Ready or not, peak season is here. While in our hearts we might be ready for the holidays, most supply chains are not. This summer and fall, we have seen broken supply chains in nearly every sector, brought on by pandemic-related stresses and the anticipation of the peak season we now endure. I recently heard an analyst describe the situation as a “supply chain collapse.”
While the causes of the supply disruptions have been widely publicized, consumers are not very understanding or forgiving of the plight in which most distributors find themselves.
This lack of empathy has been borne out by two recent studies on customer attitudes. In a survey conducted by software developer Oracle, more than 90% of respondents said they were aware that supply chains are complex and under stress. Yet 80% said any delays and shortages they might experience would stop them from buying a brand entirely.
A similar study from Convey by project44 showed that despite the warnings of shipping disruptions and rising costs, 88% of respondents still expect fast and free shipping. It too pointed to a lack of tolerance for slipups and delays: 67% said they would not shop with a brand again if they had a poor delivery experience.
But as Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” In that spirit, smart distributors are turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade. Rather than bowing to the challenges, they’re capitalizing on the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the pack. While others around them are failing, they’re upping their customer service game.
That’s not as hard as it might sound. For instance, it could be as simple as not offering products you cannot deliver. Though this might mean cutting back on SKU (stock-keeping unit) variety, you can still provide stellar service on the orders you do ship, raising your standing with customers.
Or it could simply mean educating yourself about consumers’ preferences and then giving them what they want. For example, customers want visibility into available inventory and—in particular—where that inventory is located. So if you have retail stores, let them know which stores have what they want in stock. Consumers also place a premium on good communication. So send them notifications about the status of their orders throughout the delivery process.
Keep in mind that it is always good to under-promise and over-deliver. I know I am always pleasantly surprised when I get a package sooner than expected. Look at your operations to see what you can control easily. You don’t want to waste a good crisis.