Did you ever sell a product that is out of stock?
Maybe your supplier suddenly says, oops, we just got a huge order yesterday and so now we don’t have that to ship. Maybe you just didn’t get around to checking your supplier’s stock report which says that they are running low on that item.
At some point, almost every drop shipper is going to sell a product that is out of stock.
It can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially the first time around. However, it’s absolutely not the end of the world – or your business, which could feel like the same thing. There are ways that you can skillfully handle the situation. You can do careful damage control, and maybe even get out of that tight spot without a scratch.
What Happens When I Sell a Product That Is Out Of Stock?
When you sell a product that is out of stock with your supplier, the item is obviously not going to get shipped out when you expected. The immediate concern here is that your customer is expecting the item to arrive on the date that you indicated. That’s not going to happen.
You basically have two choices when you sell a product that is out of stock.
You can wait for stock to become available at your supplier. In this case, you will want to make sure that your customer is taken care of. Make sure that you get with your supplier and find out when they will have stock and be able to ship. This information is crucial. You need to be able to immediately inform your customer that there will be a delay in shipping, and when they can expect to receive the item.
Never ignore the issue and wait to see if the customer will complain. They normally will, and by this time, they will be upset. That’s never good. You might be thinking that they might cancel the order if you tell them about a delay. They probably have already conceded to accept slower delivery times (since you’re drop shipping), and won’t be willing to wait even longer. If they cancel, let it go. You could end up losing a lot more than the order is worth if you get into a grueling customer service battle.
(2) Look Elsewhere
You may not be willing to have your customer wait when you sell a product that is out of stock. In this case, you can look for the same item from another supplier. You probably already have a few in mind from back when you were doing research. Contact them immediately. If that research is old, while you’re waiting for replies, go check for any changes and any new suppliers that you didn’t see before.
You won’t have a lot of time to play around, but try to get the best alternate supplier in the fastest possible time. Focus on the ones that can get the item to your customer within the promised delivery time frame. Then choose based on their quote. You may not be able to check the item’s quality, but don’t worry about that just yet. If the customer ends up complaining, you can deal with that later. The important this is that you get ahead of a potentially draining customer service situation.
Note here that it’s always a best practice to have a backup supplier anyway. When you have backups and you sell a product that is out of stock, it will be a much smoother process to get that fixed lickety-split. No worry on your end, and an almost guaranteed on-time delivery for your valued customer.
Sometimes, even going with another supplier would take too long. Sometimes, it is just not an option for whatever reason. But you want to preserve your reputation. Another way to solve the problem is to get the item from wherever you can find it – even retail – and ship it to your customer yourself. This is not a great option since you will be at the losing end, but it may be your only choice if you really can’t afford to give your customer bad news.
This is really not the best option when you sell a product that is out of stock. But you may have to resort to this if your last-ditch effort has failed. If waiting isn’t an option and you can’t find the product anywhere else, or it just won’t ship in a reasonable amount of time, you might have to offer your customer the dreaded refund. No one wants to let go of a sale, but keeping one customer happy is more important than one sale. This customer could bring you more sales and more customers, but only if they are happy. Besides, it might even be more cost-effective for you when you consider all the other trouble that you’ll go through apart from the customer issue.
When you sell a product that is out of stock, it’s really up to you how you want to deal with it. You know best what solution will work best for your business.
Just remember that with any kind of delay in order fulfillment, you always want to make sure your customer remains satisfied. The key to this is making sure that you have well-defined customer service policies. Communicate politely and in a timely manner. Always offer sincere apologies and accurate information. In addition, as a drop shipper, always make sure that your policies are aligned with your suppliers’ policies. Know how they operate so you don’t end up in another tight spot!
One best practice when you sell a product that is out of stock is to soften the blow by offering them a token. A free gift or a discount are good, standard options. Make sure, however, that you give this to them with no strings attached. The last thing you want to do is annoy them by dangling a catch in front of their already bruised noses.
And remember, almost every drop shipper at one point or another is going to sell a product that is out of stock. It doesn’t have to be a big deal if you are prepared for that eventuality. Keep calm and carry on!