We recently ordered some products from Emergency Essentials. I had ordered from them via their paper catalog before but this was my first online order experience. The entire ordering process from website to delivery offered some opportunities for improvement and great business lessons.
Emergency Essentials’ website stated that everything in my order was in stock. In fact, my wife and I specifically checked which products were in stock when deciding what to purchase.
However, when we received our order one of our selections was missing with a note on the invoice stating it was on back order. When you run out of inventory, you must communicate this to your customers.
This back ordered item caught us by surprise because the only reason we ordered it was because it was “in stock.” If your website shows inventory status (which it should), it better be up-to-date.
If you know you can’t ship one of the items in a customer’s order, try to ship everything else. Although we were annoyed we didn’t get our back ordered item, we were still happy to get the rest of our order. Imagine our dismay if our entire order had been delayed because of one product. Ship what you have as soon as possible.
If an incomplete order leaves your warehouse, you need to communicate the situation to the customer. When you have an email address because of an online order, that should easily allow you to notify customers electronically that they won’t be getting everything. Remember to explain the situation and set expectations.
Shipping and Order Costs
Although Emergency Essentials didn’t send us our entire order, they were smart in how they charged our credit card. First, they didn’t charge us until our order shipped from their warehouse. Our first invoice included the bulk of our order plus shipping and handling. Second, our back ordered product arrived and we weren’t rebilled for additional shipping. When you must ship back ordered products, don’t charge the user again for shipping.
Communication and Fairness
The keys to handling back ordered products are an open communication channel with customers and fair shipping charges. Let customers know what is happening from the time of the order all the way up to when they receive their final product. Build on the trust gained through communication by avoiding any additional fees for shipping back ordered items.