Story time. It’s my friend’s birthday meal this weekend and I ordered her gift a couple of weeks ago. It was a pre-order due to be released and dispatched on Friday 29th March. It was cutting it a little fine as this date was just a week before I needed to give her the present, but I hoped it would get to me in time.
Lesson one: A lack of communication leads to confusion
On Tuesday, four days after the date the item was meant to have been dispatched, I hadn’t received an email to let me know the item was on its way. I logged into my account and it said my order was being processed, so it looked like it wasn’t yet ready for delivery. I took a look at the product page, and it said the item was out of stock. Uh-oh. Did this mean I wasn’t getting my present, or was the item so popular that it was already out of stock, but mine was there and about to be sent to me?
Lesson two: Don’t make your customer chase you for answers and updates when things go wrong
I saw the company had a live chat facility, so I decided I’d better speak to someone about it. The person I spoke to said the supplier had sent a batch of the item but there was something wrong with them, so they were waiting for another batch to be sent out and they didn’t know when that would be. I was disappointed that the company hadn’t let me know about the delay without me having to chase it up, but at least I had my answer now. Of course, it didn’t bode well for my friend’s gift.
Lesson three: It’s easy for customers to go elsewhere if your communication isn’t up to scratch
As it often does, the solution to my problem began with the letter A. I looked for the same product on Amazon, and joyfully found it and bought it there instead. I had to pay more for delivery to make sure it got to me in time, but it arrived with me two days before I needed it, and in perfect condition.
Lesson four: A little communication goes a long way – even if the situation isn’t ideal
With Amazon, I received an email to say the item had been dispatched, then an email to say it would be arriving on Thursday (a day earlier than they had first said it would), and a final email to say it had been delivered successfully. Look at all that lovely communication. This is what was missing from the first store – a note to tell me that there would be a delay in sending out my product would have been appreciated. I still would have had to cancel my order, but if there wasn’t a time constraint, I would have been happy to wait as long as I knew what was happening and why. Communication builds trust, so that even if something does go wrong, customers know the business is doing everything it can to keep them updated on the situation, and to reassure them that they are in control of what’s going on.
Lesson five: Bad communication leaves a lasting impression
Let me tell you another story – in fact, a very similar story. Many years ago, I was buying my first laptop from Play.com. Remember them? They’ve since been taken over by Rakuten. I ordered the laptop and eagerly awaited its arrival. Then the release date of the laptop was pushed back two weeks with no communication to let me know. I found out about the delay after wondering where my purchase was and investigating on the website. After losing my patience and swearing never to buy anything from Play.com ever again, I bought the laptop elsewhere.
Lesson six: Poor communication suggests you don’t care about the customer
A laptop is not an insignificant purchase – it’s a nice wad of money for a company to lose if they mess up the sale, and rather a large amount for a consumer to lay out, so a little communication would have been appreciated in this instance. My first laptop was for use at university and was very important for me (and probably the most expensive thing I had ever bought at the time). But clearly it wasn’t very important for the company, and that was made clear in their lack of communication about the product I had bought (or attempted to buy). In fact, when you fail to say something in this situation, you’re saying quite a lot about your business and your values.
Lesson seven: Customers should be able to expect better communication in this digital age
With email, social media, your website, live chat, text messages, messing apps, and good old telephones and snail mail at your disposal, there are so many ways in which your business can communicate with customers. Don’t make these mistakes – keep your customers informed through every step of their purchase, from the consideration stage to after you have shipped the product. Manage your customers’ expectations so that they understand what is going on at every turn, and don’t leave them confused – else you risk them turning to a different supplier.
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