For any small business finding, keeping, and bringing back customers fight pound for pound, with a quality product for an owner’s true devotion to their passion. The trick is to be ready for any cheap shot that might come your way. Being prepared to handle the “worst case scenarios” is an true art form. I have been professionally “problem solving” for over 11 years now, while working for giant players in the PC manufacturing world behind the help desk. I’m that friendly voice you hear when your computer is broken and you need someone to fix it fast. I know, this can be a dreadful call for some people – but rest assured we are here to help.
How do these skills equate to helping my budding business succeed? Well, I know how to think quickly, act accordingly, diffuse irate situations, pick up on inconsistencies, when to concede and when to stand my ground all while keeping a smile on my face while dealing with stressful situations. Knowing how to treat people is an integral part of any business. All of these years, have paid off well. I have SUPER high standards from what I expect from any customer service department, and any product that I purchase. I hold these companies and their employees to the same standard that I hold myself to when I provide support to someone. Here are some tips to help you on your travel to success!
1. BE FRIENDLY. The next time you get an email from an unhappy customer, reply back as if you were talking to your grandma. Don’t get defensive, rude or otherwise nasty as that will only fuel their fire. Be kind, and take any criticism, then respond with care. Open a dialogue in a friendly tone and start the journey to customer satisfaction.
2. LISTEN & EVAULATE. Listen to what they are saying. Why are they unhappy? Do not ask what you can do for them, instead, offer a solution. Often, we don’t even know what they want, other than to vent. Let them, but don’t take abuse. There is a fine line between the two and only experience will help you recognize it. Placing the ball in your buyers court only makes you the underdog. Besides, it is up to you to make it right, not have the customer make the decisions. You know what they want to hear.. If not, just put yourself in their shoes.
3. COMPENSATE. This is a small business and you are in it to pay your bills, there will be profit and loss. To minimize loss while keeping the customer happy don’t give away all the eggs in your basket first. Start small. For me, I sell small, extra large poster prints of my photography, mat boards and other goodies like polaroid coasters and photo necklaces. You should always try and strike a deal such as offering a replacement or another item from your shop before giving a refund. It’s less of a hassle. Each situation is going to be different so it is important to follow #2. Just about all companies now require you to pay for shipping on returned merchandise, with that in mind if they’ve just changed their mind then refund just the cost of the item and allow them to pick up the tab for return shipping. It’s standard business practice.
4. NEGOTIATE. I recently had an issue with a mat board bending during transit due to the packaging I used. The order was custom and something larger than what I am used to, but I gave the buyer an awesome deal. When it arrived bent, my client was not upset but was wondering what I could do, after trying to use it “as is” and finding it unacceptable. I offered a replacement but told her that she would need to pay for shipping because I originally quoted her too low, (admittedly, my fault) and that I lost a lot of money on it. She ended up buying another board and I was able to ship them both to her in one package, but only charged the same half price shipping instead of the full cost for the second board. It worked out for both of us in this instance but that is not always the case.
5. THINK BUSINESS. This is your business and although we may wear our heart on our sleeve –and generally want to make sure everyone is super happy with anything we produce– the bottom line is we are doing this for a living and need to keep that in the back of our head at all times. You want to make sure your customer has a smile on their face but it shouldn’t mean that there is a frown on yours. Not everything is going to work out in your favor, or please the client, just keep that in mind. You can’t please everyone.
6. SMART TRANSIT. You are selling online and unless you are offeringdigital work, chances are you’re going to need to ship something to someone, somewhere. ALWAYS package well, buy tracking, and insurance. Just add it into the cost of your shipping. It is NOT necessary for you to announce this on your listing. That’s just asking for trouble and fraud. Instead, get it as a protection to you and a benefit to your customer. You will have proof that it was shipped, arrived (or not) and have a back up plan if it was damaged. You can easily refund or replace the item immediately, while you wait for the claim from the carrier. ALWAYS get proof of damage by photo, including the package if that was damaged. It may be necessary to make the claim on the insurance you purchased.
7. COMMUNICATE. Each and every sale that I make I send an email letting the customer know I got there order. I send another when the item has shipped. After the item has arrived, I send a FOLLOW-UP email to make sure everyone is happy and ask for any feedback about the product/transaction. This builds rapport, shows that you are seriously concerned with their satisfaction, and also that you are on top of your business. Bring your “A” game or go home.
8. GOODIES. There is no better way to put a smile on someones face then with a surprise! Adding a little something special and unexpected or unique with their purchase can make all the difference in repeat purchases or some great word-of-mouth promotion. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, but it should be fun!
If you are unsure of how to handle a particular situation feel free to ask me a question. I’m pretty much an expert on fairness and customer service and will be happy to help you out!