If you haven’t already noticed, delays on shipping, returns, restocking, and even customer service in general have become commonplace thanks to COVID-19. People are ordering more things online than ever before, and with the holiday season quickly approaching, things will only intensify and already overwhelmed customer service departments will get even busier.
This could mean trouble if there’s an issue with the things you’ve ordered online, whether they’re holiday gifts or things you need in your everyday life. That’s why we’re recommending you start your holiday shopping now, and double-check your orders as they come in instead of waiting for Christmas Day.
If you wait until Christmas Day to open the gifts you bought for your family, you run the risk of facing issues if your gifts are damaged or missing components. You’ll be calling in at the same time everyone else is, which means waiting in hellishly long customer service queues, increased response time, and dealing with tired customer service representatives. The influx will cause backed-up time frames for processing returns, getting backordered products, and shipping replacements.
While this is usually the case every year, and something any company worth its salt plans for, things are a little different this year. For one, there’s the COVID-19 pandemic, which is keeping everyone at home and driving people to do more of their shopping online for simple things, like toothbrushes, as well as luxury purchases, like vinyl turntables or new TVs.
Delivery services across the country have seen a huge uptick in shipping needs, but few have been hit as hard as the United States Postal Service. Both staffing restrictions due to COVID-19 and operational changes have affected its overall performance. The service is the one many small businesses and boutique sellers commonly rely upon.
It Affects Everyone
Larger retailers, like Walmart and Amazon, have been seeing consistently higher rates of online shopping since March, and now with predominantly online-only Black Friday and general holiday shopping starting up, things are only going to intensify. Despite the fact that these companies have their own logistics divisions and dedicated customer service departments, many are still worried that delays will cause frustrated consumers to request refunds for their orders, which will lead to an overall decline in sales.
Individual retailers are also being affected. Many have pared down their warehouse and customer service departments in response to the pandemic, which is (of course) causing delays in things like shipping, deliveries, and general customer support. Companies like Skullcandy, LEGO, Razer, Adidas, Yeti, SteelSeries, Fossil, JBL, Logitech, Sonos, Dbrand, Anker, Ring, LIFX, Harman/Kardon, and GoPro are just a few of the companies with alerts posted on their websites, notifying customers of delays.
Small businesses, especially boutique sellers on sites like Etsy, are also feeling the pressure. Because they typically process fewer orders for smaller products (rather than the millions of big-ticket items retailers like Target process each day), the majority of them rely on the USPS to ship their orders.
Because small businesses don’t have dedicated customer service teams, they have to deal directly with angry customers wondering where their items are. Even if these small businesses put a delay notice on their page, they’ll still have to deal with delays if returns are processed and they will still suffer if customers leave them a bad review.
How to Beat the Rush
The best way to avoid all of this is to order your gifts now, and open them up as they arrive to ensure everything is included and working properly. And while you’re at it, put in batteries, turn them on, install available updates, and ensure everything is functional and ready to go for Christmas Day.
If you’re proactive now, you might have any necessary replacements you need before Christmas. If you wait, you’ll be lucky to have replacements before the new year. Much like buying a new gaming console, don’t wait until Christmas Day to turn it on because there’s going to be massive updates and customer service delays to deal with.
If You Do Need to Contact Customer Service…
In the event you do end up needing to contact customer service, be prepared. This means having your account number, order numbers, and receipts in hand. It’s also helpful to know the exact product names and to have a description of your issue ready. In turn, this will save both you and the customer service reps you talk to time and sanity.
It’s also a good idea to bring some compassion to the table as you contact companies. Those who work in customer support centers, especially during the holidays, have endless queues of customers waiting to talk, and it gets overwhelming. Even if you’re frustrated, some patience and niceties will go a long way. They work long shifts and deal with angry customer after angry customer and they’ll be more willing to help you out and possibly even expedite your return process if you are just nice to them. This applies even more to small businesses. This way it’s a win-win for everyone.