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How to Escape a Holiday Mail Mess

Tickers in this article: FDX FOR UPS

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Small businesses have enough to think about during the busy holiday season; worrying if a carrier is going to be able to accommodate shipping needs shouldn't be one of them.

Steve Leavitt, COO of Unishippers, a third-party shipping adviser to small businesses, says that because commercial shipping orders go through some of the same carriers handling residential delivery, including UPS(UPS) and FedEx(FDS) , businesses should prepare for the added carrier responsibilities.

Unishippers acts like a liaison between small businesses and carriers. It has relationships with more than 30 carriers in which it has secured discounted rates for business-to-business customers whether it's for ground, freight, international or express-type deliveries.

Leavitt provided some best practices when shipping large quantities during the busy holiday season.

How does Unishippers help small businesses with commercial shipping needs?

Leavitt: Unishippers has for the last 25 years worked with small businesses. Generally we consider small to midsize companies as anybody with less than 100 employees. We understand what the carriers expect so we can communicate that back out to small businesses.

We provide some of the benefits and service and pricing that the large businesses get that the small customer generally can't. The second thing that we provide is invoicing and flexible credit terms that oftentimes a small business can't get from a carrier.

A lot of small businesses also have small, multiple branches, so we can implement our program over a section of these branch offices to make sure they all get the same pricing. We'll consolidate the invoices where they want it. We're going to really provide them with an advocacy. We know the buttons to push at the carrier.

    A few key terms:
  • Parcel or small package: generally associated with professional services needs such as title companies, car dealerships, mortgage services, etc.
  • Less-than-truckload (LTL): generally considered small freight packages (six or fewer pallets or skids)
  • Full truckload (FL): generally considered large freight, needing an entire trailer or truck.

What are some key items small businesses should keep in mind as they set up a shipping program?

Leavitt: The biggest thing that a customer needs to do to ensure their packages and shipments actually get there on time is double-check ZIP codes and addresses. The carriers this time of year are so busy that rather than go and find the address they just put it back on the truck and it goes back to the terminal, which just delays the shipment.

The next thing after address is to make sure you put a phone number on so the delivery person can easily get a hold of where it goes and route it properly.

Oftentimes people don't put the exact weight and size on the bill of weighting. They'll also put the wrong class. Putting the wrong weight and wrong class can also cause delays.