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What is a delivery exception? 6 Types of exceptions and how to manage them

Sofia Gomez
Sofia Gomez
Apr 15, 2024
delivery exceptions can affect your online store's shipments

The delivery process can make or break the relationship between a store and its customers. By minimizing the number of package exceptions your customers experience, you’ll be able to offer a good shipping experience, but there’s more to do if you want to bring the best possible service to your buyers.

Get acquainted with the most common types of exceptions and obtain ideas for how to deal with them so that you don’t lose customers. Instead, gain customers that feel positively about how you handled the delivery exception.

What is a delivery exception?

Delivery exception is a term used to describe a shipping issue that occurs during the package's journey to its destination. Maybe it’s a delay, a missing or incorrect delivery address or any other problem related to the sender, the courier or the recipient.

If a package shows a delivery exception, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the parcel will arrive later than expected. Thanks to the technologies available today, customers can automatically receive a notification asking them to provide a correct address, schedule a second delivery or solve any other issue that needs their attention.

One of the main causes of shipping exceptions is the lack of track and trace solution.

Why do delivery exceptions happen?

Delivery exceptions are inevitable, and, no matter which couriers you decide to work with, there will always be some shipments affected.

The only way to avoid a negative reaction on the part of your customers is to transform this inconvenience into something that shows your care and attention to their orders.

Even if a customer is experiencing a late shipment and may be feeling frustrated or anxious, it doesn’t mean all is lost. As long as you make sure to keep them updated on the parcel’s status and location, and if you even offer a discount on their next purchase, they’ll likely still come back in the future — and you’ll avoid bad reviews. 

How do shipment exceptions affect retailers?

Shipment or delivery exceptions don’t only affect the customer experience; they also bring a considerable number of WISMO messages and calls to your eCommerce business.

WISMO claims typically represent about half of the issues customer support deals with on a daily basis, but they can be easily avoided through an automatic tracking notification system that informs customers about the location and status of their parcel. 

WISMO is one of the less critical consequences of package exceptions — another term frequently used to describe shipment and delivery exceptions — since it only means that your customer support team will have more claims to go through.

On the other hand, if we look at the worst-case scenarios, you could actually lose the sale and customer due to a delay or a lost package. That’s if the situation isn’t treated with the importance it deserves.

Poor post-purchase experiences increase the churn rate of any eCommerce business. Unfortunately, delivery exceptions can jeopardize the customer experience and your loyalty strategies. In the end, when everything is smooth-sailing, it’s more likely that customers will recommend your business to others.

6 common delivery exceptions

1. Lost parcel

The first reason why a parcel may show a delivery exception is because it got lost during the shipping process.

In this case, there’s not much you can do to satisfy the customer. You should reimburse the purchase as soon as possible and offer to send the order again, with a discount or an additional product, to make up for the unpleasant experience.

2. Severe weather conditions and traffic accidents

As unexpected as most delivery exceptions tend to be, road accidents and natural disasters or extreme weather conditions are truly out of the control of any party involved in the shipping process.

For this reason, the best you can do to bring the best purchasing experience to your customers is to keep them informed about the status and location of the parcel. Surely, if they have other orders headed their way, they’ll be experiencing a similar situation with all of the orders.

3. Holidays

Holidays can put a hold on the delivery of parcels. Regardless of whether they’re national, regional or local holidays, your customers may not be aware of them — and they may be expecting their orders to arrive as usual.

In these cases, the best way to avoid unhappy customers is to inform buyers of upcoming holidays that may affect the timely delivery of parcels.

4. The recipient wasn’t available to receive the package

If you receive this type of exception, the reason why it happened is clear: The recipient wasn’t at the delivery place when the courier arrived.

However, there may be different reasons why they weren’t present. For example, the recipient may have been unaware of the delivery date, the time or even the location — yes, it’s possible the customer forgot which delivery address he/she used. It’s also possible that the courier may have arrived late or on another day.

While the previous package exceptions weren’t necessarily the fault of the courier, the store or the buyer, in this case, the parcel couldn’t be delivered because someone didn’t do their part, whether it was being present at the established date, time and place, or informing the customer of that information.

make sure the recipient is at home with a simple call

Source: Which?

If it was the courier’s fault or your own, you should take the blame for it as the service provider. However, if the buyer simply wasn’t ready to pick up the parcel, scheduling a second delivery attempt will suffice. Most couriers don’t charge for the second delivery attempt, since it’s quite a common issue.

Missing or unreadable information or documents

Whenever you ship a package, all the information needed for the delivery is on the shipping label and other documents attached to the parcel.

Of course, if something were to happen to these documents, the delivery could be put at risk with an increased chance of delays or the impossibility of identifying the package, which means basically that the package is missing the sender and recipient information. In this sense, it’s like having lost the parcel. But this is the most extreme scenario.

the placement of the shipping label is one of the most crucial factors for its readability

Source: Avery

It can also happen that the shipping label is in good condition but missing the invoices needed for international shipping (in such cases, the courier can simply contact the store), or that the delivery address is incorrect, missing or impossible to read. If that’s the case, the store can provide the information or the contact of the recipient to receive instructions on what to do.

Regardless of the situation, treating each case with haste is key to ensure that the exception doesn’t evolve into a “missed recipient situation” or endanger the customer’s satisfaction.

Delays due to customs

Another reason why a parcel might show a delivery exception is because the customs clearance process took longer than expected. 

The delay may be because of an unexpectedly high amount of packages received in customs or because there was missing information or documents that needed to be sent in order to dispatch the parcel. In this case, it’s extremely important to inform the customer of the status of the parcel and to notify them if they need to do anything, like sending an invoice or confirming information.

How to reduce package exceptions as an eCommerce business 

Make sure all the data is complete and correct

Once the package has left the facilities, the logistics of connecting all parties can be tedious and inefficient, which is why making sure all the data is correct and complete before shipping the parcel is key to avoiding unnecessary shipment exceptions. If you work with an advanced order management tool, chances are you can do this very easily.

Outvio notifies you if there’s crucial information missing so that you can avoid package exceptions from the beginning

avoid delivery exceptions with shipping software

Endorse all necessary documents and information

Shipping labels, invoices, customs codes — there’s a myriad of information and documents in the shipping process. While some of these are so crucial that no courier will even think about collecting the parcel without them, some may go unnoticed in the beginning and will later cause a shipment exception.

For this reason, making sure that you print and endorse all the necessary information and documents is the best way to reduce and avoid package exceptions due to delays in customs, missing documents or the need to ask for the description of the products inside the parcel and their tariffication code.

Choose packaging that protects items

One of the reasons why critical information may get lost or damaged is because of an incorrect choice of packaging materials.

A shipping label made out of regular paper during a rainy season, a paper envelope that needs to travel worldwide or wine bottles that are bound to break in the delivery process are all situations that put the customer experience at risk. Choosing the right packaging and materials minimizes the possibilities of an issue that you could have easily avoided.

Place shipping labels in the right spot

The shipping label placement is as important as choosing the right material. Make sure that the label is placed correctly, without any information being folded over. It shouldn’t be twisted or hidden in any way; it should be in good condition and in a clearly visible spot.

The shipping label holds all the information required for the package to be delivered without getting lost or being delayed. If it’s an international shipment, make sure that the label contains all the information that the country of destination may require.

Communicate with customers at all times

Last but not least, once the order has been received, it’s time to start informing the customer of the location and status of their parcel. Keeping buyers in the loop lowers their anxiety and frustration, and it also has an impact on the workload your customer support department faces.

Moreover, tracking emails have an astonishing opening rate, so using them to inform customers also helps you build an online presence that promotes loyalty through branding and close communication.


Avoiding unnecessary delivery exceptions should be one of the priorities of any eCommerce business invested in creating the best purchasing experience. However, as you've seen, completely eliminating them is impossible.

For this reason, being familiar with the most common types of exceptions and how you should handle them is extremely important. It will help you reduce the harm exceptions can bring to your business, and you’ll be able to use these situations as an opportunity to improve the customer service you provide, instead of letting customers use it as an excuse to never come back to your online store.

Implement our general tips to reduce exceptions as much as possible and try to make the most out of every single exception to show customers that you care.

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