The global pandemic has had several side effects that are spreading chaos in a number of fields and markets. Chief among these are the supply chain problems and shipping delays that are making it difficult for shoppers to find what they need. Holiday shopping for the upcoming season has started much earlier than in past years because of this, and shoppers are panic-buying at an alarming rate.
The current climate means that consumers will undoubtedly encounter product shortages, shipping delays and skyrocketing prices, so it is more important than ever for your business to know how to communicate with your customers about why they are experiencing these shopping woes.
WHAT IS THE “SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUE” AND HOW IS IT AFFECTING SHOPPING?
The current supply chain issue refers to the shortage of both raw materials and finished goods, which result from continued manufacturing plant closures (or extremely limited operating capacities) in countries with higher COVID-19 cases, primarily in southeast Asia.
These supply chain issues are compounded by shipping delays, which are caused by heavy congestion at major ports, such as the recent bottleneck at the Port of Los Angeles. These naval traffic jams are forcing cargo ships, especially the armada of vessels inbound from Asia, to remain anchored outside the ports with their cargo still on board.
To make matters worse, these issues intersect with a period of high demand for hobbyist products. Thanks to travel restrictions and a trend toward working from home, many consumers have been left with more disposable income that they didn’t spend on vacations or gas, which they have decided to allocate to hobbies like upgrading their vehicles and gaming. The holiday shopping season is accelerating demand for these types of products even more.
Furthermore, Amazon’s lightning-fast delivery times have cultivated the unrealistic expectation that products will arrive just days after the order is placed. Customers who experience even a single-day shipping delay can be left unsatisfied.
Essentially, businesses cannot manufacture and ship products at the rate at which consumers want to buy and receive them. Therefore, it is important to know how to communicate product delays and keep your customer base happy during this time.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE DELAYS TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Customers want to feel heard and informed, so it is important to be transparent about what is in stock, how long it could take for items on back-order to be available and the status of customers’ orders every step of the way (if possible). Before a customer clicks “buy now,” make them aware of whether an item is back-ordered or not. If they wish to proceed, say that you will keep them up to date about their order status. Once the item is shipped, send the buyer updates about where their purchases are. If customers do not wish to proceed after they’re made aware of back-ordered products, offer to sign them up for a mailing list to keep them informed about when those items will be back in stock.
You should also reach out to people who ask questions about the availability of your shop’s products and punctually respond to concerns about shortages and delays.
Another approach is to “pull back the veil” on your operations to give customers a peek into how your products are made; you can do this in a YouTube video series or simply with pictures or informative, short-form videos posted on your other social media platforms such as Instagram Reels and TikTok.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Do not simply reject sales that you cannot fulfill at the time. It is important not to alienate your customers, so you should still close sales, but you should preemptively communicate with your customers (using the tips outlined here) that those items are back-ordered.
Do not try to act unaware of the situation by deleting complaints about delays on your social media or store pages or simply ignoring them. Posting tone-deaf content that markets products consumers cannot get their hands on will only succeed in angering customers more and driving them away.
THE BOTTOM LINE
These do’s and don’ts of communicating should help resolve a majority of problems customers contact your business about and will ensure that they remember your company’s consumer-friendly customer service, which will, in turn, lead to higher customer retention in the future.