Handle shipping delays and angry customers

Shipping delays and longer shipping times are two of the worst nightmares of small eCommerce business owners. While eCommerce juggernauts like Amazon are working on providing same-day shipping, small online business owners suffer from lost sales and bad reviews due to shipping delays and longer shipping times.

In today’s fast-moving consumer world, shipping delays and longer shipping times are not considered acceptable. However, sometimes, it is unavoidable due to several reasons. In this post, we are going to talk about how to handle your angry customers in case of a shipping delay and how to avoid longer shipping times for your products.

Disclaimer:This information is general in nature and for educational purposes only. And, it does not constitute formal financial, investment, or business advice.

Some shipping delays are unavoidable, but still, it is a DELAY for your customers

Even though the shipping companies spend a lot of money to improve the speed of their services, there is always room for mistakes. Also, even the “Acts of God” can delay shipments. Floods, bad weather, or accidents can cause unavoidable shipping delays.

However, in the end, this will obviously result in an unhappy customer for YOUR business.

Unhappy customers can kill your business

Shipping delays can create unpleasant customer experiences. First, unhappy customers will not come back to your store, and then they can even write bad reviews. Needless to say, one bad review can make you lose more than hundreds of potential sales.

Bad word of mouth spreads like wildfire. Also, as you might know, word of mouth is considered to be the most effective method to persuade a customer to buy your product. So, you can imagine how the negative effects of word-of-mouth can harm your business reputation.

How to handle shipping delays

In this post, we are going to discuss five simple strategies to address shipping delays and how to translate unhappy customers into happy customers.

Before we go through our solutions, you need to understand one basic idea. A shipping delay is always a cost for you. You will have to spend time and money to cover up the damages. So, while trying to handle the delayed shipments, work on methods to avoid such circumstances in the future too. We will discuss this in a bit.

1. Be honest and spend your time to explain the late delivery to your customer

You must have to admit it; ultimately, it is your fault that the shipment got delayed. You are the seller, and the customer is yours.

If a shipment gets delayed, there’s no point of making excuses, fabricating stories and blaming the shipping company. Your customer doesn’t give a damn about your problems and your fabricated excuses.

So, if a shipment gets delayed, roll up your sleeves and track it by yourself and think of a solution. This will be a cost for you. And, yes, you might have to spend time, you will not get any profits out of that business, and even you will lose some money. That is a part of doing business.

Don’t just go to the customer and say,

“I sent the package last week, and something must be wrong with the shipping company.”

If I am the customer, I don’t care you use a shipping company or bring my package all by yourself to my doorsteps, or even use a pigeon to deliver my package. So, don’t give me such excuses for shipping delays.

So, be honest and actually track and handle that issue. As a customer, I need to see my seller is actually attending to handle this situation. That will make me happy.

Go to your customer and tell,

“Hi Peter, I am terribly sorry that you didn’t get the package yet. Thanks for informing. I am currently checking with my shipping company about your package. And, I will definitely make it up to you”.

Now, this implies that you are actually attending to address the delayed shipment and gives your customer a real value.

Don’t waste time on customer support

Hire a virtual assistant to take care of your customer support, so you can have time to take care of your business.

2. Act Fast, Make Calls

When it comes to an emergency, would you call or email?

Treat delayed shipment as an emergency, call before email! Emailing back and forth can eat up a lot of productive time. And it is hard to see or create urgency with an email. So, you have to call.

I know that it takes an extra effort to call. However, it can save a lot of time. You call your supplier/shipping partner, clarify the issue, and call back your customer to explain how you are going to solve this unpleasant situation.

If you do this, the customer notices your effort, and they will value that effort. Especially if you are a small business, these are the opportunities for you to create value for your business.

Make fast customer-care is your unique selling proposition

Customers will not get individual attention and attendance from a huge heartless corporation. So, by walking this extra mile in customer service, you can create a competitive advantage for your brand and business. Well, if you continue to do so, outstanding customer-care can be one of your unique selling propositions.

Do not send emails and wait for answers. Do not send emails offering solutions and waiting for responses. Call them, discuss the specifics, come to agreements, and close the deals. Businesses need fast customer services to thrive. Calling is a great way to add the elements of speed and convenience to customer services.

When it comes to the delayed shipments and unhappy customers, your speedy customer service can cover-up the damages and re-build your reputation.

3. Be in touch, follow-up the whole process

Having a shipping delay and getting a customer complaint can be a headache. But, as we have been telling over and over again, you cannot blame the shipping company as an excuse for shipping delays. As the seller, it is your duty and responsibility to make sure your customers get their deliveries on time.

So, if something went wrong, consider that as a new task and allocate enough time to follow up the whole shipment.

Frequently check with the shipping company and keep updating your customer about what is going on. In this way, you can effectively convey the message that you are actively attending to resolve the issue. The customer will notice this and appreciate it. So, you can change that 1-star rating and the bad review to at least four stars and an appreciation from the customer.

4. Share the control of the situation with your customer

Rather than sticking to one way of handling the situation, you can offer choices or different solutions to the customer.

By offering a bit of control to your customer, they get the feeling of being valued. Do not make it go too far, and let them be too bossy. Keep the overall control to yourself, and be open to customer’s choices/suggestions too.

For example, if you got into a shipping delay, you can say,

“Hi Peter, I am terribly sorry that you didn’t get the package yet. As of the latest update from the shipping company, it will be delivered next Tuesday. However, if you like to refuse the order, I can reimburse you and arrange to return the package at no cost.  If you could wait until next Tuesday, as an appreciation for your patience, I can offer free shipping for your next order”.

An offer like this helps your customers to get a feeling that their prepositions are being valued.

Remember, our goal is to convert an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer. This can cost you some money. However, a bad review or a bad word of mouth can cost you even more. So, be open and offer solutions to create a happy ending.

5. Cover-up with offers

Above methods are focused on how to deal with your customers in case of a shipping delay. Now we are going to discuss how to cover up the damages of delayed delivery.

Providing the final impression of outstanding customer service is a key point of delighting your customers. If a shipment was delayed, you could actively attend to address the issue. This can help to win the trust and earn back your reputation up to some level.

But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes there can be customers who are stubborn and do not accept any delays. So, as a last resort, you can try to “bribe” them by offering some inexpensive product or coupon codes. Of course, these offers can cost you some money. However, as we have been discussing, the cost of these bribes are much cheaper than the cost of a bad review.

A single bad review can turn away hundreds of potential buyers. So, by spending some extra dollars and fighting till the end is worth than getting a 1-star rating and a bad review for your eCommerce store.

On the other hand, by offering coupon codes or inexpensive products, you are kind of creating an opportunity for a secondary sale. So, you not only put a smile on your customer’s face, but you can even get some dollars from your “unhappy” customers too. This is the same as selling freezers to Antarctica. I call it smart selling.

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How to avoid longer shipping times

So far, we have been discussing how to handle your customers in case of a shipping delay. However, sometimes your business can suffer from longer shipping times too.

Since most of our visitors are dropshipping business owners, below we are going to focus more on how to avoid longer shipping times in dropshipping. However, we will also include some best practices and solutions to avoid longer shipping times for other businesses as well.

1. Pick the right shipping option

Always use a tracking enabled shipping method

Choose a shipping method where you and your customers can get tracking information. In most cases, people don’t get panicked if they know what is happening with their package. So, by using a tracking enabled shipping method, you can stop getting hundreds of customer complaints about delayed shipments. After you share the tracking number, most of your customers will go and check the shipping status by themselves.

Use e-packet delivery if you are sourcing products from China and Hong-Kong

This is especially applicable for dropshipping sellers. If you guys are sourcing products from China and HK, you can use e-packet as your default shipping option. It is the cheapest shipping method with tracking available.

Use services like Amazon FBA for high ticket sales

Apparently, if you are selling cheaper products, most of the customers don’t get usually worried a lot about shipping delays or longer shipping times. However, if you are selling high priced products, everyone is concerned about the shipping times and shipping delays.

So, you can use services like Amazon FBA to deliver your products to customers. When you use Amazon FBA, first you have to send your products to their warehouse, and then they will pack and deliver the products to your customers through their delivery network. This can be costly, but you can always cover the costs with a proper pricing strategy.

The best thing about using such a service is that they handle customer inquiries about shipping delays. Also, depending on the setup, your customers can also get Amazon’s one-day shipping facility.

2. Choose suppliers with warehouses in your target countries

If you are selling in the US, and if you are sourcing your products from China or HK, usually it takes 7-14 days, even with e-packet delivery option. However, some suppliers have warehouses in the US and some Europian countries.

So, these suppliers can fulfill your orders from nearby warehouses. And, by selecting such suppliers, you can reduce the usual shipping times for your products.

If you are dropshipping, we have another good guide about how to select dropshipping suppliers. There we have included a dropshipping supplier directory too. Have a look.

3. Offer free-shipping if possible

Well, this is not all about avoiding the longer shipping times. But, if you sell cheaper products, and offer free shipping, your customers won’t (usually) expect things like next-day delivery. Faster shipping is actually a perk, and it can cost money.

So, by offering free shipping, you can lower their expectations for faster shipping. Of course, you can include several shipping options for them to choose from. However, this should not be an excuse for you for not trying to avoid any shipping delays or improve your shipping times. You can always get a competitive advantage by offering faster shipping.

Read more about how to handle eCommerce shipping and delivery

4.    Selling unique products

If you are selling unique products, which are not so common to find everywhere, people will tolerate longer shipping times. Also, in the same way, if your product can create a real value for them, they will be ok with your shipment getting a few days longer than the others. So, always work on creating unique selling propositions for your business. This strategy can help you to tackle many competition issues for your business.

Conclusion – Handling and avoiding shipping delays

Shipments can get delayed. Unless you own a shipping company, there is nothing you can do about it.

The only thing you can do is to handle the situation in a professional way and to try to create a positive impression for the buyer’s end-experience. So, spend the money and fight until the end to convert your unhappy customer to a happy customer. If you just ignore the unhappy customers, thinking that it is a one-time sale, you are wrong.

Unhappy customers spread bad word of mouth and ruin your brand and business reputation in their networks. This can harm your business by turning away a lot of potential buyers. If there is a delayed shipment, you might have to walk an extra mile to make it up to the customer. Consider this as a part of the business, and try to create more opportunities from that unpleasant situation.

Remember the golden rule at EcommerceBuff community – Always deliver more than expected.

Is there anything else you would like to know more about and wish was included in this article? Let us know in the comments below!  Also, share your own experiences and thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.

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