There is a funny thing happening in the creative business world with our current economy. It seems that creative businesses may have been duped into thinking that their customers only want cheap and quick – at the expense of stellar customer service.
The problem is, I can’t ever remember hearing a customer complain about getting superb customer service. Even if the item he or she just purchased cost more at the booth next door.
Here’s the thing. When your product and service is over the top you don’t have to sell budget goods. Because, let’s face it, it’s hard enough to run a creative business without constantly trying to undercut the business next door. Right?
Here are some ways to make your brand, goods, product and/or service stand out and appear more valuable by providing excellent customer service.
1. Commit to providing an excellent customer experience.
Without customers you don’t get to stay in business. Plain and simple. At craft shows make sure to make your customers feel welcome. Imagine you are welcoming them into your home. Treat them like the valued part of your business that they are. Let them know you are happy to have them in YOUR booth. Good social graces and manners go a long, long way.
If you make products for custom orders make sure to check in with your customers and let them know when their order will be ready and also that if they have any questions you are available to answer them in the mean time.
Make great customer service a part of your business policies. “At __________ we are committed to making sure that customers want to return again and again” or “We treat our customers like family… only better”.
2. Under Promise and Over Deliver
Yes, this sounds counter intuitive BUT if you promise your customers the sun, moon and stars but end up only providing a rock they will be unhappy. And so will you.
In stead, promise quality handmade goods, reasonable prices (not cheap but not overly inflated), nice packaging, and quick shipping. If you make those basic promises then it’s EASY to over deliver! NOW you can send a thank you note, a follow up email, a little extra bit in an etsy shipment or a candy cane in their bag at the craft show. Little things that mean a whole lot.
3. Re-examine your return policy
I have seen a sign that says something like:
There are two choices for Dinner
1) Take it
2) Leave It
While that is cute and mildly amusing it’s not at all funny if that is your attitude about customers and returns. Some creative business people seem to have a “All sales final & there is no room for discussion” stance. Basically you are asking your customer to risk buying from you while you accept zero risk for yourself. That doesn’t do much for your sales or your brand.
Offer a great return policy. It tells your customers that you believe in your products. The chances are that very few people will return goods but it makes you look like a HERO.
Check out my previous article on How to Handle Customer Complaints and Returns for more info.
4. Train your customer service department well.
What? It’s just you in your creative business? Let’s pretend it’s not. Let’s pretend for a minute that you DO have a customer service department. What are some worst case scenarios you can imagine and train your pretend staff for? How would you want an employee to represent your company? Practice dealing with returns and complaints. Write out scenarios and have your family and friends practice with you. Practice being calm and cool while providing excellent customer service.
5. Take responsibility without taking it personally.
So you are having a bad day, got stuck in traffic, didn’t like what the show organizer said to you as you came in to set up. It’s not your customer’s fault. It’s not your customers fault that you usually use two loops of thread but you got distracted and only used one this time. It’s not your customer’s fault they didn’t realize they are allergic to nickel.
Tale responsibility for running a high quality creative business (because you do)! Your customers will pick up on your confidence and it will tell them a lot about your business. Always remember, business is business. If a customer doesn’t want your product for one reason or another they aren’t saying they don’t like your shoes or they think your baby is ugly. IT’S JUST BUSINESS.
Stellar customer service isn’t always easy or cheap but in the end it’s great for your business. And what’s good for your business is good for you.
What do you think? Do you disagree with some of this advice or have some of your own you’d like to ad? I’d be happy to see your thoughts in the comments below.
By: Vicki O’Dell , The Creative Goddess