Short Shipped and (Un)Fulfilled Orders: Solutions and Prevention

many factors can lead to errors in the order fulfillment process

  • Written by Ellie Kwon
  • Published on September 15, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes


“Short shipped” refers to when a company or seller ships fewer items or quantities of a product than the order states. This means the cargo shipment was not complete. In other words, the order is missing items. When an order is short-shipped, the customer may receive a partial shipment. Then, they could be informed about the shortage to fulfill the rest of the order when the items become available. Thus, companies need to communicate effectively with customers in such situations. 

What Causes Short Shipped Orders?

Short shipments can occur due to a few reasons. Let’s discuss these.

Inventory Errors

First, mistakes in the inventory management system can lead to incorrect records of the available stock. This can result in items being oversold or not being available for shipment.

Stock Shortage

Unexpected high demand or delays in restocking can lead to stock shortages. The item sells at a faster rate. Then, stock runs out, and they don’t restock it efficiently. A limited supply of an item may mean it is impossible to fill all orders fully.

Logistical Issues

Problems in the supply chain can lead to delays or shortages in shipping. For example, transportation delays, customs issues, or disruptions in production may cause issues.

Order Fulfillment Errors

Also, human errors in the order processing and fulfillment stages have an effect. An error can lead to shipping incorrect quantities or omitting items from the shipment. 

System Glitches

Tech issues may cause problems. They can affect the order processing or inventory management systems, resulting in incorrect orders being created and shipped.

Manufacturing Delays

Delays in the manufacturing process can impact the stock. This may cause unavailability of products.

Communication Breakdown

Lack of internal contact within a company can lead to errors in the order fulfillment process. Further, without communication within the company, this can lead to short shipped orders.

Unforeseen Events

These include natural disasters, labor strikes, or other unforeseen events. They disrupt the normal processes of a company. Further, they lead to short shipments.

Seasonal Demand

Increased demand for certain products can lead to shortages if companies are unprepared. This is common during the holiday season or peak season. These peaks require more preparation. Thus, this means having backstock and efficient processes.

A partially filled shipping container is shown, representing a short shipment

Here’s What You Can Do

Immediate Assessment

First, verify the accuracy of the order and the inventory records to confirm if the short shipment is indeed a result of an error. Then, ensure that there are no misunderstandings that might have led to the discrepancy.

Notify the Customer

Next, contact the customer ASAP to inform them about the short shipment. Clearly explain the situation. This includes the items that are missing or not included in the shipment. Also, explain any reasons for the shortage.

Apologize and Communicate

Apologize for the inconvenience caused. Then, assure the customer that you are actively working to resolve the issue. Finally, provide a clear timeline for when the missing items will be shipped or made available.

Offer Solutions

Depending on the situation, offer the customer potential solutions. There are several options.

  1. Send the missing items separately as soon as they are available.
  2. Providing a partial refund or credit for the missing items.
  3. Offering alternative products that could meet the customer’s needs.
  4. Expedited shipping for the missing items at no extra cost.

Update Documentation

Make sure to update all relevant documentation. This includes packing lists, shipping records, and inventory logs. Make sure they reflect the changes and accurately track the resolution of the issue.

Monitor and Follow Up

Keep a close watch on the shipment and ensure the missing items are shipped or delivered as promised. Follow up with the customer to confirm their satisfaction. Finally, address any further concerns.

Provide Feedback to Suppliers

The short shipment may be a result of a supplier-related issue. If so, talk with your suppliers to address the problem. Then, work together to prevent a recurrence.


Use the situation as a chance to boost your relationship with the customer. Keep them informed at every step of the resolution process. Further, this will demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction.

How to Prevent Short Shipped Orders

Keep Accurate Inventory

Ensure you know precisely what you have in stock and update this information regularly.

Communicate Clearly 

Ensure everyone knows what’s happening by talking openly with the people you work with and the customers you’re sending orders to.

Supplier Relationships

Build strong relationships with reliable suppliers who consistently provide accurate and timely shipments.

Packing Orders

Double-check processes at various order processing and fulfillment stages to catch errors before shipping. Implement quality control. Again, this means checks and double checks. Further, ensure orders are correct, and a quality control system exists.

Automation and Technology

Use technology. Specifically, this means software. For example, RFID or barcodes will help keep better track of orders and inventory.

Demand Forecast

Next, use historical sales data and demand forecasting techniques. This allows you to predict future demand for products. Also, plan for seasonal demand changes and promotions. Ensure adequate stock availability at this time.

Extra Stock

Keep some extra stock on hand. This is in the case of unexpected spikes in demand.

Check Regularly

Regularly perform inventory audits. This ensures that stock records reflect the actual number of items you have. Further, this prevents backorders for sold-out items.

Customer Relationships 

Also, always give customers honest and updated information about when they’ll receive their orders. Nurture these connections. 

Multi-Channel Integration:

Finally, if you operate across multiple sales channels, ensure your inventory is synced across all platforms. Further, this will help prevent overselling.

Wrapping up

As we’ve discovered in the past few years, the supply chain can be a balancing act. Logistics take planning and thorough evaluation. In a world where we can get nearly anything on demand, customers still expect smooth shipments, and those who can nail down this process can obtain and keep their loyalty.

By taking these steps, businesses can minimize the occurrence of short-shipped orders and continually strive for customer satisfaction.

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