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There may be nothing more important for the success of a typical business in today’s environment than logistics. Customers expect a baseline level of service that only a generation ago would have been considered white-glove, premium attention. Next-day shipping or even same-day shipping is becoming the norm, not the exception. If a customer is told he or she will have to wait more than a few days for delivery, there’s a good chance that individual will look elsewhere.

This means your company can’t afford to treat distribution as an afterthought. Developing airtight processes is critical for ensuring you can expand your reach, grow your customer base, and also remain competitive, relevant and successful. Although many businesses will take domestic business shipping for granted, the truth is that this aspect of your logistical operations must be just as rigorously managed as your international shipping (if you offer that option). With that in mind, here are some tips you can follow to help tighten up your domestic logistics, which will help you grow your business.

Choose the Right Partner

No matter how large or small your operation is, you’ll need to rely on a third-party provider for much of the heavy lifting. This is why choosing the right partner to help you is so important. You’ll have to spend some time reviewing your options, asking lots of questions and determining which provider will jibe with your culture and give you the best odds of success.

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Pack Your Shipments Properly

No one wants to receive damaged goods. It hurts your reputation and leads to chargebacks and expensive replacements. Along those same lines, packing your loads in materials that are too heavy or cumbersome can mean your costs will be higher than they need to be. Knowing how to pack properly will help you avoid all of these issues. It will keep your products safe during transit and make the most efficient use of space.

First, you want to make sure that you use the right packing materials. Bubble envelopes may work well for smaller, lightweight items. However, heavier or more fragile items may need to be packed in a box. You don’t want to choose a crate or box that’s too large, either, because you’ll end up paying for that empty space. The larger a container is, the more expensive it is to ship. Plus, having extra room inside means your item may shift or be bumped around and become damaged.

Once your products are packed, you should make sure to load them into containers or onto pallets to give them additional security and stability. This also ensures that your packages will be handled as little as possible.

Note Dangerous or Hazardous Shipments

If your business involves the handling of hazardous materials, it’s your responsibility to mark any such shipments. Not only will this keep you in compliance with postal regulations, but it also will ensure that your shipments are handled carefully. This can prevent a potentially dangerous situation from occurring along the supply chain.

Protect Your Information

Even though it’s important to ensure your shipments are clearly labeled to avoid confusion and delay, you should be careful not to give away too much information. Theft is a concern no matter where you send items, and too many details about the contents of your shipments could put them at risk. Only include as much info as is absolutely necessary to prevent this from becoming an issue.

Keep Tabs on Your Goods

One of the most important features a third-party logistics partner can provide you with is tracking. With GPS, you can receive real-time updates as to the exact location of your packages from beginning to end. This information also can be of value to your customers, as they can plan ahead with accurate forecasting of order fulfillment dates. In addition, this capability also enables you and your customer to become aware of any delays.

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Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s

Pay close attention to your paperwork. It’s one of the most frequent sources of delays. Always double-check to ensure that all information is complete and accurate regarding your package’s dimensions and contents. If there are any discrepancies, they could result in the shipment being pulled aside for inspection or receiving an unexpected surcharge from your carrier. Properly handling the paperwork includes providing a certificate of origin for any goods that could potentially be sent out internationally after your customer receives them.

Domestic business shipping can make or break your business. If you aren’t offering customers an exceptional experience from start to finish, you’re losing out on tremendous opportunities. Follow these tips to cut down on disappointments and increase customer satisfaction.

Author bio: Robert Burdette is Vice President of Strategy at Shapiro, where he oversees the sales, marketing, pricing and global supply chain teams. His primary responsibilities include designing business growth strategy and the diversification of the firm’s business portfolio, as well as the development of new products and trade lanes in collaboration with Shapiro’s senior transportation leadership. He provides perspective operationally and commercially, contributing to the success of the freight forwarder.