We’ve all been there: Surprise! Something has gone terribly wrong in your personal or professional life and you are now staring down an order queue that will undoubtedly be delayed. You need to tell your customers that the item or service they purchased is going to be late. It’s not a fun feeling but unfortunately there are a lot of less-than-wonderful aspects about being a business owner and this is one of them. One of the complimentary services I offer through my company is free correspondences for customers during difficult situations. This falls into that category.
How do I tell a customer their order is going to be late?
Do I offer a refund?
Should they get a discount?
What if they are mad at me?
How much information should I disclose?
Do I even have time to start emailing people?
All of these questions are valid and likely run through your head during a crisis. This past weekend my husband and I were faced with a family crisis that left us seriously fearing for the life of our newest family member, Pippin the puppy. He’s doing well now, as can be seen in our social media posts. Our crisis was serious enough for me to leave my day job early, cancel a shift at said day job, and juggle around a handful of writing orders. Even though I spend my time helping each of you answer these questions, I found myself tongue-tied.
I made the personal decision to share our crisis, though t his approach is not right for everyone. For example, if you sell crochet items and your family has come down with the stomach flu, your customer might not want to know that. If you absolutely cannot complete your work in a timely manner, then a refund is the right approach. If you do not have time to email customers until well after the fact, I would refund and cancel. If the work will be significantly delayed, more than two weeks or so, then a discount may also be appropriate. I wouldn’t jump right to that though. Open and honest communication are key because many customers understand they are purchasing from a small business.
Each of these discussions will be unique to your circumstances. I recommend taking the following approach.
1. Contact customers as quickly as possible.
2. Be specific: Identify the issue, if appropriate, and identify your new timeline.
3. Offer options: Leave the customer a professional way out if they want to cancel.
How do you handle shipping extensions?