Word of mouth can make or break a business.
Tied up with this is the importance of repeat sales. Think about how often this occurs in your life… perhaps you have a few favourite restaurants, or that lovely little coffee shop you tell your friends about. Or, in your business or craft, a particular store you always go to (whether online or offline) and would recommend to anyone.
Why do you frequent these places? Chances are you have always been the recipient of great products – and, perhaps most importantly, excellent customer service.
I have been personally reminded of the crucial part customer service plays in having a successful business via two separate experiences that happened in close proximity to each other.
The Yarn Store
There is a yarn store near where I used to live, and the first time I went there I was quite pleased by the selection (small but effective) and the service of the shop assistant. I subsequently went back a few times … until one day, when I walked out, vowing never to return.
Because, as a customer, I had been made to feel like a nuisance, rather than a person of value.
I guess the shop assistant (who, I think is also the owner, because she is always in there whenever I walk past) must have been having a bad/stressful day, but that is no excuse.
I went up to her to ask about the prices of some yarn. Now, they were on a set of shelves, which were labelled, but I was looking at the shelf the yarn was resting on, expecting that to be the price … but no, as I was huffily told, the price of the yarn is on the label above it. Silly mistake to make, I know, but boy, did she make me feel like an idiot for asking the question!
I did go ahead and buy some yarn, but she did nothing to allay my feeling of discomfort as she testily scanned my items, took my money, and gave me a long-suffering grimace/smile.
I walked out of there feeling like an idiot.
Do you think I’ll ever go back? No way on Earth.
Do you think I’d recommend this shop to friends? On the contrary, here I am using it as an example of what not to do!
The Smoothie Store
My husband Nick and I were shopping one day a while ago, and we felt like a treat. We decided to buy a smoothie each from a shop in the mall, I got banana and he got mango. They were absolutely delicious, and the service was great – prompt and courteous.
The next time we were at that mall, we were looking forward to going back and getting another smoothie. So, we wandered up. The assistant this time was poorly groomed, and distracted – she actually had to return to us, twice, to ask us to repeat our order because she couldn’t remember the flavour/sizes!
When we finally got our smoothies, we walked away … until I took a sip of mine. It was terrible! Watery, tasteless – and when I moved the straw around there was a big chunk of ice cream just sitting in the bottom. I turned around and took it back to the girl, explained the situation, and she took it back grumpily. She apparently did something with it, but when I got it back it was scarcely better than before! I gave up at this stage though, because she obviously couldn’t care less about us or our order.
Again, do you think we’ll be returning to this shop? Nope. The actions of one staff member in one moment has lost them two customers, and possibly others that we tell not to bother.
Always Give Your Best
Let’s be honest. We all have times and days where we struggle, in that particular moment, to care about the feelings or experiences of our customers. We are too caught up in our own heads and our own lives, for whatever reason, to think about someone else. But in that moment we may make a mistake that loses us a customer forever.
Sure, we’re not perfect, but we should always strive to do and be our best and treat customers with the care and respect they deserve. It’s a bonus if they end up so pleased by our service that they spread the good word for us.
People say to me ‘gee, it must be great to not have a boss’. I smile and reply, ‘but I do – every single one of my customers is my boss’.
Without them, I wouldn’t have a business, or a livelihood.
Build Excellent Customer Service into Your Customer Communications
A while ago, I read Bernadette Jiwa’s book The Fortune Cookie Principle. Fundamentally, it’s a book about how to tell the story of your brand in a compelling, honest, and unique fashion, something we spoke about back in Lesson 1.
Fortunately, we Etsy sellers have the advantage over big companies – we are living our story every day. But are we using that story effectively to build our brand?
Apart from the public information you put out there on your shop, blog, social media and mailing list, the first time you have a substantial direct communication with a customer is usually when they buy from you.
This is your chance to ‘walk your talk’ – to show them the truth behind the brand message you’ve been sending out.
Reading Bernadette’s book made me realise that I wasn’t digging deep and truly telling my story in the communications I was having with my customers. Sure, you can just use auto-messages to notify customers of sales and shipping. Or, you can take the time to manually communicate with them – human being to human being.
I’ve been been doing for a long time. For years now, I have always sent each and every customer a personal thank you message when they bought a piece of jewellery from me. I wanted them to know that I was a real person, who really did care about them and was SO very thankful for their order, because they were the reason I could wake up each day in charge of my own destiny. Because without my customers, I’d be back working for the man or woman again.
But was I using these traditional (usually pretty standard and boring) communications to actually tell them my truth and THANK them from the bottom of my heart for the fact that they chose to exchange a part of their life for my jewellery?
(Because that’s what they’re doing. Money is time – so the money they send to me represents time that they have worked – a little piece of their life spent in exchange for what I create for them. Ever thought about it that way before?)
No, I wasn’t. So I decided to change that.
I sat down and re-wrote my ‘thank you for ordering’ and ‘shipping’ messages. I wanted these messages to tell my story. To get across the true heartfelt joy I feel when each sale hits my inbox, and the thankfulness I feel towards every single one of my customers.
I also wanted to make it easy for them to communicate with me – to share their experience of the Epheriell brand with both me and the world.
I now feel like these important and fundamental communications not only tell my customer what they need to know, but also tell my story, the story of my life and family, and thank them for the small part they play in me being able to live a life I love.
Are you telling your story when you communicate with your customers?
If you’re not, take the time to imbue your story into all communications you have with your customers. And that goes for everything you put out there – not only your personal communication, but your blogging, social media, descriptions… it all works in concert to build a strong, coherent brand story.
Show them how much they matter to you – show them how much you appreciate that out of all the things in all the world they could have bought… they bought something from YOU. And what an enormous difference that makes to your life.
Make building a relationship with each customer a priority – and you will create a positive ripple effect that will spread out into the world through what your customers tell others about you.
Not to mention, you’ll add just a little bit more happy to the world. And that’s always a good thing.
Up for some extra reading? Check out these great articles from The Etsy Seller Handbook:
Homework: Rewrite one of your standard customer communications so it more fully reflects your gratitude and brand story. Share what you’ve written in the Facebook group!