The manufacturers of the industrial era had at least one thing in common: they found that mass production could cut both product costs and production times by substantial amounts when work was compartmentalized and the flow of assembly was orchestrated to bring all the parts together at the proper time (on the assembly line) and sequence.
The expectation remains today that products can be made and delivered to the customer in record time.
You order a digital camera over the Internet today on your lunch hour, even from a dealer thousands of miles away, and you should be able to have it delivered to your front door by noon tomorrow, if all goes well, and of course, if you are willing to pay extra for overnight delivery.
Of course delays often find their way into the purchase process: the store has your item backordered, or the manufacturer is behind schedule in getting the promised inventory to the retailer, or the shipping company sent your package to the wrong distribution center.
It could be anything.
The expectation of speed in the purchase process is real. Businesses today are often judged on their ability to deliver the goods ordered in record time without any glitches.
These customer expectations can become very demanding upon your business and they can take on an air of fantasy unless you communicate to the customer that his expectations need to be reigned in.
Here’s the problem: many solo business owners are engaged in custom work.
They don’t have a business model that includes an assembly line or a mass-produced product.
Instead, every project is totally unique and designed around the specific wants or desires of the client. Certainly this isn’t always the case; some products like ebooks require the work be done one time and the product is then available to be sold as often as ordered. But whenever custom work is accomplished for the client (purchaser), mass-produced products won’t do.
The business owner may be a craftsman, or a writer, or an artist or a programmer and not part of a team of finely tuned elements that work together to provide a seamless blending of many interrelated parts.
If this sounds like the way you do business, you would be well advised to let your customers know, up front, that they won’t be receiving your goods or services in tomorrow’s mail.
You see, some have come to expect that the Internet can give them whatever they want, maybe not right this minute, but and in record time.
If your company specializes in custom jobs, you need to let the customer know that you won’t rush his order, but that you will keep him informed about its progress and eventual completion time.
Don’t let the client assume that his purchase will be delivered at the usual Internet speed or he will be sorely disappointed.
In order to keep up the custom appearance in your business, develop a custom order and response methodology.
When you give a customer an estimate for the project, include your estimate of the time it will take to complete and ship (or download) the product as well.
Let the client know that you will be giving your full attention to his project, but because of it’s creative or customer nature and individual requirements, you will be spending time in conceptualizing the project and thinking about how best to meet the customer’s preferences.
You will need some extra time to test and experiment, to make sure everything fits together and the finished version functions as it should.
If you are up-front with the client, and communicate with him the reasons for extra time needed to complete his custom project, his expectations will fall in line with your time frames and you won’t be expected to produce at Internet speed.
If you say nothing, there is a good chance the client will think you’re slow and he’ll consider your business below “standard” for this day and age.
My own experience is that the vast majority of clients are reasonable and patient if you are up front with them and set realistic expectations of project completion at the time of sealing the deal – of getting the “go ahead” to begin work. And if you can finish the work and deliver the final product even before you promised, you will be seen as someone that can be relied upon for future projects.
To your online business success!