As we move into 2023 we thought it would be a good time to reflect on 2022 and review WOWooO's delivery services. In particular, as a small business directly impacted by the Royal Mail CWU strikes, we wanted to share our experience of them.
Firstly, the strikes meant we needed to implement changes to mitigate the impact on our customers:
- We shifted a lot of our stock to fulfilment centres that don't use Royal Mail which drastically reduced our volume with Royal Mail.
- Around strike days we sent parcels by Tracked24 even when customers had paid for standard shipping. Royal Mail had said repeatedly that Tracked24 would be prioritised during the strikes, although it didn't always seem to help.
- We updated delivery information on our website on an individual product basis to indicate which products shipped with Royal Mail and when the strike days were mostly likely to cause delays.
- In December we stopped using Royal Mail altogether for 3rd party marketplaces we sell on, since we couldn't provide the customer messaging on these sites to inform customers of issues.
Together these helped to mitigate the problem, however, there were still major impacts to our business:
- Usually in the run up to Christmas we have stock coming in right up to a week before the holiday. This year we cut off ordering much earlier since there wasn't time to get the stock checked into a fulfilment centre. Consequently sales were significantly down on where they could have been.
- We had a lot of dissatisfied customers asking why their delivery was delayed. Mostly from 3rd party marketplaces where the shipping service is not clearly displayed. This resulted in negative feedback on these sites.
- The strikes had an indirect impact on the service provided by other couriers. With an increase in volumes, other couriers were struggling to keep up with demand. This led to delays in delivery and the inability to book other couriers.
- In turn this had an impact on customer confidence in shopping online altogether. Many customers stopped shopping online in December. This not only affected our business but also had a ripple effect on the entire e-commerce industry.
To give a clearer picture of the impact of the strikes, we have compiled data on Royal Mail delivery times for WOWooO parcels, each month from last February. This is shown in the table below.
We advertise this as our Express shipping with a 1-2 day delivery. 94% of (Royal Mail) parcels from Feb-Oct were delivered within this time and most of those were next day. Delays were usually no more than an extra day or two. This dropped to 27% on time delivery in Nov-Dec with some parcels delayed much longer. 16% of parcels shipped in December took longer a week or more to be delivered.
We advertise this as our Standard shipping with a 2-3 day delivery. 95% of (Royal Mail) parcels from Feb-Oct were delivered within this time with most delivered in 2 days. Again, delays were usually no more than an extra day or two. This dropped to 52% on time delivery in Nov-Dec with some parcels delayed much longer. 37% of parcels shipped in December took longer a week or more to be delivered.
As yet, there has been no compensation offered by Royal Mail. The Tracked24 and Tracked48 services are a 'delivery aim' not a promise. There is no compensation for a delayed delivery. If a parcel isn't delivered within a week of the expected delivery date, then we, the sender, can put in a claim for a lost delivery. However, Royal Mail then have 30 days to respond and if the parcel is delivered in this time, there is no loss to claim for.
It is worth noting that despite the delays caused by the strikes, Royal Mail still maintained a high level of (eventual) delivery success. Our data shows that 99.9% of our deliveries sent through Royal Mail were successfully delivered to customers, albeit mostly late. This highlights effectiveness of Royal Mail as a courier, and the hard work of employees to ensure that deliveries are made despite the challenges they faced during the strikes. (By comparison, the one parcel we sent with Evri on 12th Dec is yet to be delivered, and their customer service is, literally, impossible to contact).
We are delighted that packages are eventually delivered to their destination, but this puts us in a difficult position. We are the ones held accountable for delivery, so we cannot tell a customer who has paid for Express delivery that they have to wait a full month before we can start the process of dealing with the postponed parcel. Ultimately it costs us to compensate customers, send replacements and arrange returns.
Sadly, Royal Mail has seen its reputation take a hit. Many companies have searched for different ways to handle their deliveries and are establishing alternatives. Royal Mail offers a unique and one-of-a-kind service that should be safeguarded. It would be a great loss if it was to turn into an ordinary delivery service.
In conclusion, the recent Royal Mail strikes have had a significant impact on our business. We hope that the parties involved can come to a resolution soon, so that businesses like ours can continue to operate effectively without disruptions, and that Royal Mail can resume its usual excellent service.
List of Strike Days 2022
We struggled to find a comprehensive list of Royal Mail Strike Days in 2022. We believe this is the final list: