In a lot of these Etsy groups that I’m in, I will occasionally see a post pop up on my news feed of a shop owner or seller who’s talking about a customer service situation they’ve gotten themselves in or they have to deal with more of a frustrating customer. So many times, more often than not, when I see people responding and giving advice there’s more bad advice than what I think is good advice.
Just last night I had a customer that joined my Necklace of the Month Club (that is a subscription product that I run) and she received a snowflake necklace for the holiday month in December. I believe what happened was, she had worn it for one day and it kind of fell apart.
She wrote to me telling me what had happened and I was shocked. I said it shouldn’t have happened, that I was so sorry, and that I would send her a free replacement which I did. She wrote to me last night saying she got the replacement in the mail and showed me a picture of what it looked like. This is a snowflake sugar cookie necklace that I make and it’s got a vanilla frosting on top with little blue crystals. We put about 15 different beads or crystals on the snowflake cookie and unfortunately three had fallen off while it was on route to my customer.
I don’t even know how it happened because the beads are really stuck into the icing, but somehow they fell off.
Honestly, when I saw that this was what happened I just wasn’t sure what to do. What are the chances that the same necklace would break for the same customer? In the first place, my necklaces are very durable, sturdy, and there’s a very small chance that it breaks or falls apart. I wasn’t sure what to do for this customer to win her back because it sounded like she was ready to leave and stop being a customer.
I told her that I would pay for shipping (which I did all those times) and that she’s not losing out on anything because I’m paying for shipping, but that I do understand how frustrating it might feel. I asked if she wanted another necklace and told her she could pick anything from my website. She responded saying I was really sweet, that she really appreciated it, and her tune changed completely. I’m not saying I approached it perfectly because there’s always room for improvement, but I’m glad she took it well and that she had the patience.
When I hear the phrase “the customer is always right” I believe it. I operate and answer my emails 99% with that assumption. I do whatever it takes to make sure my customer is happy even if it’s not within my responsibility. A lot of times if USPS loses my package, which does happen from time to time, and my customer emails me saying they never got my stuff – most sellers would just say that it’s not their responsibility – but what I do is just reship the items.
A lot of the times when an item is lost with USPS, it finds its way back to me so I know I’ll get it back. In the rare cases in which it’s totally lost or maybe someone stole it, I just chalk it up as a loss, but still, ship out new items to the person because I can afford to. My pricing is done in such a way where I have the profit margins to be able to afford making new product again and paying for shipping back to the customer. I’m totally not obligated to do that, but here’s the thing.
How often does this happen to begin with? Not very often, so I’m not losing money doing this. However, imagine a customer who has spent x amount of dollars shopping at your store, has experienced the loss of your package and does not have your product. They’re out that money and they don’t have your product, so how do they feel? Because they’ve had a bad experience they probably won’t come back to shop with you again. That’s why I really do what it takes to keep my customers happy.
How about when people take advantage of you?
Sometimes USPS tracking will say a package was delivered, but the customer says they didn’t receive it. I will ultimately send them new product if I’ve gotten them to do a little bit of work first. It usually happens for apartment buildings where the mailman has put their package in a location where they’re not used to looking for packages at.
I’ll tell them to check their front deck and to check with other members of their household (roommate, daughter, husband, etc.) because often someone else from your home may bring in the mail and not tell you that you’ve got a package. The majority of the time it’s one of those two cases.
Sometimes, when they’ve really exhausted all of their options, they come back to me and say that there really is no package and that they can’t find it. But if USPS says it’s been delivered, who do you believe?
In instances like this, it’s really easy to be suspicious of customers. With big-box retailers, for example, Amazon, they always treat their customer as if they’re right. They have a no questions asked refund policy and exchanges with them are really easy. Why do they do it? It’s because they know it keeps their customers coming back and trusting in their stores. Because they don’t ask you questions it’s very easy to exploit bigger box retailers. People can buy something, receive the product, get a refund, and ultimately not have to pay for what they got. I’m sure this is a scam that a lot of people take advantage of and those same people could do that with smaller businesses like you and me. The problem is, you will never know if this person is lying or not.
All the times that this has happened to me I’ve just shipped new product to them. I give them the benefit of the doubt, I believe that they’re telling the truth, and I send them the product again or give them a refund.
In one of the Etsy groups I’m in, I saw someone post a screenshot of a comment a customer had left her over the holiday season. He had made a really snide comment that said: “Nothing takes two weeks to ship.” I also take two weeks to ship my products and I tell my customers I have a two week turnaround time, so this hits close to home.
I would be pretty sensitive if someone were to say something like that, so I can completely relate and feel for the shop owner or seller that got that comment. The interesting part was that the seller said she was very tempted to say something snide or sarcastic back to him, but instead decided to take the high road. She took a picture of what she had written to this man in the packing slip that she included in his package and she said: “It looks like some things do take two weeks to ship happy holidays.”
That was not taking the high road! You’re not doing your business any good by adding fuel to the fire. I consider that to be a huge no-no! Probably what I would have said is: “I’m so sorry this took two weeks to ship. I know it’s a really long time to wait and I appreciate your patience. Everything is handmade…”
Unfortunately, as we talk about customer service and making your customers feel good, yes they’re going to have a good experience and remember you, but the disadvantage is it’s not trackable. You can’t know that because you took a bad situation and made it good for the customer your sales multiplied ten times. I do however dare to say that doing my customer service really well, it has helped me get to where I am today with my full-time income running Tiny Hands.
I know it’s really hard. I know a comment can sometimes really sting or hurt and it’s hard to take your pride out of the equation, but a really great way that I recommend you start to think about is start to treat yourself as an employee of your business. Separate yourself from your business. Some of us consider our business to be who we are and when negative feedback comes through our email, it’s really hard to take it not personally. If you were to treat yourself as an employee of your business, you would be able to handle negative emails better.
Like everything else in business, customer service and treating your customers well is a skill that can be learned. It’s also something that can be practiced, so the more emails that come your way, the thicker your skin will become.
If you’re interested in sharing your customer service stories with us or wanting to ask for feedback on how you can handle a tough customer service situation you're in, feel free to join www.creativehivevip.com. It’s our private Facebook group and there are thousands of creators and makers out there who might be in a similar situation as you and who can share some of their feedback.
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