Best Customer Service Practices for Out-of-Stock Products
Once your business gains popularity, it’s not uncommon for items to quickly sell out when you launch a great product. When you’re not expecting to sell out quickly, however, or the products you normally sell are simply unavailable due to supply chain issues, you can run into the dreaded scenario of accidentally allowing customers to continue purchasing an out-of-stock item.
In 2022, more than half of global e-shoppers reported being unable to purchase products due to products being out-of-stock, and according to that same survey, almost 60 percent of online shoppers from the United States felt that out-of-stock issues impacted their shopping behavior. However, the ultimate solution to this common problem lies simply within how your business chooses to handle the situation.
And trust us, it does matter for both your business and your customers, because not only is it frustrating for the customer to be notified that the product they bought is no longer available, it is also draining on your customer service team and other resources to handle these issues.
To keep customer satisfaction high and customer loyalty strong, we’re exploring our best practices (and our favorite out-of-stock email templates) for managing out-of-stock product issues.
What is an out-of-stock email?
When an out-of-stock issue arises in a business, an out-of-stock email is usually sent to the customer by the company to alert them that the product they were either looking for on their website or already purchased is currently unavailable.
Mistakes happen, sure, but effective, timely emails are the key to letting your customers know about the issue to maintain their loyalty and satisfaction.
Here are our top tips you should use within your out-of-stock emails to support your customers:
1. Let your customers know as soon as possible
As soon as you’re aware that a purchase for an out-of-stock item has been made, you should be alerting your customer via email to let them know. Delaying the inevitable will not only frustrate the customer even further, but it may result in losing their business entirely because they weren’t looped in quickly enough to either request a full refund or select an alternative item as a replacement.
Be sure in this initial email to make the distinction between an out-of-stock item that is completely unavailable for the foreseeable future versus a back-ordered item that will be available soon.
2. Apologize for the inconvenience
Learning that an item you wanted (and possibly already purchased) is no longer available is a huge disappointment. Acknowledging that disappointment and validating the customer’s feelings will show them you’re taking responsibility for the mistake and are prepared to do your best to make it right.
Try something like this: “Due to an unexpectedly high number of orders, we no longer have this product in stock. We know how disappointing this news is, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience it has caused.”
Pro tip: keep the apology succinct, and focus on moving forward by offering a refund, store credit, or links to similar products that are still available for purchase.
3. Anticipate FAQs by including vital information about the order
If you’re sending an out-of-stock email to a customer who’s already made the purchase, one of their first questions will likely be, “how and when will I get my money back?”
Therefore, be sure to include details about the purchase such as when they can expect their refund, how they can contact your customer service team for support, and any next steps they should take.
Keeping the details known will make your customers feel heard and valued by your team by letting them know you’re here to help however you can.
4. Incentivize customers to shop with your brand again
It’s a given that customers will be hungry for their refund after learning they purchased an out-of-stock item, but sometimes a refund isn’t enough to dissuade them from buying from another brand.
Offering an incentive like free shipping or a discount code to use with their next order will not only ease the disappointment, but it will also enhance customer satisfaction by showing your customers that you value their loyalty to your brand.
5. Include updates on the product pages
To prevent out-of-stock purchases from happening, there are measures you can implement on the product pages themselves to alert customers that the item they’re looking at is unavailable (or may be unavailable soon).
If you are using Shopify, there are a number of apps that allow you to proactively manage dwindling or out-of-stock inventory with countdown bars, clock features, or out-of-stock email subscription forms. For apps that provide inventory updates via email, try one of these Shopify apps:
- Back In Stock – sends back-in-stock notifications to customers, sets up email notifications for pre-order and coming soon campaigns, and sends automated alerts and email reports about low-stock and out-of-stock products to save your team time.
- Notify Me! Back In Stock Alert – allows customers to sign up for email updates on out-of-stock products and maintains a thorough list of all subscribers (including their subscription status and which products they’ve subscribed to updates for).
- Notify Me – automatically sends your team updates via email when products fall below the inventory warning or are out of stock.
To incorporate (and automatically update) inventory status on individual product pages, check out of these Shopify apps:
- Stock Countdown Timer – shows customers the amount of time left on a special sale or campaign to boost urgency.
- Scarcity Low-Stock Counter – displays the remaining stock level for a product to create a sense of scarcity.
By staying on top of low inventory and implementing messaging like, “Don’t wait, only a few left!” or “Currently sold out – sign up here to be the first to know when this item is available,” your team will not only combat overselling but also create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to make their purchase before it’s too late.
Check out the examples below of an on-page product notification and a stock alert subscription forms:
6. Reach back out with a “back-in-stock” email alert
When the item that a customer tried to purchase before is back on your shelves, share the good news by letting them know via a back-in-stock email.
You’ll want to include all the information they need to decide whether they want to make the purchase again, such as the product name, price, and which colors/sizes it’s available in (if applicable).
Messaging like “we had to let you know first that this must-have item is back in stock” makes the customer feel exclusive and valued by your brand, and lets them know that you haven’t forgotten about them.
Steal our favorite out-of-stock email template for your brand!
Hello, [Customer’s First Name]!
Thank you for choosing [our brand] and placing an order with us! We wanted to let know that the item name you purchased is currently out of stock. We have received a high volume of orders and while we strive to maintain a good supply of products, sometimes we make an error. We take full responsibility for this and truly apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.
We expect the item to be back in stock in [insert # of days or expected date]. As soon as this order is back in stock, we will automatically process your order and have it shipped using the shipping method you placed with your order.
However, if you’re not able to wait that long, we’ve included a few similar products below that you might enjoy.
[Insert Items Here]
Additionally, if you selected “expedited shipping” with your order and would like to change your shipping method, please let us know within 24 hours and we will go ahead and downgrade your shipping method on file.
To make things right, we’d love to offer you X% off your next purchase using code “insert code” at checkout as a small token of our appreciation for your patience.
Please accept our sincere apology for this inconvenience again. If you have any questions about this order, please email us back and we will our best to take care of you ASAP.
Outsource customer service to TalentPop to optimize your out-of-stock processes today
It’s not abnormal for your brand to experience out-of-stock products occasionally, but the key to not losing customers over it is all in how you handle it.
By taking responsibility for the mistake, sending detailed email updates to your customers, and implementing processes to prevent these issues from happening in the future, your business will get through this tough situation without sacrificing customer satisfaction.
If you’re expecting supply chain issues this year in your industry, now is the time to set up processes and expand your tech stack to help mitigate out-of-stock purchases from being made.
To let an expert in the e-commerce space handle these vital tasks for you and optimize your customer service helpdesk and processes, book a call with our team today to begin outsourcing customer service to TalentPop’s trusted team.