Top 5 Ways to Survive 'Shipageddon'

Tara Kelly on December 2, 2020
Credit: Getty Images by Virojt Changyencham

By now you should have your logistical ducks in a row — fulfillment and shipping processes in place, seasonal help on board, forklift drivers ready to roll, etc. (If not, bookmark this page, go do that now, then come back!) But are you ready to survive “shipageddon,” the combination of the expected massive increase in online holiday sales and delivery demand with delivery companies that are already maxed out?

FedEx and UPS have warned that they’re nearly at capacity now. The coming spike in holiday gift shipping may result in a daily shortfall of 7 million packages. That means you need a plan now to make sure customer relationships don’t become collateral damage due to delayed deliveries during shipageddon. It’s all about the customer experience. Here are five steps you can take to get ready now:

  1. Prepare and empower your customer support team. Make sure everyone is clear on who and how you're supporting customers across every channel. Be prepared to respond on social media, as anxious customers who are on hold with a call center or waiting for an email response may take to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to ask about their orders. Empower staff to provide offers (such as next order discounts, your own gift cards or free samples) to customers who reach out. Your customer support team needs a powerful arsenal of options they can provide to keep customers happy.
  2. Make sure everyone knows not to overpromise. It’s so critical to manage expectations now. If a package isn’t going to arrive on time, don’t mislead customers. Doing so will only make things worse. Be helpful and upfront about options. If you have items in stock that can ship faster, let customers know they can swap products so their gift arrives on time. Another option is a beautifully packaged gift announcement or hardware item that represents the gift — you can send that to the recipient to let them know the backlogged item is on its way. Be creative and get these options to distribution centers.
  3.  Focus on “best customer” throughout the process. Every customer is important, but some are cherry-picking for bargains while others match your ideal brand target. Your marketing data can help you identify who’s who. Look for your best customers and newbies who match your ideal customer profile, and make them a priority, just as a restaurant would give the VIP treatment to a food critic. Curate purchasers with data, and if there are a limited number of high-demand items, make sure customers with the highest lifetime value potential get their items shipped first.
  4. Thank stressed-out customers with on-brand, high-value gifts. Shipageddon is stressful for you and your team, but it’s nerve-wracking for customers too. Consider giving customers who have worked with you through this hectic time a nice gift to thank them for their purchase and cooperation. Think about offering more than a promo — something nice like stemless glasses, decanters, blankets or another on-brand token of your appreciation. Have thank-you gifts ready to go at your distribution center to build stronger customer relationships.
  5. Keep an eye on your Net Promoter Score (NPS). It’s always important to encourage customers to rate their experience with you — it lets you know where there are opportunities for improvement. It’s also an excellent framework for making sure your ideal customers are getting the best possible experience. Analyze the numbers — chart it out — and make sure customers with the highest lifetime value potential are consistently receiving the fastest service and the maximum level of support you can deliver.

It’s possible to navigate shipageddon chaos this year while maintaining and even improving valuable customer relationships. As a retailer, you can play Santa this year, giving your support team a goody bag of joy to distribute to stressed-out customers — and you can make sure your best customers get the first crack at the holiday cheer.

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