Imagine being a customer and after browsing several sites, stores and online markets, you’ve officially chosen the seller you’re going to purchase from. You’re so excited to finally order your new product and after hitting “Submit” on your payment, you receive an email hours later saying the product is no longer available. You’re angry, frustrated and tired. You leave a terrible review on every possible site, leaving that store to deal with the wrath of your inner shopping demons. Soon all your friends make a blood pact to never shop from that store again. Ever.
Sending shivers down your spine yet? Good. Blood pacts are not to be messed with, guys.
Stockout is one of the least favorable positions to be in, both as a customer and a seller. When you are out of desired inventory, you can start counting the lost sales in your head as your potential customer moves on to another business. You do what you can to stock particular products accordingly, however without proper forecasting abilities, it’s difficult to predict these things. Unless you’re a wizard, in which case you could also just populate new inventory magically, so I’ll assume - you are in fact not a wizard.
For the rest of us non-wizardry humans, here are a few ways to avoid stockout as well as some tips regarding proper customer service:
1. Implement an inventory management software:
As easy as it is to promote our own inventory software, Stitch may not be right for every single seller right now. However, we are still very passionate about the impact software like ours provides businesses. We love to talking to customers to better understand how inventory management affects their businesses, and the impact is amazing.
Make sure you do the research and trial various options. Choose a solution that allows you to properly manage inventory and orders across multiple platforms, online and offline. The value provided by this type of reporting is vital to your business. You’ll be able to properly send out POs for certain products, allowing you to get the inventory you need quickly. You can also see what top sellers you have, empowering you to anticipate stockout before it happens. You need a solution that automates inventory control settings among your channels to eliminate the option of someone purchasing an item you no longer have.
2. Emphasize the importance of proper inventory management to your whole team:
Sometimes it's difficult to see the big picture when your role is very focused, such as a sales rep or warehouse employee. It's your responsibility as a business owner to communicate that inventory management is CRUCIAL to the success of your company. Figure out creative and consistent ways you can share this to your team. If you are using an inventory management solution, review results and statuses with the entire group. Make these things a priority, showing the chain reaction of poor inventory management. The more educated your team is, the more confident and aware they will be about at-risk products. Encourage them to provide feedback. You may discover things you were too busy to see.
3. Be quick to respond to unhappy customers:
Not every issue can be avoided. If you run into a customer service problem regarding a stockout, be very quick to respond. Apologize, be clear about what happened, and offer reasonable solutions. Don’t take up more of their time with lengthy excuses. Be transparent and understanding. Most times, problems like this can be mitigated with clear explanations as to why something happened. Do whatever you can to avoid a negative online review. Take these moments very seriously.
Whatever solution you decide to implement, always keep your team informed. You can implement several systems in your business, but if your team isn’t communicating well with each other or with your customers, that is where you will eventually fall apart.
What things are you doing to keep inventory on track? Have any suggestions on keeping the team communication intact? Be sure to share your feedback below!