On January 4th the Bomb Cyclone storm walloped the entire East Coast earning its spot in history as one of the most intense weather events in decades. It wreaked havoc across the U.S. resulting in thousands of canceled flights, highway and airport closures, treacherous conditions, and massive disruptions to every channel that keeps mail and parcel service humming along. According to the USPS Office of the Inspector General, each severe storm has the potential to delay millions of mail pieces and parcels. Thankfully we don’t get these often, but extreme weather emergencies that adversely impact deliveries occur year-round and are impossible to predict. Waiting till the emergency hits to ponder an action plan for your business and customers is a recipe for even more disaster.
When the unexpected happens, it puts customers in a position of complete helplessness which is an uncomfortable feeling for us as humans. Of course, customer impact varies greatly, from the late arrival of a coupon or event invitation to supply chain customers who are totally dependent on supply deliveries needed to conduct business. Customers rely on you to mitigate the impact delivery delays for them. These storms and delays also can have a major impact on your organization itself. Delays can erode your business’ reputation, customer retention, and bottom-line results. So, how prepared is your business before the next major weather event hits?
According to a recent UPS study on customer experience preferences, consumers want to be notified of delivery status and delays. Brands that alert customers to problems build loyalty, trust, and long-lasting connections. You may have systems in place so your staff is aware when mailings and parcels are delayed, but that’s not good enough, knowledge is only useful if you act on it. Can you quickly answer these three questions?
- How will you communicate delays with your customers?
- What will you say or offer to your customers?
- Who else in your organization is aware of what to do or say?
If you’re still staring blankly at the questions no worries, we’ve got you covered. Creating a customer communication plan takes thought and preparation, but once in place will bring peace of mind next time Mother Nature decides to throw a curveball your way.
Three Steps to Create a Customer Emergency Communication Plan
- Implement an alert system so your team is aware of possible delays in advance. Sophisticated mail firms will have this option available. At Three Dog Logistics we developed OBBAgistics, a real-time tracking system that knows exactly where your mail is at any time, has built-in delay alerts, and projects/confirms in-home delivery dates.
- Develop an internal customer communication plan. The plan will include outreach methods, customer data sources, message templates, and designated staff to execute the communication plan when necessary. Communication platforms vary based on business type, but options include email, text, social media and website postings – and don’t forget good old-fashioned phone calls. Make sure that your team has easy access to current customer data necessary for alert distributions. For example, if the alert method is email, do you have current customer email addresses and do employees know how to access them? No matter what method you choose, personalized and timely is critical. Send alerts only to those who it’s relevant for and as soon as possible. Sending an email about delays after the customer has received the item just makes your company look unprofessional and disorganized. Pay special attention to critical supply chain customers who depend on deliveries to run their business and prepare in advance to assist with their specific needs and concerns.
- Train employees on how to assist and provide answers for customers. Emergencies tend to make customers reactive and that means they’ll want answers quickly. Train staff on the delay communication plan, include them on all alerts sent and provide an FAQ source to assist with answering customer questions. Be strategic; assign specific staff to dedicated posts like email response, social media replies, and phone calls. During emergencies, an organized team able to reassure customers and provide them with answers builds confidence and trust.
Crafting Delay Messages that Create Good Will with Customers
- Consider multiple outreach methods. Depending on the severity of the situation, an email followed by a call shows you understand how serious the issue is for them.
- Sincerely apologize, leave out the buts. Sounds rudimentary, but a sincere apology without the typical “but we can’t control mother nature” will go a long way.
- Explain the situation honestly. Be transparent, tell customers what happened, how it will impact them, and what the next step is.
- Give customers options. If you can do anything to remedy the situation, offer it to them. If not, tell customers what you will do for them once the delay has cleared.
- Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don’t offer false promises that you can’t guarantee, it will make the situation worse.
- Keep customers informed as things change. Multiple alerts sent as more information becomes available helps clients feel in the loop and may decrease their anxiety.
At Three Dog Logistics, our experts can ensure your team is prepared for the next big weather event! We’ll help you take full control of any mail and parcel deliveries, so you know when your mail is delivered, and have full visibility throughout the process. Remember, at Three Dog Logistics we take the bite out of postage and freight. Contact us at threedoglogistics.com or call 410-284-5494 ext. 250 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.