwhile, Hermes is rocking their money-back guarantee for the fourth year. The gist is: every parcel entering the Hermes network by 23.59 on Wednesday, December 21 that bears a UK mainland address will have a least one delivery attempt made otherwise Hermes will refund the delivery charge.

TNT are business as usual. Even a Saturday, December 24 delivery is available on the requisite service if sent the day before.

Finally, Yodel have a few services but their recommended posting date cut-off for UK-to-UK delivery is December 22.

When customers hand over their cash, they are blissfully unaware of the organisation and panic which goes into getting their gifts delivered. All they care about is that they get their stuff on time – and this is a fair deal. Do everything you can though to manage expectations. If something is coming from abroad or requires building or personalisation – make this clear on the order page.

In my experience, there is a push and pull situation here when it comes to publishing your own last ship by date. Operations would probably want to bring the “make it for Christmas” a day or two earlier just to be safe, whereas the sales department will highlight the gains which can be made by having the last ship date as late as possible.

I‘ve been doing this for 15 years and I have never won the argument on behalf of caution. Whatever you decide, just make sure your customers completely understand.

Have a Merry stress-free Christmas in the meantime.

Darrell Huntley is the Head of Customer Service at, the UK‘s biggest independent online retail marketplace that helps customers secure the best price on over 54 million products.

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