December 4, 2008

Customer Service - How to start

A business cannot survive, let along thrive, without great customer service! This isn't a new concept, but it is one that sellers sometimes forget. However, in forgetting they send the signal that their customers aren't that important and therefore lose sales.

As someone who is on both ends of the commerce table, I'd like to take a minute and talk about what great customer service is, in relation to cyber-selling. I could talk about "brick & mortar" sales, but because I think they involve different things, I'm going to stick with Cyber Customer Service.

The best way to help your buyer, is to put yourself in their shoes. If you were to go to your online shop what would you expect from yourself? Here are a few tips (that may be Etsy specific) that will help your business:

- Welcome your customers. It's as simple as saying "Welcome to My Store". Why is this important? Because everyone wants to feel they are valued from the start. Saying welcome gives your customer the feeling that you've thought about and appreciate anyone that comes to your shop.

- Make the experience easy. When a customer comes to your shop they don't want to have a hard time finding the information or items they're looking for. Make it as easy as possible by using your sections and your shop announcements areas wisely. If you have a sale going on, put it in your shop announcements. If you sell several types of items, break them out into the sections so if someone is looking for "scarves" they can go directly to that section and not have to scroll. Most customers don't get past the second page of your shop. If you use your sections they are more likely to search through the pages in a specific section than to search all the pages from the main shop to find the one item they're looking for.

Because you are not there physically to show them to what they want, the sections are the best thing in cyberspace to direct them.

- Make your policies plain and clear. If you have shop policies as they relate to custom orders, returns, payments etc. Spell them out clearly in your "policies" section, and stick to them. It's ok to change your policies as you need to, but it's important that you honor the policies you have written down. No one likes to be "blindsided" by an "unwritten" policy. If you forget to change your policy prior to a customer ordering from you, honor the old policy, make the change and move forward. It is better to make that customer happy than to lose them because of a policy "mistake" you made.

- Answer questions. If you receive an inquiry from a customer and don't answer it as soon as you can, it's like ignoring a customer that has come to your brick and mortar shop and is tapping you on the shoulder. All cyber-buyers understand that shop owners are not at their computers 24/7 to answer questions so they expect delays. But, if you're waiting more than 24-hours to reply, you are not giving your customer the proper service.

- Communicate with your customers. This goes hand-in-hand with the answering of questions. Always keep the lines of communication open. Once you've made the sale, make sure that a thank you is sent with shipping information. Don't leave your customer wondering if the item has been shipped or when it will get there. Send them a message! Because I usually use Paypal to send my packages, I rely on the automated shipping notice to let my customers know that the item has been shipped, the tracking number and the approximate day of delivery. If I don't use Paypal then I send an email with that information. When I purchase something I love to know when it's on the way.

- Always be professional. In your policies, sections, communications and descriptions, always be professional. Being cordial, accommodating (as much as possible), and kind will go a long way to making a sale, and keeping a customer. Read, and re-read your communications to make sure you are saying what you want to say in the way you'd like your customer to receive it. Being professional means being respectful. Your shop may be flirty, serious, stuffy etc. and your communications may fall into those areas, but your communications can be all those things while still being respectful and professional.

- Be flexible. Sometimes things will happen that you didn't anticipate. Be open and flexible to the customer's point of view. You never know, it may open a whole new avenue for your business.

There are so many aspects to great customer service, but if you start with the above and work from there, I don't think you can go wrong. It's the simple idea that if you treat someone the way you'd want to be treated, they are going to have a great experience and welcome business with you over and over again.

I'd love to hear your additional ideas on the subject. Please leave me a comment on something I might have missed, or on your customer service experience, or just to let me know you were here and if this article has helped you.


BlossomingTree said...

Excellent advice. I also believe customer service is of utmost importance.

Arnold Santos said...

One of the best tips about custom service is to make sure that your customer service representative are empowered.