Processing & Shipping Times - Managing Customer Expectations

Managing your customers' expectations is one of the most important aspects of good customer service. If your customers have a clear idea of what to expect from the moment they engage with your brand, you will have far fewer customer complaints, far fewer daily emails to deal with, and far more happy (which means returning) customers.

The #1 thing that will frustrate a customer is if they feel like they're waiting longer than expected to receive communication regarding their order. Now, there are TWO VITAL customer communication touch-points after an order is placed:

#1 is ORDER CONFIRMATION (email notifying that their order has been received by your store).
#2 is SHIPPING CONFIRMATION (email notifying that their order has shipped and includes delivery tracking information.)

The first communication touch-point (order confirmation) is being sent automatically and immediately by Shopify when the order is placed, so there isn't much liklihood for frustration to build at this point.

However, the second communication touch point (shipping confirmation) is where most frustrated customers will come from. Picture it like this: From the moment your customer receives their order confirmation, they're like a pot of water that's starting to heat up. You DON'T want the water in the pot to boil - that's where pissed off customers, angry emails and angry comments on social media come from. So, everything about your website and your communication about order processing and shipping times acts like ice that gets thrown into the heating pot of water. If you keep throwing ice in by effectively communicating and managing your customers' expecations, the pot will never boil, even if it sits on the heat for longer than it's used to or compared to other online shopping experiences, like Amazon.

Needless to say you're (and WE'RE) NOT Amazon. The items on your webstore are not sitting on a shelf somewhere simply waiting to be pulled, packed and shipped. Every item on your site is being MADE ON DEMAND, ONE AT A TIME, AND ONLY AFTER THE ORDER COMES IN. Communicating this clearly to your customers is a super important part of managing their expectations from the very beginning and even before they order. If they THINK that your items are already made and in inventory on a shelf, they're going to expect their order to ship immediately, which will create pissed off customers when that expecation isn't met! Don't be afraid to be VERY upfront with your customers that this is NOT the case.

One of our clients says it this way:

***Please allow up to 5 business days for order processing. When you order from us, every item is bespoke and printed in-house just for you, and that process takes some time! Please don't let that keep you from ordering from us - we're a small team but growing with your support!

Another client says it like this:
***Our apparel items are made to order. This way, we have less waste, more creativity, and a better world. Please allow up to 5 business days for the production process.

The wording is really up to you and however you want to say it to convey the message. The goal is to make sure your customers are not left in the dark, but clear on what to expect.

Another important part of managing your customers' expecations is to clearly communicate that PROCESSING TIME and SHIPPING TIME are two separate things:

-PROCESSING TIME is the time it takes for your store to make and ship their order.
-SHIPPING TIME is the time it takes for the delivery service (US Post Office, UPS) to deliver their order into their hands once it has been shipped.

As soon as an order's postage is purchased, the shipping label is slapped on and it's out the door, you no longer have any control over what happens to the package. It's now in the hands of the Post Office or UPS to make sure that it gets to it's destination in a correct and timely manner. If a package is lost or delayed, we CAN reprint and reship the order. However, keep in mind that we will have to charge for the items on the order again and chances are good that the original package will still arrive on your customer's doorstep

Many instances of confusion and frustration can be avoided by clearly stating these differences on your site and in your confirmation emails.

This messaging regarding processing times and shipping times should be in MANY different places and at many different points of contacts with your customer: On your website FAQ page, on each product page, on the ordering page, on the order confirmation page, in the order confirmation email. Making sure that your customers see and understand this information is key in managing their expectations once they place an order through your site.

In our extensive experience, we have found that MOST customers will be reasonable and understand that there is a wait time to process their order through production before shipping, as long as they know what to expect. In rare instances, this may prevent a potential customer from placing an order, for example, if they need an order for a birthday gift and the processing time puts delivery outside of that window. There's really nothing you can do about that customer except hope that they come back around and order when delivery of the order isn't time sensitive.

If you've created a brand that people want to support, and have products that people want to buy, they will be ok with waiting a little bit for it, AS LONG AS THEY KNOW UP FRONT WHAT TO EXPECT!