Q: The pandemic has crippled my supply chain. A customer used to be able to order my product and have it delivered to their door days later. But with increased lead times across all areas of production, it’s taking weeks to ship my product into consumers’ hands. As a result, it’s negatively impacting my review scores on Google and Trustpilot. Not to mention the amount of time that is now wasted on responding to social media complaints about delayed shipping times. We currently have an apologetic tweet pinned and an auto-response email sent to new customers, explaining the delays. Am I missing a trick when it comes to managing customers’ expectations?
Piers Linney says: This is an extremely challenging situation to navigate, particularly if you’re a small business. It can be frustrating having to bear the brunt of a riled-up customer that is waiting on their order when it is the result of a global supply chain crisis that is completely out of your control.
In terms of managing expectations, I would be as upfront as you can from the get-go. Be as honest as possible with them about when they can expect their order – this will protect your reputation in the long term while we all work out how to cope with the disruption to supply chains. Proactively update customers if an order is running late, don’t wait for them to chase you up.
You’re doing the right thing using social media to spread the word too. Your social media is your biggest asset when it comes to communicating with your customers, so don’t neglect it. Make sure you’re replying to DMs and online reviews within 24 hours and with an understanding and apologetic tone. You can also gently point out that the situation is out of your control.
You should also consider looking a little closer to home perhaps for your products. Is there a local business that can provide a similar product? Shopping locally may lead to higher price points – but let your customers know why you’re doing this and that you are supporting your community.
Ultimately, dealing with aggravated customers will lead you and your employees to burn out. The last thing you need is stressed-out employees and potentially a reduced workforce to add to the strain – so make sure to look after yourself and your staff in this incredibly challenging time.
Piers Linney is a former Dragons’ Den judge and chief executive of Moblox