This week is National Business Etiquette week, so it seemed a good time to have a look at one of the most important aspects of online selling - Customer Service.
For Handmade artisans interacting with your customers is one of the joys. The connection is much more personal than buying from the online giants. However it can also be one of the most stressful aspects.
When it comes down to it, you are the only one everything will fall back on. You are the designer, maker, financier and shipper.. all issues end up at your feet. Most of the time nothing will go wrong, but every now and then something will go in an unexpected way. No matter how careful you are there are some things you cannot control. One of the most obvious ones is Shipping. You hand your precious package to the post office and hope they do their job properly... and sometimes parcels go missing.
Obviously your customer is not going to be happy. Some will be quite pragmatic, expecting that sometimes things will go astray. These customers are generally quite easy to deal with, which tends to make you feel more amenable to refunds or replacements. Unfortunately sometimes you will end up with a customer who never seems to be satisfied. This will make you feel stressed, or angry, or even doubt that you should be selling online. This is due to the personal connection of selling your creations online. However, you need to remember that the issue is more likely to be the customer, especially if you have been reasonable in your dealings with them.
Sometimes your items will be delivered in an unfortunate state. Sometimes this will be due to lack of care with packaging.. but often it is that the parcel was handled roughly. Something to consider - if your item goes as a parcel it will be dumped into a bin with all the other parcels of various sizes and weights - will your packaging survive a 20kg box landing on it from a height? Or a postal worker accidentally stepping on it? This is how most parcels get damaged, so think about this when packaging items, especially if they are fragile. Writing fragile on the box does not ensure it will be treated gently.
How you handle your normally quite reasonably upset customers will matter..a lot. A seller who works with their customers will earn goodwill. A seller who refuses to accept any fault or attempt to find a solution will lose goodwill. Word of mouth is alive and well on the internet.. in fact the internet makes it far easier to spread the word far and wide about bad customer service, and the same is true of good service.
Make sure that when negotiating with your customer that you do not allow your rights to be neglected. Take the time to think about what you are prepared to do in different circumstances, and put them in your policies. You can reserve the right to change these policies depending on the situation, but do not put yourself in the position of 'doing anything' to satisfy your customer. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will not end up with a happy customer and will most likely end up out of pocket quite a bit.
Be realistic, be reasonable. Think about how you would like to be treated as a customer, and offer that customer service to your customers.