The Business Chat – Wearing your customer hat

Last week I did a really long craft show. The hours were long, it was stinking hot, it felt like eternity. At the end of the third day people started packing out early, some as many as 2 hours. Knowing that the highway wasn’t going to be fun I stayed until the end. And at the last minute I made a $600 sale. She probably wouldn’t have spent quite as much however 2 people she’d come to see had already left, and one woman refused to sell because she was packing. The customer was looking to spend money and no one was nice to her. I was and she made my day.

Customer service isn’t really that hard. Put on your customer hat and think about how you want to be treated. Then do that. If you don’t feel like it, put on your employee hat and suck it up. This is your job. Do it. How would you feel if you were trying to buy something and the vendor told you she was too busy? In many ways, online customer service is even more important than offline service. Online, your competition is closer, just a click away instead of across the street.

Here’s some tips on customer service.

  1. Put on your customer hat every time you interact with your public. How would you want to be treated? If there is a problem what solution would make you (in your customer hat) happy?
  2. Be positive and pleasant. Some days life just hands you a pile of crap and you feel terrible. This is your problem and no customer wants to hear about it. What they want is a nice smile and happy words. As tough as it is, keep your personal issues out of the sales arena. Sometimes it is better to put emails into draft and re-read them when you’re in a better mood to make sure negative emotions don’t sneak in.
  3. Watch your language, keep it positive. “No” and “I can’t” may be the truth but they leave the customer feeling negative. Try to find an alternative suggestion or word it differently.
  4. Always say thank you. A good rule of thumb is to end every interaction with a thank you. You can’t say “thanks” too often. And mean it. Without your customers you don’t have cash flow. No cash flow, no business. If you are selling online, always send an email letting the customer know when the item has shipped and thanking them.
  5. Don’t rush the customer. Remember, one of the reasons people seek out handmade is because they want a connection with a real live artist. Even if you don’t have all the time in the world, a relaxed tone of voice and patient approach with customers will go a long way to keep customers completely satisfied – even when they don’t get what they want.
  6. If a customer complains take it seriously. Do they have a valid issue or do they just need attention? Either way talk them through it. If they have a valid issue apologize and fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. If they need attention spend a few minutes. If they become too needy you may have to walk away but the challenge is to turn them around.
  7. Communicate clearly. A lot of customer issues begin when the customer feels like they’ve been mislead. If you are selling online tell the customer everything possible. Make sure your descriptions are complete, colour, size, packaging, shipping details. Leave nothing to their imaginations.
  8. Make sure you have clear shop policies. What forms of payment do you accept? What is your refund policy? Again, leave nothing to chance. When a customer knows exactly what to expect and you deliver exactly that you build up trust.

  9. Keep your promises. If you say you are going to ship the item on Wednesday, ship the item on Wednesday. If you take a custom order and you promise it will be ready in a week, have it ready in a week. If something comes up and you cannot keep your promise let the customer know as soon as possible. Acknowledging and explaining a delay is much better than silence. For online sales make sure your item is as close as possible to the item you listed online.

Remember that each of your customers has friends — and happy customers are the best referrals.

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