Any company or business that has a shipping process, from large businesses and warehouses to eCommerce sites, can benefit from optimizing how they get shipments ready and out the door. How you deliver on your promise to the customer will ultimately define the experience for them and whether they choose to do business with you again.

This “promise” involves delivering your shipment in a timely manner (having it arrive when you say it should be arriving) and it arriving intact.

Customers can get pretty irate over delayed, damaged, or missing shipments.Creating a positive customer experience through an efficient, optimized shipping process is crucial during this stage of the customer journey.

1. Streamline the picking process

The picking process will differ from company to company, but how inventory is sorted will have a major impact on how quickly workers are able to find each item. If the picking process is complicated or slow it can delay shipping. This can sometimes happen if a company deals with many products or the ability to sort through the entire inventory doesn’t match the variety or volume of product.

The fix: Bar code scanners and inventory management software. These tools can streamline the picking process and make hunting down inventory a breeze. Capterra gives a rundown of the top inventory management software of 2017 here.

2. Optimize packing with efficient tools

Once employees have picked an order, they have to get it ready for shipping. This is a critical part of the shipping process as it could further slow things down or result in a damaged package, or one that never arrived at all.

You should have methods and tools for packing each of your products to make the task easier, because if workers have to improvise, it could affect the integrity of the package. That could lead to loose packaging that comes undone during shipping or a ruined/broken product. It’s imperative to get your shipments to their intended customers quickly and safely to avoid a poor customer experience.

Besides creating a negative experience for the recipient, a damaged order could be money out of your pocket as you end up with return shipping fees and the cost of a repeat order..

Knowing how your products should be handled, packaged, and shipped will ensure they are delivered quickly and securely. If you’re shipping large parcels or pallets of product, it’s important to make sure that those bundles are secured as snuggly and effectively as possible. Orbital stretch wrappers can eliminate a huge percentage of manual labor it would take to hand wrap a large batch of product, which is one way to make the packing process more efficient.

3. Label things correctly and clearly for accurate shipping

A wrong address or a cheap label has been responsible for more than one delayed or returned package. When labels are created manually, there’s always the chance for error, which can be costly for you and the customer. They key is to find a way of automating and streamlining the data intake process to ensure that the labels you’re creating are accurate.

Automatically printing shipping and return packing slips can save you time and money during the shipping process, so consider how your company can optimize the labeling stage. Reducing the amount of error in incorrectly printed labels—especially pre-paid shipping labels—can avoid delays in the delivery process. This will allow you to honor the delivery dates you’ve quoted to your customers.

4. Learn how to prioritize orders

While it’s essential to nail the picking, packing and labeling part of the process, poor logistics can make all that work go to waste. Understanding how to sequence and prioritize all of your shipments is a process best automated. When done manually, it can be a very time-consuming endeavor, filled with errors.

Thankfully, there’s software and services out there, such as order fulfillment solutions that can cater to your unique shipping needs. These solutions can help you streamline the process, and may even let you take advantage of technologies like mobile scanners, voice commands, or lights and displays depending on the solution you go with.

5. Ship in a timely fashion

The sooner you ship a product, the sooner it will get to your customer. Unfortunately, once it leaves your business you no longer have any control over it. It’s helpful to take advantage of after-ship fulfillment or tracking software so you know where your packages and shipments are in the delivery process. This kind of precaution can also protect you against fraudulent claims that shipments never arrived since you’ll have the power to see when or if something has actually been delivered or not.

Optimizing your shipping relies on having a documented process. The steps have to be tested and documented, so they can be repeated with ease. Automation is integral to efficiency, which can be done by minimizing the amount of software or tools you use, especially if they don’t complement one another. Disparate tools and tactics only cause confusion. Outsourcing is another viable strategy to implement into the shipping process as this can reduce overhead and eliminate a portion of the work (and thus stress).