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Looking for a new UK courier

What qualities do you guys look for in a courier company

     
6:48 pm on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The last time we changed couriers was because we were getting damages to about 25% of the shipments of fragile goods (the packing was well over the official standards required for those goods). This time we have a courier who keeps losing our parcels and not paying us the insurance claims. So we really have to find someone else.

Some of the things I've compiled so far are, in no particular order:

1. Should be able to collect our daily consignments after 3 PM

2. Should offer a facility of "carriage forward" where they pick up from our customers and bring the goods back to us.

3. Should offer a facility to pay more for extra insurance cover (on particularly expensive goods - eg. 4000+ value)

4. Should NOT be a franchise run operation as we've been burnt badly on a courier service run as a franchise. Each franchisee is only interested in the jobs that his depot is earning money on.

5. A well defined route to making and managing insurance claims for lost and damaged parcels

6. Some sort of automated or online consignment tracking system

7. Paper signatures on receipt (not an electronic terminal that you sign on!). This is so that if a parcel arrives damaged you can actually strike out the pre-printed "recived in good condition" and replace that with "received damaged". (This it the biggest con of the industry and on which we've lost tens of thousands of pounds worth of insurance claims because customers just sign where they are asked to sign and that is usually under the text: Received in good condition)

8. Not too horrendously expensive - you should expect to pay for good service but we don't want to end up paying the earth and ending up with the same rubbish service we have now

9. Facility to pick up and deliver outside of "mainland UK" i.e. northern ireland, scottish islands etc

10. Ability to deliver on Saturday (at extra cost, obviously)

11. Someone who can also do the odd international consignment to locations in Europe without scr*wing it up

12. Monthly rather than weekly invoicing.

13. Electronic labelling/scanning/tracking. We'd like to run labels off off a printer and software.... no time to fill consignment notes and labels by hand.

14. Delivery drivers who are presentable. I've got nothing against topless men... except when they are delivering parcels to my customers (because that's just not professional).

15. Telephone lines that you can get through on. I don't have the time to keep phoning for an hour because their lines are all tied up.

16. Honesty in claim processing. I know every trick in this book - they sometimes come back with a POD (Proof of Delivery) to say, "Hey, we did deliver all 3 parcels"... except of course that the POD is for some other delivery and not the one in question. I know that they sometimes pretend to lose claims we've sent in via recorded delivery and when we re-submit the claim they say it's too late now! I know the excuse that just because the driver signed for 10 parcels is no guarantee that he did collect 10 parcels as per our small print (that's why I make all drivers do an electronic scan on every box before it leaves). I know the trick of dragging out claim forms i.e. if they don't send us a claim application form we can't make a claim. If they drag it out for long enough it'll be too late to make a claim. If they've messed up and lost my parcel, and there's no fault on our side, I'd like them to just PAY THE CLAIM!

17. A better than average damage rate. I can't live with more than 5% of consignments arriving with at least one box damaged.

18. A better than average delivery record: At least 90% of consignments (to normal mainland UK addresses) should be delivered within the contracted "next working day".

19. A clearly defined route to problem resolution. Who do I phone if there's a problem? Who is her manager if she is unable to resolve the issue for me? What is the route to escalation of a customer service matter?

Any other things to look out for?

10:14 pm on May 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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From the point of view of someone who spent a few years in that business in a previous life (even in your neck of the world) I can say that's a heck of a wish list - but certainly no less than a customer should expect or deserve.

I spent time with a number of outfits, ranging from as big as they get to running my own small operation and I can truly say that the only time I've been able to operate honestly and with the customer's interests at heart was when I was either working for myself or for small operations. I've never been as hamstrung or lied as much in my life as I did when working for the big fish.

My advice would be to look for a small company who piggy-back off a larger one. Far different from dealing with a franchise, but you get the benefits of a small company dedication with big company services. Unfortunately though it's pretty much a hit and miss affair but the good thing is that you appear to have the experience to ask the right questions when dealing with any new potentials.

Good luck,

2odd...

1:40 am on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Macro, have you talked to "Brown"? Yah, yah, I know "he's" a "big guy". But we use them every day, and our fee structure (US this is, don't have much info on int'l) is so decent that the "little ones" can't possibly compete, simply because while their actual COST may be about the same, it's the rest of it that's gravy - meaning insurance, claims, ability to package, the fact that they pick up on OUR schedule, the two deliveries per day, the website trackability.... the list is practically endless.

I guess my bottom line is that maybe you might see an increase in up-front outlay, but I'd bet your CPA would be thrilled at tax-time.... OURS is!

4:50 pm on May 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Macro, have you talked to "Brown"?

I don't know who you mean. Here in the UK Brown's first name is "Gordon" and he's the one who nicks all our money

You've got to pick a pocket or two...or 60 million! ;)

but the good thing is that you appear to have the experience to ask the right questions when dealing with any new potentials

I'm no expert and I'm hoping the clout of WW members' experience to add to mine will help.

2:15 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ah.... by "Brown", I meant UPS. Didn't realize their ads weren't international in scope....
8:28 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I meant UPS

Sorry, I should have guessed - they wear brown here too. UPS is one company we haven't used before and they will have the ability to delivery to Europe without using a third party.

Anyone has any experience with UPS in the UK? Or any other couriers?

[edited by: stuntdubl at 5:53 pm (utc) on May 13, 2004]

8:32 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Have you tried City Link? Cheap and quite cheerfull. I don't get involved with shipping myself. Have you tried TNT as well?

ppg

8:40 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>Anyone has any experience with UPS in the UK?

Our logistics manager does. He says UPS are very good, but expensive - for what its worth.

9:14 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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We did use them in 2000-2001. They lost or damaged a total of about 20,000 worth of our products in that time (we sell items like servers which are not cheap). They never paid one insurance claim of mine. :(

And TNT is what I referred to in msg #6. We had a disproportionately high level of damages with them. I don't know what they did with our pristine, purpose built packing but one day with TNT and the boxes arrived with holes in them, with rips, tears, footprints... and even sogging wet, and the computer products in the boxes don't take that kind of abuse. Iraqi POWs are treated better. To be fair TNT eventually reached an agreement with us to waive the last two months worth of invoices as their acceptance that the service had not "lived up to the high expectations our customers have come to expect".

One other thing I've realised that I want from a courier company: When they've lost my parcel I want a confirmation that it's lost. None that we have used so far are willing to do that. The most that they will admit is that they don't know where the parcel is and that they are still looking for it. Which means that if you put in an insurance claim, build another server and ship it to the customer, and sit twiddling your thumbs... six months later they produce the box, refuse to pay your claim, and refuse to compensate you for losing 50% or more of the product's value in depreciation (high end servers depreciate very, very fast). So, if you haven't delivered my product within about 3-4 working days admit that it's lost and pay my claim.

ppg, thanks for that. I will check UPS out, they are definitely one possibility.

[edited by: stuntdubl at 6:17 pm (utc) on May 13, 2004]

9:34 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Parceline. Not the cheapest but one of the most reliable (I have found). Either that or ParcelForce, who are quite good.

Both require a lot of parcels to be sent per day before they will even consider an application - but it sounds like you might be into the correct quantities.

Parceline online tracking is superb (two of my suppliers use it and I can phone up Parceline direct as they have a direct link from their websites to the Parceline tracking screen - a few clicks and you know if the parcel has been signed for/misrouted etc...) I rarely need to phone, but always get through when I need them.

12:34 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, PC Ink, I'll add those two to my research list.
3:28 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This is from a customer experience/point of view:

  • I would avoid Parcel Force because most of the time the parcel that should have been delivered to me by them, have either been left on the doorstep (on my wheely bin - with me not being at home) or delivered to my neighbours (without any notes from them as to where the parcel was - and also I moved around the UK and the same thing happen more than once - it might be the company policy :)).

  • Another company I would avoid is SECURICOR/OMEGA. I should have received two parcels from them and they went to deliver it to the wrong address twice (houses, had it been flats I would have understood - again two different places in the UK - company wide problem?). I got worried about the parcel not turning up (they were expensive parcels), so I decided to phone them up and go and pick it up from their depot. When I went, the guy behind his counter told me to present one of the delivery note they leave when you are not at home to receive the parcel, and because they went to the wrong address twice I didn't have any. I had to explain to him that there's been a mistake their driver must have dropped the note in another letterbox. He didn't want to hear about it. So I told him that I was sorry but everytime their driver came to my office (three times according to the guy), I became deaf so I didn't hear him knock on the door and also that my invisible guard dog hate the three 'notes' that he was supposed to have left me?

    At that point he decided to give me my parcel.

    You might not be in the same situation if you deliver products to companies, as it is always open during delivery hours you shouldn't have this kind of problem.

    Also on a final note, all the very important parcel I bought from ebay came through via OMEGA so I might just have a stroke of bad luck ... twice.

    Hope this helps

    Leo

  • 4:01 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    I would avoid Parcel Force because most of the time the parcel that should have been delivered to me by them, have either been left on the doorstep

    That does sound like them :)

    You might not be in the same situation if you deliver products to companies

    We do have other products that we deliver to private addresses.

    I hope your ebay stuff arrives OK :)

    4:09 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    As a Brit living in the US I have used UPS quite a lot to get stuff delivered in the UK.

    I found the service EXCELLENT. They even sorted out customs problems for me when the greedy UK Customs tried to charge hundreds of pounds import duty on an item costing a couple of bucks.

    I would not trust any company associated with the post office/mail service - too much stuff gets "lost" and they dont seem to care.

    8:08 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    I am too a Brit living in the US.

    I have trusted many packages and documents with UPS and they have never let me down (this includes legal documents from the UK and immigration papers in the US). Never had a hickup with them and they are ALWAYS earlier on deliery times than the other big guys out here :)

    11:28 am on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    Thanks for your feedback so far, guys
    11:45 am on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    You might also try DHL ..we do a lot of work with Asia and DHL do get the stuff there in the delays given ...when they deliver here to us in France they do as good a job as UPS ..but are much cheaper ....
    and unusually for France they do understand "customer service"....for that here UPS is a joke on a par with the "uncivil service" ..or France telecom et al

    BTW ...as many years ago I was in this business for awhile I can tell you the biggest problem is that the big guys in the UK tend to be staffed by a hell of a lot of "temp agency" people ....Who really dont give a rats ass about what they're doing ....
    This used to be the case in another industry ( removals and storage ) which freguently had customers going unexpectedly to their long term storage to pick up their lawn mower or whatever and discovering that it was "on loan" to staff!

    12:26 pm on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    FYI, DHL have now taken over/merged with Securicor Omega. This should be good news as Securicor were worse than hopeless and DHL are pretty good.

    However, it remains to be seen whether this change leads to any improvement...

    I would second the recommendation of Parceline, with whom I have experience of sending and receiving.

    I have found them to be reliable and with a great tracking service. They also seem to manage to employ friendly people, which similar companies seem to spectacularly fail at.

    UPS are also excellent, though they proved so expensive that it was cost prohibitive for us to use them.

    Ian

    11:37 pm on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    DHL also bought out/merged with Airborne....
    6:33 pm on May 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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    Definitely avoid Parcel Force if you're shipping to Europe. Their tracking only goes so far as "Well it definitely left the UK that day..." they couldn't even advise me which local company they used in Greece - I had to go surfing Greek delivery company sites till I found the right one, and call them direct. Nightmare!
     

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