Saturday, June 6, 2015

Handling Shipment Delays

What to do when your Avon shipment is delayed.

After the recent holiday I noticed a lot of representatives who were stressed out about the delay in the delivery of their order.  While other representatives took the opportunity to spend their regular delivery day relaxing or spending time on other activities to build their business.  This month we are going to focus on how you can be part of the second group the next time your order does not arrive on your regular day.

The main reason that representatives are stressed out by a delay was because of customers that were expecting their orders to be delivered that day, some of which were upset by the delay. As much as we want to get the customer's orders into their hands as soon as possible, good customer service is about under promising and over delivering and promising the order on the same day we expect the order or even the next day can turn into a bad customer service experience, and a very stressful day for us when our shipment is delayed. Since when our order arrives is ultimately out of our control, give yourself a little breathing room by changing when you promise your customers their orders. 

Here's the thing...our customers don't need to know when our shipment is going to arrive at our home, and there is nothing that says that we must deliver the orders as soon as they arrive.  One of the benefits of having an Avon business is flexibility so build a little flexibility in your schedule.  It will save you some stress when things don't go as planned and you'll still be able to offer your customers awesome service. 

When Avon knows that there will be a delay, usually because of a holiday, they will include a note on our invoices starting a couple of campaigns ahead of the effected campaign. Knowing ahead of time about a delay does give you the opportunity to let customers know when they place their orders that the order will be delayed.  But a holiday is just one of the many possible reasons your order might not arrive on the same day or at the same time it normally does.  While the vast majority of our deliveries arrive about the same time every campaign, there are a lot of things that can cause a delay in the delivery. Just a few of the reasons I've experienced in the years I've been a rep include a delivery driver being out sick, the truck coming from the branch being in a wreck and a computer glitch that caused my order not to process at all. There are also things that come up in our personal lives, some planned, some not, that could prevent us from sorting and bagging our orders right away when they arrive.

I recommend at least a one day cushion to help manage these delays with the least amount of stress and interruption to your customer service. I'll use my schedule as an example.  I normally get my orders on Friday and I plan to sort and bag my orders that day. I make my first delivery for the campaign bright and early Monday morning. Now I don't normally work weekends so that's a little bigger cushion than is absolutely necessary, but when my orders used to come in on Tuesday I started deliveries on Thursday.  If there is a holiday or my order gets held up for any other reason, I usually get it on Saturday, and I still start my deliveries Monday morning. If I have something important that I have to do on Friday, or just want to take the day off to spend with my kids, I still start my deliveries on Monday.  The cushion allows me to work my business with less stress and more flexibility. 

The key to this is managing customer expectations and that starts when they place their order and you tell them when to expect their order.  I have customers spread out over a large area, and I deliver in different neighborhoods on different days so most of my customers get their orders on the same day each campaign. When they place their order I just tell them I'll be by on that day, no mention of when I will actually have the order.  For those customers that we don't schedule their delivery until after the order has arrived I just tell them I'll have the order in around Monday. If I have every thing ready to go before Monday, I can call them and say "good news the order came in early, can I bring that by for you today?" 

If I experience a delay longer than a day and I won't be able to start delivering on my normal day I just call my customers, explain there is an unexpected delay, apologize for the inconvenience  and give them an estimated delivery. I keep the call positive and most people understand these sorts of things happen. For example, I'll say "there was a small issue at the branch and my order is going to be delayed. I should have that in by Tuesday at the latest but I'll call you as soon as it's ready." Customers usually take their cue from us on how to react, and the important thing is that we call them, rather than leave them hanging and wait for them to call us.  

And there are a few things you can do to minimize the impact of delivery delays such as:
1. be sure to read your invoice each campaign and take note of any upcoming schedule changes.
2. track your order a few hours after you submit it so you will know if there are any issues with the processing of your order
3. track your order starting the day it should ship to make sure it's on schedule to arrive on the normal day. 

Of course some of you will have situations that won't allow you much of a cushion but you can still minimize the impact of delays. Say for example your weekly women's group meets the day after your order arrives so your order arriving a day later means you will have to deliver a whole week late.  When a customer places their order you can say "I normally get my shipment the day before our meeting so I should have that for you when me meet on the 15th. If it doesn't arrive on the normal time I can bring it when we meet on the 22nd." If possible you can also offer to meet somewhere else rather than waiting for the next meeting.  

Ultimately, no matter how you set up your schedule what really makes a difference is how you present it to your customers and keeping in touch with them when things don't go as planned. Have a beautiful week and I'll talk to you again soon. 

Chris Arnold
Avon Gold Leader
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