Friday, January 04, 2008

Doing Business (4) Customer Service

Customer service is about every thing you do to create seamless communication between you and your customer, creating a seamless buying experience in a pleasant environment. It includes the little things such as making it easy for your customers to find you, responding quickly to their contact, correcting any mistakes -- real or perceived -- with the product or delivery of the product.
For internet sellers, it definitely includes how easy it is to navigate your site and to find the information they need before they buy. That means that the graphics and colors on your site are not glaring or harsh. The font is readable, not too heavily stylized, and the size of the font is greater than 10 pts. Remember much of the buying public have now reached the Baby Boom middle age, and that means failing eyesight! Make your copy readable. Include white space around the important information. Take a cue from advertising and do not force yourself to include too much copy, or to write everything in complete sentences. Look at lots of sites and start to recognize what attracts or repels you, and how deeply you are drawn into the site itself.
Go back to your site, again and again and pretend that you are seeing it for the very first time. Try to look at it with fresh eyes, almost as if you were a new customer seeing it for the first time. Hey! Are your spelling and punctuation skills up to par? If not, then ask someone to proof the copy for you. Nothing screams 'novice!' more than bad spelling and punctuation. This is important. It is how you present yourself to the potential customer, and all you have in the beginning, is a website out there in the ethos, a website that someone can go deeper into or away from in a split second and a click of the mouse. Look at your work carefully and analyze it.
How you package your orders is another important opportunity where you can serve your customer. Make things pretty and nice. Use clean packing materials and don't let the fibers touch the cardboard boxes. Think of how your box will be opened and how the contents will be slowly revealed to your customer. Actually, this is the only true interface between you because this is the only time where you are physically touching the product and they will be touching it too. Make it look enticing. Wrap it securely. Don't use heavy fillers which will drive up the cost of postage. Here is a chance to reveal your approach to business in how you present the order, the backup paperwork, and any inclusions you may want to add. Those little extras are what is called value added, for in the customer's eyes, the value of their purchase has increased when they receive a little something you sent for free. It could be a pattern, a set of samples, pictures of new colorways, directions for dyeing, or an actual gift. I enclose a little gift in every single order we send out, and I think about all sorts of tiny details such as how the packing list will look, or if it is covered up by anything. Send them your card in every order, even if they are repeat customers because that way they will have extras to give to their friends. Recommendations from satisfied customers are priceless! It's not expensive to print up cards if you use your computer's word processing program and some perforated business card stock. Also, if there is any information about the fiber content, care of the fiber, or any other news you want to share, this is a chance for you to send something directly into the customer's hands.
When someone opens a package from you, there is a much longer time period to interact than there is when someone is surfing the web. Give them a pleasurable experience. Look professional in your packaging. Use nice paper and colors. All of the order says something about you and how you do business.
In your communications with customers or potential customers, exercise good manners and cordiality. Now, I am from the South where we believe in courtesy and Southern manners. I will tell you that you will receive some irate letters and some complaints. That is just how it is, but most of the folks in our fiber world are pretty laid back and genuinely nice. Treat customers problems with a cool head and never respond in anger or irritation to a customer. All right, OK. Maybe you can write a really angry letter but never, never, never send it! If you have to write it to clear your head, go ahead, but delete it immediately, and then sleep on the problem. Try to make things right, even if you have to eat a little profit. It will come back to you many times over in the future.
Remember that your customers represent a broad base of talent, and revel in their accomplishments. Don't pretend to know all, but let them guide you a bit. You will be surprised at how much you will learn about your business by asking your customers about their work.
Here is my philosophy of business one more time: your business should enhance the quality of your life. You can do it. You can do it.

1 comment:

Dave Daniels said...

You are so right, packaging is SO important. It's your one chance to make a first impression. The website is one thing, but when someone receives their package, it is a gift that they are giving to themselves. It's MOST important that you treat your own product as you would want your customer to appreciate it. I've always taken great pride in the quality of my shipping and packaging.
I've shopped from my competitors because I love to use other folk's yarn in my knitting, and the condition of some is incredible. Imagine, a skein of yarn just tossed into a USPS envelope with a Paypal receipt. Not even a thank you written on the slip. As cold as can be. Another was in a ziplock bag, but the skein was only tied in one place, and was a gnarled pile of spaghetti.
And, as you've said, a little something unexpected in the p
This is a great series!