The Etsy Blog

Service Tips for Sellers: What We Can Learn from Great Service Companies

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Dear Sellers:

What is great service? Who defines it? How do you know if you are delivering great service to your Etsy customers?

Good service solves a problem, even before a customer knows that they have one.  It is delivering what people expect to receive. To achieve great service is to get below the surface of the an issue and deliver solutions that no one expects.

Great service is listening, learning, assessing, and ultimately refining your approach.

We looked to a few companies known for their customer service to see if there are any themes or similarities between them that you can in turn, adopt for your own Etsy business practices.  All strive for excellence, with a strong set of core values.  Some of those values include:

  • Integrity – Providing useful and ethical assistance
  • Social Profit – Producing benefits beyond marketing goods and services (benefits to the environment, etc.)
  • Joy – Making your surroundings a joyful place for both you and your customers
  • Respect – Respect for the customer
  • Innovation – Changing what exists into something better

Below are only a few of many great customer service companies that embody many of these cores values.

Zappos.com

This is a recent favorite.  It is hard to find someone who isn’t thrilled with Zappos’ service.  Zappos.com takes customer service very seriously, and employee interviews and performance reviews are based 50% on core values and culture. Here is a list of Zappos.com’s core values:

  • Deliver wow through service
  • Embrace and drive change
  • Create fun and a little weirdness
  • Be adventurous, creative, and open minded
  • Pursue growth and learning
  • Build open and honest relationships with communication
  • Build a creative team and family spirit
  • Be passionate and determined
  • Be humble

Zappos.com states that it is committed to providing the best service and online shopping experience possible. Fast fulfillment, free shipping both ways, 365-day return policy and fast, friendly and expert customer support are just a few ways Zappos.com strives to live up to this commitment.  As Tony Hsieh has stated, “Zappos is a service company that happens to sell shoes, clothing,  handbags, eyewear, watches (and eventually a bunch of other stuff).”

Container Store

The Container Store sells storage and organizational products; products that many, many other retailers sell as well.  What has made the Container Store one of the most successful retail chains is because it focuses on helping customers solve problems and hires employees who believe in that mission and give them freedom to do so.  Stories such as these below are not unusual:

Above and beyond:  A woman comes into the store looking for packaging material for her child’s science project that needs to be shipped across the country.  Not only does an employee greet her immediately and help her find the material she needs, that employee spends an additional two hours helping the woman pack the project in the store.

Guidance:  During a frantic move, a person called the Container Store for help with an item she just purchased.  She spent 40 minutes on the phone with a Container Store employee as that employee coached and encouraged her as she put her metro system together. The customer was incredibly grateful.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com’s customer service is known to solve problems, particularly shipping mishaps and lost items.  An author earlier this year described his situation with his lost PlayStation 3 he purchased last Christmas in the New York Times.

His neighbor signed for the box, but left it in their lobby.  It vanished.  After reluctantly calling Amazon, he was pleasantly surprised when Amazon replaced the package, on time, for Christmas.  Intrigued, he looked further into what Amazon was doing.

The author noted, “There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way.” 

LimaMike reports she had a terrific experience with one of Amazon.com’s retailers.  She purchased a tool for her jewelry class, and when her back was turned, one of her students took one of her week-old wire cutters to cut a stiff, unforgiving wire that the cutters were never meant to cut.  Before giving the cutters a decent burial she decided to send the company an email to see if they could refurbish the cutters, expecting to pay for the service.

A few days later the president of the company emailed asking for her address to send her a brand new pair of cutters.  He suggested I keep the old ones to show my students what not to do.

LimaMike was so excited she posted in several Yahoo beading groups telling them about the great cutters and the phenomenal customer service.  She heard from many that day who bought cutters, who had wanted them previously but hesitated because of the expense.  After her story, they felt more comfortable laying out the cash for a great product.

As LimaMike stated, “Word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways to get new customers.  People often listen to their friends and colleagues more so than a slick ad in a magazine.”

Great service isn’t easy to achieve. Every customer is different. Every problem is different. No one can anticipate every situation or every personality on the other end of the computer. Ultimately, great service requires sound judgment every day to adapt to the needs of the customer.  The process of assessing what good service means — and figuring out how to deliver it — never stops. This is a process Etsy.com is constantly refining as well. We’re learning from these other companies too!

More about Service Tips for Sellers Series: Running an online business has many perks, like the ability to remain somewhat anonymous behind a computer screen (and maybe even working in your ‘jammies).  But that computer screen does not preclude interaction with customers. Good online customer service may be even more important than offline: good service gives buyers the peace of mind that they are buying from a trustworthy and reputable seller.  As an online entrepreneur you have the opportunity to provide excellent communication, create a friendly face for your shop, and promote repeat business.

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