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ARTICLE - Tips on Despatching Fragile Products
Despatching Fragile Products – Tips From A Picture Frame Supplier
SUMMARY

No successful business likes to take the flak, expense, and possible loss of a customer, due to the failings of another business.  Such a scenario can present itself for any business delivering products via mail.  Ultimately success and reputation is very much dependant on the efficiency of the transit company employed.  Frames Online UK despatches picture frame products containing inherently fragile glass; tips and experiences are provided on protecting and despatching fragile products and provision of sound customer service following reported breakages.  

It is a source of immense irritation for a business to take the flak, expense, and possible loss of a customer, due to the failings of another business.  Such a scenario can present itself for any business delivering products via mail.  Ultimately success and reputation is very much dependant on the efficiency of the transit company employed.    

By way of illustration, the UK’s Royal Mail was delivering post to Datalite UK Ltd (parent company of Frames Online UK).  This comprised of magazines, packed such that they could survive a drop from the top of Big Ben!  Destruction by Royal Mail was achieved by attempting to force the package through a smaller letterbox.  This brainless act resulted in shredded magazines, requiring replacement products.   Ultimately this ended up as an expense for the supplying company and wasted time for both supplier and recipient; Royal Mail didn’t have to pay a penny, unless one wanted to claim insurance and endure over an hour of bureaucracy for the sake of a few quid.  

A key problem with delivery failures is that the customer tends to blame the dispatcher.  No matter how well a product is packed, if it breaks – it can always be argued more packing could have been used.   To a certain extant that is true, but a business needs a packing solution that provides an optimum compromise between cost, convenience, and effectiveness. 

Frames Online UK ( http://www.framesonlineuk.com ) supplies picture frames, and given their inherent glass content, some transit damage is inevitable.  Early despatches comprised fairly sturdy boxes, with contents well bubble wrapped, and clear ‘GLASS FRAGILE’ stickers prominently displayed.  However, reported breakages particularly by Royal Mail were surprisingly high. 

It was clear that research into glass breakage was required; achieved by literally dropping a selection of frames at various heights, onto a concrete surface, with a number of feasible packing solutions.  A surprise was the amount of unprotected frames that were surviving drops.  This caused a problem, as even with minimal packaging it was quite difficult to break a frame!  It made one wonder, what on earth Royal Mail was doing to break so many products in transit!   

Next priority is to establish a packing solution that is economical, but offering effective breakage protection.  If the balance is not right it is quite feasible for the cost of breakages to wipe out any profit a small business might make; or conversely high postage and packing charges to put off customers. 

Frames Online found that to despatch small frame quantities, an effective packing solution is to use a suitably sized cardboard box with generous levels of internal bubble wrap.  The glass is kept uppermost, with bubble wrap folded to the bottom of the frame product.  The most likely impact is drop, with label uppermost; so the effective strategy is to absorb as much of this impact.   

Even with a suitable packing solution, things can change with the transit company.  Reported breakages caused by Royal Mail had dramatically increased over the past year.  This resulted in additional protection strategies such as using additional external bubble wrap, and using an alternative courier.  

Frames Online despatches larger quantities of picture frames via City Link courier.  The greater weight and quantity is protected by using double thickness cardboard boxes, and lining the bottom of the box with a generous couple of inches of paper shreds, a trick gleaned from a Blackpool based Vintage Record shop despatching fragile shellac 78rpm records!   

With a packing solution in place, it is worth keeping some form of record of any reported breakages.  The ratio of breakages to despatches can be the make or break difference in a business plan.  A little mathematics can be utilised to check cost effectiveness and to set a fair postage and packing rate.   

When a breakage is reported, it is of course important for the customer to receive top customer service to swiftly rectify the situation with the offer of an immediate replacement or pro rata refund. It is worth being aware; there are some customers whom make a habit of falsely claiming breakages to get extra products or refunds.  A good tip to circumvent this practice is to either adopt a policy of replacement on return, courier pick-up of defective item, or to request photographic evidence for ‘insurance purposes’.   

There is no getting around the fact that receipt of a broken product represents a negative customer experience, and whether it is the fault of your business or another is virtually irrelevant to the customer. For some customers, whatever the supplier does to rectify the situation, they will simply not return.  Prevention is better than cure of course, but some breakages are inevitable.  A business can increase the proportion of customers who stay with the business following receipt of a breakage, by adopting sound customer service with speedy resolution.   

For further information on picture frame products see http://www.framesonlineuk.com

 

ARTICLE BODY
This article by Datalite UK Ltd, passes on experiences of Frames Online UK of despatching picture frame products containing inherently fragile glass.
 
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About The Author
John D Henry BA BSc, Managing Director of  DATALITE UK LTD
Supplier of quality picture frames and personalised gifts at http://www.dluk.info.
john@dluk.info
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All content is (c) Copyright DATALITE UK Ltd 2008