Delivery problems are bound to happen now and again, and it is essential for business owners to have strategies in place to communicate with customers when there are unavoidable delays. According to McKinsey, 70% of customer experiences are based on how they feel they are being treated. Good communication can make the difference between a negative review and a loyal customer.

1. Use the Right Tone In Your Email Communications

When it is inevitable that customers will be upset or disappointed, it can be challenging to find your customer emails’ right tone.

Customers want to hear a combination of assertiveness, concern, empathy for the inconvenience caused, and a commitment to provide more information as it arises. Make it clear that the company is open to hearing feedback and keeping the lines of communication open.

2. Be Proactive and Provide Your Customer with the Available Information

When there are delays, it is essential to be proactive and communicate this fact to your customers. Apologize for the delay, state the reason plainly and be sure to follow up with more information.

The customer should feel that the company is communicating the latest information about the delay even if it is not directly responsible. On the other hand, if the company is responsible for the delay, they should address what they are doing to fix it.

3. Do Not Make False Promises

This tip can be easier said than done. When there are customers who are upset about delays, keep sending questions and complaints and make it clear they want answers, it can be tempting to give them a response, even if it is not accurate. However, false assurances about when deliveries will arrive will create more dissatisfaction than giving an open-ended answer. Be cautious when addressing complaints.

4. Offer Free Shipping

If the delay is unacceptable and if you would be upset in your customers’ shoes, consider offering free shipping. This depends on the extent of the delay, the budget, and the number of people who will be affected by late shipping. It may be possible only to offer free shipping to a few valued customers. If the budget allows for free shipping in this situation, it may be an effective way of investing in customer loyalty.

5. Apologize When Things Get out of Hand

Even if the root of the problem does not lie with the company, it is essential to know when to apologize. If the reason for the delay is stated clearly and calmly, there is no reason to be concerned that an apology will be interpreted as taking responsibility for the problem. Customers who are dissatisfied need to hear communication–a sincere apology to acknowledge that their concerns are being listened to.

6. Create a Pop-Up on Your Website

A pop-up on your website alerting customers that there is a delay and why is one way to be proactive and avoid disappointment later on. Beforehand, the knowledge that items may not arrive on time and not the company’s fault can save time and energy spent on damage control on customer service chat or calls.

7. Update Your Automated Order Confirmation Message

Like the pop-up, the order confirmation message immediately gives customers the information that their item may not arrive right on time. The advantage of putting this information in the order confirmation message rather than the pop-up is that the transaction has already been made, and the information about the delay will not deter potential customers from making purchases.

Handling Delays Well Preserves Customer Retention

Sometimes delivery delays can’t be helped. However, companies need to do everything they can to communicate the cause of delay to customers, be present to hear their complaints and offer some kind of reasonable compensation, such as free shipping if the situation is out of control. Handling customer complaints well is the hallmark of an effective customer service strategy.

Efrat Vulfsons is the Co-Founder of PR Soprano, the Chief Editor of, and a data-driven marketing enthusiast, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.

Communication stock photo by Franck Boston/Shutterstock