As we came into 2021, with coronavirus still around and new, more contagious variants, I finally made the move to curbside grocery pickup. I was hesitant in this change, even though I’d heard positive reviews. My reservations? I wasn’t familiar with the program. How long was it going to take me to adapt to ordering groceries online? Did I really want someone else picking out my produce?
Needless to say, those reservations were pointless. Customer service walked me through the process, pickups go smoothly, frozen goods are still frozen, and the produce picks have been on par. I’m a curbside pickup convert. Is the process perfect? No. But it has exceeded my expectations. My grocery store has been good at managing those expectations, so I’m willing to let the bumps slide. I’m warned ahead of time that products might be out of stock; communications are friendly, and the process is well documented and communicated.
This same rule applies through any retail or service business. Customers and clients, for the most part, are reasonable, as long as they are kept in the loop and they know what to expect. This has been a particularly challenging period in the home furnishings and lighting industries, and at the retail/designer level. First, you’ve all had to find new ways to connect with your clients and customers. You’ve had to pivot to new ways to get products in front of — and then to — them.
Then, add in those pesky supply chain issues. From the industry level on down to the consumer, we’re all being asked to wait unusually lengthy periods for goods in some cases. A 22-week wait for a sofa might be just a bit too long for some customers, especially if they’ve been given a shorter timeline expectation.
I’m aware that, in many cases, we don’t even know that these delays will be this long. If there is that potential, however, it’s better to give your customers the longer lead time and/or options just in case, rather than sharing what you’ve been told and then having to disappoint.
As consumers, we have a threshold. If we know we have to wait, we wait. But when we’re expecting that purchase and we’re told we have to wait longer, we can get cranky. That’s just human nature. Making sure your customers/clients know what to expect up front, listening to their concerns and offering solutions is important to managing those expectations and building good relationships.
I know you know this. As we work through the challenges that this pandemic has rained down on all of us, however, good practices can sometimes slip to the back burner. Whether its in-store signage, newsletters, emails or picking up the phone, be proactive in your customer communications. It goes a long way.