Dropshipping is an easy business model to manage from home, but it is not without its challenges. Though you do not need to hold inventory or handle shipping, you are the person your customers will complain to if something goes wrong, not your manufacturers—regardless of whose fault it is. You sold a product under your brand name, which means that if there are problems with delays, damaged goods, or something else, you need to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
How are you supposed to solve such issues, though? You might want to sell from home for fun while your suppliers are in another country, which makes you seem so far removed from the problem you have no idea where to begin. You can do more than you realize, though, so here are a few tips for handling dropshipping caveats with grace.
One of the most important things you can do is be accessible. How will people contact you if there is something wrong with their orders? You can make yourself available via phone, email, and even social media (many customers are beginning to prefer online “office hours” over other methods of communication; so make sure that people can reach you via direct messaging on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and possibly Instagram).
Remember to account for time zone differences. If you ship internationally, you might need to handle problems late at night because your customers are opening their packages during mid-afternoon when the mail arrives. Post what your availability looks like on your website: maybe you are reachable by phone during specific hours of the day and social media all the time (except when you’re sleeping). Any ecommerce website that does not share contact information is worthy of suspicion, so make sure your customers don’t have to work hard to reach you.
Remember to be understanding when people contact you about problems. You might be tempted to be curt because it’s late at night and you have nothing to do with the problem, but it’s still your responsibility to handle it, and your audience deserves the best customer service. Respond to messages quickly and address people calmly.
Offering top-notch customer service is essential because your brand’s reputation is on the line. Dropshippers are particularly dependent on marketing, so it could hurt your sales if people share negative reviews regarding their experiences with you. People appreciate when their products arrive punctually and in-tact, so while guaranteeing this is not always under your control, you can still make sure people get what they pay for.
Be as proactive as possible to prevent issues before they arise. Some frequent dropshipping problems include shipping products to the wrong customer (or wrong items sent to the right one), incorrect quantities, or improper billing. Review each invoice carefully: suppliers typically send them before orders leave their warehouse, so pick up the phone immediately if you notice any errors. Double-check tracking codes before you pass them over to your customers as well.
Despite not holding inventory in your own home or warehouse, it never hurts to keep tabs on your manufacturers’ supply. Suppliers running out of stock is something that happens, but you do not want to be unprepared for it. Zack Rutherford from Salehoo suggests: “Ask your suppliers to provide you with a daily inventory report. If they’re overseas, then make sure you get reports for the end of their workday, because this reflects inventory for the start of the next workday. It’s important to know what you’re dealing with before orders come in.”
He also recommends asking your suppliers for access to their inventories in real time. When you can monitor how much of each product they have, you can adjust your own offerings more efficiently and prevent customers from ordering something that doesn’t exist or something they will not receive for a long, long time.
Know your suppliers’ policies
Know your suppliers’ return and refund policies inside and out. What are their processes when someone is unsatisfied with their order? Do they replace products if they arrive damaged? Your manufacturers’ policies will reflect your own; you’ll run into all kinds of issues if the differ too greatly. When unhappy or concerned customers contact you, you want to know exactly what you need to do to rectify the situation.
Of course, as a good business practice, never become too dependent on one supplier. It’s possible that multiple manufacturers will offer the same product. It’s also practical not just for product variety, but if you were only to sell from one supplier and something went wrong on their end that delayed production, your business is also subject to anything that happens. Having multiple suppliers—and alternative backups just in case—decreases the likelihood of customers ever facing the problems you see on your end.
Dropshipping is a simple business model, but you need to be prepared to resolve issues gracefully when they arise. How do you handle dropshipping problems calmly and efficiently?