October 29, 2021 Peter Bakker

Have Logistics Companies Lost Their Way During COVID-19?

Regaining customer confidence amid a pandemic-born boom.

Can you explain why it takes 13 calls to your offices to get nowhere with regards to sorting out a problem? Lots of bragging about how the customer is important is not reflected by the actual experience.


Heyy!!! What happened to my package?????

COVID-19 has meant massive growth for e-commerce, and by extension, the global logistics industry. Yet variations of the rants above fill the social channels of major supply-chain players. While the demand for logistics is currently so high that companies can get away with terrible customer experiences, they can lead to a loss of brand equity and long-term customers. The solution? Content.

Customers who have heard about the supply-chain problems will be more likely to forgive companies for the delays.

For logistics providers, the sudden growth has been as much a challenge as an opportunity. From travel restrictions to a general lack of labor in some parts of the world, they face numerous hurdles that can cause delays and other delivery issues. Shaun Lee, a former content producer at a global logistics provider says, “The overwhelming demand for ocean and air freight has caused rates to spike and is worsening the backlog in global supply-chains ahead of the holiday season. There basically just isn’t enough capacity to go around at the moment.”

But customers eagerly awaiting their packages are usually unaware of the systemic challenges faced by courier companies, and they’ve been given little reason to expect slower than usual service. No wonder they’re so angry.

If the companies could just be clearer rather than simply ignoring important issues, it would be better.

The key, as usual, is communication. Companies that let their customers know exactly why their package might be delayed, or even lost, are less likely to face backlash. Honest and immediate correspondence will pay larger dividends than hiding from customers’ rage.

Owen Tan, who recently had a negative customer experience with a large courier service, agrees. “They (logistics companies) should be upfront with us about all the possible costs or restrictions involved. But the onus is still on the customer to check and there continues to be some unclarity,” he says. “If the companies could just be clearer rather than simply ignoring important issues, it would be better.”

Some companies are trying.

A quick glance at the social and owned platforms of major logistics providers reveals a wide variety of quality content. From topics like sustainability, non-profit ventures and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) to customer case studies, they aim to paint a vibrant picture of what their company can do for customers.

This includes coverage of COVID-related topics. Since the start of the pandemic, several of the logistics behemoths have promoted their brands through social posts about the delivery of care packs or vaccines, and behind-the-scenes looks at the job of frontline delivery workers.

Delivery worker in brown vest pushing a trolly full of brown boxes for delivery on a rainy sidewalk in New York City.

Yet, few have broached the topic of delays. There’s no mention of the reasons why everything is taking longer. And there’s no explanation of what the companies are doing about it. As a result, their excellent content gets overshadowed by negative feedback from angry customers who have taken to Facebook to vent about their missing deliveries.

The right content, at the right time, on the right platform, to the right audience.

To stay in the consumers’ good graces, logistics companies must communicate the efforts they undertake to complete deliveries smoothly. For instance, our source said that many customers of logistics companies – including the one they worked for – previously only used global distribution centers. However, given the current surge in demand, these customers have started using regional and local warehouses to counteract movement restrictions. Some large retailers like Walmart have even resorted to easing supply-chain issues by chartering their own ships. The logistics companies in turn are providing tech solutions that allow the customer to have end-to-end visibility of their shipment to address any issues that may arise in the supply-chain. Many customers are seeing the value of this during COVID-19 because of the constantly evolving restrictions in different countries or within their own states.

But customers are often unaware of these efforts. They impatiently await their order delivery and get angrier with each day of delay. And they have no idea of the work companies are putting in to get their orders to them on time. If a courier company created a short, animated video showing how a package moves from one spot to another along its journey to its destination, shoppers could see all the challenges that have to be overcome. Or an article could summarize the challenges that arise from a manpower or freight crunch, helping shoppers empathize with the plight of the logistics sector.

Yellow DHS delivery van parked on a street with trees in the background.

Addressing customer concerns the right way.

The logistics industry is huge, and while some players are missing the mark on communications, others are getting it right. DHL, for example, publishes a monthly air and ocean freight report. The company also works with trade journalists to create articles based on their reports. They disperse findings in bite-sized, easy-to-consume formats. Similarly, when the company launched its WhatsApp Digital Assistant to take care of customer queries, they raised awareness through an announcement on their website and social channels so that customers looking for answers would have more means for seeking redressal.

GXO Logistics operates warehouses for customers like Nike, Nestle and Apple. It keeps its B2B customers up to date with its efforts to meet the high demand. From a newsletter describing the additional manpower and technology the company has enlisted, to using its website and social channels to inform customers, they ensure their audiences know how tirelessly they’re working to solve the problems.

Like every challenge, the current hike in demand is also an opportunity for supply-chain operators. But to make the most of it, they must address customer concerns. After all, once the world settles into the new normal post-pandemic, consumers will start to notice the difference in service. And they’ll give their business to companies that have better service at a competitive price point.

For players looking for long-term growth, being transparent and keeping customers updated could make all the difference. “Such clarity would greatly improve customer service,” says Tan.