What Is a Delivery Exception and How to Handle It as an eCommerce Store Owner?

If the tracking says an exception occurred, that means the shipment is stalled for some unforeseen reason. Find out 3 reasons and what to do here.

What Is a Delivery Exception and How to Handle It as an eCommerce Store Owner?

You shipped an order to the customer, but instead of being delivered, the tracking results say delivery exception. Uh oh! Let’s take a look at what to do step by step to smooth things over with the customer and make sure they get the package.

What Is a Delivery Exception?

A delivery exception is an event or situation that interrupts or delays the expected delivery of goods or services. Delivery exceptions can be caused by a number of factors, such as bad weather, traffic congestion, mechanical failure, or strikes. When a company experiences a delivery exception, it can cause major delays and disruptions to its operations. For customers, this can mean longer wait times for orders and canceled orders. In some cases, it can also mean lost profits for the company.

Delivery exceptions can have three outcomes: a delayed package, an undeliverable package that gets returned to the sender, or a package delivered on time anyway, despite the exception.

Another outcome may be a frustrated customer. First off, don’t panic. Here’s what to do to change that.

Plan ahead

While most orders are delivered on time, mistakes and delays can happen. It’s just a fact of life. As an eCommerce store, it pays to plan ahead so you can smooth things over with the customer and get that package delivered to their door. Having a system in place is your first step. 

4 Common Reasons for a Delivery Exception

First, you’ll need to know the possible reasons why did a delivery exception occurs. These include:

1. Bad weather

Weather delays can result in late delivery. If you are aware of some significant weather events causing delays in the customer’s region (such as the fires in California or a hurricane down south), it is best to inform the customer of the delay. You can do so by adding a banner to your website with the most recent information or adding it to the customer’s shipping receipt, so they know what is going on. Most customers understand major weather delays, but they can be a problem if they paid for rush delivery for a gift.

2. Damaged or missing shipping labels

Sometimes shipping labels get torn, wet, fall off, or become unreadable for some other reason while in transit. While this is no fault of your own, the carrier may not be able to deliver the package if they can’t scan or read the label. This leaves the package in limbo as the carrier will attempt to find out more about the package and hopefully contact you.

3. The customer wasn’t home to sign for the package

If you shipped an order with a signature required, a delivery exception would occur if no one is there to sign for the package. In that case, the carrier will usually try again on the next business day. 

Unfortunately, residential deliveries often occur during the workweek in the day time when many customers are at work. That means the problem happens again and again since the customer is just as unlikely to be home Monday at 1 pm as they are Thursday at 3 pm if they have a 9-5 job.

Unless you are shipping high-value items, it is best practice to not request a signature on delivery for this very reason. It can be frustrating as a customer to deal with, and they may look to your competitors next time. Convenience matters a lot!

4. Customs delays

Customs facilities aren’t known for speed. Sometimes, there is something wrong with the customs declaration form. If information was inaccurate or missing, that could hold things up. Other times, customs offices are just running slower than usual. 

If you are struggling to figure out how to sell products online internationally, Simpl Fulfillment is an e-commerce fulfillment company that can pick and pack orders for you AND ensure that customs forms are filled out correctly, so packages don’t get held up in customs, leading to happier customers.

How to Handle Delivery Exception as an eCommerce Store Owner

If you are a busy seller with many orders, you probably won’t notice the delivery exception on the tracking link. You’re more likely to hear about it from the customer when the package doesn’t arrive on time. In this case, follow the same steps below. 

And be sure to give your customers the reassurance that you are handling things. They are understandably upset — especially if they bothered to contact you.

STEP 1: Call the carrier

If you are not sure why a delivery exception occurred, you should call the carrier to find out. You will need to have the tracking number and customer’s address handy. Here are the phone numbers to call in the United States:

FedEx: 1-800-GoFedex  (that’s 463-3339)

UPS: 1-(800) 742-5877

DHL: 1-(800) 225-5345

USPS: 1-800-ASK-USPS® (that’s 275-8777)

STEP 2: Contact the customer

Give the customer a heads up that the package will be delayed. It may suck to be the bearer of bad news, but they’ll be less upset if they hear it from you instead of going on a scavenger hunt trying to track down the package themselves. 

Since you already called the carrier, you can inform them of what is going on, tell them any steps they need to take, and what you are doing to rectify the situation. 

This is where you can steer a bad situation into a good customer service experience.

STEP 3: Decide the best course of action

For packages that are undeliverable due to a damaged package or label, it is best practice to send a replacement or issue a refund. Keep in mind that if the shipment was insured, you could get reimbursed by the carrier for your losses if it was the carrier’s fault.

There are a few common types of delivery exceptions that eCommerce stores may face. Here are some examples and tips on how to handle them:

1. Address Error: If an incorrect or incomplete address is provided, the package may be returned to the sender or delivered to an incorrect address. To avoid this, make sure your customers provide complete and accurate addresses. You can also use address verification software to help ensure accuracy.

2. Weather Delays: Inclement weather can cause delays in shipping. Stay up-to-date on the latest weather conditions and plan accordingly. You can also proactively communicate with your customers if you know there may be weather-related delays.

3. Customs Delays: International shipments may be subject to delays due to customs processing. Be sure to factor this into your estimated delivery time and keep your customers informed of any potential delays.

4. Carrier Delays: Sometimes, delivery delays are beyond your control and are caused by the shipping company itself. If this happens, reach out to the shipping company to find out what happened and when you can expect resolution. In the meantime, stay in communication with your customers so they know what's going on.

How to Avoid Delivery Exceptions

Here are some tips for avoiding delivery exceptions:

1. Use a reputable shipping company: Choose a shipping company that has a good track record for delivering packages on time.

2. Package items properly: Make sure your items are properly packaged so they won't be damaged in transit.

3. Ship to a physical address: If possible, ship to a physical address rather than a P.O. box or other type of address that may be more difficult for the shipping company to deliver to.

4. Keep your customers informed: Keep your customers updated on the status of their order and let them know if there are any delays or issues that could cause a delivery exception.

The Importance of Communication With Your Customers During the Order Process

No matter what type of eCommerce business you have, it's important to keep your customers informed throughout the entire order process. This includes letting them know about any potential delivery exceptions that could occur. By being upfront and transparent with your customers, you can build trust and keep them coming back for more.

If a delivery exception does occur, there are some steps you can take to minimize the impact on your business and your customers:

1. Communicate with your customer: Let your customer know as soon as possible that there is a problem with their shipment. Keep them updated on the situation and offer to refund or replace their order if necessary.

2. Work with the shipping company: If the delivery exception was caused by the shipping company, reach out to them and see if there is anything that can be done to rectify the situation.

3. Review your policies: Take a look at your shipping and return policies to see if there are any changes you can make to prevent delivery exceptions in the future.

4. Offer a discount: If a customer has to wait longer than expected for their shipment, offer them a discount on their next purchase to apologize for the inconvenience.

Handle delivery exceptions swiftly and keep the customer informed

Sometimes, delivery exceptions are unavoidable. But many are fixable if you handle them correctly. It may take extra time and effort, but customers will remember how quickly you sprang to action to fix things. This is an excellent opportunity to gain customer loyalty and turn a bad situation into a good one.


Delivery exceptions can be a major headache for eCommerce businesses. But with the right knowledge and planning, you can minimize their impact on your bottom line. Stay tuned for our next post, where we'll share tips on avoiding delivery exceptions altogether! In the meantime, if you need help with fulfillment, please don't hesitate to get in touch with SImpl. We're here to help you run your business as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Next article: Expedited Shipping- Everything you Should Know

Looking for eCommerce fulfillment partner?

Let's Chat

Looking for a FBA Prep Partner?

Let's Chat

Continue reading