It's no secret that the worldwide supply chain and worker shortage issues have resulted in decreased output and heightened demand from customers. These challenges will likely increase as we approach the holiday season, a notoriously chaotic time of year for businesses large and small. The good news is that companies that take proper precautions and handle the shortages effectively help customers be more patient as they wait for their products to arrive.
Be Upfront About Your Issues
With the recent economic difficulties at the forefront of the news, most customers understand that delays are a common way of life. However, your company should not assume customers will understand when goods and services are delayed or delivered later than expected. The best way to handle this is by simply being upfront and acknowledging the issues your organization is currently facing.
One way to do this is by placing a banner on your website or informing customers during calls about increased wait times with a sincere apology for any inconvenience this may cause. Communicating this message in advance makes customers feel understood and cared for, and they won't be surprised if parts or services get pushed back a few days or weeks later than anticipated.
Organizations that provide fast communication updates throughout the entire process also make customers realize you remember them. It helps keep customer inquiries lower for your customer support staff. For the most part, customers simply want to feel like a priority, and taking a few minutes to communicate clearly often does the trick.
If your company is struggling with inventory, now is a great time to shift your ad messaging away from calls to action and more toward brand awareness. That will keep customers from coming to your store with a specific item in mind, only to be disappointed if it isn’t there. Brand awareness can take a significant amount of time to build, but it can drastically increase your sales and brand loyalty by the time you resolve inventory and staff problems in the future.
Implement Self-Service and Callback Features
Your customer support staff has likely been overwhelmed over the past several months because of delays, which is why it's often helpful to automate as many functions as possible to empower customers to handle things independently. Some popular automation techniques include self-checkout, online service options, and AI customer service chatbots to handle basic inquiries and questions. These systems enable customers coming to your site to gain necessary additional information, like quotes for HVAC repairs or information about service availability.
Another helpful practice is implementing a queuing system that will update customers on the length of their wait time, allowing them to check back as desired to see updates on their services. For instance, if a customer is having their car worked on, they could get automatic updates regarding how quickly repairs are going, helping them stay patient if the process is held up by a part delivery. Your brand could also offer a callback feature with a digital queue. Callbacks and regular updates prevent customers from believing you forgot them or lost their orders, and give your support staff, some of the time back they would have spent communicating with one another.
Be Proactive About Potential Complaints
Most businesses can predict the potential complaints they will receive, especially about staff and material shortages. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the complaints to pour in, you can be proactive and discuss these concerns in your marketing materials and online presence. For example, you could address delays and shortages on your website's Frequently Asked Questions page or even place them on your homepage to get ahead of the issue. It's hard for customers to justify complaints of this nature when you warn them well in advance.
When customers complain, it is imperative for your staff to genuinely listen and empathize with customer concerns. Many customers feel better and appreciated after simply venting about the problems they experienced. They may even rave online or to their friends about how attentive your brand's customer service was when they did experience an issue.
For the best results, you should train your customer service team to address customer concerns. It's best to have a consistent formula when talking to customers about their complaints, and it can help alleviate stress among your support staff. Fortunately, proactive communication can reduce many complaints in the first place, and keeping customers updated over email about their orders or services can help them stay excited about their purchases.
Effective email campaigns during the off-season can also bring back customers who have purchased from your store or hired your services previously and help introduce new products and services to generate buzz for upcoming seasons.
Long Wait Times Should Not Go Unaddressed
It may be tempting to shrug your shoulders and hope for the best when customers experience wait times and delays but navigating issues effectively and professionally is essential. How your organization handles these challenges can set your company up for success or failure in the following months and years. Efforts to keep your customers feeling appreciated and acknowledged in the face of such challenges are always worthwhile.