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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.