Fulfillment problems, are not pretty, they cause a lot of damage, and sadly, like rain at a barbecue, they are sometimes unavoidable and will cause you to lose customer trust.
Losing customer trust, denting reputation and impacting sales, you know how harmful order mistakes can be to your business. In an ideal world, fulfillment strategies (unlike a hastily erected party tarpaulin) would of course be water-tight, but unfortunately, due to human error and system mistakes, such as ineffective forecasting*, customer orders still go wrong on occasion, no matter how hard you try to avoid mistakes.
Damage Limitation Steps When Customer Orders Go Wrong
Anticipating potential customer order fulfillment problems can limit the damage and transform adversity into opportunity.
*This’ll affect both your stock levels and your BBQ weather. Better hope your disgruntled customers didn’t order umbrellas.
Make sure you’ve kept customers in the loop.
If you quickly update customers and inform them that things aren’t going entirely to plan, you lessen the potential shock, anger and mistrust which poor order fulfilment can bring.
For this reason, effective communication (from stating initial order/transaction confirmations, to dispatch/delivery notifications) are invaluable. In addition to allowing the entire fulfillment process to run seamlessly, communications prevent escalating or surprise issues by highlighting problems early and providing regular situational updates.
Accept the blame and apologize with sincerity
If a mistake is genuinely your fault, you should immediately acknowledge and sincerely apologise for it. Sincerity is key – if you don’t appear truly sorry, your customers will notice immediately and your nonchalance will aggravate them further.
Initially when order errors occur, customers want to know why. So to soothe and reassure them that similar problems will not reoccur in the future and in order to identify and correct root causes yourself, you must be able to provide a solid reason for inefficient service.
Show you care by listening and being available
Ideally if customer orders go wrong (stock runs out, deliveries are misplaced etc), you will know first, so should notify the customer. However this is not always possible, meaning customers will contact you to make complaints. In such situations, being rapidly and easily available via all communications channels is necessary to salvage customer trust and prove you care.
Good customer service is integral to damage limitations, so train your staff well to show compassion, listen to customer issues, and again, apologise on behalf of the company, accepting blame sincerely when necessary.
Readily offer adequate compensation
Along with sincere apologies and effective customer service, if problems occur you should offer compensatory gestures or tokens, however small. Consolations will vary depending on the severity of the issue, but are there to prove to customers that you appreciate their business and you want their continued loyalty!
Ideally, compensation should not require additional customer spend. For example, money off vouchers may antagonise customers already poised to walk away from your services rather than entice them back in. In such circumstances, reimbursement or an offer of free services may be a better gesture.
Review your existing customer fulfillment processes
Of course if mistakes keep occurring (say orders are inexplicably incorrect, repeatedly late, or disappear entirely), it’s important to investigate who or what is really at fault – you may need to alter aspects of your supply chain and fulfilment strategy, or provide better training for your staff. So review to improve, but be prepared for the occasional spot of stormy weather!
- Show you care and listen by accepting blame and apologizing sincerely.
- Always try to provide a sound reason for service errors and mistakes.
- Offer adequate compensation.
- Investigate the cause of the original problem – your supply chain, fulfillment strategy or training schemes may need adjusting.
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