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Your Guide to Managing Customer Expectations

2020 was a monumental year for eCommerce, but not in the way any of us expected. eCommerce merchants and customers alike were faced with some pretty, dare we say, unprecedented challenges that, among other things, forced major changes in both the foundation of online retail and our perceptions of it. 

If before we were accustomed to a relatively straightforward purchasing experience, things took a rapid turn when COVID-19 was added to the mix. Not only were product manufacturers, logistics providers, and shipping carriers scrambling to fulfill a tremendous spike in order volume, the effects of the pandemic, like social distancing and a shortage in workers, threw a serious wrench in a process that many of us took for granted.

As such, it’s safe to say that managing our expectations was one of the most considerable takeaways from last year. Although we are slowly transitioning back to normal, being prepared for the not-so-picture-perfect will forever be a valuable part of your business owner toolkit.  

Empathize with Your Customer

To really get where someone is coming from, you need to walk a mile in their footwear of choice. Luckily, as an eCommerce business owner, that ain’t so hard — after all, 69% of us shop online, and the anxiety to receive an order in a timely fashion is perfectly understandable. So, if a customer comes to you with a problem, start off by establishing that, above all, you’re on their side. 

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Whether it’s the golden rule or the best policy, honesty is a popular topic for proverbs and expressions alike, and for good reason. Lies, little white ones or otherwise, are a surefire way to destroy the partnerships and alliances you’ve worked so hard to build. While the truth may hardly be music to anyone’s ears, especially when shipping delays are concerned, it’s always the way to go.

Underpromise and Overdeliver

Promising the world is a lovely gesture, but it doesn’t mean much when you don’t actually have the world to promise. While this is usually done with the greatest of intentions, volunteering a resolution that just isn’t doable inevitably leads to disappointment — and possibly even mistrust — down the line. For example, if an order is supposed to take five days to arrive, let your customer know and watch them be pleasantly surprised when it gets there in three!

Have a Backup Plan

Plan A didn’t work? Then it’s on to Plan B, Plan C, and so forth. Having more than one strategy makes it easier to reach a compromise, which is ultimately what you’re looking for when you’re caught in an eCommerce pickle.

Additionally, being flexible with the solutions you offer shows your customers that you’ve done your homework and are prepared to tackle whatever’s thrown your way. Unless, of course, it’s a cartoon piano falling out of a high-rise apartment. No one’s prepared for that.

Set a Date (If You Can)

While not always possible, being specific with your timelines can do wonders for pacifying agitated customers. Two days, two weeks, or two months may sound far away, but they’re a whole lot better than a vague “soon.” 

Don’t Forget the Good News

You’ve prepped and primed, but, no matter how arduous your efforts or quick your thinking, bad news are still afoot. We’ve already established the importance of honesty, but it doesn’t hurt to sweeten the news any way you can. While it may not seem like it, you have a respectable arsenal for turning frowns upside down: complimentary gift cards, extra gifts, bonus points in your loyalty program… the list goes on. Find out what makes the most sense for each individual customer and go from there!

If customers have high expectations, it’s likely because you’ve done an excellent job at consistently providing great services and/or products, so pat yourself on the back for a job well done! At the end of the day, it’s all about adjusting to an ever-changing and deeply interconnected eCommerce supply chain. We’re all doing the best we can, and that’s a win in itself!

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