We all know that death and taxes are inevitable, and here’s something else we’d like to add to the list: When your business requires shipping a product to a consumer, something will go wrong. Not every time, of course, but, at some point, small business owners will have to navigate a sticky customer service situation due to a missed delivery date, a broken item or some other shipping-related snafu. How you handle it can make or break your business reputation, especially during the high-pressure, high volume holiday shopping season. Instead of being caught off guard, it pays to spend some time planning how you’ll handle mishaps. This post will help you get started.
Create an amazing “post-purchase” experience
Think your customers don’t have a “post-purchase” experience? Think again. Whatever communication does (or doesn’t happen) between you and your customers once they’ve bought something from you is, by definition, your post-purchase experience. (If you do zero outreach after a sale, you’re still creating a post-purchase experience, albeit one that can be vastly improved!)
For small business owners, this officially identified time-period is a great opportunity to reach out and say … something. Maybe it’s something like, “We hope you liked your custom T-shirt!” Or, perhaps you send an email that reads, “Does your new design template perform as expected? Please let us know if you have any questions.” The bottom line? When everything is going swimmingly, any follow-up you do with consumers helps create a positive, personalized post-purchase experience.
Communicate with customers – especially when problems arise
Communication is even more critical when things – like shipping – go sideways. Carefully considered, strategic post-purchase communications can help ease the pain of a transaction gone awry. Let’s say you ship you run a calligraphy business and you ship your hand-lettered invitations for a customer’s New Year’s Eve party. When you learn the delivery truck has gotten stuck in a snowstorm, you’ve got a few options to consider.
You can ignore the situation completely. You can’t control the weather, right?
You can wait to see if the customer complains and deal with the problem if and when she does.
You can print replacement copies for the cards and ship them out pronto. In the meantime, you alert your customer by email, phone or text message about the delivery delay and advise that a replacement product is on its way with no extra charge.
You probably guessed the correct answer is C – and here are three reasons why.
You’re being proactive: As you scurry around to right a wrong (albeit one that’s out of your direct control), you show you genuinely care about your customer and her schedule.
You’re being honest: When problems arise, addressing them head-on is the best policy.
You’re being generous: Replacing a product and covering the cost, no questions asked, shows you respect and appreciate your customer’s time (and, yes, money).
Service providers can take a similarly proactive, honest and generous approach to let a client know if you can’t meet a deadline, need to rework a project or have to change the scope of a contract.
See outstanding customer service in action!
Here’s a real-life example from QB Community that highlights spectacular customer service in the face of a delivery disaster. Julie Goldman, the founder of the Original Runner Company, tells us what happened.
“A while ago, we had a wedding-planner vendor who forgot to order the runner. We created something very quickly for her, and it was really beautiful. We FedExed it on a Tuesday. The wedding was on Saturday. Now it’s Friday, and the runner is MIA. We had an all-hands-on-deck. Every painter in my studio was hand-painting another version of this runner. We got it in the mail overnight. It arrived at 10:00 on Saturday morning – and so did the one that got lost.
"The wedding planner went on Instagram and every other social media platform and said, ‘This company is so unbelievably insane with their customer service.’ The bride told everyone we’d saved the day. Sometimes you have to go above and beyond. It cost us a few hundred dollars, and it was stressful for everyone at the time, but now we’ve made a client for life. The vendor said, ‘From now on, you are a line item in every wedding I do.’ I think that's really the relationship -- she knows she can count on us. You have to come through every single time.”
Here’s how QB Community member Jessica Bruno turned a shipping snafu into a customer service-save for her family business, Organic Bread of Heaven:
“Customer service is everything in the small business world. Example: We shipped an order, perfectly packed and sealed. By the time it got to the customer, it was completely destroyed and the product ruined (customer sent pics). It wasn't technically our fault but more on the shipper. If we don't replace the order we lose a customer. If we replace the order, we don't make a penny on the customer. However, we chose to try to please the customer and replaced the order and reshipped. We now have a customer for life (and more). They said that they now tell all their friends and relatives how great our company is.”
Thanks to Julie and Jessica’s remarkable commitment to customer service, these entrepreneurs both turned a potential crisis into a significant win – with long-term gains, no less – for their business.
Want to learn more about the logistics and costs of shipping? These helpful posts will point you in the right direction.
I’ve been self-employed for most of my career as content specialist, so I know how much discipline and determination it takes to run your own business. As QB Community Content Chief, I love sharing the stories of people committed to doing things their way. I hope you’ll join our community and share your inspiring story!