It would be hard to find an online shopper who hasn’t experienced significant delays or a missing order in 2021. Customer delivery concerns are driving the ecommerce space, hurting revenues, or improving customer relationships. It all comes down to how you address the concerns, communicate with customers, and own up to mistakes.
There’s no magic bullet that fixes customer delivery concerns, especially with the ongoing supply chain issues. So instead, let’s look at the service aspects and approaches you can take to keep people and expectations reasonable, helping you avoid returns and canceled orders.
Nearly every ecommerce business has learned that addressing customer delivery concerns during Covid has been tricky. Shoppers will ask about your delays, expected stock, supply chain issues, and how many of your in-stock items would arrive on time after purchase. The tendency is to over-promise because it poses less risk to an immediate sale. But you need to take a step back and ensure that you’re not putting future sales at risk (or causing your return and refund rates to rise).
So, be honest when someone asks. Talk about the delays and issues you’ve experienced. Give them accurate timetables, and let people know that these are just estimates. We’ve seen shoppers be patient and willing to wait when businesses are honest and communicative.
Yes, there’s a risk that an honest answer will lose an immediate sale. There’s also a risk that a dishonest answer will cause someone to demand a refund, where you must give their money back and eat multiple shipping costs. The honest answer, however, puts you in a better position for any follow-up sale potential.
Emphasize Safety and Control
Supply chain delays are continuing, and so are the health concerns driving these delays. Your customers are going to be disappointed when something is out of stock or delayed. If your delays are related to health and safety, communicate this. It will earn some relief from customer concerns while also making a human connection with them.
You want to keep your people and partners safe. And you want to keep customers safe, too. Share that and explain the steps you’re taking and how this can contribute to delays. That might mean fewer employees on the warehouse floor, more time between orders to allow for cleaning, or fulfillment partners that have delays due to their own safety protocols.
Discuss the issue. Apologize for the delay. And then emphasize the human element of your operations. You can get customers to empathize with your decisions, especially if you tie it back to worker safety. If you’ve got lingering concerns here, toss them a coupon or future discount after you say that you, “appreciate your patience and understanding as we take steps to keep everyone in our company safe.”
Customers often reach out when they don’t know the status of something. For example, you could have promised a four-day delivery, and they’re on day five with no update. Or, you could have delays in getting orders picked and packed, so the customer is waiting around to get their tracking information. A backordered item’s receipt may not have included an idea of when you expected the product to be back in stock.
Those and other similar concerns around delivery in 2021 all stem from a lack of communication. You need to utilize customer retention best practices. Instead of waiting for the customer to ask you a question, prioritize being proactive. Let people know when there’s a change in the status of their order or your business. That means communicating when goods are available and shipping or when there’s a delay.
On the other side of the coin, you want to communicate less when there’s no big update. For instance, when you’re experiencing delays, pause your follow-ups that try to cross-sell or ask for reviews. Don’t tell customers to use or rate products they don’t have yet. These messages give the impression that you’re not paying attention to your customer.
You know your audience. Some will get antsy sooner than others. If your shoppers get upset when you’re quiet for more than a week, don’t completely stop your emails. Instead, shift to informational and support items. Check-in, provide an update and offer any tips or actions the customer can take ahead of time to use their product sooner.
Explain Guarantees to Minimize Harm
You likely offer a variety of promises for your customers. This might be fast shipping guarantees or satisfaction guarantees. If your supply chain is experiencing disruptions, review those promises. Only offer what you can deliver.
In some cases, you may need to adjust them or add a deeper explanation. For example, you may want to promise that you’ll process and ship the order with a carrier within 24 hours, showing how quickly you’re handling fulfillment elements you can control.
However, FedEx’s speeds are outside your guarantees. Tell the customer that, too. Show them that you’ve paid for a specific shipping speed and confirm when a package is given to the carrier. That will keep customers in the loop and explain the process. Don’t pass all responsibility over to the carrier; own up to what you control.
If you’re experiencing delays related to your promises, let people know as soon as possible. When it’s a carrier or manufacturer disruption, communicate this too. Add confirmation email automation to your system to give people updates as well.
Treat Customers Well
Your best guide for communicating with customers is to think of your favorite brand. Imagine you purchase from them, and something happens. How do you want them to respond? What would they do that would keep or lose your business?
Treat your customers well. Work with them to reduce pain points and avoid refund requests. Send them updates to keep them happy. And if you mess up, explain what happened and how you’ll make it right. The Covid communications aren’t very different from typical issues with a business; they’re just happening more often. You can maintain sales and positive relationships by giving this a little more attention than usual.
About the Author – Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.