Customer service and giving your customers what they want, especially when you are running a business where almost all of your products can be personalised or customised, is so important.
How many people, when ordering a custom or personalised product from you, get exactly what they want?
In my own business, where almost all of my products can be customised or personalised in some way, the answer is nearly everyone.
If you want to put a number on it, I would say around ninety nine percent.
There are very few reasons why the customer cannot have what they have asked for, but one reason is that the customer is asking me to infringe on copyright, or trade marks, and I won’t do that.
Another reason could be because the customer wants me to add their own poem, or text to a design and there is insufficient space available.
Placing too many words into the available space requires the font to be much smaller and it then becomes illegible.
The picture on the right is a clear example of there being too many words used in the space available.
It is not easy on the eye and it looks unprofessional too.
If I received a product looking like that, I wouldn’t be happy.
It is up to the designer, me, to point this out to the customer.
It may seem obvious to you and me, but it is not always with the customer.
It’s important that we inform them that what they are asking for will not look good in the design and to explain why.
Sometimes offering an alternative design will help or if not, asking them to edit the verse keeping the words that have the most meaning to them. There is usually a compromise.
At this point, it may be good idea to discuss how customers approach you with their request for a custom order.
Everyone is different in how they request a custom or personalised order and each fits into a group of their own.
Some are very confident and others not quite so. Some are obviously wary of ordering online and are not sure that they can trust you.
A lot depends though on how you have organised your contact form.
Today, I am going to make reference to my customers who come to me via my Etsy shops, where most of my customers are from (this website and shop are very new).
The group one customer, is a customer who does not want to have any interaction with you at all, at least not at the beginning, although this often changes along the way.
This is the customer who only puts exactly what they want in the contact box and nothing else, no please or thank you, and it happens a lot.
For example: The customer may order a wedding card for the mother of the bride and want you to put “with love from their name” and the wedding date at the end.
For this customer this is what their request will look like: with love from Melanie, 01.10.2018 (at the bottom)
The group two customer, is one who writes you a proper note, well punctuated, with clear concise instructions.
This type of request is the easiest to understand and the easiest to fulfil.
I find that this group of customer is the easiest to communicate with and the easiest to explain the reasoning behind your ideas.
The number of people in this group is roughly equal in numbers to those of group one.
The group three customer, is one who is really nervous, one who is not sure how to approach you and doesn’t want to be a nuisance. This is the customer who is often very wary of ordering anything online and doesn’t know if they can trust you.
This customer will message you asking lots of questions, even though the answer to those questions is clearly written in the product description or on the website. When you have answered one question, they will come back with another and so it continues. Eventually though, with patience and you understanding their misgivings, you usually get there in the end.
I totally understand why some people are like this, especially if they, or someone they know has had a bad experience of shopping online.
The group four customer does not appear too often, thank goodness!
This is the customer who gives you the impression that they are running around at one hundred miles an hour and getting nothing done.
They send you a very disjointed ‘text speak’ message for their request. Sometimes it is so disjointed that it is very difficult to decipher (especially when you don’t do ‘text speak’). Then, when you message them, they don’t respond to you at all, or until days or weeks later!
This is the most difficult request to deal with and, if I really don’t get what they are saying, I will message them and ask them to write in proper English so that I understand fully what it is they want.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to mess up!
It doesn’t matter which group your customer belongs to, it is important that we, as business owners, listen to their request, try to understand them (not always easy), and to respond in a timely, professional manner.
I think too, that if you are in a business where you are in contact with your customers on a daily basis, then you really should like people and interacting with them.
In addition, you need to know your subject inside out and back to front.
If you don’t, then I think it is very difficult to offer a great customer service.
I’m sure you have been in a situation where you have talked to someone in a customer services department and have been fobbed off, either because the person you talked to lacked interest, or knowledge or both. Remember how you felt at the time and how it affected your impression of the company involved.
Saying thank you to your customer adds value to your customer service, whether you say it when they first make contact with you, or when you have completed their order and it is ready to ship.
It lets your customer know that their custom is important to you and that you appreciate doing business with them.
Even if you don’t get that sale, thanking them for contacting you in a polite, professional manner could, encourage them to return in the future.
I have read online in blogs and on forums, that some business owners run online businesses because they don’t want to come face to face with their customers. They also don’t want phone calls!
It is, in my opinion, bad customer service to not talk to your customers on the phone, if that’s what they want.
Not doing so could, in theory, lose you customers. However, taking that call could win you customers.
I have only ever had one person call me on the phone.
It was a very nervous customer (one from group three), who wanted to talk to a real person. She apologised for calling me and being ‘a pain’.
What she really wanted was, to suss me out and make sure that I was genuine.
She asked me a lot of questions about the product she was interested in, the ways it could be personalised, how she should order it and how long after she’d ordered would I ship it.
I reassured her that she was not being ‘a pain’ and I answered all of her questions. In fact we ended up having quite a chat.
Needless to say, she went ahead and ordered her personalised item, which I made and shipped within 24 hours.
She has come back to me several time since then, and I have no doubt that she will be back again at some point.
I know that this little customer service blog mostly applies to my paper craft business. However, good customer service is of paramount importance to any business, whether it is a physical bricks and mortar business, or an online business.
The way that business owners and their staff communicate with customers can influence whether your business succeeds for fail.