Which is the best courier to use?

No primary category set

When sellers choose a courier more often than not their main and only criteria is price. Next they’ll look at reliability and service, but the service considerations are normally will the courier collect reliably in a regular convenient time slot.

Other considerations include elements such as the maximum size and weight carried or hidden costs for insurance, fuel surcharges, redelivery charges and return costs.

So what is the most important criteria for choosing a courier? Well the answer is none of the above – when choosing a courier you should be thinking which will provide the best delivery experience for your customers.

If the customer is at the delivery address when the item arrives most will give the same standard of service, i.e. collect a signature and hand over the parcels. It’s when your buyer is unavailable that service really kicks in. Most businesses will be available to sign for items but for domestic deliveries it’s a different story.

Most couriers will attempt a second collection the following day, but if your buyer is out at work the first day they’ll probably be at work the next day too. Generally for a missed delivery it’s down to the buyer to collect from the nearest courier depot and that’s what I had to do recently which meant an hours drive to retrieve the parcel – not a great delivery experience.

ParcelForce are the only courier who can leave the parcel in a secure location generally within a mile or two of almost every house in the country. 99% of the UK population live within 3 miles of a Post Office and that’s where, in the worst case scenario, Parcelforce will leave undelivered packages.

For myself two of the nearest couriers depots are in Reading and Oxford both of which entail a 50 mile round trip to collect a package. My heart sinks whenever I see “Seller’s Standard Rate” as the stated postage method for heavy items – it’ll probably cost me more in petrol to collect the item than it cost the seller to send it.

Convenience for the customer should be the biggest reason to choose a courier and that’s why I consider Parcelforce to be the best option for a UK courier.

Which courier do you use and why did you choose them? Did you choose the best courier for you, or the best courier for your customers? What services does your courier offer that makes them stand out from the crowd?

As a buyer which delivery method do you prefer sellers to use and, given the choice, which would you avoid and why?

14 Responses

  1. its all down to the van driver at the sharp edge

    DHL are far and away the best around here because the DHL driver is a cut above the normal and goes that extra mile,
    though go a few miles up the road and DHL is a nightmare

  2. Agree with #1. I live on the north coast of Scotland and, as your map graphic shows, we’re pretty much a courier-free zone. I’ve had to completely re-think ordering from certain companies, since the courier service they use will only deliver up here when they’ve got enough parcels for a trip, which means I can be waiting anything up to a week for their 24 hour service.

    The plus side (from a buyer’s point of view) is that because of this, all couriers will look for an unlocked door and leave the parcel without taking a signature if you’re out!

  3. I use DHL and something like 99.99% of the time they are good, our local guy is superb, I even trust him with our warehouse keys! They are by far the most cost effective service, for us, proving we don’t stray away from the “@home” service. “@home” has 3 free redelivery attempts. Not so for Highlands & Islands, N Ireland, or any of the time sensitive services, interestingly it is always those services that have the highest rate of problems… hmmmm?

    The biggest problem I have is with DHL is ” no one to receive – card left” updates on tracking. Almost always the customer directly contradicts this. The problem is the DHL custard support, always come down on the drivers side saying they would’ve left a card. The customer is invariable flabbergasted at the assertion that DHL left a card and vociferously deny this, it is usually us the consignor that loses out as we have to pay to have the item redelivered out of our own pocket. We then have to grovel furiously in the hope that they don’t neg us.

    Another good service, IF they operate in your area is fastway, they have a quite a complex pricing structure, but it is set on volume so there is no haggling, we can get anything delivered in the BS or B postcodes for £2.95! They collect twice a day once in the morning and once in the afternoon, in a 30 minute window that you get to know in advance. Whats more if the package is ready for the morning collection it is delivered that afternoon! The restriction is that they don’t cover the whole UK yet, so if you are sending to a non fastway area they use a “forwarder” and it can cost more than using that forwarder in the 1st place. But they are worth a look.

  4. we started using Fastway about 3 months ago, after a complete nightmare with DHL, we had parcels not delivered, and I even had one that arrived crushed and I mean, CRUSHED!! lol

    But then I suppose all of us will have bad things to say about courier service, so far Fastway have been pretty good, great collection service I know what time they are coming. What I really like is when you have a problem you call the number, speak to a human being straight away and they get it sorted, this is because Fastway is a franchise service so it’s in their intrest to get it right as it’s their business!

    I have tried really hard since the Catalyst confrence to think about deliveries, I used to post and then forget about it, Catalyst made me think about how its delivered, what the customer experiece is like and when I have deliveries now I look at whats good and whats bad about it.

    I do think price is still an important aspect of it, you could have the best courier service in the world but if you have to charge your customer £20 when the competitor charges £8 the customer att hat point won’t know the difference.

    Delivery is just another aspect of the customer experience that you need to think of, we are trying to work on the journey for all our future plans for the busines, Finding, Service, Selling and Delivery. Each aspect has its own business plan that we are working towards now.


  5. #3 One of the things I love about Parcelforce is the no redelivery charges, no return charges and redeliver for free to you or a neighbour on any date of your choosing along with the option to re-route to an alternative address such as work at a small charge to the buyer or of course the local collect from the Post Office.

    I know some local courier drivers are pretty damn good, but Parcelforce are the only ones set up to provide this service as standard and the local collect is the real winner for me as a buyer because I can always pick up parcels at my convenience without having to drive half way across the county.

    I had a DHL delivery a couple of days ago and it’s an automated phone system, a nightmare to get through to speak to someone and then because I didn’t have the card with me I didn’t know the “service center code” without which they appear incapable of using the tracking number 🙁 Total nightmare to retrieve the parcel and that’s before a 25 mile drive to Reading and back to collect it.

  6. #5 I have to say that on the DHL@home service does do free redeliveries upto 3 times AND to an address that the customer requests is more convenient ie workplace or neighbour etc.they don’t charge for it at all under the @home service, which is the cheapest service that they opffer anyway. The only time I have had problems with redlivery charges is on the time definate services, like before 12.00 or the long distance P/Codes like “highlands & Offshore Islands” and Saturday before 12.00

    On the other hand in the last 6 months I have had 5, seriously 5 different parcelforce guys who have covered this run. Non of them have been as good/friendly as my DHL guy. I really don’t want to get into a “my courier is better than your courier” thing because I think they all have their strengths and weaknesses over the type of consignments that they specialise in. As most sellers will have differing weights and dimensions and service expectations, I’m not sure one delivery company can stand out head and shoulders in front of another in such a general way.

    I definitely do agree with your angst at the DHL automated redelivery system though, it’s shockingly bad. But because we pro-actively manage any delivery problems, customers rarely have to ring DHL themselves anyway. There is also another method if you select the correct options, that allows you to speak to a human and they are usually more helpful. Unless you have the old, they did leave a card, no they didn’t leave a card argument!

  7. “because we pro-actively manage any delivery problems, customers rarely have to ring DHL themselves”

    Oh joy, can I buy from you in future please? 😀

  8. I use Citylink and very rarely have any problems. The main reaosn is because they will only deliver to an address I give them and will require a signature. Any notes left on doors etc are ignored unless I give alternative info on the consignment. This ensures my customers get their stuff delivered to them and not to a neighbour or things are left on doorsteps etc.

    I do make it clear in my auction and my end of auction email that I use Citylink (some people have an irrational hatred of them) and that the delivery address must be one where someone will be on hand to sign and this generally works well with the vast majority of people reading it and giving a suitable address (I am not one who will religiously ONLY ship to addresses on Paypal payments & have never had any problems with this). I get pretty much instant email notificaiton of failed deliveries with a time and colour of door which I forward on to customers to let them know I know that delivery failed. Also their software is installed on my PC and I can just key a postcode in and create my own delivery labels etc. Easy peasy.

    Damage in transit? Not had one in about 3 years with an average of 50-60 boxes a week. I firmly believe most damages in transit is down to senders not packing properly and my experience seems to bear this out.

    Collections are easy too, the driver phones me when he’s 5 mins away each day to let me know and I meet him at my stores. If I need an earlier collection he will even re-route his delivery route to make sure he gets to my village early – same goes for all the drivers servicing my depot who cover when he is off. Fuel surcharge is about 2% and my contract rates have not gone up since I re-negotiated them in 2005.

    All in all it would take a hell of a good deal to make me change from Citylink.

  9. Citylink aren’t too bad at delivering for me – they always card and they’re about 4 miles away.

    You raise an interesting point about addresses though. I wish eBay would change the “Change address” font size from tiny to a huge big button with a message saying “Want this item delivered to work? Click here” or similar.

    An awful lot of delivery problems would go away if buyers realised they could add alternative delivery addresses, and even better they’d then appear on the PayPal payments page as they should so sellers could ship to them and be covered by seller protection.

  10. Chris, I agree with you about that. Also worth noting (I think) is that if you have a confirmed main address then any address you add during the Ebay checkout procedure comes up as a confirmed address on the Paypal payment. Not sure if this is a bug they don’t know about but I have about 10 ‘addresses’ that come up in the option list (couple for me, some friends, parents and 3 customers I ordered parts for plus a totally & impossibly fake one I added out of curiosity to see) and they are all ‘confirmed’

  11. I wish ebay would have a restriction on folks entering a partial address
    in some failed attempt to be secure

  12. DHL isn’t so great in the States. I once ordered a sample of something from China express through them. It took only one day to go from China to Houston but sat about three miles from my home for the next five days! I would call them and they would tell me it was guaranteed to arrive the next day. Everyday I’d come home to find a message on my answering machine saying that they didn’t get a chance to deliver and would deliver the next day. I have many more bad stories but those are a combination of DHL & customs related.

  13. As most of our stuff is in the .50 – 1klg sizes, Courier services are not used that much…BUT,

    Sometimes we use couriers & DHL up to recently were the preference Co.
    We, because of the low use rate, buy the services offered on ebay of resellers.
    A year or so ago we used Payperdrop (now defunct) & since then a succession of others.

    Two recent situations have turned us off DHL completely, Both concern 1 x damage & 1 x Lost in transit.
    DHL smashed a CD rack in transit &the said we had calimed after the deadline. This was rubbish & we explained this to them & their fault in their. calculations, still to no avail.
    The second was with a lost packet, which DHL admitted they collected & bought to their Hub, then it disappeared. They searched & searched, but to no avail. THEN they decided they ‘could have deliveried it anyway’, and declined our claim, again.

    This is a mes cost us some £750 and DHL just push the esponsibility on to the agent, who, just ingnore our contact emails etc.

    So, for us DHL, althougfh good at sometimes have now lost any further business as we will go elswhere.

    And oh….. The Court’s here we come……….More hassle.

  14. You raise some important points but there are other considerations. Ease of booking and tracking of your parcels being examples. Why spend lots of time cutting, pasting or retyping details when you can download everything at the press of a button, pick the service you want from the range available and pay in seconds. Shipping Manager (see directory on this site) can also be linked to your own carrier if you have an account so it really does combine functionality with flexibility and it raises the bar in courier booking tools.

    As for the customer experience – I fully agree that this is paramount, the DHL(home) service has been designed specifically to address the issues you raise – they offer delivery until 9pm and local personal redelivery by arrangement with the local courier if needed – you can’t say fairer than that.


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