It’s been well-publicized that the major shipping carriers will be overloaded and overwhelmed this holiday season, with existing delays getting worse. The end result will be unhappy customers likely looking to brands to make appeasements. Pre-pandemic, customers hesitated to place orders if 2-day shipping wasn’t an option. While customer patience around shipping has increased a bit during the pandemic, especially in specific categories, that patience will quickly erode as the holidays grow near. Assuming you already have a strategy to keep up with customer demand, if your holiday readiness plan doesn’t address increasing shipping delays, now is the time to get added to the plan.
Prepare for Another Customer Service Spike
Brands have already experienced increases in customer service and call center volume due to the pandemic, some as much as 800% reducing capacity and customer satisfaction along with it. With physical locations closed and existing carrier delays, customers are reaching out to live people more often. While most organizations have responded by increasing call center staff or re-skilling other roles in the organization to assist with customer service, will it be enough come the holidays?
Staffing up is one approach, but it’s not too late to see what could be automated to reduce call center load. A simple rules-based chatbot can go a long way in satisfying customers who just need to inquire about their order status or other straight-forward information. Something like this doesn’t need to be a long, involved project with tremendous capital investment. See how one Perficient team developed a customer service chatbot solution in less than 3 days.
Communicate Early and Often to Customers
As a brand, you are probably already telling your customers about shipping delays. As a consumer, you’ve probably seen these communications. The problem with these communications so far is that they are general at best, ambiguous at worst, e.g., “You may experience significant delays in receiving your order.” As a consumer, I’m wondering, “I may?” “What is significant?” “Should I even bother ordering?”
I’ve worked with some brands who are hesitant to publish shipping lead times because they are afraid it will dissuade customers from ordering, but customer feedback is quite the opposite. The more specific a brand can be when their customers can expect their orders, the more likely they are to order. Being able to plan around the information provided is preferred over being kept in the dark and hoping. Also, the more specific you can be with your customers, the less likely they will need to reach out to your customer service team.
Key digital touchpoints to consider when communicating shipping lead times to customers:
- Site-wide banner
- Product detail page in proximity to the “Add to Cart” button
- Shopping Cart
- Order confirmation
- Customer Service FAQ page content
- Email (marketing and transactional)
- SMS (marketing and transactional)
- In-store signage (where applicable)
- POS receipts
- Call Center/IVR scripts
- Packing slips
- Social Media
- Direct mail/catalogs
Start devoting marketing campaigns to shipping cut off times and highlight physical location pickup options as part of those communications if that’s available.
Highlight Alternatives to Shipping
If, as a brand, you have physical locations, be sure Buy Online, Pick Up in Store/ On-Location (can your DC be a pickup location?) is an option and make sure this delivery option is prominent across your digital channels. Given Covid-19, curbside pickup should be an option. If it’s not, it’s not too late. Perficient can help stand up curbside pickup before the holiday high point.
If you don’t have physical locations, it might not be too late to look into smaller, alternative last-mile providers. On-boarding logistics and fulfillment partners aren’t as complicated as it used to be. For brands who sell consumables, it could be these smaller carriers are the only want to ensure on-time delivery to your customers over the holidays.
With e-commerce sales expecting to be up 35% this year, brands that plan ahead for this holiday; and prepare for the worst-case scenarios are the brands that will come out on top.