Does the courier service you want to use have a ‘presence’? In other words, can you find them on Facebook and Twitter and are they active? What about a website? The more active a company, the more likely you are to be able to reach somebody if there is an issue. Being able to book online is really useful and many courier companies provide a first class service via email with no problems, but a telephone number that is answered promptly is really important. There are no guarantees but a physical presence means that somebody is being paid to handle courier bookings and invariably will also be able to help with lost parcels or a delay!
Bigger is not always better or less expensive
If you are interested in using a courier, then do not be put off by smaller independent companies
. The smaller operators often use well established and respected larger companies and freight forwarders such as DHL, UPS, FedEx, DPD, and TNT to send the parcel, so you will normally be well protected. These larger services offer great deals to bulk senders and this is how smaller courier companies make the business work for them. For an individual wanting to send the odd document or parcel or even several boxes, it is often cheaper to go through a smaller courier service than booking directly with DHL, UPS etc.
It is important to have the option of insurance and at reasonable rates. Insurance terms and conditions should be readily available on the website or provided via email. If a package is damaged or lost it should also be clearly defined whose responsibility this is and how you go about making a claim.
Most on line courier companies offer the option of tracking your document or parcel. Make sure you are provided with a tracking number at the time of booking and/or a booking reference in case of loss or damage. Also a customer services telephone number for direct contact is also useful.
Collection versus drop off?
This will depend on your circumstances but some companies offer a drop off service so you do not need to wait around for collection. However, one of the real advantages of a courier service is the convenience of having the parcel collected. A timed collection is often within 1 or 2 hours and can occur from anywhere; home or office. The only proviso is that you are available to sign the collection document, so do try and be at home or at work during the allotted collection slot!
Preparing and packing your items for the courier
Don’t underestimate how hard the journey is for some of these packages and pack and prepare the item accordingly. Plenty of padding for more fragile items and some sort of waterproof cover for documents as conditions can be very harsh!
Courier company charges are based on size and weight. Up to a metre in any direction (length, width, depth) is usually acceptable and the weight of course can vary. Often there is a flat rate charged up to a certain weight (e.g. 30kg), after that the price can jump up quite markedly. If you are packaging up an item make sure you are aware of the weight. Do not be tempted to pack right up to the limit or slightly over, and do try and allow for a margin of error. Bathroom scales are often not as accurate as the digital scales used by the courier company. Unfortunately, if your package is found to be overweight, then it is likely to be held up or even returned! It is better (and ultimately cheaper) to send two slightly underweight boxes than one overweight!
All courier companies sending items internationally will be aware of customs procedures and there is usually an extra charge for clearing customs. Certain companies give you the option of selecting who pays additional taxes, either the sender or receiver which is useful if you are sending from a business to another business in another country.
Needless to say, a bit of form filling is required. It does not matter who fills out the form, but do be honest. If a package is stopped because of inaccurate information or undervaluing then it can be held up for weeks. If you frequently send via this route then you can also get your name or company name flagged to customs resulting in all future packages being opened and scrutinised. This will considerably lengthen customs clearance and parcel transit time!
The courier company cannot control the customs procedures in the country of destination and if a package is held up, often it is a customs problem or delay. Try to be patient and send an item in plenty of time if you are concerned about customs. Your courier company will be able to advise you on countries with particular customs requirements.