Proactive customer service eases supply chain disruptions

When retailers proactively engage customers when delays occur, it allows brands to build positive experiences in light of delivery issues.

The United Postal Service (UPS) union is considering going on strike August 1 if they do not have an agreement on a new contract. On July 24, UPS and the teamsters union said they reached a tentative deal that needs to be voted on, CNBC reported. According to CNN, a 10-day UPS strike would have had an impact upward of $7.1 billion on the U.S. economy making it the costliest in U.S. history.

Retailers in the U.S. will be significantly impacted by this potential strike as UPS is one of the largest shipping and logistics brands, and retailers can only prepare so much at this point before the strike occurs. 

In the long-term, supply chains need to be built for more agility so that when hiccups do happen, a streamlined and efficient path forward exists. However, in the short-term, retailers must anticipate how they will manage order delays and delivery tracking to decrease customer where my order (WISMO) requests if this strike or similar events occur.

Shoppers today have more concerns about availability of products, the shipping process, and how delays might impact them. And with so many opportunities for instant delivery, the delivery process is a vital aspect of how they will view your brand. Retailers must understand where they can improve the delivery and communication process for their customers.

Visibility weak spots

Post-purchase visibility is a vulnerability for many retailers who are unprepared to anticipate order delays and provide proactive, on-time delivery tracking. When situations like the UPS strike, port delays and bad weather occur, delayed deliveries are going to bring an increase in WISMO requests – putting a strain on customer service teams and potentially negatively impacting a customer’s experience if not handled properly. 

Requests to customer service teams add up, decreasing the profitability of the retailer and changing the customer’s brand perception. Carrier data can also vary between times that the package is scanned along its journey, so customer service teams might not have the most up-to-date status to support.

Another area that is not always top of mind for many retailers is visibility within the returns process. Speeding up the returns process could backfill valuable inventory when supply chain or delivery delays occur. When a retailer can understand what is flowing back into the store and speed up the process of the product return, it can be ready to be sold again.

Proactive customer experience

Instead of waiting for customers to ask where their order is at, brands can reduce the burden on their customer support team by sending regular updates on the order status. Engaging with your customer to communicate a delay doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When retailers proactively engage customers when delays occur, it allows brands to build positive experiences in light of delivery issues. More touchpoints, even through delays, connects retailers with consumers and allow them to build trust through solving problems.

The first step is providing your customers with an order status page. This page should give them access to the latest delivery updates automatically, decreasing customer center calls and putting their mind at ease. Order status pages can include personalized product recommendations as a next step to drive traffic back to your site. Retailers who want to build the most trust bring this aspect forward to product pages where they display a delivery promise and reduce uncertainty over delivery times before a product is sold.

woman sending product

The next step is event-triggered delivery notifications. As customers become more anxious due to delays or low inventory, retailers can set expectations with updates that are communicated proactively. This will decrease inbound calls to the customer center, and the retailer can proactively recommend any order or delivery changes as needed.

Regular order notifications and delivery updates are also an opportunity to include relevant product recommendations that drive further traffic back to your website.

For example, Fashionette regularly sends order notifications and delivery updates to keep customers informed about their purchases and includes relevant product recommendations, driving 75% of customers back to their website.

And finally, retailers can further improve shipping updates for their customers with an all-in-one tracking system on their website. This allows both parties to check the status of a package and expected delivery date at any time. It’s also another great opportunity for retailers to drive traffic back to their website and potentially drive new sales. 

Building consumer trust

Consumers find the post-purchase experience to be the most emotional part of the shopping customer journey. Now is the time for retailers to consider how consumers will be affected by events such as the potential UPS strike instead of waiting for busy holiday season and future disruptions. Peak season is when underlying issues could surface and have a real customer impact. If something is not working well, now is the time to proactively anticipate future disruptions and put the processes and solutions in place to mitigate them.

Julian Krenge

About the author

Julian Krenge is founder and chief technology officer at parcelLab, a global post-purchase software provider. ParcelLab actively manages the post-purchase experience across 175 countries and tracks shipping data from more than 350 carriers worldwide.