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Adrian Archie

4 Strategies for Turning Out-of-Stocks at Your Pet Store Into Customer Satisfaction

Outages continue to plague the pet business. Get ahead of them with clear communication and a plan.

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OUT-OF-STOCK PRODUCTS tank customer loyalty and lead to lost revenue. In a 2020 Retail Info Systems study, 71 percent of retailers reported that out-of-stocks are their biggest obstacle. And IHL Group found that retailers miss out on $1 trillion in sales because they can’t get the products they need in a timely manner.

This continues to pose a threat to smaller speciality pet stores because we may be the only local vendor of certain products. A lack of availability will drive customers to order online and shop local less.

Traditionally, retailer error has caused out-of-stock issues, but that has changed in the COVID-19 economy. It now occurs at the manufacturer and distributor level. Even so, customers assume that the pet stores are at fault.

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To maintain positive customer relationships amidst the uncontrollable, we must be proactive. My team focuses on these strategies to find notable success and customer satisfaction. You can too:

Be transparent, targeted and timely. Remember that an informed customer is always happier than a surprised customer. If out-of-stock items only affect a few customers, communicate only to them. If the outage affects many, communicate to your entire customer base at once. This allows all involved to make alternate arrangements before it occurs, versus panicking in the moment. Keep communication concise and deliver it on a predictable schedule. When customers feel involved, they are more likely to weather the storm with you.

Offer alternates. I suggest stocking one or two alternate brands that have no inventory issues, to be recommended as a substitute. Having a well-thought-out recommendation at the same quality level of the product customers normally buy builds trust because you alleviated the problem before they even knew it was one, and it helps your staff be more effective and efficient in their communications.

Keep CRM current. Even with the rise of online ordering during the pandemic, contact information quickly can become outdated. When customers need to be made aware of outages, a retailer must be able to alert them ASAP.

Incentivize your staff and customers to update data so communications are clear, timely and calming.

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Work with brands and distributors. If out-of-stocks represent a large percentage of your revenue, enlist the help of reps. Ask for rebate coupons or free products to help move customers to substitutes without too much angst. Request bulk purchases at a discount when products become available so you have adequate stock if problems arise again. And ask for a guarantee that you can return substitutes when original items restock.

Customer loyalty is hard earned and even harder to regain. Be proactive and communicate well to keep customers happy and satisfied, even when their expected products are out of stock.

Adrian Archie grew up loving animals and wanting to be a veterinarian. Before opening petNmind Naturals in 2014, he worked in medical device sales and branding, and played professional football in the NFL and CFL. Visit petnmind.com.

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