The Breakdown With John W. Golden – Product Lead Times
Hey John, One of my biggest issues is communicating lead times for my products. I’ve ordered from you before and you have a pretty good explanation of how long your items will take before you ship. But I’m also use to Etsy and ok with waiting for handmade items. I’ve tried to make that explanation as clear as possible when a customer orders something that clearly states it has a lead time, but I still have customers who don’t realize my handmade process really takes that ENTIRE time stated. Do you charge rush fees if a customer wants something sooner? How do you answer the ‘when will my order ship’ question when your customer seems agitated they will have to wait?
It took me a while to get that turnaround statement refined to what it is now and plenty have people have had difficulty comprehending it and some still do.
Quick answers to your questions:
I do not charge a rush fee, not necessarily because I don’t want to, but only because the levels of requests has not risen to a level that I need to. If I did charge, it would be as more of a deterrent.
I try to give the customer my best honest guess as to when I will get their order out, and then I try to stay on top of that order. More often than not, I cannot accurately estimate how long it will take to get to an order, so I just have to give myself enough time to force that order out when I said it would go. I am still a work in progress when it comes to this.
I think the buying public is used to getting purchases quickly, and that does work against sellers that have long production or turnaround times. Fortunately, most of my customers have been understanding.
I don’t know the foolproof answer to getting my turnaround times to be seen and read, but I try to get them read by putting it in the product listing, my shop description and policies and up front in the message from seller in the Etsy e-mail to the buyer. I also conclude a bit of verbiage about how busier times can affect turnaround.
An extended bit about turnaround and making customers wait follows:)
Ideally, we could just say 10 calendar days and folks would be willing to wait that long. I started out on Etsy shipping within 2-3 business days, so that phrasing of “business days” always stayed in the estimate. One day, you are having lots of daily sales and shipping in 10-14 business days and you realize: That can be 21 calendar days!
I realized most of my time management problems and unhappy customers were coming from my long turnaround, so I worked for months to get it shorter. That has almost eliminated the need to ask folks for an inordinate amount of patience (in today’s overnight express world).
Since there are so many aspects of our production process that we cannot shorten, I focused on what parts I could speed up. Now, I chose to do this as I was also adding my art blocks to my Etsy line, which added production time. So, for a while my efforts were not all that effective and it took longer for me to get the turnaround down than it should have. The upside to that was I got plenty of opportunity to deal with folks that were having to wait too long.
I make sure that no matter how long someone has waited, they know how sorry I am to make them wait and how much I appreciate their patience. i also let them know what I am doing to correct that problem and to prevent it from happening again. Then I just try to get back to work as soon as possible.
If you can’t shorten your turnaround time, or can’t immediately think of ways to do so, don’t sweat it too much. If you concentrate on the aspects of your business that you can control, stuff like that tends to work itself out over time.
Read up on the Break Down Series.
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