You may have seen something like this: “We’re delivering heavy holiday volumes and putting safety first. Customers may experience some delays. Please track your item. Our call center has no more information.” Or: “We are experiencing some delays. Your stuff will get there when it gets there. For now, sit down and shut up.”

The second one is more of a joke but it communicates the same message as the first one with a lot less politeness. While one of those messages is ruder than the other, they’re both unacceptable.

They say nothing comforting to the customer. The first message is PR speak for: “We have nothing to tell you at the moment.” The second message is PR speak with all the forced niceness stripped away.

So, how should you communicate delays?

  1. Apologize – This should be the first step. If you delay the customer’s order, it’s your fault—even if it isn’t. Don’t dodge and don’t make excuses. Just say sorry.
  2. Be forthcoming – Is the Post Office responsible for delays? Don’t hide behind PR nothingspeak. Say it. Customers appreciate honesty. And one more thing: Don’t lie. Don’t blame UPS when the fault is yours. It’s much more embarrassing and costly to be caught in a lie than it is to own up.
  3. Give a new delivery date – If you have delayed a delivery, don’t just say you’re working on it and leave it at that. The uncertainty is the most annoying part. Customers already know their package will be delayed, so give them a new expected delivery date. They may not like it but at least they’ll have that certainty instead of constantly worrying because they don’t know.
  4. Be careful with the promises you make – You don’t want to break too many promises. Don’t tell a customer of a potential new delivery date that you’re likely to miss. Err on the side of caution and underpromise. Your customers may not like a less optimistic date but it will be a lot worse if you give an optimistic date and miss it. Nothing you say will calm them down after that.
  5. Follow up – Once a delayed package is delivered, follow up with your customers and inquire about their experiences. Thank them for their patience and use that as a lesson for the future.