Hello hello. How’s everyone’s week so far? When I lived in Seattle, I didn’t think of March as spring, but now that I’m in Los Angeles, it’s easy to get ahead of myself. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I forget that it’s miserable in most of the country still. It’s my favorite time of year here weather-wise. Am I weird for loving mild weather? Just gets me thinking, we should celebrate March in some way — maybe a blogger challenge or adventure? I’ll have to think.
Okay, why I’m writing today. Customer service can make or break a small business, which is why I get all excited talking about it. I’m thinking online businesses here, where you never speak to the majority of your customers in person. This is a hugely different experience, and takes more than a welcome greeting + a “thank you” at the end. Being someone who is a little obsessive when it comes to customer service (they want to buy my product! I’m so happy I should send them gifts!) – it’s taken time to find a balance between establishing myself as an actual business, not someone who just crafts, and maintaining the community vibe that crafting offers — a great customer experience. Whether you sell on Etsy, have some products (virtual or otherwise) on your blog, or even if you offer a service, everyone can benefit.
How to create a better customer experience:
1. Communicate. The customer is not with you behind the laptop, so you have to let them know you’re there. I’ve done a ton of shopping online (sad but true) and some shops communicate in such a way that it’d be like me standing in front of them at a checkout stand, and them just fulfilling the order without saying a word. Awkward… right? Send a message to let them know you received their order or are fulfilling it, it goes along way in creating a memorable experience for them!
2. Take clear photos. This is online selling 101 – they can’t see the product, so you must show it. Even if you’re offering a service — you need to in some way show the customer what they’re in for. Not only does it help when drawing people to your website or shop, but the honest look at what you’re offering will prevent any problems when they actually receive the item. Here are some photography resources, if you’d like.
3. Give them the info. For the same reasons as above, your descriptions should be clear + concise. But as a small shop, you have an opportunity here to create an experience for the person reading your listing. A blurb about the story or inspiration behind it (or if you’re reselling, any personal connection), or a bit about yourself helps again to let them know who you are. I think of it as that little chat you have at a store when you get a really nice associate ringing you up. Nothing excessive, but just a little somethin’.
4. Ship on time. Here’s what I don’t think some people realize: When a person shops online they’re choosing to pay extra for shipping and WAIT for it to arrive — that’s real commitment! So keep this at the top of your priority list. If you’re too busy to ship then you’re too busy to have a shop (or need to hire help) — it’s just necessary to keep people happy. If there are any issues, always let the customer know because like I said — #1 is key!
5. Show gratitude. You can offer thanks however makes sense for your biz, and it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but I will say that at least with my crochet products, people LOVE to see that I wrapped it in some pretty recycled tissue paper and a handwritten note. There are two reasons I do this: 1) to give them a good experience, since I didn’t get the chance to talk to them in person — this makes me memorable and I’m CERTAIN it’s why I’ve had repeat customers, and 2) to show gratitude. I know they could buy a scarf elsewhere — not one as cool as mine, obvs., but a scarf for sure. So I just want to say thanks. However YOU say thanks can be different, but in some way or another, it needs to happen.
All these things ultimately give you a leg up on the competition and make it so a customer wants to make that first purchase or return to you, even if they’ve seen lots of other businesses they can buy (or purchase services) from instead. It takes a little bit of effort but it’s what makes your online business stand out from the rest.
What’s your experience buying from small businesses online? Anything that stands out as good or bad?