Royal Mail Unsplash

Nineteen days of Royal Mail strikes over the busiest shopping period of the year will undoubtedly cause widespread disruption. Especially after a brutal two years of pandemic upheaval, and now a cost of living crisis. For retailers, the shopping events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday have shone like a beacon in a storm, promising hope of shoppers clamouring for bargains. However, sombre predictions about consumer intentions are dampening those hopes.

Now, with strikes planned over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, businesses must prepare for severe delivery delays – and the impact on their brands. Part of this preparation may include seeking alternative services to combat the impact on Royal Mail. But be warned: you will not be the only one seeking other options. It will be difficult to guarantee smooth deliveries and it is somewhat inevitable customers are going to experience delays.

We know customers now expect super-fast delivery, but it’s not always realistic. What’s important is managing expectations in the right way. First-class customer service should be the priority.

The best bet for DTC food and drink brands is to be open, honest, and communicative. Ensure consumers are warned of delays before purchasing and set expectations.

For example, we are seeing many brands clearly warning of delivery delays on their front pages and confirmation emails. Here, customers’ expectations have been set so if the delivery arrives later than usual, they have a full understanding of why, and the impression of the brand remains intact.

Being upfront helps bridge the expectation gap and may help lessen an influx of customer queries that otherwise blocks communication channels. It’s likely brands will still experience an influx of enquiries over this period as consumers look for updates, so it is vital you can respond to these as quickly as possible.

It is also worth considering how you can use technology when countering a surge of customer enquiries. For example, tools including AI and automation can help route incoming enquiries quickly and effectively and ensure staff are readily prepared to relay the most up-to-date information, minimising customer frustrations. An example of this would be Intelligent Virtual Agent technology, which can automate delivery status updates, ensuring that the moment there is a change or disruption, the consumer is informed through text or messaging channels.

The worst move for retailers is to keep customers in the dark and pray issues will pass by. Demonstrate what you are doing to counter the effects of the strikes, but also be realistic about what you can deliver and when. And, most of all, make sure your surrounding customer service is impeccable. Don’t leave enquiries to linger, make sure you are doing all you can to answer calls quickly and empower your call centre staff with the best tools to do the job.

Covid showed that when external circumstances impact day-to-day life, we pull together, and most of us do so with understanding. Any brand, no matter how big or small, can leave a good impression in the minds of customers, even in the face of delivery delays.

The Royal Mail strikes will affect us all in some way. However, by and large, customers are forgiving when retailers face disruptions outside of their sphere of control. What they don’t forgive is poor communication, poor service or unmet expectations. All these factors can be controlled, even when the world around us can’t be.