How to Contend with Customer Complaints Over Delivery Delays

By Alan Wolf, YSN

One issue repeatedly mentioned by members during last week’s round of region call-ins is the growing impatience of customers on backorder.

Through no fault of dealers, many consumers are waiting weeks after putting money down on that new fridge or laundry pair, and are taking out their frustrations on store owners and staff. As one exasperated member said, “I spend half the day chasing product and the other half getting chewed out by customers.”

Besides allowing BrandSource members to share their frustrations with fellow dealers, the call-ins also serve as a best-practices forum where merchants and AVB staff offer solutions. One such member suggestion for quelling customer complaints is total transparency: let them see your ordering system and also explain the causes of the delays, which is something box-store sales associates aren’t prone to do. Cite such major bottlenecks as parts and component shortages; a lack of container ships; factory slowdowns due to COVID remediation; and longer freight times as truck drivers detour to available hotels and restaurants.

“Customer are understanding,” he said, if they know why their new kitchen suite is still incomplete.

To that point, AVB CEO Jim Ristow said members should emphasize that despite delivery delays, BrandSource dealers are receiving inventory significantly sooner than box stores, and remain the consumer’s best bet for product availability, service and safety measures.

Another member said he offers customers a refund on orders that are exceedingly late. “It works out well, most don’t take it,” he shared, as giving consumers the option provides a sense of control over a situation that no one has a handle on.

Taking it to the next level, BrandSource furniture chain Miskelly Furniture sent out 400 gift boxes to customers last week as a way of apologizing for delayed deliveries and thanking them for their patience. “We thought about gift cards, but then said, ‘Let’s do something a little bit more personal, maybe a little more thoughtful,’” CEO Oscar Miskelly told Home News Now, a home furnishings news site. The boxes contained three gifts sourced from local businesses: a package of cheese straws, a bath bomb and an aromatic candle, along with a handwritten note from the customer’s salesperson and a letter of explanation from Miskelly himself.

But perhaps the best approach is a pre-emptive one. As AVB’s merchandising team and members themselves advised, work with your sales reps to locate merchandise and place large orders now for next year, even for Memorial Day, which will put you at the top of the list.

Added one member, “If you have it in, you win.”

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.