Every holiday season represents a potentially stressful time for shipping and logistics. This year, major delivery and postal service companies are once again competing to meet critical deadlines, putting the importance of proper strategic sourcing front and center. To survive during this frantic season, businesses have to be smart about the problems they face.

In some cases, these following issues are merely an evolution of problems seen during the year. The holiday crunch, though, can increase pressure even more, making normal concerns all the more pressing. When companies find these things impacting their performance, the right thing to do is to plan efficiently to work around setbacks.

1. Prolonged delays
Apple is dealing with this at the moment, with its much-touted wireless headphones facing shortened shipping times. As Ars Technica described, the AirPods, set to parallel the launch of the iPhone 7, were originally set for a release in October.

While the resulting delay didn't totally prevent customers from ordering these headphones in time for Christmas, they did add a cumbersome four weeks of shipping to make on-time delivery difficult. Whatever caused this setback, the company now has to contend with possible disruptions and potentially upset customers.

A business as large as Apple could arguably recover easily, but for smaller retailers, effectively taking a major new product out of the holiday shipping season could leave a serious dent in expected plans.

2. Customer conflict
Building off of that last point, we can see the type of problems that lead to angry, uncomfortable customers who feel like they have a right to better service. Heightened language and threats from buyers could add to the intensity of the shipping season and place businesses on a needless defensive.

As a response to this, a Practical e-Commerce piece recommended "letting bad customers go" to increase a business' security. According to this article, angry clients could be belligerent, threatening and even abusive as they make demands from a company they feel entitled to. When several difficult customers make similar demands at once, the results could be magnified. It's also important to watch customers who might be abusing company policies.

3. Overwhelming orders
One of the most obvious dangers of the holiday season comes from unusually high shipping volumes, putting a strain on standard resources. The Wall Street Journal reported that FedEx is, in some cases, devoting extra hours to address the larger call for business this year.

Over the years, FedEx and UPS have undoubtedly learned of the overwhelming importance that comes with smooth functioning during the holidays. A September article from the same source said that new techniques, such as automation, temporary sorting hubs and software for faster sorting were all being used to enhance existing systems.

Ahead of difficult periods, software could also help companies by offering advanced training. Back in September, the Journal said that UPS had employed more than 95,000 seasonal workers for two years.

Improving supplier relationship management matters before the holidays, and it can have an even larger impact during them. Implementing strong, sustainable policies along these lines can mean businesses are prepared for all of the above issues and more come this holiday season.
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