Never being late … that’s not realistic. It’s going to happen. It’s not a question of if. It’s when.
But you might say, “It’s not my fault!” And maybe it’s not. For example, you may be driving to a lunch meeting, and a car accident shuts down the highway making you. And it’s not just about arriving late to a commitment. It could be a delay in shipping a product. Maybe a customer orders something three days before Christmas. You ship it out that day, but the backup at the post office causes a delay. Or perhaps there is a supply issue, and you can’t get the parts to manufacture your products.
None of these scenarios are your fault, but the customer doesn’t always see it that way. All the customer knows is that you were late. I would agree that there is nothing you can do about being late in some cases, but there are steps you can take to keep your customer happy – at least somewhat happy. It’s pretty simple. Be proactive and reach out to the customer before they notice the problem. And when you do inform, consider this as you compose your message:
- You must state the facts. You are going to be late.
- Apologize and acknowledge the inconvenience.
- Practice transparency with a clear explanation.
- Make a promise of a new date/time. It could be 15 minutes late for a meeting or 15 days (or more) late for a shipment. Be realistic. You don’t want to have to do this again.
- Keep the customer updated with ongoing messages as needed.
Customers want and expect you to be proactive with your communication, especially if something is wrong. Our customer service research found that 81% of them (over 1,000) customers we surveyed expect companies to reach out to them as soon as possible if there is a problem with their order or service.
So, call the customer when you hit the traffic versus two minutes before you are supposed to be at lunch. Track the shipments on behalf of your customers and let them know when their package is supposed to arrive. And if there are supply issues, you typically learn in advance, so let your customers know, too.
Never being late is not realistic. “Stuff” happens. It’s how you handle it that’s important. It’s simple. Just tell them. Never being late is the goal, and always keeping the customer informed is required.
Related: The Light Switch Mentality