At Dumpling we have business owners across all 50 states and that means The Coaching Team hears from people who are impacted by everything from floods and hurricanes to heat waves and ice storms. As we head into the winter months it is a great time to consider how extreme weather may impact your business. Developing an inclement weather policy ahead of time, and communicating that to your clients as the season nears, can be a good way to lessen any negative impacts on your business.
While the types of extreme weather can vary greatly per area, customer behavior during these events is often similar. When storms approach consumers run to the store to stock up on items that will help them weather the storm. These consumers are typically buying many of the same items and in large quantities, such as bread, bananas, and water. The closer it is to the storm the more chaotic the store becomes. This can deplete store inventory as well as cause long waits at the stores, which means our schedules get overbooked with deliveries, our deliveries take longer, or that it is harder to find the items on our clients’ lists.
It’s important to stay aware of what situations you may run into in your specific area by checking your local government websites and social media. Look into the transportation department, National Weather Service branch, City government, State government, or local news sources. Often you can even sign up for text or email alerts which may help you have advanced warning down the road. The more you know the better you are able to prepare your clients and yourself.
Prepare for Inclement Weather Before It Hits
The best thing you can do is get your clients in the habit of preparing before the season even starts. You are able to gradually build up their emergency supplies over the course of their regular orders. Things like water and toilet paper are always good to keep on hand. You may even consider offering clients an emergency supply checklist with a reminder that when those items are needed most is when they are harder to find in stores. This helps to let them know if they are out of any of those things to let you know on their next order instead of waiting until the items may be out of stock. These checklists can be adjusted based on the area you service. If wind storms are common you’ll want to focus on power outage supplies, such as batteries or food that does not require refrigeration. If icy roads are a concern keep an eye out for when things like ice melt hit the stores. If you are expecting extreme heat consider adding some coolers and ice packs to your shopping routine, as well as extra fluids and supplies for yourself. (We’ve talked about this a little bit more in depth in a previous guidebook post which you can find here.) One of our business owners had a great tip about looking into things like shelf stable milk for these kits, or adjusting these kits based on any specialty diets your customers shop for.
Communicate Extreme Weather Plans to Customers Before & During Weather Events
As extreme weather is predicted, reiterate your plans to customers. If they are at home they may be unaware of how crowded the stores are so the sooner you can have these conversations the better you can set their expectations. Let them know of any known store closures or scheduling issues, and try to get them to place any needed orders earlier than usual. Remind them that you may have trouble finding their requested items, and be sure to know any dietary restrictions or replacement preferences they have before you head to the store. Find out if customers are ok with you trying a different store if the one they picked has less inventory. Oftentimes stores take quite some time to replenish inventory due to transportation issues caused by storm damage. Are there any items your clients might need soon that you can check for now, such as extra pet food or laundry detergent? Allow extra time for your orders to accommodate finding replacements, store waits, or even extra traffic as the entire community will be out preparing. Communicate to customers if delivery windows are going to be less precise.
Always Put Your Physical Safety First
If the weather or road conditions end up becoming unsafe or you do not feel comfortable delivering, or even feel it is time to evacuate, it is ok to shut off your schedule or cancel any remaining deliveries. Prioritizing yours and your family’s safety is an important part of having your own business. It can be so easy to feel like we have to serve the community during times of need, but taking care of ourselves allows us to better do that long term. If your customers were offered an earlier order or knew this was a possibility they are often pretty understanding if this conversation has to come up. So often we are in a position to have great relationships with our customers where they will also care about your wellbeing. If for some reason they are combative when you decide to close they may be a poor fit for your business in the future.
Be a Resource for Your Clients Post Weather Events
Once storms have passed you can continue to build on customer relationships by checking in to make sure they are doing ok or seeing if there are any items they need replaced. For example in heat waves over the counter medications, such as cough drops, or cosmetic supplies can become damaged, or extended power outages may mean that your clients lost a freezer full of groceries. You can also reach out and let them know when store inventory is returning to normal or if there are any additional supply issues.
As always, if you are needing further help with how storms or weather may be affecting your business you can reach out to the Dumpling team via the Message Center in your Boss app.