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!