Ooma Business Blog

Minimize package theft in five steps: A small business guide

By |Wednesday December 9, 2020

Millions of customers are using delivery services to receive online orders and avoid crowds this year. This increasing trend means more convenience for customers. However, it also poses a problem for delivery companies and small businesses. A 2020 survey found that nearly one in five Americans have had packages stolen this year.

Porch pirates and thieves are continuing to steal packages, often from the front door. When a customer calls in to report a stolen package, your business faces difficulties. You may decide to reimburse the customer, offer a refund, or address their concerns in another way. The better option lies in finding ways to minimize package theft in the first place.

Does your business need to focus on stopping package thieves?

While delivery services and package thieves are a problem, the impact on some businesses varies. Suppose your company offers food, groceries, clothing, books and other physical items for sale and delivery to the customer, then stopping package thieves matters. If porch thieves continuously steal packages, your customers may take their business to a competitor with better security.

On the other hand, if your small business provides services like haircuts, landscaping, and so forth, then stolen packages will be less significant.

Minimize package theft: A continuous improvement strategy

The following strategy gives you a flexible approach to improve security and proactively help more customers receive their packages on time. Start by working your way through each step and measure whether that improves your situation. If package thieves remain a problem, consider running through the process again to identify additional improvement opportunities.

1. Understand your company’s package delivery situation.

Start by gathering information about how your company manages delivery to customers. For example, make a list of all the delivery services you use. If in-house employees make delivery, make time to talk to each delivery driver. During this information-gathering phase, you are seeking answers to a few questions:

  • What security precautions do we currently use to prevent package theft? 
  • What communication methods do we use for deliveries (e.g., text message notification, email confirmation, calling customers in advance)?
  • How are delivery vehicles kept secure during the delivery process?

Next, find out what your customers are saying about delivery services and interaction with delivery drivers.

2. Review customer feedback.

If your company already collects customer satisfaction surveys, start by reviewing this data for insight. Look for comments that people make about delivery services, especially if they comment about liking one service more than another (e.g., “We like when delivery services come early in the morning.”).

If you have no existing customer survey data in place to review, there are a few ways you can gather this information. Review the following ideas for inspiration:

  • Complete a phone survey. Make a list of the most recent 100 or 200 customers and use your business phone to contact them. If you work with a few employees on this effort, you can get some good answers in just a few days of making calls.
  • Send an email to your email list. If you have an email list of customers, think about creating a survey using a tool like Survey Monkey®. For the best results, focus the survey on customers who have ordered delivery.
  • Include a customer feedback card inside your package. Ask customers to send you feedback by email, by phone or social media.

3. Brainstorm ideas to minimize package theft.

With the first two steps, you will have some information on hand to assess the extent of your package theft problem. Assuming you decide it is a significant problem to solve, it is time to set up your brainstorming process.

In this step, aim to come up with five to 10 ideas. To start your brainstorming process, review these options:

  • Change your packaging. Some types of packaging may prompt greater interest from porch pirates (e.g., “4K TV” label on a shipment). Therefore, changing your packaging to make the contents less obvious may help to minimize package theft.
  • Ship it to a secure location. Instead of sending a package to the front door, give customers the option to pick up their packages from a secure location.
  • Use GPS tracking. For high-cost shipments, adding GPS tracking may be helpful. You might also ask your delivery driver to use GPS tracking, available through smartphones so customers can follow when their delivery is close.
  • Offer package theft insurance. Offering insurance coverage to customers as an optional add-on may be helpful. As an alternative, you might also tell your customers about USPS’s missing mail webpage if you ship via USPS.

You might consider ideas your customers could implement (e.g., upgrade home security). You might also ask your delivery driver to change their methods. Further, you might decide to call your delivery services providers and ask them about their ideas to minimize package theft further.

4. Use conference calls to plan your improvement.

There’s no reason to come up with all of the ideas by yourself. That’s why it is helpful to arrange a conference call with your employees, including your delivery driver. During the call, share the information you have found about the extent of the package theft problem. Further, outline some of the initial ideas you’ve developed to minimize package theft.

Your goal for this step is to start by choosing one idea for minimizing package theft. If you have too many ideas on your hands, it can help focus on ideas that involve your company and its employees first. Asking customers and outside delivery services to change their habits may be more difficult.

5. Run a pilot test to evaluate your porch pirates.

In this part of the plan, you will put your new ideas into action. Give yourself some time to gather results by delivering at least 100 packages. After that many packages have been delivered, measure the results. For example, compare the number of customer service phone calls you have received about package theft this month to the same month last year. If the package theft numbers have not decreased, you may need to add additional safeguards. For example, offer a set up a secure pickup location for customers or require signature confirmation.

If your company relies on third-party delivery services like FedEx, UPS and USPS, measuring the results may be somewhat tricky. In that case, phone your primary delivery services and ask for information about the number of missing mail or parcel theft complaints they have received from your customers.

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