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Managing Customer Expectations During Difficult Times

It’s unlikely that your business has not been affected by the current global situation. Many of our clients are experiencing stock and shipping delays, longer customer service wait times, and more. The key to making it to the other side of the pandemic? Managing customer expectations.

Businesses and consumers alike are struggling, and that can make everyone more reactive. That’s why managing customer expectations is of the utmost importance during difficult times.

It can be difficult, considering you’re also trying to figure things out for yourself and your business. But follow the tips below, and we promise you’ll have happier customers in no time at all!

Communication Is Key

We say this a lot when talking about working effectively as a remote team, but it also comes into play when managing customer expectations. The worst thing you can do is hide things from your customers, or wait for a whole gang of them to flood your DM’s with complaints before sharing information.

[Source: Giphy]

Are you experiencing shipping delays? Not only should you have an alert as a banner on your website, but you should also include it in the order confirmation emailed to customers. I was especially impressed with LUSH Cosmetics after I placed an order with them in April. Not only were they clear regarding shipping delays, but they also included a link where customers can see the purchase date of orders currently shipping.

Not entirely sure when one of your items will come back in stock? Don’t dance around customer questions. It’s okay to not know. In fact, many of us don’t know a lot of things right now! That being said, it’s much easier to say something like “Hi NAME, we’re so happy to hear you are interested in X. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are not sure when we will be able to restock that product. Please keep checking our social accounts and website for updates, as we are working our hardest to bring it back as fast as possible!” You can also use this as an opportunity to build your email list. Create an option for customers to sign-up to be notified when the item they want to purchase is back in stock. Constant Contact is a great tool for building lists like these!

Keeping an open dialogue with consumers on both your website and social accounts is one of the best ways to manage customer expectations.

Anticipate Customer Needs

One of our top tips for effective community management is to anticipate customer needs and provide solutions. Life is tough for many people right now. And if your customers’ expectations aren’t met, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for them.

To avoid an extreme reaction from a disappointed customer, the best thing you can do is to offer a solution of some kind. Perhaps you are working with a smaller team and are therefore experiencing longer customer service wait times. If a consumer messages you about this, be sympathetic, and do your best to offer a solution. For example, maybe you reply something like, “We are sorry to hear you have been on hold for so long, and understand how frustrating that can be. We are unfortunately experiencing higher call volume at this time. If you are able to provide us with your contact information, we would be happy to have someone reach out to you directly so you can continue on with your day.”

If you are able to predict a shipping delay, product shortage, or the like, let your customers know as soon as you find out. Providing a warning before is an extremely effective way of managing customer expectations. Along with that, think of ways you can make that period easier for your audience. If feasible, provide a discount code for other products, or offer free shipping to help make the delay sting a little bit less. Your customers will appreciate any effort you put forth in making their experience more pleasant.

Be Clear About What’s Changing

A lot of the things we have described above pertain to e-commerce companies, but all types of businesses are having to make changes and manage customer expectations during this time.

We’re all having to get used to a “new normal,” whether that applies to work, grocery shopping, eating out, etc. And not all businesses are making the same changes. Here in Maine where I live, indoor dining is allowed, but that doesn’t mean all businesses have chosen to open it back up. One of the businesses I’ve been supporting the most during this time is Elements: Books, Coffee & Beer. In order to keep their staff and customers safe, they have decided to keep their doors closed and instead focus on online and phone orders. They are also clear about what they expect from customers in return.

[Source: Elements Facebook Page]

They have not only posted the behavior they expect from customers on social but have also used signage to make sure everyone knows the protocol upon approaching the storefront. They also encourage customers with drink orders to call instead of ordering online, to ensure that the baristas can customize drinks to the customers’ liking.

Making your customers aware of any changes you have implemented is a great way to avoid complaints and manage customer expectations beforehand.

Listen To What Your Customers Have To Say

Something we’ve learned since March? People are lashing out now more than ever, and oftentimes you can’t always anticipate the trigger. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t address problems as they arise.

If you haven’t been the best at managing customer expectations leading up to now, it isn’t too late. What complaints are you seeing from your audience? Are they making any specific requests? Is it possible that you may need to send an apology letter to your email list, along with a promo code or coupon?

Analyze any negative or constructive feedback and go from there. As mentioned above, making an effort matters and you don’t want to just chalk up your lack of response as a loss.

Additionally, have your customers been absolutely awesome throughout the last several months? Are they providing words of encouragement and support? First off, good for you! And second, perhaps you dedicate some posts to thanking them! Highlight customers who tag you on social or are extra active on your page. Maybe even send them a small gift expressing your gratitude. It’s impossible to spread too much love in times like these!

You’ve Got This

Nobody’s perfect, but actively managing customer expectations during difficult times can be a game-changer for your business. Keep communication lines open, anticipate needs, be clear about changes, and listen. We promise these simple steps will be effective in not only appeasing your customers but strengthening their loyalty to your brand.

 


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Leah K. Williams

Leah is an Account Manager for B Squared Media, a role that involves content creation and curation, customer service, reputation management and more. Leah is a writer at her core and holds a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Endicott College. When she's not writing you can find her adventuring in Maine with her husband and two rescue pups, Han Solo and Maya.
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