Northeast shoppers experience setbacks due to snowstorm
The weather during the cold, wintry months of the year has always been a factor for merchants. Infamously, the 2013 holiday season was bogged down by a last-minute snow storm that resulted in many purchases being delivered late and a lot of disappointed children when they discovered Santa was delayed. Retailers made adequate changes in the 2014 holiday season, and deliveries were largely on time, but now a late-season snowstorm affecting the Northeast United States may provide merchants with yet another obstacle to overcome.
Internet Retailer reported that winter storm Juno, that left much of Boston, Massachusetts covered in nearly two feet of snow, has affected distribution immensely. Carrier services such as UPS canceled all pickups and drop-offs in Boston early in the week. Nearby areas, including other Massachusetts and Rhode Island cities, also saw delivery delays and limited service offerings.
“We will work to ensure the safety of our employees while minimizing effects on service,” UPS promised on its website, according to Internet Retailer. “Contingency plans are in place to ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as possible as conditions permit.”
Other carriers, such as FedEx, encountered similar issues, warning customers that it would continue to monitor the winter storm and take the appropriate actions to minimize delays of service. This left many customers anticipating packages from FedEx wondering about the status of their deliveries.
Planning for the worst
As was the case during the holiday 2013 snowstorm, there is not much retailers can do to ensure the delivery of products once orders leave their doors. However, they can take steps to promote transparency and serve their customers more effectively.
For instance, merchants may want to consider increasing the presence of their online customer service (via live site chat, social media, email and other digital channels) so customers can ask service agents about the status of their purchases. While this will not result in faster delivery by any means, at least it ensures that customers are not left in the dark about when their orders will arrive. Additionally, it shows customers that merchants care about their satisfaction.
Retailers could also take emergency steps, such as promoting in-store pickup. Deliveries may be delayed in some areas, but if retailers have physical locations outside of the affected areas, merchants could give shoppers the option of picking up items from outlets instead of waiting for service to resume. Retailers strive to give customers flexibility to shop how they want, and if shoppers do not mind braving the cold wintry weather to pick up purchases, then merchants should let them.
Making the best of bad situations
Most customers understand that bad things happen – they are likely inconvenienced by winter snow storms as it is anyway. However, communicating delays and other setbacks with customers is an area where retailers must devote some attention to – going silent is not acceptable for people expecting purchases.