Tips On How To Deal With Ecommerce Supplier Errors
To shoppers, ecommerce can feel somewhat magical. You go online, choose a product, place an order, then sit back and relax until it appears at your door. It’s become common for the entire process to take less than a day — and Amazon now offers same-day delivery in many areas. They don’t see all the work that goes into this polished process, so they aren’t particularly understanding when things go wrong (as they inevitably do on occasion).
When you’re operating as an online seller, then, you need to do everything you can to keep your errors to a minimum and mitigate the effects of the errors you can’t avoid: namely those that take place in the supply chain. There are various things that can go wrong along the way, of course, and they’ll inevitably be held against you despite your lack of responsibility.
In this post, we’re going to run through some tips for how you can deal with errors made during the ecommerce supply process. Let’s get to them:
Work with a reliable 3PL company
Firstly, and most importantly, the best way to deal with ecommerce supply issues is to partner with a third-party logistics company that can act as a go-between, mediating any disputes and problems you encounter with your suppliers. You’re still taking charge of dealing with the issues: you’re just rationally accepting that you have other pressing obligations and don’t have the time, energy or expertise to resolve them optimally.
Outsourcing is a key part of modern ecommerce for good reason, after all. There are so many skills involved in the online retail process — choosing products, writing descriptions, creating promotional graphics, running PPC campaigns, monitoring analytics, etc. — that even top brands with huge budgets will readily work with third-party providers to improve quality. If you want to make your supply process as good as it can be, this is the logical step to take.
Explain them, but take responsibility for addressing them
Regardless of whether you partner with a 3PL company, you’ll need to deal with your customers directly when supplier errors lead to issues with your fulfilment. The first thing you must do in each case is succinctly explain what happened and why: this explanation needn’t be outright critical of the supplier or company responsible, but must have satisfactory detail.
“We don’t know what happened with your package” or “Something went wrong in the supply process” aren’t acceptable statements to make — not in isolation, at least. This will simply make you look incompetent and indifferent about the level of customer service you’re providing. You need to show that you’ve looked into the matter and identified the problem.
You shouldn’t mention the company responsible at all, because it would only serve to worsen your working relationship (and in the event that you’re dropshipping, the customer might not know that you’re not the supplier). In fact, you should take full responsibility for making things better. You could offer the affected customer a discount, or expedited shipping for their next order, or a guaranteed delivery date — anything to win back their trust.
Communicate calmly with the parties involved
Lastly, whether you’re dealing with suppliers directly or communicating through a 3PL, it’s absolutely essential that you communicate calmly and professionally. It’s understandable if you get angry or frustrated because your image is suffering due to a mistake someone else made, but expressing that anger and frustration will only make things worse — particularly when you’re addressing customers who share that anger, of course.
It’s all about accepting what’s happened and looking to the future. How can you get things back on track? And when that’s done, what can you learn from the situation? Perhaps the error stemmed from a smaller error you’d made at an earlier juncture, and you could prevent it from happening again by making some changes to your operational process.
Your goal should be to become unflappable. Modern ecommerce sellers have a lot to deal with, fighting to compete with huge businesses like Amazon and keep up in an industry that must meet ever-changing standards and perpetually adapt to shifting consumer demands. If a few lost packages cause you to lose your composure, you’ll never last.
By working with a reliable 3PL company, you can avoid a lot of the errors most commonly made by ecommerce suppliers — but there will always be some that you can’t avoid, and how you react when things go wrong will determine the fate of your business. Keep your cool, assess each situation carefully, take responsibility, do what must be done to keep your customers happy, and never stop learning from the mistakes.