A lot of Etsy and micro business sellers struggle with customer issues. They fear bad feedback, confusion, and getting screwed. I’ve never really had these concerns (much), so I wanted to offer up a few quick tips on how to improve your level of service. I brought to mind some techniques I learned from managing call centers, shopping at service-oriented retailers, and working with my own clients and customers.
I don’t think there’s any way to avoid customer issues altogether. If you have enough sales, you’re going to run into a few dodgy situations. But there are some tricks to minimize them. Although the best strategy is comfort with your own business practices and an ability to detect (and sometimes deflect) customer disappointment, frustration and aggression.
1. Don’t create sales barriers.
Sales barriers, such as “no returns” and strict policies, limit your ability to serve customers. Any limitation you have that the competition does not creates an opening for a lost sale. Try to avoid doing things that protect your business while creating customer rules. It might help to think less about being “used” and to have more confidence in your ability to handle any problems that arise.
2. Enable easy communication.
Many people are uncomfortable giving out their home phone number or address, which is understandable. But rather than limit customer communication to email, consider getting a business line in your home (or something like MagicJack) and a post office box. You’ll demonstrate a willingness to serve customers so they can easily contact you any way they prefer. It might be the difference between a sale and a lost customer.
3. Communicate deferentially.
Notice I didn’t say “respectfully”. Deference suggests an unequal relationship where we are servants of our customers. This might make some folks feel like a doormat, but nobody is a doormat unless he believes he is.
How to be deferential? Express gratitude, first and often. Apologize, second and often. Don’t make excuses for your mistakes; fix them. Don’t assume; seek understanding. Treat customers like you’d treat an exceptional boss or a revered elder. You are here to serve.
4. Never make them work.
If you demand that customers read your policies or make choices (like size, color or font) before purchasing, not only might you lose their interest, but you create a sales barrier that may compromise your level of service. Instead, consider ways to loosen your policies, include policies in descriptions, or create unique listings for every option available. The easier your business is to interact with, the higher your level of service.
5. Never discuss customers publicly. Ever. Anywhere.
We often see Etsy users discuss, complain about, or make “rude” accusations about their customers. While I understand some people might internalize customer communication and feel attacked, I don’t understand discussing it publicly with a group of strangers. It’s possible you might need support, agreement, or suggestions, but if you don’t have a personal resource for advice or venting, please consider creating a close alliance with one or two people you trust who can help.
6. Avoid paranoia.
People are often suspicious of a customer or transaction. The hype of retaliatory feedback and other issues may lead a seller to believe these problems are rampant – and might compromise his ability to serve his customers. I’ve yet to experience the things people worry about. If you have confidence in your ability to resolve any issue, such fears are in the noise.
There are probably some more ideas out there. Please share them below.