Whether you’ve had a social media post go viral or you’ve found 15 minutes of fame on Dragons’ Den, overnight success is the scenario every new business owner dreams of. But amidst the euphoria of a massive influx of business, there are some major logistical considerations that you’ll need to cope with. Let’s look at some of the things you’ll need to think about if your product or service experiences unprecedented interest.
As a start-up or small business, you’ll probably lack the capacity to keep up with demand if your product or service becomes an overnight sensation. Whether it’s a few massive orders or lots of smaller ones, you’ll find yourself having to work out how you’re going to fulfil these orders when you’re used to only having to cope with a small trickle of them.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on the numbers, ensuring you know exactly how much working capital you’ll need and where it’s going to come from – especially if you’re not receiving payments upfront. Liaise closely with your manufacturer on quantities and timescales; you may be able to negotiate a better unit price if you’re ordering on a bigger scale than you have previously. If you offer a service rather than a product, you’ll need to work out how many extra staff you need to employ (or how many contractors you need to bring in) to meet the demand.
Whatever kind of company you run, you may need to implement a waiting list (which, depending on what you’re selling, may even help grow your success even more by creating an impression of exclusivity), and giving your customers a realistic timeframe of when they can expect their order will help to manage their expectations.
Keep on top of customer service
If the phone is ringing off the hook and your inbox is full, sudden business success can feel more like spiralling out of control – particularly if, as is likely, you’re trying to handle everything by yourself or with only a small team.
In such situations you can quickly find yourself with customer service problems on your hands, as customers may grow frustrated at not being able to get through to you, or not having their enquiries answered or orders processed quickly enough. Annoyed customers can turn into a bigger problem once they start airing their frustrations on social media, or through further communications directly to you (and should you need it, here’s how to respond to a bad review).
In the short term, taking on extra customer service staff can help you get on top of the situation; as you don’t know how long this busy spell will last, it’s best to take on temporary staff or freelancers rather than full-time employees for the time being (keep their details on file – you never know when you might need them again!). You’ll probably need to work longer hours for a time, and maybe even pay any existing staff overtime as well.
It’s also worth setting up an autoresponder to send automatic replies to emails explaining the situation, and the same for your voicemail. Being honest about it – saying something along the lines of, ‘we’re experiencing unprecedented demand, so we may take a little longer than usual to respond’, for example – is a great way to manage customers’ expectations in a friendly way.
Another thing to think about is customers’ online experience. You’ve probably started on a basic web hosting package, but this may not be enough to keep your site up and running with lots of people visiting it. With a big increase in website traffic, you may also need to contact your web hosting company to increase your bandwidth so that your website continues to offer a seamless user experience.
Stay sensible about finance
Of course, sudden business success also means that your bank balance is going to look a lot healthier. While the temptation can be to rush out and start spending, it’s not wise to do so. Your overheads will go up with this influx of new business, as you’ll be needing extra cash to fulfil all these orders, take on staff and so on. What’s more, you don’t know how long this success will last, so for the time being it’s better to put the money to one side – perhaps into a high-interest bank account – and take the time to decide how best to invest in further, more sustainable growth. That way, next time things start getting busy, you’ll be better prepared to handle the orders as they come flooding in.