Direct-to-your-home sales have dramatically increased during the Coronavirus Pandemic. But for your company, it probably means you’re struggling with big shipping delays in your supply chain.
The DSA recently released the numbers to confirm 70% of direct sales companies reported supply chain delays, leaving frustrated distributors and customers.
The true test of your commitment to service quality is the way your team responds when things go wrong. And shipping delays feel wrong to your end customers.
When you’ve failed to meet the expectations of your clients, how do you recover?
Your volunteer sales force must receive special effort when things go wrong to stay engaged in “normal circumstances,” but even more in a pandemic.
How your company communicates when products are delayed increases your retention and your opportunity to attract new business.
You need the Six-Step Recovery Process to help your team know what to say and how to say it. So that their frustration can turn into admiration and loyalty.
Anticipating direct sales shipping delays and then giving thoughtful and accurate updates are the very best of all practices. But when you are caught by surprise, these steps will help you to apply the “Golden Rule,” just as you would want to be treated:
1. Apologize for the delay in shipping.
Train your customer service team to first sincerely apologize for the delay in shipping. Do not respond defensively. Do not shift the blame to the pandemic. Instead, take a personal and professional interest in helping the distributor or customer.
TIP: Be proactive. You must act quickly when you know you will be disappointing your distributors and your customers. That means communicating more than ever. Send emails to affected customers before they feel the pain of the delay.
2. Listen, empathize, and ask open questions.
“I understand!” is one of the most powerful statements your customer service team can say.
Use a mirroring technique to ensure your caller you are effectively listening and seeking to understand. Repeat back to the customer their exact words so they know you understand them.
When the customer uses emotional words, for example: “it feels like I’m not getting answers,” or “I’m frustrated my customers can’t get their products,” or “I feel like my business will decline if my customers aren’t receiving their shipments on time.”
Let them express the emotional side of the shipping delay and then respond with open questions.
“You’re concerned that you will not meet your volume requirements for qualification?” or “You’re worried your business is going to decline?”
Allow them to vent their frustrations with the understanding that the shipping delay is causing them to become fearful. It’s always the right thing to do to allow someone the room to express their fears.
TIP: Give your distributors an early warning about possible direct sales shipping delays but don’t leave them without a plan! Equip your volunteer sales force with the words to say that empathize with their customers.
3. Offer a fair fix to the problem.
You must come up with a fair fix for the delay to make right what went wrong. Empower your customer service team to make timely resolutions.
When you know your products will be delayed, you have the advantage of deciding in advance what is a fair fix. After all, the last thing your customers need is to wait for another member of the team to email with a resolution.
Fix it as fast as possible!
4. Offer some value-added atonement for the inconvenience or injury.
While you may be tempted to explain what created a delay, use this moment with your distributors to express how valuable they are to you.
It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, it’s really the little things that mean the most! Empower your team to pick up on clues in the conversation of what would make them feel special.
If you do this step right, you’ll not only redeem the situation but earn a customer who wants to talk about the company any chance they get!
5. Keep Your Promises
Promises must be met! Especially when the promised ship date is missed. Your customers rely on the estimated time of delivery, so your next promise must be met. A promise kept is an installment in the long-term relationship. The promise restores a sense of control, and when it’s kept the promise transforms into trust.
One of the best ways to ensure your customers and distributors are taken care of is to make sure the promises are fulfilled. Create a system to keep the customer service team member accountable for fulfilling the promise—on time!
6. Follow Up on Shipping Delays
Your team is not done after you’ve made sure the promises were fulfilled. The final piece makes the biggest impact: follow up! Call the customer or distributor and confirm they received the item and the valuable-added atonement and fix. Leverage your ticketing system settings to automatically reach out to confirm action and outcomes, to gather feedback.
But most importantly, your team should take the opportunity to call each customer who had received a delay.
When was the last time a company you are working with follows up after a short amount of time to simply ensure the emotional disappointment has been replaced with excitement for the company and products?
When our direct selling consultants‘ Six-Step Recovery Process is applied consistently by field services teams and customer contact people, it has led to an overall 12% improvement in field satisfaction with problem-solving.
Even in the midst of pandemic-induced shipping delays, you can still increase field satisfaction simply by: apologizing, listening, offering, keeping promises, and following up.
Once you have these guidelines in place, you too can turn delays into customer service wins to benefit everyone on the team!