Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Average vs. Excellent Customer Service

by Izzy Winterhart

About a month or so ago I had a friend create a very special logo for my UaCS shop.  It was long overdue.  Jamie (over at Uncle Jake Media) did an amazing job and I'm still crazy about the design.  I had him design the logo as a perfect square because I wanted my business cards to be 3x3.  

After the logo was complete I emailed a seller on Etsy who actually printed 3x3 business cards.  I could have gone with a big business supplier, but I really want to support our "handmade" community.  Oh my, I was super excited.  I then waited and waited and waited for a response.  Nothing.  So I followed up on the email by sending her a second email inquiring if she received the first email.  I got a response within five minutes.  In my first email I requested the logo be printed on white paper but she interjected saying that some colors don't respond well to a white background and asked if I could email my image.  She said she would look it over and get back to me.  I immediately did as she requested.  My excitement once again took over my senses.  Then I waited and waited and waited.  I again followed up but this time got no response.  Nothing.  I waited another week, emailed again and still no response.  I have to admit I was a bit chapped.  I had no choice at that point and ended up going with the big company, saved myself $5, received more cards AND got free shipping.  She missed out on an easy $50 in her pocket.

When I was younger I earned my living via retail.  In fact, I had to get a permit to start working at such a young age.  I slaved away in the world of retail until I was about 27.  In my early twenties I was employed by a sporting goods store and my managers name was Frank.  Frank taught me much about customer service.  He was my Sensi so to speak.  He was indeed the guru of all things customer service.  He never allowed cashiers to chew gum, each customer was greeted and acknowledged, each department kept tidy, customers were helped from the second they walked into a section, phones never rang more than twice and were answered in the most professional manner and folks received a great big "thank you" when they left, regardless if they purchased something or not.  Frank walked the floors of that store as though he were running for Mayor.  He greeted everyone, talked to everyone, was excited about being there to help customers and people loved it!  Not just the customers but the employees.  Frank made it very clear to all his employess that customers contribute to paychecks.  No customers, no paycheck.  And he was right.  All those nuggets of excellent customer service are permanently etched into my brain.  When I see bad customer service in a store I turn to my husband and say "Frank would never have allowed that".  I especially follow the Frank rules of customer service in my own business because my customers don't just contribute to my paycheck, they are my paycheck.  I recently had a conversation with my Sensei, Frank, and here's what he had to say.  "I think customer service goes back to the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated and never waste an opportunity to do something nice for someone. It usually requires a little extra effort but means so much to people. In a world full of technology and computer phones, old fashioned customer service has not gone out of style. I think it is more valuable than ever!"

Here are a few rules I follow when it comes to providing excellant customer service for my Etsy shop.
1 - When a customer emails to inquire about an item I respond ASAP.  I can't tell you how many times I've answered a customers email and they say something like "thank you for such a quick response" or "thanks for getting back to me so quickly as most sellers don't".  A potential sale is worth a quick response. 

2 - When someone places an order I ALWAYS send an email saying "thank you" and give them the time when I plan to ship.  I rarely get this when I purchase something on Etsy and it saddens me.  I think it's such a great personal touch to say thank you.  And I am genuinely thankful to that person for buying my jewelry so therefore it needs to be said.

3 - I send my packages out the day after the order is placed unless, of course, the order comes in on Saturday and I'm unable to ship on Sunday.  I remember one time I received a package from an Etsy seller two weeks after I ordered it and they lived in a neighboring state.  When a week passed and I hadn't received the package I emailed and got no response.  Needless to say that was the last order I placed with that person even though I loved their product.  If you aren't able to follow the 24 hour shipping rule then let the customer know.  Don't say "I'll ship it out soon", what is soon?  Try to be quick, give a date and stick to it.  Trust me on this, your customer will love you for it.  I've had many customers thank me time and time again for shipping out so quickly.

4 - I just revamped my packaging a while back.  I carefully place my pieces in a pretty brown box with a business card (I use these to hold my earrings and necklaces).  I then add a beautiful touch by placing a hand made paper flower on top of the box.  I purchase these amazing flowers from a seller on Etsy that I really like and I also throw in her business card (you need to give props where props are due).  Simple yet elegant.  You don't have to spend a fortune on packaging but it does make a difference.

5 -  I charge $5 for shipping.  You are probably saying "wow" that's a lot.  Well, not really.  I carefully place my beautifully packaged pieces in a small USPS priority mail box.  It's sturdy and doesn't crush my packaging.  I've also realized that the postal service seems to care more if you spend more.  Before I started using priority mail the postal service lost three packages that I had sent out.  Since priority mail, well, they haven't lost one.  Plus, and this is a big plus, you can track the package and your customer can track the package.  It is worth every penny.

6 - Since I get updated tracking emails via the postal service I know when the package arrives.  I will then take that opportunity to email the customer letting them know that the package should have arrived.  "Did it arrive safe and sound?"  "Are you happy with the purchase?"  And again I throw in a great big "THANK YOU!"  This is also a great way to get feedback that you might not otherwise get.

7 - I LOVE repeat customers.  I love loyal customers.  And that's why I always reward them in some way.  Either by giving free shipping or I'll make something extra to throw in the box or I'll give a discount.  This is a given.  These are the people who love your pieces so you and your pieces should give lots of love back.

Customer service.  Two simple, yet incredibly important words.  As Frank would say,  "If you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly!".  In other words, don't just give "average" customer service.  Go that extra mile and provide "excellent" customer service.


Alice said...

Good customer service can go a long way. Most often it can make or break the connection between the customer and the seller.

I recently purchased some beads from an artist on etsy but made a mistake on my order. Once I figured out that I goofed I immediately sent her a convo. Two weeks went by and not only did I not hear from her, but my package had not arrived either. After three weeks my package had finally arrived but I still had not received a response to my convo. I sent her a note via email, got a response quickly, but the issue was never resolved. This is a very popular artist, and she makes amazing stuff, but this is the second time I've had issues with her and I won't be back. Most likely she does so much business that she won't even notice, but that is beside the point.

stacilouise said...

You got it right on IZ! I too worked for a retail company for YEARS (a grocery store actually, no longer in business) who took much pride in customer service. It was part of training!!!! (kinda sad we have to be trained to be nice, but its true). I used to LOVE to make people smile, I would challenge myself as a cashier, when I saw a stressed out mom or someone come in looking upset, to make them smile before they leave. I hope this carries into my etsy shop. everyone gets a freebie extra with their purchase (because who doesn't love a gift, and I love to give them) and ship on time, or email them if I can't. So sad that some don't get that. :(

JJoy said...

You are absolutely spot-on. Customer service and respect go a long way in business. Thanks for a great article!

MaCarroll Beads said...

Great post, Izzy! I'll think twice when I find myself too busy to send that little thank-you. I was always great about it and then it was something I did less of when I got too busy. For the minute or two it takes, it sends a messages worth much more than those two minutes.

mairedodd said...

this should be in the storque... well said, izzy... and you are so very right... customers are not doing us a favor - they are who we work for... thank you for this reminder...

baglady said...

Great post today! You said it so well and it makes such a difference. Thanks

Kelli said...

AMEN Izzy!!!!! I'm sure your customers come back to you over and over because of your wonderful customer service. I know over the years of buying on ETSY, it's the ones with good customer service, and a "personal" touch, that I've gone back to again and again and again. Ones I liked that didn't respond, don't seem to get any more of my business. I COMPLETELY understand "busy", but we can never be too busy to say thank you.

Regina said...

Great post, love what you have to say. I live and sell by the same principles. I work in a small community bank and we survive because of the cutomer service we provide and I extend that to my jewelry business too. Nothing beats excellent customer service.

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