Customer service: it’s kind of a pain. At least until it becomes second nature. A good portion of the time, what encourages a buyer to become a repeat customer is the knowledge that you are, in fact, a real human being, and that you will, in fact, treat them like they are a real human being as well. The truth of the matter is that a lot of us (myself included) can get so stuck on making, listing, tagging, titling, relevancy-ing, and shipping items that dealing with a needy customer just plain sucks.
Unfortunately, you can’t let them know that.
So today, we have 10 really solid tips to beef up your customer service so that no matter how crabby you may be tomorrow, you’ll still have a halo of friendliness around your digital persona. Hold on tight.
- Be authentic. Handmade equals authentic, from authentic materials to authentic construction to authentic customer service. Your buyers are able to develop a distinct “feel” for you without actually knowing who the heck you are. As soon as you do something to radically shift that feel, the customer gets a big old red flag. Red flags equal no sales. I don’t care if your wildly cynical in real life; just stick to something that’s true to you. This isn’t high school, after all.
- Pick an avatar that fits your brand. If I click your link expecting organic caramels and find out you’re actually selling poorly-photographed commercially made lead figurings, I will not be a happy camper. Likewise, if you make heirloom children’s clothing, I don’t want no dramatic black-and-white photo of you and your smoky, smoky eyes.
- Parlez-vous? Tu hablas? If you’re multilingual, please, for the love of Pete, put that somewhere. Profile? Shop announcement? Sure. People living abroad will appreciate working with a talented artist (you) who also speaks their native tongue (you again).
- Say thank you. Convo or email every buyer and tell them, honestly, that you appreciate their support of your art and of the handmade community. You can even tell them how much you’ll enjoy throwing their pottery Smurf–as long as that’s true. Authentic, remember?
- Write a thank you. Send a personal note with every order, thanking your customer again and wishing them best of luck with that new fuschia hard-hat cover. It gives both of you warm fuzzies, which probably have undiscovered health benefits.
- Include business cards with every package. Your customer loves your product. Duh–they just gave you some of their hard-earned cash to prove it. Chances are, they want to flaunt their new buy to like-minded friends. Make it easy for them to return with buddies.
- Offer returns. Why not? Figure out a return policy that works for you. I don’t care what it is, but no returns equals big red flag. Red flag equals no sale.
- Collaborate on custom. Everyone has dreams they want to make true but don’t have the skills to bring to reality. Personally, I would love to be able to take killer photographs. Now, I could spend tons of money on buying a really smashing pro camera and lessons, or I could pay $20 for a totally gorgeous picture of a French chateau made especially for me. If I get exactly the photo I want, I will brag about your skills to everyone I know, sending you new customers free of advertising dollars. Plus, you get a new product that someone else like me might love.
- Offer ways to connect. By the time someone finishes a transaction with you, they’re going to feel like they know you. Make it possible for them to stay in touch with you in the future: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and e-newsletters are all good ways to go.
- Finally, say it like it is. Don’t lie to your customers. Don’t be a drama queen. Don’t make up crap to get your way. Instead, tell that angry customer who wants a 50% discount because she lives in your state, “I don’t offer discounts on my work because I’m very commited to crafting a sustainable business. I would love to help you find something in your price range, but I can’t undercut work I value and use to support myself.” Chances are great that your crabby customer will respect your positive, honest attitude and actually end up purchasing from you.
So! That was exciting, wasn’t it? Now it’s your turn. Leave me a comment, a Tweet, or a Facebook post (find social media links on the right sidebar). Tell me your customer service tips, or share a horror story. I’m excited to hear what you have to say!
Also, I will be away from the Frippery Factory Monday morning through Wednesday morning. I’ll process all inquiries and orders Wednesday afternoon, after my mini break before school starts again. Have a good few days!