How to Give Good Customer Service

How to Give Good Customer Service

If you haven’t already, please read last Monday’s post here.

As a small business owner, you have a great opportunity to connect with your customer. This is especially true for creative business on places like Etsy. You have a direct line to your customer which is impossible for big companies (both online and brick and mortar) to maintain. So how do you give good customer service? Read on!

1) Think about the times when you got really bad customer service as a customer. What about those experiences made it bad? Was it the way you were talked at (instead of to)? Was the problem never resolved? Was there a long delay in response time? Make a list of all the things that contributed to the bad experiences.

2) Think about the times when you got really good customer service as a customer. What about those experiences made it good? Did the representative listen and apologize? Did they offer you resolution options? Did they make you laugh even though it was a frustrating situation? Make a list of all the things that contributed to the good experiences.

3) What makes your brand special? What about your products is special? What colors do you use to create a cohesive brand? Who is your customer? Remember that your customer is paying for an experience and not just a product. They chose to order from a small business and not a major company, so make sure what you display on your website or in your pictures is reflected in the packaging and contents.

4) Think through your packaging. Take a moment to think through how you package your orders. Many small businesses take great care in packaging details that make an effort. Even simple packaging can look spectacular when put together nicely. Don’t just throw the item in a bag and slap on a label. Take 2 minutes to wrap the item nicely or add a ribbon. Also, make sure you add a business card or contact info.

5) Add a personalized note. Obviously this may not be an option for all businesses, but it is a nice touch. I make sure to add a quick note to each buyer just to say thank you and to recognize if they are a repeat customer. I emphasize that I want them to have a great experience and end with asking them to leave us a review on Etsy.

6) Add a coupon code. On Etsy you have the option to send customers a coupon code automatically after an order, but I also recommend adding the coupon code as a written piece in your packaging. We all get emails that we don’t read and just send into the trash – that may happen with your email. By adding it in both places it increases the likelihood that they will see it and remember to come back to you.

7) Be kind. This one sounds simple, but is much harder in practice. For me it is easy to be happy with most customers because the transactions are easy and there are no problems. There will always be bad apples, though, and they can really ruin my day. Take a breather before responding to tough customers. If they are being reasonable, I try to honor their requests. Some customers will push you to the limit, and you have to be ready to deal with them. I’ve had a few customers who kept pushing and pushing for more and I had to put my foot down and refuse to do any more work. One was upset, and I ended up partially refunded the order even though the policy in place entitles her to nothing. I thought about it overnight and considered the options. I realized that in those situations as a customer you want to know that your feelings have been recognized, and I would have been happy with a partial refund. I also genuinely apologized and said that I hoped she does well in the future. That final kindness often softens the way that the customer feels and makes them less likely to pursue things any further.

8) Don’t be afraid to say no. This is a tricky one, especially when you are getting started and things are slow. There will come a time when someone places an order or requests a custom order that you cannot fulfill. Maybe you are in the middle of a major project at work or there’s a crisis at home. The reason behind saying no doesn’t matter – but quickly respond and apologize. The sooner you get back to the customer, the sooner they can try to find another solution, and the more likely they will be to come back to you in the future, Just because they aren’t a client now doesn’t mean that they are gone forever. Leave a positive impression (or offer an alternative or later shipping date if that is possible), and they will come back.

So there we are. Go through your shop and pretend to be a customer. Is there anything that is unclear or needs more detail? Fix those little things to make a smoother experience for potential customers. You can’t control who gets to you, but you can help them become a paying customer (or even a repeat customer!).

 

Here are some more suggestions:

  • Reply promptly to emails. I respond within 1 business day. I often respond on non-business days as well since it is largely expected that everyone is constantly connected to the internet. Whatever you think you can do, just make it clear so that your customer knows what to expect.
  • State how you deal with problems. Let the customer know what will happen if something goes wrong, and make sure to follow through with what you promised,
  • Give clear expectations. Just because you know how an order will be processed doesn’t mean that your customer will understand. If you can, have someone unrelated to the business look over your policies to make sure that they make sense.
  • Don’t make false promises. Don’t say that you will do something if you don’t expect to do it. If you can’t ship a product in less than a week, don’t promise to ship within 2 days. If you can’t respond to emails during your 9-5 job, then explain that. Don’t say that you will refund 100% of the purchase no matter what if  you don’t want to give refunds.
  • Think through worst case customer scenarios and have a plan. Even though the situations may never happen, be ready for the obvious potential consequences of mistakes and bad customers. Make sure you know how much it costs to void a transaction, both in fees and in time. Have clear return and refund policies. Many customers never read the policies, but they are just as much there to protect you as the customer. It’s also ok to have different policies for different issues (cancelled transaction before shipping, cancelled custom order, item never arrives, item arrives but doesn’t work, etc).
  • Send some samples to friends and family. Test out different options on friends. This is especially useful if you have delicate or hard-to-ship items or if you want to try different styles of packaging, Using them as guinea pigs helps you figure out your style and they get to keep your items (and then tell their friends about your shop!). Many people find that word of mouth is the best way to get customers, especially in the beginning!
7 Ways That Customer Service Makes a Difference

7 Ways That Customer Service Makes a Difference

2015 has already been an action-packed year for us. We’ve already booked 3 craft fairs (one of them in November!) and we have lots of plans for how we will be changing the business this year. I’ve been spending a lot of time, both personally and for the business, trying out new business services and finding new things and ways to improve the way I spend my time. Work/life balance is a struggle for everyone, and sometimes much moreso for a small business owner. There is no time away from the business when you run it from inside your home!

One thing that has been really effecting me these past two weeks has been the way that I have had to respond to things going wrong. Whether it is a string of bad luck or just a coincidence, I’ve had problems with almost every order I’ve placed since the beginning of the year. From simple mistakes (something was left out of an order) to incompetence (a package wasn’t delivered) to poor packing (items were destroyed in transport), I’ve dealt with it all. I’ve spent a lot of time communicating with customer service. The way that my complaint was handled played a huge role in how I felt about the company after the problem was resolved.

I’ve worked multiple jobs in customer service. I know that it’s not my strong suit, and that’s why it’s not my specialty anymore. However, as a small business owner it’s one of the roles I play each day. I’ve seen both sides of all of these points as both a customer and as a business, and I think it is worth paying attention to things that you don’t do well. Here are my 7 ways that customer service can make or break my willingness to be a repeat customer!

1) On hold: I prefer to deal with my complaints in 2 ways: via email or over the phone. For simple issues, I email, but when there’s a real mistake that needs an explanation, I phone. I really hate having to make phone calls. I hate the 500 questions you have to answer before talking to a human, I hate having to remember long order or customer numbers, I hate having to wait forever, but most of all, I despise wait music. It’s too upbeat and when it’s interrupted every 15-30 seconds with “we value you as a customer, please stay on the line” or “we are experiencing high call volume” it makes me go crazy. Tell me what I can do to make this go faster, like calling back after 1pm. Otherwise, leave me alone. Play something soothing or at least not anger-inducing. Also, tell me my wait time. If I hear that my wait time is 2 minutes, I’ll stay on hold despite the music. If you tell me my wait time is 30 minutes, I’ll try another form of communication or call back later. Bottom line: let me know what I’m in for and don’t keep bugging me. I’m probably doing something else while waiting and keeping you on speaker until the human comes on the line anyway!

2) Deliver on promises: One business I called gave you the option when the wait time is long to leave you number to mark your spot in the line. In theory, when it is your turn, they call you instead of having to listen to the awful hold music. I loved this idea. I followed the prompts and left my number. I waited for over an hour, no call. I called back in. Listened to the message again, and it sounded like I missed the final step. Left my number, did the final step and hung up (what it said to do). Another hour passes, no call back. So I call a third time. Wait 2-3 minutes and talk to a human being. Problem is resolved. Clearly the system did not work. I know not to use it, but I wonder how many people just give up or forget whole waiting. Bottom line: if you give me the option to avoid part of the process, make sure you follow through on what you promise.

3) Don’t waste my time: if you cannot solve or start to resolve my problem, please do not waste my time. If there’s nothing you can do to resolve the problem or if I need to talk to someone else, make it speedy. Everyone is on the clock. My work hours take up a lot of the useful hours of the day, so if I need to call in for a personal purchase, it’s on my lunch break. I don’t have much time and it’s hard to eat when someone may pick up at any time. Bottom line: make sure the service representatives have knowledge of the product and the ability to handle tricky situations OR know when to send the customer to a manager.

4) Make humans available: I love technology. I love not having to leave the house to order online. I prefer to check a box with what is wrong and have it quickly resolved than having to send an email or make a phone call. However, when the situation is complicated, it is so much easier to deal with a live person than deal with back-and-forth communication in any form where something gets lost to technology. Whether there’s a 24 hour live chat option or a phone line, I would rather resolve my issue in one sitting over 30 minutes than spend 6 days trying to resolve something over email. Bottom line: give me computer and human options and let me choose which one I want.

5) Not all customers are stupid: On the flip side of “the customer is always right” is “the customer is always stupid”. I think most of us have had the experience with the person who says the equivalent of “have you tried turning it off and on again? Are you sure?” I know that there are people who call in with questions that could be answered with 2 clicks on the website, but as we become more technologically proficient, more of us will try the computer before contacting a human. If I explain that I have tried the basic steps (turning it off and on again, following the instructions, looking for the lost package, etc), don’t make your first 5 questions the idiot questions. Bottom line: Listen to what I have to say, and then respond.

6) “I’m sorry” goes a long way: this can go either way. Some companies have “I’m sorry” written into the script which is then parroted to the customer, and this does nothing to help the situation. The kind of “I’m sorry” that I’m talking about is usually part of a response like “I’m sorry that [accurate description of problem] has happened. That must be really frustrating. Here’s how I can help you today”. This response, when said genuinely, instantly takes the wind out from under me. Even when I’m fuming after finally talking to the service representative, I am much calmer after hearing this. You are talking to me like I am a human being with a reasonable issue which can either be resolved or started to be resolved. Couple the I’m sorry with “that’s happened to me before” and you have won me over. Bottom line: Even when there is nothing the representative can do to solve the problem, that small piece of humanity makes me feel like my time wasn’t wasted.

7) The human behind the scenes: this is my ultimate make or break issue. I am in a bad mood when I have to call into customer service. If the situation is so bad or complicated that I have to make a phone call, then I have to sit through automated decision making hell (even worse if I have to parrot phrases back instead of finding the number), then I get placed on hold for anywhere from 2 to 45 minutes, and then I get to speak to a human who may or may not be able to resolve my problem – you can guarantee that even on my best days I will not be happy. At the same time, before I make the phone call I remind myself that the human being that I will (eventually) speak to IS NOT the person who caused the problem. I try and add in that dash of humanity because they don’t deserve that anger. That being said, I have experienced the full range of customer service representatives recently. From the bored, overworked person who really couldn’t care less that my order was 25% missing to the gracious, laughter-inducing people who made me decide to become a repeat customer. They all leave an impression. Even if I never expect to need to call in a problem again, they can make me leave a business over the thought of having to deal with them (or someone like them) again. The mood that I leave with is the energy that I think of when considering which company to choose for my next order. One interaction was so wonderful that for me, the minimal extra expense of doing business with them upfront (compared to other companies) is worth whatever they are doing to make their customer service representatives so stress reducing. She resolved a problem in 5 minutes which I had been fighting with another business for over a week. She resolved a problem which I didn’t even know she could solve. I had a cold when I called one person which made me hard to understand. I mentioned it at the beginning of the call, and 20 minutes later, he said that he hoped I felt better soon. Even though he couldn’t fully resolve the problem, that small bit of humanity made a world of difference. Bottom line: quality is key. I will stick with any company that keeps quality customer service representatives!

Hopefully you can commiserate with some of these things! It’s not easy being the problem solver and it’s so frustrating being the consumer when something has gone wrong. When both sides come into the resolution center with a bit of compassion and humanity, everyone comes out better. Come back next Monday for how to turn these issues into a strength for your small business!

Small Business Help: Financial Worksheets

Small Business Help: Financial Worksheets

If you didn’t read the post yesterday, check it out here.

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As you can see, this receipt was from Christmas Eve, December 24th. Within 2 weeks, both Gillian and I looked at it and had no clue what it was for. We both remember going there, and we both remember buying something. Turns out it was charcoal! Luckily the package was still sitting in the original bag and we were able to figure out this little mystery, but even 2 weeks was too long to remember details. Take a look over your receipts – if they are anything like mine at least 1/2 are basically incomprehensible. You have to take care of them quickly or you forget what they were for!

Now, receipts are only half the battle here. You’ll also need to keep track of your income and expenses (groan). I know. I get it. But this is one of those necessary evils of running a business for a lot of creative types. Trust me on this. Right now I spend about 10 minutes a week on finances. I only commit 5 minutes 2 days a week to keeping on top of things. It also takes me about 1 hour at the beginning of the year to put together my binder and make new spreadsheets. I don’t really enjoy the data entry part, but it makes my life so much easier to not have to worry about finding things for my taxes. It also helps me see the big picture of how my business is doing.

So here’s what I have for you today: 2 easy-to-use spreadsheets that you can use to stay on top of your business. They are here to help you set monthly financial goals as well as track your records. You can use one, both or neither. It’s up to you. I use them and they make life easy if you keep up with them. Trust me when I say that going through old receipts is rarely fun, but tackling only a few at a time makes it much more bearable. You can edit them to suit your needs – I use a modified version of the expenses worksheet because there are 2 of us behind CGC so I tally up our expenses separately.

2015 Income Example Page 2** 2015 Expenses Spreadsheet ** ** 2015 Income Spreadsheet**

For personal or small business use only. Please do not claim these as your own or sell them. Don’t be a jerk. Feel free to share the link to this post, but please do not link straight to the files! Thank you!

Small Business Help: How to Set Up a Finance Binder

Small Business Help: How to Set Up a Finance Binder

Hello! Part of what we hope to establish on this blog is a place for small business owners (with a bit of lean towards Etsy shop owners) to learn how to run a business. If you are used to a normal 9-5 job and sell on Etsy part-time or if you are a creative who sells full-time, you have to start somewhere.

One of the most crucial things that you have to deal with when running a business of any size (even during the days when you aren’t selling anything at all!) is to figure out your finances. If you want to offset some of your expenses by claiming them on your taxes, then you don’t want to be running around on April 14th at 11pm looking for receipts. Let’s just say I’ve learned this one the hard way! It’s just a good thing to know where you are with your spending and income.

Obviously, if your main job is as an accountant or bookkeeper, this post is largely useless for you. This is really aimed at the new business owner or someone who has been through the tax cycle once or twice already and wants to make a change. I’m posting this now because this is the perfect time to get your 2015 records together before they got too overwhelming (there’s also some time to get 2014 records together…).

My goal is to make this as painless and fun as possible. I got new supplies because I had run out of a lot of stuff, but you can use what you have around the house. I like to use a lot of color, but you can make it as colorful/pretty/glittered/plain as you like. You’re the only one who has to look at it!

 

Let’s get started!

What you will need:

1) A messy desk or table and a bunch of receipts from the last 1-12 months. (Sticking receipts in a cute container means I’ve dealt with them, right?)

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2) Some place to put all of the stuff that was just on your desk or table. I recommend a corner somewhere.

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3) A magically clean desk or table with a bunch of supplies that magically appeared on it.

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I used a 1.5″ binder, a pocket folder, 24 page protectors (you may only want 12), a 2015 printed monthly calendar, some masking tape (washi tape works well too), flags (being used as my divider tabs), a pen, and a marker or two. Feel free to use what you have around the house already – don’t add an extra expense unless you don’t have something to hold everything together. It’s really tempting to go out and spend a lot of money on something that you’ll only spend about 15-30 minutes a month looking at. If you have the money or supplies to make it fancy, go ahead! Again, this is meant to be a simple afternoon thing, not a grand adventure. It’s going to spend most of it’s life sitting somewhere collecting dust.

4) A smidge of patience. You don’t need a ton. It also helps if you can lock yourself away from distractions for a little while (like 30 minutes). I like to put on some fun music or a podcast in the background. Light a candle if it helps you relax.

 

Instructions:

1) Find all of your supplies. Get any supplies you don’t have and can’t find an alternative for.

2)  Open your binder and add in your folder and page protectors.

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3) Add each page of the calendar to either each page protector (if using 12) or every odd page protector (if using 24). This is so that you don’t have to go running around each month looking for a calendar. I have a separate work calendar that I have near my desk to keep an eye on upcoming work events. I also have them on my phone, but I try not to use my phone while I’m working. I also get a strange satisfaction from crossing of the days with a pen as they pass. Whatever floats your boat. I already had the January calendar up on the wall, so you’ll see February here.

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4) Close the binder and turn the spine towards you. If you are 100% sure that you will not need a bigger binder or that you won’t ever need to use it again, so ahead and write 2015 on it. If not, use the masking tape to write on so that you can reuse (or hopefully outgrow!) your binder. Measure the tape to the binder length, then start writing. If you are smarter than I am, you don’t cut the tape first. You turn the tape around the other way so that you only use as much tape as you need, not estimate and then wind up cutting some off each end. Make it as pretty as you like. Also, decorate the cover, if you so choose.

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5) Now, I used little flags instead of dividers here. I’m cheap and it seems insane to me to spend $6 for something I’m barely going to use. Do what you need to stay sane. You can also use the masking tape doubled over instead.

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Finished product!

 

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Now for the not so fun part, sorting through all those receipts. If you have receipts for this year, put them into the folder until you are ready to put them into your spreadsheets. [Don’t have financial spreadsheets to track your expenses and income? Check back tomorrow for free downloads!]

Here’s a picture of my 2014 binder so you can see what a month can look like:

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And also a little reminder of why I try and update this twice a week:

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Can you guess what we bought?

Come back tomorrow to find out and to download free spreadsheets to make your business run more smoothly!