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Planning for the Unexpected: Three Parts of Your Delivery Process You Can Control

As negotiations loom closer to their July 31 deadline, Teamsters and UPS are struggling to come to an agreement for some 340,000 Union workers. Not to mention, FedEx will also experience delays as they try to handle the massive volume of both carriers on their own. Although a strike hasn't happened since 1997, it's still a possibility. For small business owners who navigated the turbulent disruption of deliveries during the 2020 pandemic, this may feel like familiar - and unwelcomed - territory. Although no one can plan for the unexpected, it’s possible to begin implementing a few strategies you can control.

Communicate Early and Often

“If you don’t control the story, the story controls you.” This old PR adage is especially true in 2023 when customers can take to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Etsy and more to voice their complaints about your product or service. When it comes to delivering during turbulent times - whether your main carrier might be on strike, or part of your logistics chain might be interrupted by inclement weather - informing your customers before the delay is important. We recommend adding banners and notices at your physical and online stores and include notifications at checkout that delays are possible.

If you communicate early and often about the disruptions, customers are less likely to jump to conclusions about your service since you are publicly showing that A) You are aware of the issue and B) It’s out of your control and C) You are sorry for any inconvenience. Best case scenario: your product still arrives within a reasonable time and your customer is pleasantly surprised.

Provide a Free Gift or Future Incentive

When possible, including a small, free gift as a thank you for their patience is a helpful tool to smooth over any frustration your customer may experience. You may have already communicated to them that the product would be late, but going the extra mile to provide a small gift is worth the extra cost. It shows your customer that you care about their experience and although the slow delivery timeline is out of your control, you appreciate their patience.

The gift can be as small as a few pens and laptop stickers, or as large as a tote or t-shirt depending on how much money the customer has spent with you. If neither of those are in your budget, even a small “Thank you” note with a discount code to be used on future purchases is a welcomed gesture and it encourages people to shop with you in the future. This would give you a second opportunity to build trust with that customer.

Develop a Strategic Plan

Although it may be tempting to simply move your entire delivery process with a different carrier, it’s not necessarily a strategic plan. After the 1997 strike, it took UPS about 3-4 days to get the operations and network up to the levels of service they were at prior to the strike. Fedex, however, took nearly 3 months to clear out the backlog that they were saddled with due to the UPS strike.

Having multiple options and “not putting all your eggs in one basket” limits mass disruptions to your delivery process in the future. It’s also helpful to look at logistics management companies who are monitoring delivery disruptions and are prepared to handle the shifting allocation needs between carriers.

If you’re unsure which parts of your supply chain can be improved - and what your options are - you can request a free supply chain checkup from our team. We’ll look at your current strategy from operations and shipping to vendors and storage and identity opportunities for improvement especially in an unstable delivery environment.

Unfortunately, for most business owners, predicting the future stops at financial forecasting. As your customers travel through your sales funnel, you know that the sale is not complete (or successful) until they receive a product that they love. Any delays in that relationship-building can poke holes at the trust you’ve built with your customers - especially if you do not see them face to face. Planning ahead and developing a strategic plan can go a long way in building that trust.

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